was the eighth studio album by Dream Theater, released by Atlantic Records on June 7, 2005. This would be the last album on their (originally ATCO but through acquisitions now Atlantic) record deal, before signing with Roadrunner Records. Recorded from November 2004 to February 2005, it was the final album recorded at the legendary studio “The Hit Factory” in Manhattan, New York.
- Mike Portnoy – Drums, Vocal and Percussion
- John Petrucci – Guitars and Vocals
- John Myung – Bass
- Jordan Rudess – Keyboards, Continuum & Steel Lap Guitar
- James LaBrie – Vocals
- Jamshied Sharifi – arranger and conductor
- Sacrificed Sons and Octavarium:
- Elena Barere – concert master
- Katherine Fong, Ann Lehrmann, Katherine Livolsi-Stern, Laura McGinniss, Catherine Ro, Ricky Sortomme, Yuri Vodovox – violins
- Vincent Lionti, Karen Dreyfus – violas
- Richard Locker, Joeanne LeBlanc – celli
- Pamela Sklar – flute
- Joe Anderer, Stewart Rose – french horns
- The Answer Lies Within:
- Elena Barere – first violin
- Carol Webb – second violin
- Vincent Lionti – viola
- Richard Locker – cello
- John Petrucci & Mike Portnoy – producers
- Doug Oberkircher – sound engineering
- Colleen Culhane, Kaori Kinoshita & Ryan Simms – assistant engineers
- Michael H. Brauer – mixing
- Hugh Syme – art direction, design and illustration
- Mike Portnoy & Hugh Syme – concept
- Colin Lane – photography
- Bert Baldwin – additional studio assistance
- George Marino – mastering
- The Root of All Evil (Portnoy) – 8:25
- VI. Ready – 3:58
- VII. Remove – 4:28
- The Answer Lies Within (Petrucci) – 5:33
- These Walls (Petrucci) – 7:36
- I Walk Beside You (Petrucci) – 4:29
- Panic Attack (Petrucci) – 8:13
- Never Enough (Portnoy) – 6:47
- Sacrificed Sons (LaBrie) – 10:42
- Octavarium (LaBrie, Petrucci, Portnoy) – 24:00
- I. Someone Like Him (Petrucci) – 8:47
- II. Mediate (Awakening) (LaBrie) – 5:01
- III. Full Circle (Portnoy) – 4:37
- IV. Intervals (Portnoy) – 1:23
- V. Razor’s Edge (Petrucci) – 4:08
About the Album
For their eight album, Dream Theater decided to make an album losely based on the concept of an octave. They had also recently released their fifth live album. This sequence sort of mirrored the octave on a keyboard. Octave, being eight whole notes (naturals) and five half notes (accidentals) on the piano.They would record 8 songs for the album. This would mark the third album in a row where the album sequence number directly corresponded with the number of songs on the album.
After the mixed reception for Train of Thought, they wanted to create a “classic Dream Theater album”, drawing on their influences and trying to keep the music “in tow” with regards to complexity, and generally create a more accessible album than the predecessors. Not because they wanted to be more commercially successful, but because they simply have that side to them (liking bands like U2, Coldplay and Muse, liking shorter songs). The band found that writing longer shorts was easier than writing short songs, and wanted to challenge themselves.
The album also had a very strong outside force taking part in the recording session. Whereas the previous session had had a single cellist playing on Vacant, this album required much more. Jamshied Sharifi, who studied at Berklee College of Music the same period that Portnoy, Petrucci and Myung went there, conducted the orchestra, and the performers were picked based on their ability to quickly sight read, allowing the parts to be recorded quickly and cheaply with one or two takes.
The concept, the musical octave, can be clearly seen on the back cover. The first song is in the key of F, the second is in the key of G, the third in the key of A, the fourth in the key of B, the fifth in the key of C, the sixth in the key of D, the seventh in the key of F, and the eight, being the octave, in the key of F. Several of the songs had “negative time” tracks bridging the songs – they would play if you played the entire album, but would be not be directly accessible since they were put before the actual track begun. These “negative tracks” acted as the “black keys” on the piano, with the bridging soundscape being in the key of that black key.
The concept of eight and five would become ever pervasive throughout. The artwork contains many references to this. The back cover shows the 8 and 5 piano keys. Dream Theater has five members, each taking up the spot of the “black keys”, whereas the song titles take up the spots of the “white keys”. The Booklet has a picture with 8 balls and 5 birds. The CD itself has an octagon with a five-pointed star inside of it. The inlay has an 8-ball. Inside the booklet is a picture with two dominos – 5 and 8. There’s a picture of a spider in an octagon maze with five levels (spider’s have eight legs), there’s a picture of an octopus , five fish and a stop sign, and a blueprint for an “octavarium” drawn in the scale 5:8 – a octagonal room with a 5-pointed star shape in it.
The first track, “Root of all Evil”, contained the word “root” signifying it was the “root” of the octave. The last track contained the word “octave” signifying it was the octave of the root. “Root of all Evil” was the third part of the twelve-step suite. Another song of note is the son “Never Enough”, which was directed to the fans who complain about everything Dream Theater did, even when Portnoy felt he had given them everything he could give – keeping him away from his family.
“Sacrificed Sons” was about the 9/11 attacks on New York. “Octavarium” was heavily inspired by the classic prog rock epics, like “Shine on you crazy diamond” by Pink Floyd – and even references a lot of them in the lyrics.
This album would be known as the one that closed the meta-album concept. It starts off with the piano note that “In the Name of God” on Train of Thought ended on. On the first promo releases, the final song ended with a small flute section, but this was altered to be the same note as the beginning of the album, signifying that the album (and the concept) had come full circle.
The reception for the album was quite positive, with fans and critics alike calling it an instant classic. Especially the title track received a lot of attention. The fans went crazy over all the apparent nuggets hidden all over. The negative remarks were mostly targeted towards the very apparent inspirational sources (Muse and U2 being examples Dream Theater themselves cited as sources for inspiration for this album), and the pop-oriented style of some of the tracks. It sold well, recieveing several top ten placements in european charts.
The artwork was done by Hugh Syme, establishing a long standing relationship with him. He created the artwork for every album, live release and single from there on out until “The Astonishing” in 2015. Hugh Syme is probably best known for being the main artist for the band Rush. The cover art was released on the internet by Mike Portnoy, but the fans quickly started complaining about certain aspects being lazy and hastily done. Portnoy regretted having shown the unfinished version of the artwork. The artwork would be replaced by a fixed version shortly thereafter.
The album would later spawn a live recording, Score, which was done in Radio City Music Hall in 2006, with a full orchestra. The tour would be documented by the fan clubs in the “A Walk Beside The Band” and “Romavarium” fan club dvds.