Dream Theater – A View from the Top of the World (InsideOut Music)Friday, 29th October 2021
When you’ve established a long-running discography chock full of impressive albums, there’s always room for debate that crops up whether a new release measures up to the catalog of greats. Dream Theater as one of the premiere progressive metal acts globally set themselves up for longevity early on in their career, their second album Images and Words from 1992 garnering massive attention for songs like “Pull Me Under”, “Another Day”, plus the epic “Metropolis (Part 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper)”. Traversing more of a progressive rock landscape for Falling into Infinity and developing a double disc/two-hour concept record with The Astonishing – the veterans take their sound and songwriting wherever their hearts desire. Going into their fifteenth studio record A View from the Top of the World, hope holds high that these musicians wish to dazzle, entertain, and create more impressive progressive metal songs for their long running following to ingest, process, and appreciate.
Wasting no time getting down to proceedings with impeccable musical chops, time signature manipulation, and virtuoso guitar/keyboard synchronization against thunderous main drumming and free flowing fills, the first two-minutes for the almost ten-minute “The Alien” setting the stage for Dream Theater to remind everyone they are masters of their instrumentation – before the James LaBrie melodies kick in with more of an airy confidence that’s a bit more mid-range to slightly above, in tune to his changing register over the years. Calm guitar plucking soothes the ears to start “Invisible Monster” – a more straightforward offering for the record that harkens back to that early 90’s material, while the deeper organ strains and carnival instrumental themes allow “Sleeping Giant” to be a mid-album favorite, some of the triplets/ quick arpeggio runs contrasting against the older 70’s progressive rock/gothic nuances. The title track takes up almost a third of the record as a finale. Another massive twenty-one minute plus opus that contains elements of bombast, calmer verses with tremendous John Myung bass line support, a tranquil instrumental midsection before picking up the pace to allow the progressive metal masters ample space to stretch boundaries and fill the aural landscape with proficient runs plus circular moments that all make sense.
This record seems to embrace the strengths of the band – intricate while melodic, virtuoso in spaces, but also awe-inspiring and memorable when this has to be. They may never hit the peak of Images and Words again in our lifetime – but A View from the Top of the World makes clear that Dream Theater deserves credit for bringing progressive metal to a wider acceptance beyond the normal schooled musicians and into the hearts of the common music fan.