Album Review: Dream Theater – Distance Over Time

Promo Image courtesy of InsideOut Records

Dream Theater – “Distance Over Time”Review by: Chris Naes

Before you listen to this record, you’ve probably already made up your mind about Dream Theater.  They are definitely a ‘love it or hate it’ kind of band.  Even their most ardent fans are notoriously fickle.  Go ahead and take a look at ANY post by the band on social media and you are guaranteed to see one of their listeners (or former listeners) say, “BRING BACK MIKE PORTNOY!” (former drummer) or maybe you’ll read this little bit of positivity, “HAVEN’T LISTENED FOR A DECADE.”  But are those people right?  Has this band had their day and has it passed?  Is this a version of the band we should still follow today?

Distance Over Time, feels like a different approach by the band than their last few records.  It seems to be an effort to make the record sound more like a band playing together in a room instead of a band playing with a symphony, a welcomed change for this listener.  That isn’t to say that they haven’t had their moments of greatness in the past dabbling in larger soundscapes (Scenes From A Memory and Score come to mind), but it is certainly a highlight in their catalog since enlisting drummer Mike Mangini into their lineup.  Every member of the band is certainly skilled at what they do and have put forth an album worthy of your listening time, should you be even slightly interested in progressive music.

With that said, it must be pointed out that the album does have its flaws.  Whether their fans want to admit it or not, Dream Theater struggle to achieve the heights of what they have previously achieved.  One can’t help but compare the new songs to their classic material.  It’s a problem fans of this band have and one that many of them can’t seem to ignore. 

This record DOES have a lot to offer.  The heaviness of songs like “At Wits End” and “Pale Blue Dot” certainly live up to expectations of fans who want that flavor.  Similarly, songs like “S2N” and “Room 137” would feel right at home on any prog-metal playlist.   Mangini’s drum sound is superb throughout and sits in just the right spot with their rest of the guys.  (I highly recommend listening with good headphones for the full effect.)  On the other end of the spectrum, you have a song like “Out of Reach” which harkens back to some of their softer, earliest material on “Images and Words”.

To answer the questions I put to the reader at the outset of this review:  I think Dream Theater still has more to offer us that is of value.  There may be great material in their past, but that shouldn’t make us turn away; it should give us hope for A) Great live shows and B) More good albums still to come.

Distance Over Time, is mostly successful at what it’s trying to do.  The balance of heavy and prog is tough for most bands to pull off, but Dream Theater pulled it off on this installment in their long-ish history.

Rating: 4 out of 5

RIYL: Devin Townsend Project, Haken, Rush, Animals As Leaders

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