Posts Tagged ‘Dream Theater’

“The elves have finally come home to Rivendell”

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Damon Fox of Bigelf on getting added to the Progressive Nation Europe tour:

When I first met Mike Portnoy, I felt like we were cut from the same cloth, a brother from another mother. We could talk rock & roll for eons (we probably will on tour, hell yeah!). Being added to the PROGRESSIVE NATION tour feels like the planets have aligned for us and the elves have finally come home to Rivendell.

Haha. Did he really say that? Gee, guess who the proggy-prog band on this tour is?

Actually, this lineup isn’t bad… Dream Theater, Opeth and Unexpect round things out. It’s a lot more along the lines of last year’s Progressive Nation lineup (replace Between the Buried and Me with Unexpect and Three with Bigelf) than this year’s U.S. tour, which I’m pretty unexcited about. Unexpect always puts on an awesomely spastic show - I saw them three times last year and they just kept getting more entertaining.

The Progressive Nation tour comes to DC

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Understandably, this whole Progressive Nation thing is a big deal in prog-rock (or at least prog-metal) land. At one point I think there were four separate threads going on about this tour over at ProgressiveEars, and who knows how much activity there’s been on Mike Portnoy’s forum, the Opeth forum, or the various relevant Yahoo! groups. The tour made its stop in Washington, DC on Monday night, and I went to see what the hubbub’s all about, camera in hand (all photos are at Flickr).

Day 147: Progressive Nation 30

Of the four bands participating — Dream Theater, Opeth, Between the Buried and Me and 3 — I’ve seen the first two (2-3 times each, I can’t remember anymore), am a big fan of the third’s new album Colors, and am totally unfamiliar with the last. Overall I was most excited to see BTBAM; I haven’t been a Dream Theater fan for a long time now, and once I started getting into the more extreme end of extreme metal, Opeth started seeming a little less interesting to me as well (though I still quite enjoy their stuff when I get the hankering to give it a spin).

In any case, I showed up at the venue, DAR Constitution Hall (a 3,700 seat theater), a little before 7pm. I’ve never photographed a show at DAR before, so I spent a few minutes wandering around figuring out what to do. I picked up my photo pass and then got conflicting instructions from staff about where to go from there. I ended up going through some backstage door and getting led to the stage area by a friendly member of BTBAM (I was too distracted by wondering where the hell I was going to engage him in much conversation, but did find out that he’s one of the members from my hometown, Winston-Salem). He actually led me to the stage itself — and I found myself at the very back of the stage just as 3 were beginning their set. Uh, not exactly what I had planned, but ok. I made my way around the wings and got down to the audience area where I was supposed to be. DAR has no photo pit, but I was told I could shoot from the aisles, and found out later (during Opeth’s set) that I could also shoot from the front row of seats right up against the stage, which were unoccupied.

For more on the photography end of this show, check out my photography blog. Now that we’ve gotten to the point in the story that I’m in the venue, what about the music? I was mildly interested in 3, mostly because people have been absolutely raving about their opening set for this tour. In the past I never read anything about their music that made me think I would particularly like them. Unfortunately, I’m still not sure whether I particularly like them, as their music made almost no impression on me. Most of that is my own fault; I was paying attention to getting my bearings in the venue instead of listening. So, put that one down as an incomplete with apologies from the grader. Circumstances were only slightly better for BTBAM as I had to spend the first half of their 30-minute set working out a pass issue, but I did get to see them do “Viridian” and “White Walls” and they fucking blew my head off. Colors was an album that I thought was just ok at first but has really grown on me, and in the live setting these guys pulled it all off with aplomb: the quick shifts in mood, the tricky time changes, the range of styles from Floydlike shoegazing to death metal volume and intensity. The bass solo in “Viridian” raised the tension just enough for them to bring the house down with “White Walls.” The crowd seemed fairly responsive, but then again I was in the front, where folks were bound to be most engaged.

Progressive Nation 04

After BTBAM I figured I’d seen my highlight of the show already, and I was more or less right. Opeth put on a solid set — interestingly, thanks to the compressed time limits (they only had an hour to play), they opened with “Demon at the Fall,” which was actually a little disconcerting to me. I kept expecting them to walk off the stage at the end of the song, since that’s what they usually do. They played a range of stuff from their career, including one of the snoozers from Damnation and a song from the forthcoming album Watershed. I don’t really do the illegal downloading thing, so I haven’t heard the leaked version of Watershed that’s been making the rounds for a few months, but I liked the new song (”Heir Apparent,” I think) with reservations. There were some awesome riffs but it probably could have been cut shorter by a couple minutes (really I could say this about a lot of Opeth songs, so that’s nothing new).

Otherwise, it was Opeth and not a lot more needs to be said. Lots of slow sections that burst into killer riffs and death-metal growls. Lots of banter from Mikael Åkerfeldt. Someone yelled “Freebird.” (Someone always yells “Freebird.” Seriously, I think we need legislative action here. Note to people who like to yell “Freebird” - you are not anywhere near as clever or funny as you think you are.) The sound was awful. Like, really awful; the bass drum overwhelmed everything, especially the vocals. This seems to be the case every time I see this band and it makes me sad.

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Apart from the sound, though, I dug Opeth’s set and waited for Dream Theater satisfied that I’d already seen two pretty good sets, with absolutely no expectations for the last. Just to clarify: I used to love Dream Theater. Images and Words and Awake are two of the albums that originally got me into the whole prog thing, and by association into adventurous music in general. Even as recently as Scenes From a Memory (and especially Live Scenes from New York) I would count myself a fan. But things went quickly downhill from there, and I can’t really say I much like anything that came after Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It’s telling that the last time I saw the band live (a long time ago in 2002, back when Usenet was apparently still relevant judging from my old post), I thought the best stuff they did was a medley of old material and a cover of Metallica’s Master of Puppets.

This time around, I went in with no expectations and came away pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Dream Theater’s set. I think I would have liked it even more if I stuck around for the encore, in which they played, well, a medley of old stuff. But what I saw was pretty decent; the new material still doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but these guys have the showmanship thing down, and even if I don’t really dig what they’re playing, at least they are entertaining. When they played “Take the Time” I was really, really reminded of how much better I like the odd-time riffing from the old albums as opposed to the mile-a-minute shredding on some of the newer ones; and some of the songs they played from Scenes From a Memory also came off quite well.

I did start getting a little restless after Jordan Rudess pulled out his wireless keytar thing and played a shredding duo with John Petrucci, and when James LaBrie’s voice started going from somewhat coherent and controlled to, uh, less so. So I booked out of there before I was reminded of all the reasons I don’t like this band as much as I used to. It seems to have worked, as I look back on the concert now with good feelings. The highlight for me was definitely BTBAM — and I would really like to see them on a headlining tour sometime — but the rest of the sets were pretty solid as well. The venue seemed pretty full and folks were getting into the bands, though the turnout for Dream Theater was way, way higher than for anyone else, which was understandable but still made me a little sad to see. It was interesting to see the tension of folks who were there for Dream Theater listening to metal with growled/screamed vocals — not surprisingly, during the BTBAM and Opeth sets there were a fair number of people that retreated to the concourse and downstairs lounge.

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Progressive Nation 47

That’s all I’ve got, music-wise at least. If you still haven’t gotten your fill, read my photography notes here or see the full set of photos here.

Dream Theater: still sucks

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Wow, the “new” Dream Theater album, Systematic Chaos (which I just picked up because it was super-cheap and I am a masochist), is really pretty terrible. Not in the same way that Train of Thought was aggressively awful, but more in a I’m-bored-out-of-my-mind kind of way. I sort of feel bad reviewing their albums these days (even though Octavarium was really okay, nothing too bad) since it’s a bit like poking a stick in the eyes of fanboys around the Internet, but I’ll probably review this one anyway for the sake of comprehensiveness. In the meantime, feast on this amusing review of it at PopMatters.

New Dream Theater

Monday, May 2nd, 2005

The first review of the forthcoming Dream Theater album, Octavarium, is in. And what an amusing review it is.

Poking fanboys with a stick

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

I really, really, really want to review Jordan RudessFeeding the Wheel, but it would serve no purpose other than riling up the Dream Theater fanboys who left me such loving, thoughtful comments on my review of Train of Thought. But honestly, I’m not sure if I can resist much longer; Rudess is such a juicy target. I mean, look at that fucking cover art!

In which Dream Theater fanboys threaten to kill me

Tuesday, February 17th, 2004

It took longer than I expected, but my extremely negative review of Dream Theater’s Train of Thought combined with the launch of our comment engine is finally garnering some reactions. Some are fair enough (I’m glad there are plenty of people out there who like the album, it’s just not my bag whatsoever) and some are the raving-mad fanboy lunacy you’d expect. The latter are highly entertaining and are recommended reading :)

Dream Theater cover Master of Puppets!

Friday, March 29th, 2002

Last night I went to see Dream Theater in New York. It was their second show in the city, and was promised to have a “very special” setlist. If I’d been following Ytsejam or alt.music.dream-theater, I would have know what was so special about it, but I hadn’t been, so I didn’t. Anyway, it was a pretty good show. LONG. They went on promptly at 8:00 and I didn’t get out of the theater until nearly midnight… and there was only one 15-minute intermission in the middle.

I wasn’t really blown away by the first set. I’m not nearly as big a Dream Theater fan as I used to be, and the last couple of albums never really impressed me. Thankfully, the band played a set that spanned all of their albums, which was cool - my favorite part was when the noisy finale of “Misunderstood” transitioned into the heavy riffing of “Lie”. It was also interesting to hear James LaBrie try to sound like Charlie Dominici when the band did “The Killing Hand”. And “Take The Time” really reminded me of how much more I like the band’s early material. At about 9:45 the band went offstage for the intermission; fifteen minutes later they were back and they settled into the rather tedious “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” - the 40-minute-long “song” that makes up the entire second disc of the latest album. To my surprise, it went by pretty fast, and parts of it were pretty powerful live. Not as bad as I expected.

Then the band went offstage again. Clearly, something weird was about to happen. The opening of “Pull Me Under” started all of a sudden, and then disintegrated with a screech. The group came back onstage and Petrucci started playing what I immediately recognized as the opening guitar part to Metallica’s “Battery”. Sweet, I thought - a great song to cover. The band crunched through “Battery” convincingly - more than convincingly, it was fucking awesome - and then went straight into “Master of Puppets”. Even better! Turns out they covered the entire Master of Puppets album from start to finish. Now, I like Master of Puppets better than I like Dream Theater’s own recent work, so I was pretty damned happy. They did a great job with it - I was particularly impressed by Petrucci, who pulled off all the solos really well. After that, there were a couple encore songs (ending, of course, with “Pull Me Under”), and then it was over.

Master of Puppets was definitely the highlight of the show for me. “Take The Time” and “Lie” were pretty good too, but otherwise I wasn’t all that impressed. I was definitely much more affected by the Dream Theater show I saw two years ago on the Metropolis tour; probably just because I was a much bigger fan back then. Still, it was worth the trip.

Oh yeah, a couple weeks ago I saw The Dismemberment Plan live, for the third time, this time back home in North Carolina. It was a great show marred by really bad sound. I also really liked one of the other bands, Death Cab for Cutie, and just recently downloaded mp3s of their latest album, The Photo Album - really good, laid-back, melodic indie-pop.

Maybe some reviews will be up soon. Between work and Ultimate I’m struggling to find time for things like eating, sleeping, and breathing, but what the hell.

Ha… music reviews from Focus On the Family

Thursday, March 7th, 2002

The local record store was playing Dream Theater’s Images and Words when I walked in today. Played the whole album, except they skipped “Metropolis”. Hmm.

SEX IS BAD!

The best part of the above site are their reviews of rap music. Why do they even bother? This message appears before their review of an Eminem album: “WEB EDITOR’S NOTE: Because of this album’s graphic nature, this review contains sexual descriptions that are not appropriate for children. If you are a teenager or a younger child, please let your parents read this review before you proceed.” Oh sure, that’s gonna work.

Been downloading some good stuff lately

Friday, February 1st, 2002

I’m on an MP3 binge. I’ve been listening to Dream Theater’s new one, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, for a while now - since before it came out - on MP3. I like the first disc a fair amount, but so far the second one just strikes me as alternately (or simulatenously, sometimes) boring and cheesy. Hmm. That’s a real shame, because I thought Scenes From a Memory was their best effort since Awake. Oh well. I blame Jordan Rudess.

Other MP3s I’ve been listening to include Xploding Plastix’s Amateur Girlfriends Go Proskirt Agents, the first half of which fucking rocks. I don’t know how to categorize this sort of music - I guess it’s vaguely IDMish the way Thievery Corporation is, but more active, faster-paced, with more jazz influence. Maybe it’s acid jazz? I dunno, but I love it. Also, a few from Bardo Pond’s Dilate - which a friend told be to check out. He described it as Mogwai-like with female vox, but I find that somewhat inaccurate - more like a slower My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth, I’d say. Something along the lines of Yo La Tengo’s more droney stuff. I like it.

About that unfortunate The Coup cover art…

Tuesday, November 13th, 2001

Hunger’s Teeth is friggin’ awesome. And Susanne Lewis’ voice is priceless. How did I live without this thing? I only have one other 5uu’s album, Regarding Purgatories, which I didn’t find nearly as interesting… but Sean claims that the upcoming album, Abandonship, is great - I’m definitely looking forward to it.

I heard some Oysterhead this weekend on a long car ride, and liked some of it. From what I heard, Trey’s guitar sounds a bit more heavy and aggressive than his work with Phish, but the bass is pure Primus. Neither is a bad thing.

The hip-hop group The Coup, whom I really like and who just moved to the 75 Ark label, just released their new album Party Music. This album’s main claim to fame is that its planned cover featured an exploding World Trade Center; the cover was pulled after September 11th, obviously, just before it went to the printer. The Coup have an anti-capitalist stance, inviting lots of criticism from people who disagree with their politics as well as people who can’t stand rap music. This is a totally incoherent rant about The Coup and their new album that I think is really funny. An excerpt:

The Coup Leader/Rapper Boots Riley says: “The intent of the cover was to use the World Trade Center to symbolize capitalism, but there is an uncanny similarity to the events of Tuesday. All life is precious and this tremendous tragedy is by no means taken lightly by The Coup. This is a very unfortunate coincidence and my condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims.”

Make no mistake here, friends. These people made their vulgar, stupid rap album with the intent of slandering and destroying the American way of life. Like the worthless evil sneaky scum they are, they hide behind “artistry” saying they only made their statement to point out the folly of capitalism, not to hurt anyone or advocate violence. “All life is precious” the rapper says after indefensible evidence of the violent nature of his music is uncovered. In the true spirit of artistic freedom, the leftist rap group’s new album art will be something less offensive, maybe they’ll have the Virgin Mary and Jesus of Nazareth as porn stars listening to Party Music!

After this misinterpretation in which the author basically accuses Boots of lying and being a murderous scoundrel, based solely on his political views, the article goes on to mention Dream Theater and the original cover of Live Scenes From New York, which features the NYC skyline - including the World Trade Center towers - aflame. The author claims that this cover is not as “vulgar” or offensive because “none of [the Dream Theater members] are avowed anti-capitalists bent on the destruction of America’s imperialism like rappers in The Coup”. Finally, he concludes that “Sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, friends, whomever asks for a CD of hardcore rap should be denied on the basis that it is overwhelmingly vulgar and un-American” and ends the article with a somewhat out-of-place, obviously rote recital of “Terror from anywhere against America will never destroy the American people. God bless America!”

Ignorance and intolerance masquerading as patriotism and compassion: God bless America indeed.

(I await the hate mail accusing me of being a pro-mass-murder terrorist sympathizer.)