Dream Theater - Octavarium
Atlantic
Progressive Metal
8 songs (75'58)
Release year: 2005
Dream Theater, Atlantic Records
Reviewed by Ben
Major event

Octavarium has been discussed to death all over the internet. From the early talks after the album was leaked prior to its release date (resulting in the shut down of the official Dream Theater message board) to the present, fans are divided when it comes to this release. Something that I have noticed over the years is that Dream Theater fans are quite picky. The last outing, Train of Thought split fans in two, those that absolutely detested the cd and hated its modern leanings, to those that thought this was the most aggressive and intense album to date. With Octavarium I see the same thing happening with people loving the softer side of the band to others who cry out that this is borderline AOR. What I hear when I play this cd are eight distinct songs, three of which I consider exemplary, and five that range from unnecessary to just plain “good”.

Opener The Root of All Evil is one of the three great tracks on Octavarium and the listener has the pleasure to hear it right away. A very energetic song that has everything a Dream Theater album needs to begin with, an ominous intro, Portnoy’s drum chops, aggressive riffing, and some upper register Labrie. While this is one of the albums strongest cuts it does have a bit of a recycled feeling to it. If you compare it to The Glass Prison there is a parallel in the structure of these particular songs. The Answer Lies Within is a ballad and brings the momentum down considerably. There aren’t any memorable parts to recall back on after the track is over. Hollow Years had beautiful acoustic work in the guitar and the piano as well as a catchy chorus The Silent Man had James Labrie during his peak years as a singer, this on the other hand lacks everything past ballads had and is a five minute wait for a never to appear climax. While The Answer Lies Within is lackluster in every sense of the word, I Walk Beside You, Octavarium’s second ballad, is one of the best the band has ever done. Almost pop like with its arrangements, this is a smooth laid back rock song at its core. An upbeat Hollow Years with a great chorus. It is catchy, has a great melodic back line, and James Labrie simply shines. Yes, I am aware that there have been numerous comparisons to Bono of U2 and that a lot of people say that this song is a U2 duplicate. I would say that the only striking similarities to Bono is that the vocal melody does sound a lot like U2, but this is because of the way that James holds the notes and his tone rather than saying the entire song is a complete rip off. The next three songs, Panic Attack, Never Enough and Sacrificed Sons are indifferent to me. Panic Attack is a good fast track to bring the momentum back but it feels too by the numbers for me to give it more than a passing nod. Sacrificed Sons is a standard epic and it is actually a good song but being put right next to the title track greatly lessens its impact. The last number, Octavarium is Dream Theater’s best insanely long prog song in years. Clocking in at twenty four minutes (although the liner notes indicate that The Root of All Evil may actually not be the first proper song, but the conclusion to Octavarium. In that case this would be a thirty two minute song and making the song eight Acts long thus tying in with the whole “Octa“ theme. Or on the other hand it could be the last song in a trilogy that began funnily enough, with The Glass Prison, continued with This Dying Soul and finally concluded with The Root of All Evil and it just so happens to be a coincidence that the Acts all added up to eight) this is a well thought out track in terms of music passages, solo spots, segues to bring each “Act” into play, and most importantly in concept. The music mirrors the lyrical tale of a man and the spiraling journey into his psyche. In the beginning things are calm and soothing, but as the song progresses it becomes more intense and chaotic moments come about when things start to go wrong inside the protagonist’s head. The grand finale is a crushing conclusion, James deals some seriously venomous lines and spits out the title of the song in a desperate, hateful, and insane fashion. An orchestral ending rounds out the final four minutes and gently releases the listener from the song and brings this album to a close.

Every time Dream Theater releases an album it sounds nothing like the previous one and more than likely will not sound like its successor. I happen to like this particular incarnation of Dream Theater. The songs that do stand out and kill are ones that show the band the way they would like to be perceived as all the time, excellent. On the strength of these tracks alone Octavarium is an enjoyable album and really only has one bomb, the rest are there for padding out the clock.

Killing Songs :
Octavarium, I Walk Beside You, The Root of All Evil
Ben quoted 75 / 100
Jason quoted 85 / 100
Cody quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Dream Theater that we have reviewed:
Dream Theater - Dream Theater reviewed by Rob and quoted 79 / 100
Dream Theater - Live At Budokan reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events reviewed by Crash and quoted 73 / 100
Dream Theater - A Change Of Seasons reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Dream Theater - Black Clouds and Silver Linings reviewed by Thomas and quoted 82 / 100
To see all 17 reviews click here
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