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Andrew’s Judgmental Album Reviews: Dream Theater – A View from the Top of the World (2021)

The ‘round the world JAR tour detours back to the States! Dream Theater’s newest album just came out, and you can’t just ‘Not Listen’ to Dream Theater. Let’s get to A View from the Top of the World!

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The ‘round the world JAR tour detours back to the States! Dream Theater’s newest album just came out, and you can’t just ‘Not Listen’ to Dream Theater. Let’s get to A View from the Top of the World!

For those who don’t know, Dream Theater are progressive metal royalty. With the core formed in Berklee, they’ve gone through a few lineups, but the talent is never in question. Dream Theater are basically known as the pretentious music nerd’s favorite band. They go through timing changes, scale changes, interesting arpeggios and that’s all in the course of one song most of the time…usually 7+ minutes as well.

So if you like Rush, Yes, Pink Floyd and Queensryche; and somehow don’t know this band, sit back and you’ll probably dig it!

  • Artist: Dream Theater
  • Album: A View From The Top of the World (2021)
  • Label: Inside Out
  • Total Track Time: 70:19

The Alien well immediately this song sounds like a Dream Theater song, my head places it more in Octavarium or Dark Clouds Silver Linings, but the guitar tone, keyboard effects and quick interwoven drum fills definitely lets you know what band you’re listening to. While they started off a little fast, once the vocals kick in, they seem to change the timing a little and slow things down. The slow almost rising imagery mixed with countdown effects and then general vibe of sailing across space comes through in the structure of the song. The song arrives at a solo that mixes into a bridge, and it definitely takes a while to get the point. Guitar tone helps for it to sound like old Sci Fi movies/robots/alien conversation, but it definitely seems to stall early on. John Petrucci is an elite guitarist, but this went more of artistic imagery in the song than pure musical structure, and it lacks a little. It also doesn’t help that this song sounds painfully like a few other Dream Theater songs off the previously mentioned albums. So maybe it’s just my ear finding this song to be fairly basic given the source.

Answering the Call is the second song, and it takes roughly 10 minutes to get to the second song, just so people know what they’re getting into. This actually has a more unique vibe where it has a heavier rhythm section, mixed in with quick runs and an almost orchestral aspect during flourishes between verses. It finds a way to be heavy while also getting across a nice classic feeling. The breakdown/solo section here definitely helps to continue the heavy and darker feeling, which could be attributed to sounding like Train of Thought, but it utilizes enough elements to differentiate it from the general straight forward heavy prog that Train of Thought is. Invisible Monster kicks off with light atmospheric sounds and then a drum fill breaks through and we getting a chugging/anticipating cadence in the song. With the song lyrics being fairly vague but revolving around invisible things driving decisions and feelings, it’s safe to assume the tense created vibe was done on purpose. We also get the first solo that actually fits as it increases in speed more like a pulse than Speed Metal shredding. So a very simple concept, executed fairly well, but when one of their most successful concepts is the 12-Step Suite with Glass Prison as an unofficial part to that, this doesn’t quite live up to their previous songs about monsters/addictions.

Sleeping Giant plays with the left and right speaker a little, which is fun, when they switch between which one is producing the sound before going to a normal mix. I liked the almost monster movie vibe the guitars and drums created before the keyboard crashes in with a really out of place organ sound, but eventually falls into the background. A song that plays in motivations of battle, slow building rage and this gradual increase of aggression lyrically, is complimented fairly well. We get to an awkward breakdown where I still hate the keyboard tone, but then it breaks into a small, Ragtime maybe, number and then goes back to what they’ve been doing. So far with the exception of Invisible Monster these solo/breakdown interludes have not been good. Since the lyrics break through to hope, of shadows disappearing and light coming through, maybe the interlude was supposed to get a little playful to get across the darkness going away, but it just didn’t sound right.

Transcending Time, the opening sounds exactly like something Rush would do. This could be a love letter in a way to Rush since Neil Peart passed away last year, since everything from the tone of the instruments, general tempo and lyrics feels like something Dream Theater haven’t pulled from since Charlie Dominici was their singer. A pretty good song, if not just a little foreign. Awaken the Master and we come out of a more upbeat song to the new one that sounds like a Castlevania boss fight. The rhythm punches you quickly and sets for a dark tone, and then as the vocals come in, it lightens up. Returning to that rhythm guitar chug riff and heavy drum work during the interludes between choruses. Lyrically it seems to be about a journey to awaken yourself, like a Vision Quest or a Kung Fu movie where the hero has to go through some Herculean Trials to finally understand something. The music compliments the imagery enough, and even feels like there’s pieces of Pull Me Under woven into things. But I feel like whenever people talk about Dream Theater being a pretentious music nerd band, this song will be used as one of the examples. Lyrically I get the concept, but it’s written in a way that comes off needlessly “interpretative” and rings with more pretentiousness than possibly intended.

A View From the Top of the World well this is a 20 minute song folks, strap in, get a drink, and let’s see if this goes anywhere that doesn’t just cause ear fatigue before the halfway point. We open with a little light noise that goes into a march, which than turns into a determined nearly heroic solo that is complimented well by the keyboard. “Bold enough to conquer – Brave enough to fail” resonate well in this song that is effectively perfect for like a Lord of the Rings fan music video, or any of those mid-00s YouTube fads. After the initial determined march, we get a fairly ethereal sound, taking in the view from above, but then we get to the point where he starts to descend, and that’s when the music gets less airy and starts to fill out in a more traditional progressive metal way. Once opening the door and reaching where he descended to, we get a Panic Attack style drum break and then things get more dark and chaotic. It gives off a solid feeling of being dropped from on high into, maybe not hell, but much more danger that the song has been dealing with. The lyrics end with the concept of breaking barriers, so conquering fears to achieve something greater. These longer songs of Dream Theater’s always tend to have a more positive outlook ending, which in my opinion takes away a bit.

Well what can I say…this was what you kind of expect from Dream Theater. It was Progressive Metal, a little self-indulgent, but the negatives are very simply; it bored me in a lot of spots. Too many pieces sounded similar to previous works, the keyboard tone was rarely complimentary, and when the shortest song on the album is 6 minutes and 24 seconds, which gets taxing. The conversation of Mike Portnoy (the drummer until 2010) and Mike Mangini (current drummer) will be had forever, but my talking point isn’t who is a better drummer, it’s they just feel less adventurous without Portnoy.

So sure, if you want to break things down to music theory, or tempo changes, musicianship and tricks, this isn’t an objectively bad album. But if you’ve listened to Images and Words, Metropolis, or even Octavarium this lacks quite a bit. Dream Theater fans might be happy with the album sounding exactly like Dream Theater should, but I just find it boring. Is it better than their last album? Yes, but that’s not a high bar. So is it bad? No. Will I be inspired to ever listen to this again? Doubtful.

 

Final Judgment: 5.75/10

 


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Chairshot Radio: The 5×5 Bond Tunes

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With Dave Ungar unable to record an episode of Musical Chairs, Patrick O’Dowd welcomes Aesop Mitchell back for another edition of the 5 x5!  This week, Patrick and Aesop explore the iconic James Bond film franchise and present their five best and five worst songs made for James Bond films!

The rebirth of Chairshot Radio will see a rotating cast of hosts delivering you new shows and content. Sports, Entertainment, and Sports Entertainment is the umbrella under which we seek to invade your earballs. So sit back, relax and LET US IN…

For the latest, greatest and up to date in everything pro wrestling, sports and entertainment head to TheChairshot.com and remember to ALWAYS #UseYourHead.

About the Chairshot Radio Network

Created in 2017, the Chairshot Radio Network presents you with the best in wrestling and wrestling crossover podcasts, including POD is WAR, Women’s Wrestling Talk, Chairshot Radio daily editions, The #Miranda Show, Badlands’ Wrestling Mount Rushmores, The Outsider’s Edge, DWI Podcast, Bandwagon Nerds, the Greg DeMarco Show, 3 Man Weave, Five Rounds, Turnbuckle Talk, The Reaction and more! You can find these great shows each week at theChairshot.com and through our distribution partners, including podcasting’s most popular platforms.

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Bandwagon Nerds #143: HBO Maximum Shake Up

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Bandwagon Nerds
Bandwagon Nerds #143: HBO Maximum Shake Up

The entertainment world was shaken up this week as the first true ramifications of the Warner Brothers and Discovery+ merger came to pass.  From Batgirl getting scrapped to the formation of a new combined streaming service to a new direction for DC films, new Warner-Discovery CEO David Zaslav carried the Nerdosphere.  The Nerds take a deep dive into all of the the news, reacting to Zaslav’s decisions and speculating what it all could mean for consumers and fans.

  • @WrestlngRealist
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  • @itsReyCash
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About Bandwagon Nerds

Join Patrick O’Dowd, David Ungar, PC Tunney and Rey Cash as they keep everyone up on all things nerd, and maybe add some new nerds along the way. It’s the Bandwagon Nerds Podcast!

About the Chairshot Radio Network

Created in 2017, the Chairshot Radio Network presents you with the best in wrestling and wrestling crossover podcasts, including POD is WAR, Women’s Wrestling Talk, The #Miranda Show, Badlands’ Wrestling Mount Rushmores, The Outsider’s Edge, DWI Podcast, Bandwagon Nerds, the Greg DeMarco Show, 3 Man Weave, Five Rounds, Turnbuckle Talk, Suwama’s Station, The Reaction and more! You can find these great shows each week at theChairshot.com and through our distribution partners, including podcasting’s most popular platforms.


The Chairshot Radio Network
Your home for the hardest hitting podcasts and radio shows!

All Shows On Demand

Listen on your favorite platform!

iTunes  |  iHeart Radio  |  Google Play  |  Spotify
Listen, like, subscribe, and share!


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