The main reason why Dream Theater is featured again in our Jukebox is that, even though this disc is credited to the group, it should be John Petrucci's name that appears. More than ever before, the new disc by the progressive rock band par excellence bears his creative stamp from start to finish, ever since the first flash of inspiration to create a concept album came to him in 2013. The great guitarist dreamed of a major symphonic work where he could display his dual facets: the instrumentalist and, above all, the composer within. And he captured it in the soundtrack to a science fiction tale he also wrote, The Astonishing. This is only the beginning, as his idea is for the music to accompany both a video game and subsequent movie.
Jordan Rudess, James Le Brie, John Myung and Mike Mangini all enthusiastically lent their support to their leader's project. Rudess contributed great performances on a wide variety of keyboards and Le Brie provided the vocals for a difficult libretto that develops a story line over 30-some pages depicting the dark future awaiting the human race. In his vision, utopia breaks down into its opposite, an apocalyptic, post-industrial dystopia that the inevitable hero of every novel in the fantasy genre, the Chosen One, must battle tirelessly against. At any rate, it's indispensable to have the story handy while listening to the group's 13th studio album.
Incidentally, the word dystopia (as it's written in English) seems to be in vogue these days. Petrucci used it for the title of his overture and another rock visionary, Dave Mustaine, chose it for the name of the latest Megadeth album. Both discs hit the market barely a week apart. While that may just be a coincidence...
Dream Theater should also include a 'fifth' official member in the album credits, the Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Campbell, which envelops the group in the ambiance of the great orchestral works. It never takes a lead role but it's always there throughout the more than two hours of music contained on the double CD set. I personally think the second disc goes on too long, or I would have held it for a future date, because the "second act" gives the impression that some melodies were overextended to meet the demands of the cinematic 'tempo'. Petrucci's real problem -lucky for us- is that he doesn't know how to control the flow of his relentless creativity. And we can allow that.
We could even add a sixth band member, the NOMACS, the synthesized music machines that -always according to Petrucci's vision- would be heard in his gloomy future world. The mission of the Chosen One is really nothing more than to destroy them.
Petrucci turns to the ‘classics’ as a composer, but those associated with progressive rock. You can hear echoes of their work in every Dream Theater album. His "heavy" side barely makes an appearance, reserved for the "stormy" passages in the tale concentrated in the first act. Subject to the requirements of the script for once as a guitarist, the only thing you can say about his playing style is that it is real science fiction. Another dream.