Distance Over Time

Dream Theater

Inside Out, 2019

http://www.dreamtheater.net

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/19/2019

There really was no place to go after The Astonishing, the 2016 double-disc rock opera/concept album that divided fans and critics, so Dream Theater took the smart path and decided to go lean for the 14th album, Distance Over Time.

Granted, “lean” with these guys is still a misnomer, as their signature blend of technically proficient progressive metal is a far cry from three guys bashing out three chords in a garage. But by the 30-year DT standards fans have come to expect, this is as much a return to basics as one can expect. The Astonishing was an effort written by two band members and styled to be an event; DOT is five guys spending time in a farmhouse in upstate New York and collaborating, throwing ideas around, making music like the days of old.

Consequently, it is as good a DT album as the band has released in a long while; fans who jumped ship after drummer Mike Portnoy left (out of loyalty, I imagine) may do well do check this one out, because at its frequent best it will remind fans of the DT of why they love this band…and why they are deserved leaders of the genre. Sure, it breaks no new ground, but that’s not always a requirement, is it? my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Paralyzed” is a great example of this lean approach, a gutsy, low-end hard rock song with a great John Petrucci solo that would fit well on modern rock radio, but that is by default more melodic. “Fall Into the Light” is another one of those long-form epics DT does so well, recalling classic Metallica in the twists of the time signatures, the extended guitar solo and the militaristic drums that open the piece.

The retro low-end sound of “Room 137” is a bit more grungy than we’re used to from these guys but they pull it off, while “STN” goes bass-first and then musically ricochets around like a pinball while James Labrie alternates between a growl and a sing. Both songs are different than we’re used to from Dream Theater and break up the flow of the album nicely, particularly after the DT-by-numbers “Barstool Warrior” and prior to the overlong “At Wit’s End,” which is fine but nothing that hasn’t been said in the previous 13 albums.

Each DT album needs some of slower reflective piece and “Out Of Reach” gets the nod here as the penultimate tracks, clearing the decks for the astronomical “Pale Blue Dot.” There’s a hint of Floyd/Alan Parsons Project in the space noises and astronaut breathing, but then those hyper drums and Petrucci’s ever-impressive guitar playing roar in and you get sucked into the story. After the eight-minute journey, you realize that there may be elements of Rush, ELP, and Queensryche that will always seep into this band’s music, but Dream Theater is a unique band with a unique sound, and they are always worth hearing.

The album ends proper with this track, but digital versions add on the Deep Purple-esque bonus track “Viper King,” a fun four-minute rave-up that probably should have been bumped up in the runtime, perhaps as the palate cleanser to “Fall Into The Light.” Whatever. Great song, great album, and proof that these guys are masters whether they create rock operas or hang out in a barn for four months and get back to basics.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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