Dream Theater – The Astonishing (2016)


Article by David Rosales

Dream Theater never ceases to surprise you; not in a good way, but in how they can always reach the next level of selling out. Not that they were ever produced honest music, though one might excuse their progressive speed hard rock debut (When Dream and Day Unite), at least a little, I guess. Their brand of messy and random stitching of unrelated ideas in a mixture of hard rock and outright Disney pop has gone through a long series of transformations; a move to fool audiences with the typical “constantly reinventing ourselves” excuse that allows them to keep being random.

The band has suffered several crises, even televised ones that would make any telenovella envy them (Portnoy leaves, Dream Theater holds mock audiences to “choose” a pre-selected drummer). They’ve moved with the waves, going dense and long with Systematic Chaos to entice those fans who like to believe themselves metal, then softening up a little with the influence of overrated poser-band Pink Floyd in Black Clouds and Silver Linings to produce long pop songs with some funny stabs at being metal. After that, 2011’s A Dramatic Turn of Events saw them go for their most retro attempt at imitating real progressive rock, with some interesting ideas and passages but ultimately resulting in the bloated and boring pieces their fans expect from them.

Whenever they aren’t busy putting together one of these Broadway soundtracks structured as carnival music, they will be repackaging previous material into more compilations or stuffing their lobotomized fans with yet another live album. Dream Theater lives the KISS dream, with similar tactics, minus the extreme sexual decadence, making them apt for audiences of all ages. A few weeks ago, they released an album that has taken particularly long in arriving, named The Astonishing for major catchiness and acceptance. This album is a two-disc package divided into thirty-four different tracks,  but this is no The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and Dream Theater does not even attempt to keep single four-minute songs coherent. They switch from inspirational soundtrack bullshit to gay-pop ballad mode with little to no preparation, only to follow it up by a head-bobbing hard rock groove that is never too aggressive so as to appear actually threatening.

Daddy-rock, Disney-pop and conscious attempts at being as lame as Hans Zimmer have brought Dream Theater to where they are. Sometimes they try to be Pink Floyd, but not too much, lest they be recognized, since Pink Floyd does not have too much they can actually call their own but a lazy syncopated sort of pop rock with bluesy guitar (I really can’t stop laughing when people praise Gilmour as some kind of revolutionary; he was a good guitarist, period). Sometimes they try to go Genesis, but they do not have the consistency, the concentration or the actual creativity, so they resort to disguising their lack of composition talents by attaching whatever they can come up to the latest they wrote down, no matter how nonsensical it is. At this point, Dream Theater sounds like senile Avenged Sevenfold trying to be old Genesis but forgetting about it every other minute as, if they already have Alzheimer’s.

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24 thoughts on “Dream Theater – The Astonishing (2016)”

  1. Dr Khan says:

    The flying surveillance robot on the cover art is the same as the one on the Megadeth _Dystopia_ cover! CONSPIRACY.

  2. Roger says:

    “since Pink Floyd does not have too much they can actually call their own but a lazy syncopated sort of pop rock with bluesy guitar”

    LOLOLOL. You really have your blinds down on this one.


    Also, Pink Floyd’s very early period and also their ‘space rock’ period between the Barrett and Waters eras (the live in Pompeii years) directly inspired Krautrock: That includes early Tangerine dream.

    You fool!

    1. Egledhron says:

      I was about to make a comment just like yours. Picking on Pink Floyd is downright foolish and compressing their entire discography as unoriginal “syncopated sort of pop rock with bluesy guitar” is quite desperate. I’ve heard kindergarden children giving better descriptions about Spongebob songs.

      As for the rest of the review, meh. I can tell nobody’s missing a thing by not giving this a spin. On a more relevant note, I’d like to hear people’s opinion regarding Rigor Mortis’ “Slaves to the grave” from a couple years ago. I thought it was top notch for a 21st century thrash album.

    2. David Rosales says:

      Genesis > Pink Floyd, by far. Pink Floyd is more popular cause it is catchier and easier to “get”.
      Genesis needs more period.

      Pink Floyd and Rush are the “easy stuff” that offers a lot of candy, but less content. There is much more in King Crimson and Genesis, but they are far more subtle.

      Of course, I am talking about pre-1975 prog in general, which was the actual era of “prog rock”, from then on it is just masturbation and degeneration.

      1. Dr Khan says:

        Comparing Pink Floyd to Genesis is just dumb. They aren’t anywhere close to the same kind of rock music.

      2. Roger says:

        Equating the idea that ‘easier to get’ etc is analytic for ‘valuable music’ is the most hipster kind of bullshit I can pretty much imagine from a music ‘reviewer’.

        If you have no appreciation for how Pink Floyd layer their music, how a track develops, how they use Ambiance, in other words, if you choose to focus on simply two properties of their music: syncopation and blues solos, then you are simply not being balanced in your ‘review’. You are being about as subjective in your analysis as you could be. You could only have done worse by picking ONE property of their music to talk about: blues solos, for example.

        I’m NIHILIST MAN. I don’t have to conduct balanced reviews because I have transcended the meaning of the herd (and also because i’ve got to pump out another shit post for a fucking BLOG in this race of mass quantity over quality that is the interwebs). Oh Fugg.

        1. David Rosales says:

          Oh, come on, you are too much on your guard. I made a careless comment, not an argument. A comment that you misread, btw.

          I am saying that the biggest reason why Rush and Pink Floyd seem more prominent in popular cultura or among rock and metal fans, than Genesis and King Crimson, is only because they are more straightforward in one way or another, and their proportion of hooks to quantity of content is higher. It is easier to digest. I did not imply that they were inferior BECAUSE of this.

          If you WANT to read something else into it, you are just muddying communication and justifying your butthurt.

    3. Erik The Red says:

      “since Pink Floyd does not have too much they can actually call their own but a lazy syncopated sort of pop rock with bluesy guitar”

      Perhaps I’m a fool too, but your exception (“Animals”) seems to prove the rule here.

      1. Roger says:

        1. Why would a band call ‘their own’ syncopated rhythms and blues solos, you boob?

        2. See my response to David Rosales.

  3. SomberSun says:

    Ha! It really does sound like Disney music. Perfect comparison.

  4. OliveFox says:

    What is it with this and the Megadeth album cover both looking like shit PC games from the early 2000’s?

    1. vOddy says:

      There are some computer games which are metal as fuck, but those album covers do not look like such games.

      1. OliveFox says:

        True enough. I am not really sure what games they both remind me of….maybe Deus Ex? Blade Runner? I dunno. It just looks so 1999-2002-ish with the art direction. You would think a band as pompous as Dream Theater would come up with a less childish cover.

        Either way. I need to find a copy of The Dig or Myst and fire up those jams quick!

        1. LostInTheANUS says:

          In my experience sci-fi games from late 90s/early 2000s have got really dark and gritty covers (and this translates to their storylines), I remember in the mid 2000s sci-fi games started becoming much brighter and fruitier. Though I’m most likely remembering wrong since around 2006 is when I stopped playing videogames.

    2. LostInTheANUS says:

      This one in particular looks like it’s ripped straight from the box art of some third-rate sci-fi RTS from 2004.

      1. Can you survive the blitzkrieg says:

        Really who looked at that album cover and got excited? It reeks of a cynical corporate atmosphere spawning this shit (hey uh this looks like them video games my kids play, they like that shit don’t they?) and a large crew of miserable but well paid stagehands with ponytails, maybe one has a single gold earring. The leader of that crew thinks he is working for a dangerous and impressive band and orders the local crews not to look the other band members in the eye should they be in their presence.

  5. vOddy says:

    Informative and enjoyable article for one who is ignorant of dream theater.
    However, I must again say that you should let me proof read your articles. I often spot small errors in them.
    I will do it for free, and I will be very good at it.

    The only reason why I sometimes have mistakes in my posts is that I do not proof read them.
    so please send me an electronic mail and we can talk.
    I will do this for free. I got an A in English. I am good at this. Contact me.

    1. I am not against it, I often send these short reviews in a little bit of a rush and I guess I haven’t been able to get rid of my second-language awkwardness. Write to editor@deathmetal.org, see what Gabe thinks.

      1. Ara says:

        What’s your first language?

  6. matters says:


    For Dream Theater…

  7. Stephane says:

    I don’t even understand how you lose time to listen to Dream Theater to write about them in here… Death Metal .org

    1. When you are a fan of the really good prog rock of the 70s, you can spare some time to debunk these frauds.
      And I did listen to Dream Theater as a fan when I was younger, so I am at least a little familiar with them.

      1. Stephane says:

        Fair enough and respect that \m/

  8. Cormack says:

    I thought the last tag said Alzheimer’s.

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