Thread: My Awake Review
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Old 03-01-2006, 04:40 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default My Awake Review

Arches Review of Dream Theater's Awake (1994)

Opening Comments

For better or worse, Dream Theater had decided to drastically change their tone for this record. Because of the relatively shorter song lengths in general, many feel that this was an attempt for commercial breakthrough for the band. If this is indeed true, then it would seem that the band works best when they aren't constrained to the confinement of others' control - as we would soon see after with the commercial and critical disappointment Falling Into Infinity, and then the stark contrast success of the brilliant progressive masterpiece: Scenes from a Memory.

A darker tone than of the previous two records is evident throughout Awake. They achieved this through use of darker lyrics, LaBrie's tonal change and the use of bland chords. The album is probably best described as plain heavy metal; it simply is a lot less progressive than the previous two albums. Images & Words had the monster progressive metal epic: “Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper,” as well as several other classics which this album seems to be missing. Consequently, it doesn't really feel like a Dream Theater record at all...

Tracks

1: 6:00

The album starts off promising with a killer (but unoriginal) drum fill by drummer extraordinaire: Mike Portnoy. He then plays solo for four bars in an interesting odd time signature. Soon after, guitar hero John Petrucci enters with a slightly elegant arpeggio riff. After another four bars, enter master bassist: John Myung, who plays the two root notes on both the on beats. This is an interesting musical ploy, but becomes redundant quite quickly after repeated listens. Gradually adding layers is a somewhat over-used musical technique and has thus lost its affect on the general listener. When the keyboards (Kevin Moore) come in with bland chords you're left wondering if the chords are actually going to go somewhere instead of appearing to just stay in the same three-range notes. And so this gives the listener only one perspective of sound to hear. By the 50th second it does indeed change, but the change is interrupted by extremely annoying voice over samples repeating “6:00 on a Christmas morning.” Other equally annoying samples are also taken from from the film "The Dead," which is a failed attempt to give the song any meaning. “I know all about the honor of God, Mary Jane,” is one such example of an inappropriate voice over. The song isn't about religion or God, it's about Moore's suffocation and pain - and by bringing in irrelevant names, it is just likely to confuse the listener. The consequence of adding in annoying artsy samples doesn't give the listener an actual impact on what the song's about, it just proliferates irritation.

After another four bars comes in excellent singer: James LaBrie. As soon as he sings the first word the listener is probably left wondering: “Why oh why did you change your singing style James? It was perfect on Images & Words!” LaBrie now sings (as mentioned previously) in a more darker tone by slightly snarling particular words (thankfully this doesn't last the entire album). Meanwhile, the rest of the band members repeat the earlier simple riff. After the first verse, there's a reprise of Petrucci's first riff which is accompanied by the others playing the same as before. However, this time it repeats a second time and Petrucci adds an interesting harmony, which is probably the highlight of an otherwise uninteresting song. Next is the bridge in which things get changed up. LaBrie sings “I may never get over, but never's better than now, I've got bases to cover.” This line is somewhat confusing, and the ending of it seems almost childish.

Verse two comes and leaves quickly followed by bridge two where the lyrics are slightly changed to “Once I thought I'd get over.” This is yet another simple musical technique which has lost any artistic value over time no matter how conveniently placed in the context. So far it seems Dream Theater are pulling clichés out of the hat helter-skelter and have taken a complete swing on everything which blasted out of Images & Words so successfully.

The vocal melody line is quite simply non-apparent until we hit the chorus. The notes LaBrie hits when he sings the lyric: “Melody” is a good example of an interesting and varied choice of notes. Prior to this moment the melody line contour was clustered and didn't really advance.

Things repeat like this in an ordinary traditional verse-chorus structure and more annoying samples are again added to conclude the forgetful track.

Throughout the track there is no feeling evident nor is the track compelling musically. Repeated listens doesn't do much for it either.

Rating: 3.2/10


2: Caught in a Web

Again it's easy to notice a huge change in Dream Theater's tonal colour in this track. Even Petrucci's seven strings on this track doesn't give it a solid texture. The intro is abrupt and devoid of life as it weaves in and out of eerie (Arabic sounding) chords and a repeating one bar of 4/4 and then one bar of 2/4, rhythm. This time there is no gradual build-up as each player gets straight into it. Moore plays us the melody but the simplicity of it and the few amount of notes doesn't add anything to the eerie chords underneath, especially with the thick and low bass sound being employed. After this, there's an attempt to add more texture through use of strings courtesy from the keyboard. A short riff is used and repeats which feels like an eternity – as LaBrie comes in - and continues underneath. Meanwhile, Portnoy plays ordinarily by use of playing on the beat, but does his trade mark double-cymbal hit as an attempt to make his beat more appealing; it failed. Once again, LaBrie sings in that dark tone which again lacks any real melody line – even adding harmonies and unisons to this line does it no good.

The structure is similar to “6:00” but there's an engaging pre-chorus which comes in at around the 1:04 mark. Each instrument suddenly changes modes and thus changes the entire feeling of what has come earlier. Sadly though, this is the only section of the track that makes it listenable because it seems as though the chorus comes out of no where. The listener is given a treat with the progressive pre-chorus but it might as well go to waste because of the horrible chorus following. It's like showing a toddler a chocolate cake and just as he's getting his hopes up you let him know it's poison. Well maybe that example is a little extreme but the chorus of this track sticks out like a sore thumb and the entire song seems to slow down for it. The melody line is quite good on lyrics such as “Web” and “Thread,” but the contour doesn't fit in with the underlying chords.

As it continues on, the chords underneath do get more appealing (added with arpeggios) but this is taken away from it all because of LaBrie's almost rap-like singing. The singing is an attempt to again give the song more meaning, adding to the dark lyrics.

The solo section comes in as usual after the second chorus and is mostly based on ascending chords but it begins with the earlier haunting riff and slowly builds up to make way for a two chordal two note (octaves in the bass) arpeggio pattern with Moore and Petrucci in unison followed by a 'hit-as-many-notes-as-you-can-with-no-meaning' sweep by Petrucci.

The solo section is followed by a reprise of the Arabian chordal theme and this takes us to a final verse and two more choruses. The outro implements nothing new except for an annoying ascending keyboard effect. It then ends as abruptly as it began.

As well as the aforementioned reasoning outlined above, the track fails the same way as its counterpart “6:00” failed the best part of five-and-a-half minutes earlier.

Rating: 2.1/10
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