One of my favorite bands, Dream Theater, released their 13th studio album today, “The Astonishing”. Before I go into my thoughts on the album, I feel I should give you a little background on the concept, as it is very unique. Dream Theater are a progressive rock band, meaning they often explore more intricate instrumentation, key and time signatures, along with deep meanings behind their music. Think of something along the lines of Rush, but pushing the progressive feel more. A concept album is a unique type of album, one in which tells a story, or concept, using the music to do so. Each song in the album is part of a puzzle, which is the album itself. Some of the most well-known concept albums include “American Idiot” by Green Day, “The Wall”, by Pink Floyd, and “Tommy”, by The Who. “The Astonishing” is a concept album. Along with being a concept album, it’s also a 2-disc rock opera, that utilizes a full orchestra and choir, in addition to the band itself.
A lot, right? I know. It’s a huge project.
The story behind “The Astonishing” is very interesting, but what else would you expect from a band such as Dream Theater? The story takes place in the year 2258, in the dystopian world ruled by the Great Northern Empire of the Americas. The empire is led by Lord Narfaryus, who has removed all man-made music from the world. Music is generated and controlled by robotic machines called NOMACS, who control order and discipline throughout the empire. This concept is very similar the George Orwell’s “1984”, in which the citizens of Oceania are monitored everywhere they go by the Thought Police. Back to the album. The story focusses on a Rebel Militia, led by brothers Arhys and Gabriel, who seek to overthrow the empire and restore peace, music, and order to the land. Gabriel, because of his ability to play music, is deemed the chosen one, and is said to overthrown Narfaryus. The result is a two-hour, ten-minute experience that will leave listeners extremely satisfied and enthralled.
My personal thoughts on the album: amazing. I think the whole idea behind a concept album is awesome. Dream Theater have made a concept album before, although not nearly as close to this extent. The story is intriguing, the characters are relatable to people, and the music, of course, is awesome in every way. The thing with this album although, to me, is that it’s one of those albums where you can’t just pick up in the middle of it or somewhere, you need to listen to it from start to finish, all the way through, to truly understand the story and characters. The music is like a soundtrack to a movie. Each song follows a certain scene, while referencing to earlier themes and ideas throughout the whole score. Dream Theater truly make this feel like you’re at an opera show. There are distinct endings and beginning to the two scenes, an intermission, and they flow smoothly.
There is one thing about the album I wasn’t completely keen on, although. First, some of the piano themes were “cheesy” in a way. They felt very Disney-like. Sometimes this made me feel like I was listening to the soundtrack from “Frozen” or something like that.
This album requires your full attention to fully experience it. As a Dream Theater fan, I would rank this among the best albums they have produced, due to both creativity and musicianship. If you want something that tells a great story, and has a melodic, captivating musical score, then listen to “The Astonishing”. If you’re a Dream Theater fan, listen to “The Astonishing”. If you want to listen to good music, listen to “The Astonishing”. It will leave you feeling all sorts of emotions, from happy to sad to anxious and on and on.
These are my opinions though! If you listened to the album, and have an opinion, post it in the comments and we can have a discussion about it! 🙂
As always thanks for reading, talk to you soon 🙂