ALBUM REVIEW: Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

The fifteenth studio album from prog legends Dream Theater finds the Bostonian act with nothing left to prove but still in the form of their lives. At a mighty seventy minutes in length yet featuring a mere seven tracks, A View From the Top of The World (InsideOut Music) explores and probes new ideas while reinventing the past with gleeful abandon. Complex compositions which could seem forced, unwieldy or contrived in the hands of others, Dream Theater pulls off with unerring and enviable ease.

Although not the most ambitious or demanding record in their history, A View From the Top… is arguably their most cohesive, confident and downright enjoyable album for over a decade. Every song a journey, every riff, bassline or complicated but lovingly crafted drum pattern a bridge to another personality, and considering the overall length of the record, barely a single note is wasted.

From it’s aggressive, insistent introduction, opener ‘The Alien’ slides smoothly into the first of many perfectly performed guitar solos by the irritatingly gifted John Petrucci, the song transforming and shifting gears with every passage. Staccato riffs become airy verses, an uplifting chorus leads into more agile guitar solos, deft percussion work from Mike Mangini accompanies cosmic keyboards from Jordan Rudess and before you know it ten minutes have flown by.

The capricious ‘Answering the Call’ swirls, soars and punches with fast picked riffs and perfectly weighted orchestral backing while ‘Invisible Monster’ is the pick of the opening bunch, a relatively simple cut (by their standards anyway) which combines subtle melancholia with an early ’80s prog vibe, managing to sound like the offspring of Goblin and Rush while remaining unmistakably Dream Theater.

‘Sleeping Giant’ is pure proggy fun, fluctuating between urgent rhythms and nebulous melodies, ebbing and flowing at will. Another song with clear Rush influences, ‘Transcending Time’ is vibrant and exhilarating while ‘Awaken the Master’ gathers pace or slows to a crawl whenever necessary while more complex and ever-shifting time signatures reveal themselves at every turn. Unquestionably the album’s centrepiece, however, is the colossal twenty minute title track. Split into three distinct sections, the song features everything from militaristic rhythms to orchestral flourishes. Building with typically unorthodox arrangements and even more off-kilter timing, each member is able to shine, bassist John Myung playing his part to perfection while vocalist James LaBrie delivers yet another powerhouse performance.

Skilful and slickly produced, A View From The Top of The World travels from minimalism to flamboyance in the blink of an eye as Dream Theater deliver one of their most rock solid records for years.


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9 / 10