Progressive metal champions Dream Theater have recently returned with their new, fourteenth studio album Distance Over Time. The band has been on Roadrunner Records for number of years prior this new release, and for the purpose of releasing Distance Over Time they signed with InsideOut.
What’s obvious upon the first listen of the new record is that Dream Theater are back to what they do best — and that comes after their very bland try to create a rock opera with the 2016 album The Astonishing. That release sort of divided the band’s audience and it received mixed critical reception.
Now with Distance Over Time the group, as mentioned, is back to the basics — they served a convincing album which literally showcases how far they’ve come in their 30+ year long career. And the title of the album “distance over time” reflects that.
Kicking off the album with “Untethered Angel,” the quintet kind of recreates the atmosphere found on Systematic Chaos and Train of Thought albums. One of the things that pops out immediately is the sound of drums — this is the first album with Mike Mangini that sounds really, really good production-wise.
“Paralyzed,” structurally strongly resembles “Forsaken” from the already mentioned Systematic Chaos. LaBrie’s vocals are in the mid range, and that’s where he gives his best performance nowadays, and I’m glad to hear that they embraced this kind of approach on these new songs. John Petrucci is constantly in a good form, and that’s heard throughout the album through numerous solos and riffs.
Third song on the album “Into the Light” starts with somewhat more heavy metal vibe, with sound that could easily be found on Metallica’s Master of Puppets album. Jordan Rudess shines on this ones with, for him, characteristic acrobatics which this time also incorporates some Hammond organ.
Amusingly titled, “Barstool Warrior” features some of the best performance from Petrucci, especially in the guitar solos department. “Room 137” on the other side is quite groove, courtesy of his riff work.
Continuing on a groovier side, a Dream Theater album wouldn’t be the same if there was no interplays between Petrucci, Rudess, Myung and Mangini, and “S2n” serves that purpose very well.
“At Wit’s End” is the longest song here, clocking at about 9 minutes 20 seconds, and it’s a piece about the cycle of stress and damage inherent in women victimized by abuse. Musically, you can hear everything that would expect from Dream Theater in 2019, with strong connection with one of their best studio efforts — 1999 concept album Scenes from a Memory.
“Out of Reach” comes to the picture as a relaxing experience and is a mandatory Dream Theater ballad that leads into the closing “Pale Blue Dot,” the second longest track on Distance Over Time. Getting its name from Carl Sagan’s book, this piece deals with a reflection of how humans are to treat each other on this little planet in the vast cosmos of space. The song is filled to the brim with the intricate instrumentation.
There is also an edition of the album with a bonus track which is called “Viper King” which is totally different from the material presented on the album, hence the bonus track tag. Ruddess is back on Hammond organ letting out his inner Jon Lord of Deep Purple fame. The song overall is the 1970s Deep Purple with a touch of modern prog.
So what do we make from Distance Over Time? After quite polarizing release that The Astonishing was, it can be said that this is Dream Theater that we know and we’ve been wanting to hear. The performance here is flawless, like on any other Dream Theater record. I already mentioned Mike Mangini’s drums sounding good — this is certainly his best sounding album since he joined the band back in 2010. Overall, it’s great to see the band still has to offer a bit of the mastery that’s found on some of their best moments.
It has to be said that the band members gathered together and isolated themselves from the outer words when working on Distance Over Time, and that cohesion can surely be heard throughout these ten songs.
Order “Distance Over Time” from this location.