DREAM THEATER – Distance Over Time [Special Edition Digipak +1] (2019)
“Distance Over Time” is the band’s 14th studio album and debut for InsideOutMusic Music from DREAM THEATER. The influential progressive metal band have sold over 15 million records worldwide and for this record they have approached things a little differently.
For the first time, the bandmates lived, wrote & recorded together at the secluded Yonderbarn studios in Monticello, NY over the course of four months. For the new album the band wanted to return to their roots and produce a more organic record.
Since their genesis in Eighties, masters of the progressive Dream Theater established a brotherhood that they consider as integral to the creation of their music, if not more so, than the harmony of the instruments alone.
During the summer of 2018, a four month period delegated to producing a new record, the band made a conscious decision to touch base with these core values. Removing themselves from the regular intensity of citified structures in favor of more sequestered pastures, Dream Theater wound up tucked away at the secluded, five-acre Yonderbarn studios in Monticello, NY, manning barbecues, enjoying bourbon, as well as writing and recording their new record, ‘Distance Over Time’.
An organic return to roots brought to life by an almost renewed familial chemistry, there is little wonder as to why these legends and their fans grow more excited for its release on February 22nd.
As is often the case with an upcoming Dream Theater album, a curious trepidation is stirred up with regards to what they will deliver next.
While the band do indeed have a trademark sound, ‘Distance Over Time’ proves that in 2019 they remain artistically brave, nurturing this sound once again, aligning it with their current incarnation.
The electrifying “Paralyzed” serves as a vital representation of this. From its opening moments that see guitarist John Petrucci and drummer Mike Mangini bouncing off one another through an alarmingly enjoyable rhythmic interlock, to more large scale moments orchestrated by the versatile vocal delivery of singer James LaBrie, “Paralyzed” is simply ineradicable among this albums best.
To their delight, fans were gifted with a handful of leading singles in the run up to the release of ‘Distance Over Time’. The highly praised “Fall Into The Light” captures the band in their stylistic element.
Though it was the studio play-through of “Untethered Angel” that portrayed Dream Theater at some of their progressive best. As keyboard player Jordan Rudess dances masterfully over his keys, he does so with a technical proficiency that simultaneously inspires while intimidates. As we look on in what can only be described as a jaw dropping giddiness, watching Rudess perform as his fellow band mates both support his moments and quickly pass the torch around the room for their own, quickly shifting the dynamic with ease, there is an evident enjoyment among them reflected in each and every track.
Perhaps none more so than in the unexpected ballad entitled “Out Of Reach”.
Dream Theater are no strangers to flirting with the wistful, musing and melancholic sides of their personalities. “Out Of Reach” is easily deserving of occupying a place among some of their best examples of this. Built primarily around a simple, recurring melody on piano, elevated by the subtle nuances in a rare, stripped back performance by bassist John Myung, there lives an ethereal atmosphere deeply entrenched throughout this beautiful piece.
The opening bars of “Barstool Warrior” present the more familiar progressive side of the band. The doubled guitar and keyboard opening riff, along with the bass and drum coordinated hits, signals the versatility of the songs the band put together in their time at the studio. The increased contributions and involvement of Myung and Mangini are uncovered during the opening segment in which Mangini exhibits his technique and speed with some terrific drumming as a transition to another beautiful melody from the bands guitar master. Petrucci’s lead lines show so much growth and dynamic attention, fans familiar with past songs like “Hell’s Kitchen” will be taken back to a time when these musicians were composing timeless classics.
“Room 137” is a song which clocks in at about 4.5 minutes of really cool heavy guitar riffs and a pounding and steady interaction between drums and heavy distortion guitars, like the kind of sound which is born out of jam sessions with your long time brothers. This song’s prog pedigree comes in the form of a chorus which has a descending chord progression with tight vocal harmonies alternating from the left to the right with an almost sinister tone which becomes very hypnotizing and memorable.
On the following song, “S2N”, the silent man of the band, Myung, gives his signature precision in the opening riff. It has been a long time since his bass has sat so well in the mix and production. The odd time signatures fit right in as the song builds an allows a Petrucci to perform a guitar solo with what sounds like some advanced two-handed tapping technique which only true guitar heroes can master. The song concludes with another deep grooving riff by the rhythm guitar and bass all while Rudess kills another keyboard solo.
Getting its name from Carl Sagan’s book, “Pale Blue Dot” deals with a reflection of how humans are to treat each other on this little planet in the vast cosmos of space. Big and deep thoughts inspired the advanced and intricate instrumentation of this album closer with stuff which past Dream Theater musical masterpieces have brought to the world of Prog Metal.
The satisfaction achieved on this awesome album closer serves as a confirmation that in the landscape of progressive metal, Dream Theater are still the entrenched kings of the genre.
In addition, for good measure, the band channels their inner Deep Purple character on the fun bonus track, “Viper King.”
“Distance Over Time” gives a listening experience in which every member shines individually and collectively as a group, resulting in a collection of songs which balance a melodic focus, heavy instrumentation, and unparalleled skill. The sequences of the songs make this an easy and exciting listening adventure from beginning to end.
The mix and production have never been better in presenting a powerful and clear sound. It sounds fun, entertaining, and memorable.
Their unified focus and effort has resulted in their best and most impressive outing in a very long time. There are certainly reminders of all their past albums throughout and it is a terrific accomplishment as they mark 30 years of existence.
But as the band took an non-traditional method in the approach to this project to reconnect with each other, one can say with confidence, “Distance Over Time” definitely marks a new and fresh beginning for Dream Theater.
A record that is wildly invigorating, enchantingly emotive and honors a brotherhood only few have been fortunate enough to know.
01 – Untethered Angel
02 – Paralyzed
03 – Fall Into the Light
04 – Barstool Warrior
05 – Room 137
06 – S2N
07 – At Wit’s End
08 – Out Of Reach
09 – Pale Blue Dot
10 – Viper King (Bonus Track)
James LaBrie – Vocals
John Petrucci – Guitars, Vocals
John Myung – Bass
Jordan Rudess – Keyboards, Synths
Mike Mangini – Drums