Dream Theater is among the most well-known and respected acts in the progressive music community. The band has spent almost four decades building that reputation, releasing 14 albums, one EP, nine live recordings and thousands upon thousands of miles of touring around the world. Now Friday, the band will continue to cement its reputation once again when it releases its 15th album, A View from the Top of the World. Scheduled for release through InsideOut Music, the seven-song record will be the band’s second for the label. The 72-minute (one hour, 12 minute) presentation is aptly titled. That is because it presents Dream Theater at the top of maybe not the world, but of its game. That is proven in part through the album’s musical arrangements, which will be examined shortly. The lyrical themes that accompany the album’s musical arrangements add in to the album’s appeal and will be discussed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make A View from the Top of the World one of Dream Theater’s best works to date and one more of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Dream Theater’s forthcoming 15th album, A View from the Top of the World is a successful new offering from the band that will appeal to a wide range of audiences. It is a work that continues to once again, cement the band’s place in the progressive and metal communities. Its success comes in part through its featured musical arrangements. The musical arrangements in question bring the band’s past, present, and future together in one presentation. The musical link to the band’s past is presented right from the album’s outset in the form of the album’s opener and lead single, ‘The Alien.’ Keyboardist Jordan Rudess’ performance here works alongside guitarist John Petrucci’s riffs to immediately take audiences back to 1997’s Falling Into Infinity. That is evidenced through the heaviness from Petrucci’s work alongside the more emotional runs that he presents. At the same time, audiences can even hear hints of his work as a member of Liquid Tension Experiment here. Even front man James LaBrie’s own vocal delivery sound and style here conjures those thoughts of the band’s classic record. As the album progresses, audiences get something more akin to the band’s more recent works in the form of ‘Sleeping Giant.’ The fullness and richness from the group and the general sound and stylistic approach is so much more akin to works from the band’s most recent album, Distance Over Time. That is evidenced through Petrucci’s often experimental approach here. At the same time, the verses do continue to exhibit the slightest similarity to the band’s existing catalog, but it is balanced so well with the more modern influences. The mix gives the song its own unique identity that audiences are sure to enjoy. The album’s title track, which closes out the presentation, is a clear hint at the band’s future. The symphonic metal arrangement alongside drummer Mike Mangini’s march style approach on the snare makes the arrangement a style of song that the band has rarely touched on. Rudess’ keyboard line is reminiscent of the band’s more recent works, but the overall approach is something relatively new for the band. It is engaging and entertaining in its own right, too. Interestingly enough, as the song progresses, the band also continues to show elements of its past, too. The mix of past and present here makes for such an immersive experience. It will keep listeners fully engaged and entertained. When this arrangement, the others examined here and the rest of the album’s works are considered together, the whole makes the album’s musical side such a powerful presentation in its own right. The album’s overall musical content is just part of what makes it successful. Its lyrical themes play their own important part to its presentation.
The lyrical themes that are featured alongside the album’s musical arrangements are important because of their own diversity. According to information provided about the album, the topics that the band touches on throughout the album are not only diverse but fully accessible. The album’s opener, for instance, is actually a rumination on mankind’s exploration of the cosmos. LaBrie commented on that topic in a prepared statement, noting, “My son suggested I watch Joe Rogan’s interview with Elon Musk. I was so inspired by what they were talking about as far as discovering other planets so we can terraform and create another home for ourselves. In essence, we are the travelers who are creating a new world. We become the alien.” This is hardly the first time that Dream Theater has taken the lyrical road less traveled. Yes, there are songs out there about interstellar travel, etc. from stoner rock bands and others, but what LaBrie is talking about here is something far more intellectual and thought provoking. It is just one example of how the album’s lyrical content proves so important to the record’s presentation. ‘Sleeping Giant is another example of that importance.
Where ‘The Alien’ takes on a topic rarely if ever discussed in the rumination on our exploration and colonization of the cosmos, ‘Sleeping Giant’ is something more accessible. In this case, the song takes on the matter of mental health. More specifically, it addresses the challenge that we as people face in terms of balancing ourselves with that “darker side” that we all have inside. People can deny all they want that they have that side, but as Petrucci is cited as saying in another, spearate statement, “We all have one. Some people take it too far and do evil. Other people ignore it and get taken advantage of. Embrace your sleeping giant. You don’t want to wake him, but know he’s there.” Petrucci is right. Everyone has that sleeping giant. It is a matter of how we each handle the balance of presenting ourselves, including that side that many of us would rather hide and ignore. This alone will resonate with listeners, especially in the way in which the subject is broached lyrically. The musical arrangement that is paired with the song makes the composition that much more powerful, too.
The album’s title track is yet another example of the importance of the record’s lyrical themes. In the case of this song, LaBrie stated that it was influenced by watching adrenaline junkies do what they do.
“I was thinking of people doing dangerous things like surfing 80-foot waves, slacklining across canyons, deep sea diving, scaling Everest and climbing up mountains free solo,” he said. “I’m always like, ‘What drives you to do that?’ One wrong move and you’re dead. Besides being addicted to the adrenaline, it makes them feel more alive – perhaps the most alive they’ve ever been. I wrote this along the lines of when you’re on the brink of death, you’ve never felt more alive.”
Again, few if any bands or acts out there past or present can say they have ever crafted a song, lyrically, about such a topic. If such songs exist, they are few and far between. To that end, taking such a unique approach makes for plenty of interest. The musical arrangement that accompanies this lyrical theme serves well to heighten the emotion of those daredevil types, too. The whole becomes such a fully engaging and entertaining song. When this is considered along with the lyrical content in the other songs examined here and the rest of the record’s lyrical content, the whole makes the album’s lyrical content undeniably important to the record’s presentation. When the album’s lyrical content is coupled with its musical arrangements, the whole of that content makes the album even more successful.
While the content featured in Dream Theater’s new album is unquestionably positive separately and collectively, it is just one part of what makes the album successful. The record’s production puts the finishing touch to the presentation. The production is important because of everything that takes place in each song. The transitions between movements in the longer songs, the instrumentation in each work, the balance of the instrumentation with the vocals, etc. A lot of work went into each composition. That is obvious in listening closely to each work. It also means that a lot of work had to go into making sure everything was balanced and that the balance in the songs’ energies keeps listeners engaged and entertained. That time and effort that went into balancing each line and each song’s energy paid off. No on musician overpowered his band mate. That includes LaBrie. So even with so much going on in each song, it all interweaves solidly and cleanly. The result is that audiences will never feel overwhelmed by the songs at any moment. What’s more, the songs’ energies ensure that audiences will remain engaged, too. Again, that is attributed to the production. Keeping in mind the impact of the record’s production, it proves just as pivotal to this album’s presentation as the record’s content. When the content and production are considered collectively, they make the album in whole a complete success.
Dream Theater’s latest album, A View from the Top of the World is a record that the band’s established audiences will applaud just as much as prog and metal fans. That is proven in part through the record’s featured arrangements. The arrangements offer audiences elements of the band’s existing catalog while also presenting influences from the group’s more recent albums that also conjure thoughts of the band’s future. Many times, the arrangements even fluidly balance the band’s past and present in one, while ensuring each arrangement has its own unique identity within the album’s body. The album’s lyrical content adds its own appeal to the presentation. That is because it offers audiences a mix of original topics and more accessible items. This is nothing new for the band, either. What’s more, the themes are delivered in unique ways that will leave audiences really thinking deeply in the best way possible. The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation. It brings everything together, making sure that the album’s aesthetics are just as positive as its content. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make A View from the Top of the World a record that sees Dream Theater at the top of its game.
A View from the Top of the World is scheduled for release Friday through InsideOut Music. More information on the album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at: