|Review: Dream Theater - Awake|
Label: Atlantic Records
Year released: 1994
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: May 18, 2009
Reviewed by: Christopher Foley
Rated 4.1/5 (82.06%) (68 Votes)
How on earth do you top an album that turned many a head such as Images & Words? Simple enough - take a different approach. For many Dream Theater fans Images & Words will remain both the creative and commercial pinnacle for the band, and often I find it hard to argue. However most fans of the band can normally agree that this was the last truly great album from the guys – something I highly disagree with (as good as it is). Awake sees the band moving away from the sound the established with Images & Words, although clearly it was a good idea as Dream Theater have seemed to reinvent themselves with every release, it's pleasing to see that they're always recognizable. Here we would see DT take a much darker approach to their songwriting – largely due to John Petrucci's incredible use of the 7-String guitar, and the majestic keyboard work of Kevin Moore. Awake stands as a testimony that changes can work and proved Dream Theater's worth as a first class act and leaders of their genre.
Set yourself back to 1994, the Seattle movement was beginning to draw to an end with the death of Cobain, acts such as Pantera and Machine Head were ushering in the whole Groove Metal scene, becoming flagships in which all the posers and pretenders quickly rallied around. Nu-Metal was beginning to find its feet in the world; it was a dark time to say the least. Awake reflects what was going on at that time, taking cues from some of the aforementioned acts and turning them straight on their head. From crushing tracks such as "The Mirror" or the almost industrial sound-scape of the bizarre yet genius "Space Dye Vest" – a track written solely by Kevin Moore, clearly taking cues from what acts such as Nine Inch Nails were doing around the time. A lot of influence from Queensrÿche can be heard throughout, especially from the Operation: Mindcrime era.
LaBrie's vocals are absolutely stunning, commanding superior range and phenomenal in the high register (although the highs hit on Images & Words are few and far between). The truly stunning rhythm section of Mike Portnoy and John Myung is as flawless as ever, Portnoy's drums are as always a highpoint in the album – this guy is the shit. John Petrucci should really need no introduction, one of the finest players of his generation - his leads are both soulful and molten, ranging from speedy shredding to heart-wrenching solos – his riffs are nothing to sniff at either (see "Caught In A Web"). Finally my personal star of the show is Kevin Moore, who sadly departed after this release. His keyboard work is truly stunning, albeit less flashy than the predecessor the key use here creates a very dense sound and each sound and effect he use never detract, obviously the awesome "Space Dye Vest" is the pinnacle of his work with the band.
With Awake there is something for pretty much everyone, be it metal crunchers such as "Caught In A Web" or the double attack of the incredible "The Mirror" and "Lie". Epics such as "Voices" and "Scarred" or the awesome prog-stylings of the kick-ass album opener "6:00" and swirling instrumental "Erotomania". This is a very complete album that flows unbelievably well from start to finish, heavy and gentle in all the right places and never lacking in metal. This was where Dream Theater secured their place as the leaders of their genre – a throne they've yet to vacate. However this would not be the last ace in their collective sleeves
Essential for fans of Progressive Metal
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