When thinking of an inventive album that talks about a journey in space, Jeff Wayne‘s ‘War Of The Worlds’ is an obvious direct thought that comes from that topic. Progressive metal band Dream Theater do this justice by harking back to some of the key themes from the iconic album to make ‘The Astonishing’ as truly great as it is, including various orchestral elements. What they have made, however, is something truly unique.
Unfortunately, however, not all is perfect on this album. The use of noise driven orchestrals to create a sound that is almost painful to hear is shown on all the NOMAC solo songs. The NOMAC from this album are a little space ship ball thing. They have little to no effect truly on the story of this album, at least from a lyric based concept, but instead help to progress the story in a unique way. Their presence on this album (though initially quirky and unique) gets annoying very quickly, and admittedly are worth skipping completely.
What is beautiful is the minimalist use of James Labrie‘s voice combined with some of the best pure orchestral and acoustic guitar that could be heard on most albums. The transition from ‘My Farewell’, in which the title character sings about his father getting his throat slit by the lead villain, is something that pulls on your heart strings stronger than most bands wished they could have done. This is complimented by ‘Losing Faythe’, by which the true sound of drums and piano are played, leaving the singer to feel naked and bare, which is something which can’t be overstated enough. When the album goes to a quiet and stripped back experience, it creates the feeling that it’s an album made by true geniuses within the world of metal, and ultimately much more than integral.
This, however, is sadly ruined when the band try to get too technical within the track. Despite how brilliant a guitarist John Petrucci is, the use of his solo for near enough four minutes on ‘A New Beginning’ rids the band of their artistic ability, and instead just makes them seem like show-offs. Just because the band can play something doesn’t mean that they should, and this is definitely the case on this track.
To say ‘The Astonishing’ bombastic is an understatement. To listen to this album, the realisation must be made that this is more of a story than an album; treat it as a film score, and read the story they have written to accompany this album. This might sound a pompous description, but to expect anything else from prog would be to simply not understand the point of it at all.
Written by Bradley Cassidy (@bradcassidy170)