I never really thought of Dream Theater as a political band but after their latest release, A Dramatic Turn of Events, I am really having a hard time NOT considering them one. Political messages in music is nothing new, but in my opinion it is such a bad marriage. Why can’t we just keep entertainment and politics separate, unless of course that is a main reason for your art – like – Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down or Dead Kennedys. Dream Theater was never that band, instead they focused on musical diversity and virtuosity. That is what drew me to them and I’d guess much of their audience as well. Politics is such a divisive topic these days that I don’t know why anyone would want to intentionally alienate half their fan base halfway through a successful career.
Before going any further I should state that I am huge DT fan of 15 years, have always considered them as one my Top 2 fav bands of all time and have seen them more in concert than any other band.
Dream Theater’s first 6 studio releases included songs that were emotional, personal and many times fictional, story-based lyrics. Then came Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002) which featured a song called The Great Debate. The song debated the topic of stem cell research and included various media clips which gave both sides of the argument. I didn’t really find anything wrong with this song because they didn’t really take a side, however, it was the first time they wrote a song commenting on contemporary social issues.
Their next album, 2003′s Train of Thought, included the song In The Name of God. This song was about the 9/11 attacks and violence all done in the name of God. I would guess that there aren’t many who disagree with the sentiment here but you can see the band getting more confident with social topics.
2005′s release, Octavarium, included Sacrificed Sons.
Smoke and fire,
Planes we’re certain faith inspired”
Again, another song about 9/11. There are no surprise to these songs since DT is from New York and were in the city when the attack happened.
Systematic Choas (2007) is nearly entirely fictitious except for one song, Prophets of War. This song is about the American war in Iraq (and possibly Afghanistan). Such a change of pace from the last couple 9/11 songs. Instead of focusing on the horror of the event and the perpetrators, the band now targets America. Anti-war sentiment in this country was pretty loud in the years following 9/11, however, it still teetered on party lines to some degree. Many extreme opposers to the war called our leaders war profiteers, war criminals and such. Look at the title, the word “Prophet” is actually a homonym for ”Profit” in the song.
"Can we clean up this mess?
The loss of loved ones
A perverse request
They continue the same rhetoric
These derelicts that profit
See you sweat
Get used to it
Things are gonna get personal
A pitiful display you stutter
Means nothing if there is no honor"
The next album, Black Clouds & Silver Linings, did not have any social songs with the exception of A Rite of Passage which was based on freemasonry but no commentary per se.
Dream Theater’s latest single, On the Backs of Angels, again goes back to criticism of the US. Ten years after 9/11, Dream Theater isn’t finished with the topic and it can almost be argued to be a continuation of Prophets of War. I didn’t really notice the lyrics until I saw the video which was released this week. Throughout the video, we are fed images of a fallen Rome, stormy weather (reminiscent of The Matrix), soldiers, US government buildings, gears rolling (machines) and finally the crumbling of skyscrapers which relate back to the beginning = America will fall like Rome.
"Mounting the attack
While heroes carry your weight
We spiral towards disaster
Survival fading faster
Bleeding us to death
The new American dream
You're blinded by your hunger
Beware your days are numbered
Tears fall from the shameless
Selfless are the righteous
Burden me, lead me like a lamb to the slaughter
Blurring lines drawn in between
What is right and what is wrong
Victims on the radar string us along
We're on to your agenda
The dead end road to nowhere"
Please Dream Theater, stop writing like this. I know this is a plea in vain but you are losing some of us. Now I have to ignore songs that have cool music because you have become preachy and radical. Not only that, I have to suspend belief that I don’t agree with you politically. I understand we all have different beliefs, most of my friends don’t have the same political/social beliefs as me but America bashing is just disgusting. Disagreeing with the war is one thing, calling them evil and treating the nation as the criminal is another thing. All I want is to be able to lay back, get lost in lyrics that make my mind drift away and musicianship that challenges my mind