Dream Theater - The Astonishing (2016)

Here comes the thirteen studio album from Dream Theater. As with all the buzz we known so far, yes this is a concept album, a double CD it would be. Since Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes From a Memory, there hadn't any "proper" concept album from the prog giant. So, this will be some short of reboot to their collections, after half dozen of stand alone prog album that to some fans, almost a variation to each others. The Astonishing is their new title. It will be a concept album totally sketches out from John Petrucci's visions, he is the main creator of the ideas. Set in future timeline, the good news is the premise of the storyline is quite awesome. In short, we got to familiar with the story idea in their song "The Gift of Music" :

Far in the distant future,
Beyond the pages of our time.
Cold blooded wicked tyrants,
Threaten the freedom of mankind.
While their secluded leader thrives
We are living day to day
Forced to bear the lion’s share
People just don’t have the time for music any more.
And no one seems to care
My brother Gabriel, is all the hope we need.
Music is the gift he brings,
The songbird stops to listen when he sings.

This is the story about in the future-where, music no longer served by human but by machine. The only hope is a rebel musicians, supposedly metal band,  trying to bring back the good old days of music. To think about it, this is an explosive storyline.

The Astonishing is also fully set in their official website , where you can check characters and maps of the land. There will be eight characters, Gabriel, Emperor Nafaryus, Arhys, Faythe, Daryus, Empress Arabelle, Evangeline and Xander. Guys, this is the Game of Throne of progressive metal.

Musical itself, the album is total astonishing. From the opening scene of "Descent of the NOMACS", the band introduce the machine-like sounds to accommodate the music side of the machine. "Dystopian Overture" is their first officially overture song form after so many lightyears since Overture 1928. The combination of melodic (human) music vs industrial (machine) "organized sounds" is the main theme of this instrumental track. From this point, we are set into a more than two hours of music journey. The notable aspect of The Astonishing is their usage of more orchestra sounds. Jordan Rudess has a busy days composing all sort of keyboards parts. He is utilizing larger voices from trumpet to strings to disc screeching sounds. The album credit listed David Campbell as arranger for orchestra and choir.  Mike Mangini happened to admit the album blew his mind, indeed he need to added another 34 composition into his drumming memories. Luckily, the album do not required Mike M to put drums in more forefront, as with the last album. Indeed the album highlighted in the song itself and to the story line. With this, James LaBrie got to imposing himself into eight different characters. A bit out of our luck, Dream Theater do not have the tradition of inviting guest vocalist. Since it will be a cool idea if The Astonishing followed some mainstream trend by inviting guest singers to perform their characters. John Myung, as always, stayed in background. I wondered when Dream Theater going to use their "secret weapon", I guess we must wait for the next album where we can hear John Myung even more. John Petrucci himself creating many more Dream Theater riffs that we should remember. The Astonishing comprise many John's new idea, so do not worry about listening the same dear riffs.

The highlight of the albums are : Dystopian Overture, The Gift of Music, The Answer, A Life Left Behind, A New Beginning on CD 1. 2285 Entr'acte, Our New World, Astonishing on CD 2. The rest of the songs many acted as platform for the story telling, so it must be listen with context and in continuation. The Astonishing is Scene of Memory meet Operation Mindcrime meet Game of Throne meet Final Fantasy-RPG-things and at some point meet some other power metal concept albums such as Avantasia. As far as I listen, this is the best Dream Theater album since their good old days, their music ambition fully transferred into this double album in astonishing awesome way.

Metal Harem class: 9.5 out of 10 stars

Dream Theater - The Astonishing (2016)
Buy it Here - Amazon

Disc 1 - Act I
1. Descent of the NOMACS 01:10 instrumental
2. Dystopian Overture 04:50 instrumental
3. The Gift of Music 04:08
4. The Answer 01:52
5. A Better Life 04:39
6. Lord Nafaryus 03:28
7. A Savior in the Square 04:13
8. When Your Time Has Come 04:19
9. Act of Faythe 05:00
10. Three Days 03:44
11. The Hovering Sojourn 00:27 instrumental 
12. Brother, Can You Hear Me? 05:11
13. A Life Left Behind 05:49
14. Ravenskill 06:01
15. Chosen 04:31
16. A Tempting Offer 04:19
17. Digital Discord 00:47 instrumental 
18. The X Aspect 04:13
19. A New Beginning 07:41
20. The Road to Revolution 03:35

 Disc 2 - Act II
1. 2285 Entr'acte 02:20
2. Moment of Betrayal 06:11
3. Heaven's Cove 04:19
4. Begin Again 03:54
5. The Path That Divides 05:09
6. Machine Chatter 01:03 instrumental 
7. The Walking Shadow 02:58
8. My Last Farewell 03:44
9. Losing Faythe 04:13
10. Whispers on the Wind 01:37
11. Hymn of a Thousand Voices 03:38
12. Our New World 04:12
13. Power Down 01:25 instrumental 
14. Astonishing 05:51

Dream Theater:
John Petrucci - guitars
John Myung - bass
Jordan Rudess - keyboards
James LaBrie - vocals
Mika Mangini - drums

    Eric Rigler - bagpipes on "The X Aspect"
    City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

    Richard Chycki – engineering and mixing
    Jie Ma - cover art
    David Campbell - orchestral and choir arrangements

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