Dream Theater – Distance Over Time – The Fan Club Reviews
The Fan Club Reviews
We in the fan clubs have been very lucky to receive advance copies of the new Dream Theater album, and have been listening to it a lot over the past couple of months. We decided to do a collection of reviews of the album – with people from across the globe reviewing the album. They’re not all English native speakers, and we’ve decided to not try to rewrite the reviews in perfect English, but leave the reviews as the people themselves pretty much wrote.
Juan Manuel Perez – Argentina
Distance Over Time is the 14th album of DT and it still amazes me that the guys keep experimenting and playing, while not losing all the factors that we love. Following a very melodic album (The Astonishing), the guys chose to make an 180º turn and kick ass with some powerful metal songs. You can feel they had lots of fun on that cabin while writing the album, the songs are very riff driven and they feel more than a sum of parts, they are very well crafted.
The first two singles, “Untethered Angel” and “Fall into the Light” are out there, they are great singles, if you haven’t hear them, go do it right know!!!! and then come back!
The first single, it follows the formula of last years’s singles, it has a catchy chorus and reminds me of other classic songs. It starts with a nice arpeggio and a killer riff and has all the components that we are used to like battle of solos between JP-JR and unisons. Lyrically it’s some kind of therapy trying to set a troubled person free from their burdens.
A very round, short to the point song, its feels radio apt like “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” or “Constant Motion”. An aggressive riff starts the song hypnotizing you, while the others guys enter one by one. The lyrics are about a person paralyzed by his anger, pressure and frustrations. A little after the middle of the song there is a classic slow down with keyboard and guitar arpeggio and then JP kicks in with a nice solo.
Fall Into the Light
The Second single, a headbanging song with a Metallica’s feel. Powerful riffs all over the place. By the middle of the song, it has an acoustic melodic section follow by a beautiful instrumental part and crazy solos by JR and JP.
This one is the classic prog jewel of the album, it has that Rush and a little Genesis feel. The beginning of the song reminded me a little of the beginning of “New Millennium”, a riff kicks in very well accompanied by Mr. Myung’s bass and Jordan plays Genesis Style chords, then there is a beautiful little melodic solo by JP. James sings about a lonely man in a barstool, wondering if it was bad luck or his fate what brought it there. There is another beautiful solo, a slow down with piano, bass and guitar expression pedal and after that, as if that was not enough, one of the most soulful JP solos to date. The song ends with James singing about regret and starting a new life.
Mangini’s first lyric contribution, this one is a weird one haha, it took me some time to get it, but now I love it. It’s not a classic DT song. The song starts with a killer riff and a melody that reminded me a little of “The Beautiful People” of Marilyn Manson. I think the song talks about a guy obsessed with signals, numbers and messages that drive him crazy. Believe or not this song has a moment of Beatles psychedelia on it. This one will be up to debate!
Signal to Noise is Myung’s second contribution to this album, the song starts with a bass riff that you’ve already heard if you follow us 😉 . It’s a powerful groovy song that will make you want to move, head banging is guaranteed. I love Mike’s work in this one, he is following the song to perfection. The song’s end reminded me of Dark Eternal, where JP throws a groovy riff while JR improvises a kick ass solo.
At Wit’s End
This one is the longest of the album, a classic DT song, it starts aggressively with a few riffs that will blow your socks off! As the song progress it will change moods a few times, it has slow parts, riffty parts, keyboard parts, guitar solo parts, piano parts, all that we like and love adding up and building for the end where JP plays a beautiful inspiring solo while James screams “don’t leave me now!”, the solo will slowly go silent like in “A New Beginning” and there is a little surprise after…
Out of Reach
The ballad of the album, a little peace on a sea of heaviness. James sings a beautiful love history in his lower voice almost whispering while the guys accompanies him with a very touchy melody full of feeling.
Pale Blue Dot
My favorite track of the album, the crazy one, based in the famous Carl Sagan’s speech. Imagine floating in space and BANG! the guys throws at you the heaviest riffs of the album. The song has a very dark, military, star wars feeling. Entering the middle is where the insanity begins, it reminded me of Octavarium’s “Full Circle”. After the madness, James comes back to warn us “…to save us from ourselves” and the song ends with an exquisite solo from JP.
James’s bonus track, a very fun song, Dream Theater’s tribute and big appreciation for Deep Purple. James sings in a very high pitch, JP is playing some killer riffs and solo while JR is in full Jon Lord mode. I’m very happy this one didn’t stay in the shelf and it’s going to see the light of day.
I really enjoyed the album and I’m hoping all of you do too, it has all that we love and I will not be surprised if everyone likes the album for very different reasons and songs. It’s that kind of album. I didn’t feel the need to skip any songs, and despite being an hour long, its flies by.
Andrea Mancini – Italy
It’s not our policy to make reviews of the new Dream Theater albums, but this time there are great expectations for this work. It may be that the controversial rock opera “The Astonishing” has left a bitter taste in many fans which expects a rescue, or because this is the first record that will be released for the new label; or even for the writing method they chose. Frequently the band wrote their own albums directly in the studio (ToT, Systematic or SFAM for example), but this time they decided to end up all five together for most of the summer, writing and record in the same studio. They lived as a family 24 hours a day, almost isolated of any external influence, in this kind of cloistered, making barbecue, cooking for each other etc.
The first single Untethered Angel has received many critics, in Italy at least, maybe a bit too much. Over all, because at certain points apparently sound like some other songs, it tastes like already heard. I think was intended that. It’s not by chance that they chose it as the first single to be released, because as soon as you listen it brought you back to something familiar. But this is just the start of a piece, a journey, if we want, particular, with something unprecedented, but all in all also contains many distinctive elements of the DT sound. They’re a band always give their best on a long run, and previously indeed the first singles didn’t reflect the real value of the rest of the album; let’s think about Burning My Soul, As I Am or Hollow Years that today almost everyone recognizes as great songs, at the time, they did turn your nose to a lot of fans. As always when a new album come out fans and critics will divide on judging, there are who’ll love it and those who cannot. On one thing we’re pretty sure: he won’t leave indifferent.
With some interviews the band members had declared that they wanted to make something recognisable, in their classical style and identity, and I believe, the promise has been maintained.
On the ten tracks for a large part we can find all those stylistic and sound choices which in the past did the fortune of the band; we have some heavy riffs, pounding drums and arrangement with an Awake/ToT flavour, roaring guitars accompanied by very melodic lines e vocals from James LaBrie, and of course by tasteful filled guitar solos from the one and only master John Petrucci. Rudess also provide a good test, this time more focused on conventional keyboards and hammond organ, with some good solos in his unique lead synth instead of electronic apps and stuff, and he made it in a very concrete way.
The stylistic choice about sounds and arrangements the band has pursued, also limiting orchestrations and overdubs is intended to create a work it could sounds better in live shows and could be played in it’s entirety by the band not using pre-recorded parts.
We can find a thick and heavy sound, pretty modern but also with a vintage finish in some moments like Viper King which deserves a special mention; a track from the style really unprecedented for a band like Dream Theater and it’s more than a simply bonus track.
After hearing it many many times, I want to mention few songs which I consider the best of the album; Fall Into The Light, Barstool Warrior, S2N, At Wit’s End, which has the best guitar solo and Out Of Reach, the album masterpiece; James did an awesome work with it, for the lyrics and vocally.
Talking about the production and mixing, it’s been done an excellent work so you can clearly hear every instrument; I want to report a very good yield of the bass, and for the drum sound, which is much better than the previous albums.
To conclude, overall this album maybe won’t be a masterpiece like others in the past, but IMHO, after more than 33 years of career, those who manage to pop out a masterpiece one after the other, also considering that this band release a disc with a 2/3 year frequency from the beginning?
I want to give you just a heads-up: listen to this album aside from preconceived ideas and comparison with the past or other new bands. Trust in this album, and in this band that we all love; as always the guys poured their hearts and souls and once again figured out how to excite and satisfy us.
Alex Hogg – Australia
The new Dream Theater album, Distance over Time, is a return to form for the band. After The Astonishing’s polarizing reception, I was keen to listen to the new album after comments from the band saying it was a “classic Dream Theater album”.
And they have delivered. All the elements of classic Dream Theater are here – the heavy riffs of Untethered Angel and S2N, the progressive elements of Barstool Warrior and Viper King (which contains the 9/16 riff first heard in the Dream Theater drumming auditions from eight years ago) and the lighter, acoustic and classical elements of the band from the middle section to Fall into the Light and Paralysed.
James LaBrie is in fine form following on from his excellent performances on The Astonishing showcasing all of his vocal powers from his stunning operatic voice in the chorus of Paralysed, the tender conversational tone of Barstool Warrior and the metal tones from Room 137 and At Wit’s End.
Showcased front and centre throughout the album are the technically demanding guitar solos of John Petrucci and numerous trade-offs and unisons between himself and Jordan. While showcasing all of the technical brilliance than we have come to love over the years of them being in the band; they have a concise and contained feel to them…and yet none of them feel like we’re missing out. They all serve the song perfectly.
Jordan’s keyboard work is classic Dream Theater with all the keyboard wizardry we’ve come to expect – his Keith Emerson inspired organ solo from the Fall into the Light and the Continuum solo at the end of S2N is sheer magic. From time to time throughout the record, his delicate touch on the piano is showcased front and centre; the middle section of At Wit’s End is beautiful and backs James’ gentle vocal performance perfectly.
John Myung and Mike Mangini support the ensemble brilliantly providing a rock solid rhythm section, serving the song perfectly and providing an excellent framework for the vocals and lead instruments to sit on top of. John Myung’s riff that drives S2N along provides a certain power to the song that I don’t think could be captured the same if it were driven solely by the guitar and the first unison of the song between keys, guitar and bass is technically demanding but concise.
Both contribute to the record lyrically as well; I feel John Myung is an underrated lyricist and Mike Mangini’s storytelling of Room 137 provides a unique perspective which I hope to hear more of in the future.
A lot has been made online about the song length; with this being the third Dream Theater record without a song longer than ten minutes and the shortest record run time since their debut 30 years ago.
And yet, I don’t think we’re missing out on anything; it’s all here. Distance over Time has a more direct feel to it than previous records. Almost as if they were Rush c. 1980 writing Permanent Waves after the sprawling epic in the style of Hemispheres that was The Astonishing.
Victoria Martinez – USA
DT USA was very fortunate to listen to Distance over Time in its entirety before its release. We can tell you that you are in for an amazing and exciting ride! Dream Theater has the best formula in D/T. Â The perfect combination of their newer sound, while still revisiting and celebrating their classic roots. Distance Over Time has some of the most killer riffs in all of the discography, some of JP’s most emotional solos yet, JM upfront and loud, the best MM sound, JR playing in his classic, throwback DT style, and JLB truly shining. There are some deja-vu moments and familiarity, but they take you in a completely different, and refreshing, direction. Overall, you get a real sense of community and satisfaction in this album. It really gives off that feeling that the band is happy and working together harmoniously. The energy is palpable with all of us as well… there is this excitement we haven’t seen in years.
Distance Over Time grows with every listen, our favorites have shifted a couple of times.
The album kicks off with Untethered Angel, which also happened to be the first single released. There is a real throwback vibe to this song and it brings us one of those JP vs JR solos we love, and fans of LTE come to expect. This tune has a very catchy chorus and different styles throughout. Untethered Angel is about overcoming your fears, and not allowing fear to stop you from succeeding.
Paralyzed had us at first listen! This is one well written song with killer riffs, and a beautiful and haunting vocal melody by James. Â This is a song that can certainly help widen the fanbase and welcome new fans to Dream Theater. We felt it was the perfect choice for the 3rd single, and our prediction for a Grammy nomination. This song is about overcoming your own emotional roadblocks or what paralyzes you in life. It has one of our favorite melodies by JR, and one of our favorite solos by JP.
Fall into the Light Â was the second single for D/T. Â A killer Metallica-inspired riff really kicks off this song. This is one of two songs John Myung wrote lyrics for in the album. This song is about realizing what is important in life, and how if you really want to succeed at something you have to be spiritually connected to it as well. Â Â This has one of JPs most emotional solos yet, and the melodic interlude in the middle of the song is simply amazing. One of our favorite song endings too.
Barstool Warrior has such a nostalgic 70’s & 80’s prog feel to it. You can hear JP’s love for Rush in the intro, and this song evokes a lot of memories about prog of yesteryear while still managing to sound fresh and new. Â We think this song is about reminiscing about the past and wondering how fate, or luck might have played a part in how life has turned out for this barstool warrior. It’s also about letting go and not being stuck in the past, and finally realizing where you belong. We know this will be the highlight of the album for many fans. This song truly takes you on a journey from beginning to end.
Room 137 is one of those songs that will absolutely grow on you. It starts off with a very heavy, aggressive riff, and it progresses into what can only be described as a “Beatlesque” chorus section. We were a little bewildered by this song at first, Â but have really grown to love and appreciate it. The contrast between the heaviness of the song and the catchiness of the chorus really gives this song an interesting angle, and we can say this is something completely new for DT. This is the first time Mangini contributes to the lyrics and this song is about someone obsessed with patterns, numbers and hidden messages.
S2N is another hard hitting song with one of our favorite bass riffs in the album. It’s the second song Myung contributed lyrics for. S2N stands for Signal to Noise, which in science it is a ratio that compares the signal that is desired to the background noise. If the noise is too high the signal is not received. We think this song is about reducing all that outside noise in your life, what is stopping you from really focusing on what you want to achieve. There is so much outside noise with constant news, and social media that is becomes information overload. This song tells us that the answer is to reduce that noise so that our true message is revealed. Mangini really stands out on this song which has a real LTE feel to it, and even some Rush’s Cygnus X1 undertones. One of the most complex songs in the album.
At Wit’s End quickly became our favorite track in the album. It starts off with such an aggressive, dizzying riff and then takes you on a journey, a story about the aftermath of abuse, and a victim not wanting her past trauma to interfere with her current relationship. At the same time you have her partner helping her thru it and wanting to save the relationship. This song was written by James and the emotional subject is well reflected on the song’s writing. You feel a gamut of emotions listening to this song, from despair and sadness, to frustration and anger, and ultimately moving to hope and trusting love to get you through difficult things. The music is as complex as the subject matter and this song is a stand out.
Out of Reach is a beautiful ballad and a welcome change of pace in the album. James creates a wonderful texture with his soft vocals in this love story about a person that is just out of reach. The accompanying melody on this song is really touching and it creates a feeling of warmth and love. Such a well written ballad that really gets the guys in touch with their more melodic side.
Pale Blue Dot is in our opinion the epic masterpiece of the album. Everything you would expect from a song based on Carl Sagan view of space and our responsibility to Earth and humankind. Every part of this song is truly epic- from the fantastic riffs, to the dizzying JR and JP solos in an extended instrumental section, from the military style, imposing drum and bass beats, to James’ heartfelt belting of the lyrics. This is another journey- you float thru space, feel the sheer grandiosity of the Universe, travel thru space, and come to realize how truly small we are in our little pale blue dot. At the end of this amazing journey, we come to realize that we really need to focus on kindness, there’s no one there to save us from ourselves. Only we can do that. It really doesn’t get any more epic than this.
Viper King is really such a fun song. A real departure from the rest of the album, and probably the reason it was left as a bonus track. We are very happy it was released. You can tell the guys really enjoyed playing this song in the studio. It has a very rock n roll, blues feel to it.
With Distance Over Time, Dream Theater proves that they can deliver all the things we’ve come to love about their classic sound, while still continuing to grow. This album truly has a synergy and feel that had been missing. It’s a rekindling of that enthusiasm from the past, and that organic feel to the music. It’s familiar but innovative. Complex but deeply emotional. We loved going on this journey and we hope you will too.
Victoria Martinez – Dream Theater USA
Damien – France
A new Dream Theater album is always something special. And this album is special because it will stir the community once again. We all know that the band said the “Images, Words and Beyond” tour inspired them a lot. But be careful: this album is NOT Images and Words 2.0. So if your gods are Mike Portnoy and Kevin Moore, you need to move on. Dream Theater has moved on, so must we. Dream Theater is now a band that plays that modern prog metal that you’ve heard for a dozen of years on Systematic Chaos, Black Clouds and Silver Linings, A Dramatic Turn of Events and Dream Theater. If you are a fan of the Astonishing, be warned! If you hate the Astonishing, be prepared because Dream Theater created an anti-Astonishing album. I think that the band heard the dissatisfied fans and tried to do the opposite: shorter songs, heavier, less cheesy, no Disney and less organic and more modern.
The first striking element is the mix. As I said, it’s more modern and guitar driven. John Petrucci is the big winner here: he sounds powerful, he is really forward in the mix and outshines a bit the rest of his bandmates. But do not worry, you bass lovers, because HE has risen! Yes John Myung is back and has never been so audible. Forget the times when you had a hard time hearing him and you had to focus on his playing. That’s maybe the best thing in this album. Of course if the two Johns are high in the mix, Jordan is discreet. Some people will be delighted to know that he has restrained himself from using geeky 8-bits sounds. He relies mostly on his Hammond organ and his piano (with a few orchestral sounds and some crazy leads). Some would cringe on his Hammond sound arguing that there’s nothing better than a real Jon Lordesque organ but I think he wanted to match that modern sound. After all he had used the classic B3 organ sound on the Astonishing. A few words on the drum sounds: they are the best of the Mangini area. That doesn’t mean I’m entirely satisfied with them: there’s still room for improvement but it’s way better than on “Dream Theater”. To finish with the overall production: you need to understand that the band’s will was to sound modern so James’s voice goes through a lot of effects and processing. At first, it will be a bit confusing and it needs time to get accustomed to his voice.
And it needs time to get accustomed to the songs. That’s not unusual from Dream Theater in fact, at least, for me. The first time I heard the Astonishing, I was kinda “meh”, same thing for Scenes from a Memory and the first CD of Six Degrees. Now they are my favourite albums of all time. I’m not saying that I love Distance over Time and to be honest, the first time I listened to that album, I was really dissatisfied and had to force myself to listen to the entire album. But I gave it a chance and many spins later, I can say “there’s still good in him”. Barstool Warrior and Viper King were instant hits. The first will have a special place in my favourite songs and the latter is really surprising. It is a great and surprising song and I understand why they decided to turn it into a bonus track as it does not fit with the mood of the album even if it’s groovy as hell, just like many riffs of this album.
However, the long time fans that dislike the “Roadrunner” albums have to be warned: it is the same sound, the same system and the “routine”. Some will think that album is not really original and that Dream Theater is relying on the same recipes. Truth is, Dream Theater has changed for a dozen of years. If you accept that, you’ll like the album, if you don’t, it’s going to be harder for you to love it. Same thing for the fans that love the Astonishing and see it as a breath of fresh air: Dream Theater has turned the page, the Astonishing was a “one-shot” and they are back to their sound.
If I had to summarize that album in two words: groovy and riffy. You’ve already heard that the groove is back with Untethered Angel and Fall into the Light, but it’s still the case with Paralyzed and Viper King for example. However, sometimes the songs rely more on the riffs than on the structure. For me, Pale Blue Dot is just a pile of riffs without any structure, a bit like Enigma Machine. Some of you will like the song as it will remind them of The Dance of Eternity and LTE but it has never been my cup of tea. Anyway, another Dream Theater album and another record that will stir the community but even if, as for now, it is not my favourite album, I’d rather listen to it a thousand times than listen to any formatted pop songs you can hear on the radio. Dream Theater has given us so many masterpieces that now we are picky with everything they do. So thank you Dream Theater for turning us into demanding fans. And thank you Kim, Valérie and Freddy for giving me the opportunity to listen to that album 3 months before its release date. Now, it’s your time, you fans! Enjoy the ride.
Kim Arthur Sakariassen – Norway
This is a difficult album to review for me, due to my heavy involvement in the treasure hunt that we created in collaboration with the band and the label. I did contemplate whether or not I should do a review. I feel I’ve been too close – even though I never really heard any music until the album was done, there’s a certain level of connection between myself, the label, the management and the band that makes it harder to be objective about this album. But; I decided that people do ask me what I think, and I think I can be honest and excited about the music regardless of my connection to the album itself. Then again – I am the fan club president, and that itself means you should take anything I state with a grain of salt.
That being said – my first listen to the album was late november. So I’ve heard the album for over two months now, and it’s been with me on commutes, when I’ve been training, in the car when driving long distances, and at home on my home setup. And it just sounds great in either of these settings! It’s been a main stay for me, especially at the gym! Something about the energy in the music translates well to the adrenaline kick you need to lift heavy weights.
I’m not going to go through this album track by track, as my colleagues in the other fan club chapters have already done so, but I will just give you my impressions.
First and foremost, when I first got to hear the music from the album, the thing that it screamed out to me was “energy”. It feels so energetic. The fact that the band wrote the songs and played through them all in the studio before committing them to tape is very apparent here – the energy is tangible! It feels fresh and fun, like a bunch of friends making music in a garage. The production is also toned down a bit, with everything being focused around what instruments could actually be played in a live setting. So you won’t find layers upon layers of multitracked instruments here, instead you’ll see that the band is focusing much more on riffs and grooves – and when the guitar does a solo, the groove is carried by the bass and drums, not a second guitar.
One thing you can say about current Dream Theater is that they do focus a lot more on song writing. All the songs are much more focused, and you won’t find many of the long, extended instrumental asides here. This is a mentality that Dream Theater has stuck with now since the self-titled album. In many ways, this is more akin to the style of composition that Dream Theater used in their earlier work (such as Images and Words, Awake and Falling Into Infinity). One of the things I saw people comment on early on was that the album was unnaturally short for a Dream Theater album – but really, Images and Words was also just under an hour long.
The songs feel fresh and invigorated, but also familiar and quintessential Dream Theater. Keyboards and vocals do take a bit of a back seat on this album – guitar riffs dominate the album – even guitar solos take a bit of a back seat here! And to accompany the guitar riffs, you need a good rhythm section, so drums and bass are loud and clear, and provide a solid bed for the guitars. Listen to songs like Room 137, where the guitars and drums and bass just slaughters the speakers. Groovy as can be! And the Beatles section is magnificent – the choral vocals and effects is an interesting choice for such a groove focused track. And Mangini’s lyrics are great as well! A very good debut for him.
Other excellent songs: Paralyzed, a modern metal piece which pretty much manages to sum up Dream Theater in 4 minutes to me. A focused song with a strong buildup, a great hook, and a great solo. Viper King – the bonus track – is what you get when you marry the love of cars with two seminal bands for Dream Theater who ALSO wrote songs about cars – I’m talking of course of Deep Purple – Highway Star and Rush – Red Barchetta. It’s very fun, groovy track that I didn’t expect at all, but has been the track I’ve come back to the most on the entire album. Which is kinda funny considering it’s not even on the album, it’s a bonus track!
At Wit’s End is also extremely interesting. The song is about the turmoil after sexual abuse, and the struggle to keep a functioning relationship with your partner afterwards. So the song starts right in the turmoil itself, with a strong, fast arpeggiated guitar riff, and maddening rhythms. But as the song evolves, it actual releases a lot of the tension, and it ends in a sort of relaxed way. That is a genius move, and one I’ve not often heard. It feels so interesting to have the song kinda turned upside down from what we would expect, song structure wise.
The master and mix of the album is mixed quite tightly, but it’s still good. It does sound modern, which means it’s quite loud, but it’s markedly better than the self-titled! Almost no clipping at all, which is good.
All in all, I think Distance Over Time is one of the most interesting albums Dream Theater has released. Does it have staying power? We’ll see – I know I love the album as it is, and can’t wait to see it live.
Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
Chemistry triggers action. The bonds of disparate elements yield friction, energy, and ultimately incite creation. It happens throughout all of existence—especially in music. The music of Dream Theater relies on the interplay and brotherhood of the musicians as much as it does on the harmony of the instruments. In fact, the chemistry the band unlocked upon forming in 1985 remains central to the music they create today. The progressive metal pioneers—James LaBrie (Vocals), John Petrucci (Guitars), Jordan Rudess (Keyboards), John Myung (Bass), and Mike Mangini (Drums)—share a unique bond with one of the most passionate fan bases around the globe as evidenced by their two GRAMMY® Award nominations and 15 million records sold worldwide.
Among numerous accolades, 1992’s Images & Words received a gold certification and landed onRolling Stone’s coveted “100 Greatest Metal Albums of All-Time.” Meanwhile, Guitar Worldplaced Awake at #1 on “Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994.” Excerpts of 1996’sA Change of Seasons notably soundtracked NBC’s coverage of Downhill Skiing at the 2002 WinterOlympics. Fans voted the 1999 Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory the “Number One All-TimeProgressive Rock Album” in a 2012 Rolling Stone poll. Not to mention, it ranked as the “15thGreatest Concept Album” by Classic Rock.
2009 saw Black Clouds & Silver Linings crash the Billboard Top 200 at #6 as A Dramatic Turn of Events  and Dream Theater  maintained a three-peat in the chart’s Top 10. Most recently, 2016’s The Astonishing attracted widespread praise with Consequence of Sound dubbing it, “An absolutely unique experience.”
In addition to releasing three platinum videos and two gold videos, the group would be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010. On its 14th full-length and first release for InsideOutMusic / Sony Music, Distance Over Time, the band recharge the brotherhood that has kept them creating music together for over 30 years.
For the first time in two decades, the bandmates lived, wrote and recorded together over a four- month period at the secluded, five-acre Yonderbarn studios in Monticello, NY. They all moved intothe property’s country-house where they shared memories, took turns manning the BBQ and fortifying lifelong friendships as the music happened organically and spontaneously throughout the summer in the beautifully converted barn only footsteps away.
“Of course we’ve written many records together, but we’ll traditionally move into a studio to track the record and during that time everybody either commutes or stays in a hotel,” says Petrucci. “This time around we approached things differently; up at Yonderbarn there were nodistractions so we were able to just focus on being creative, spending twelve-to-fourteen hours aday working while also having fun in between the writing sessions. We’d take turns cooking for
each other like brothers in a fire house and since it was summertime, the upstate New Yorkweather was beautiful. There’s something about jamming and writing as a unit while you’rebonding, eating, drinking bourbon and just hanging out that helps infuse the music with a specialfeeling and a raw, palpable energy.”
“It was like going back to summer camp,” grins LaBrie. “Being around each other the whole timemade it that much more of a profound experience. I think the songs reflect the energy. It was alot of fun to have a situation so powerful at this point in our career.”
“With what we had to do and the kind of record we wanted to make, it was the right way to writeand record,” adds Rudess. “When we would lay out all of the parts and start composing, there was a feeling we hadn’t felt in a long time. There were a lot of smiles.”
With every reason to smile, the five musicians immediately locked into a groove and identified a collective vision. They upheld the hallmarks of their signature sound combining metallic aggression and progressive scope, but within the framework of tighter songwriting.
“Everybody felt like it was time to return to the roots and make a more organic record,” Petrucci elaborates. “We collaborated to bring back the heavy and proggy sides of what we do and make music that’s really fun to play. The environment empowered us to do so.”
Album opener “Untethered Angel” commences with ominous clean guitar before ramping up intoa hypnotic and hard-hitting riff that gives way to a sweeping and soaring hook. Heavily employing Hammond X5, Rudess locks into an “organ-and-guitar” call-and-response with Petrucci, evoking classic prog while charting new territory all the same.
“John has some of the most tastefully crafted leads in the business, so that forces me to step up my game to the max,” Rudess goes on. “It opened up a different avenue for us to trade back andforth.”
“Subject-wise, it’s about me seeing that a lot of people, especially our youth, are afraid to take their lives in certain directions because of fear,” explains Petrucci. “They have fear of theunknown, fear of what other people think, and fear of not being good enough. So, the song urges letting go of yourself, not letting fear win, and untethering yourself from the feeling of fear thatstops you from doing things.”
The ten-minute “At Wit’s End” swings from sharp shredding into a thick groove as LaBrie paints an intense portrait of the aftermath of abuse.
“When women have been violated, they suffer from PTSD,” says the singer. “They can never reallyview themselves as the same people, because for all intents and purposes, they aren’t. It createsa lot of divide in relationships. It can be impossible for couples to overcome. In a lot of instances,they don’t make it, and they break apart. In the song, the woman is at her wit’s end, and the manis assuring her they can get through it.”
“Barstool Warrior” offers up an intimate slice of small town lore with cinematic lyrics as “Out of Reach” sees the band stretch its wings with a poetic ballad with lyrics penned by LaBrie. Thehaunting and maddening “Room 137” marks the first time Mangini contributed lyrics to a Dream Theater song, while everything culminates on the epic-sounding “Pale Blue Dot,” which “highlights Carl Sagan’s meaningful reflection on humankind’s fleeting nature and our responsibility to dealmore kindly with one another and to cherish the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ which is Earth.” as Petrucci puts it.
In the end, the union between Dream Theater stands at its strongest on Distance Over Time—as does the music.
“This record is all about the experience for us,” Petrucci leaves off. “The process and environmentwere a big part of the meaning and significance. I hope people walk away with the feeling of unity,camaraderie, joy, and inclusion we felt. There’s a spirit, which is really magical. When I listen back to the album, I can distinctly recall every moment of the writing process; where I was standing in the room, what inspired us in that instant and the meaning behind each song. As a producer, my goal was to try and create the best-sounding Dream Theater record we’ve ever madeso that listeners can just be enveloped in the music. I really wanted this recording to truly reflect the spirit, joy and passion that went into making the album and for people to walk away feeling some of the organic nature, personality and raw energy that the band captured while together in the studio. For me, I think it accomplishes that and I hope that other people will feelthe same way.” – Rick Florino, November 2018
Distance Over Time
- Untethered Angel
- Fall Into The Light
- Barstool Warrior
- Room 137
- At Wit’s End
- Out Of Reach
- Pale Blue Dot
James LaBrie – Vocals
John Petrucci – Guitar
Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
John Myung – Bass
Mike Mangini – Drums