|Release Date||22 Feb 2019|
Dream Theater is back with a bang in their fourteenth full-length release, Distance over Time. This is easily their best album since the near-masterpiece of Black Clouds & Silver Linings back in 2009. While it doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground, there’s nothing within it that’s distractingly derivative and it’s not overly predictable. Each song is refined, organized, and extremely fluid, especially compared to the borderline mess that was The Astonishing. That being said, there’s no shortage of ridiculous time changes and their iconic, choppy beats.
As usual, the musicians are so immensely talented that it’s almost not even worth mentioning. John Petrucci emits serious riff power, especially evident in the intro in ‘At Wit’s End’ and throughout ‘Room 137′, and his and Jordan Rudess’ solos are as facemelting as ever. Drummer Mike Mangini has been around for a few albums now, replacing Portnoy in 2011, and his cohesion with the rest of the band doesn’t go unnoticed.
There are some really phenomenal tracks on this album. ‘S2N’ kicks off with a thick slapping bass line before Petrucci’s funky riffage and kickass instrumentals ensue. The oozing keyboard solo at the end is my favourite on the entire album, too. (Also, did you catch that Owen Wilson sample hidden in the background?) ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is Dream Theater tried and true. It features plenty different heavily-syncopated grooves, the time changes are all over the fucking place, and the dynamic solos within are nothing short of masterful. There’re big and beefy riffs and rhythm licks that make the song an absolute blast. The bluesy ‘Viper King’ is the metal shuffle to end all metal shuffles. It’s not overblown and stays far away from becoming absurd, with serious keyboard solos and a super catchy hook.
Dream Theater’s prog switch has been noticeably dialed down in the past ten or so years, and, as a result, much of the music has suffered. The age of fifty-fucking-time-changes-per-song has been over for some time, but there has been nothing to counteract the loss of such a prominent characteristic. This combined with the darker-leaning trend that began years ago has steadily weakened them at their core. However, as if containing years’ worth of sincerity and energy, Distance over Time regains all of their velocity and reasserts their place as the prog kings.