Thread: My Awake Review
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Old 03-01-2006, 04:41 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: Sydney, Australia
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5: Voices

The popularity of this piece isn't justified; the chorus is dreadful, the solo is a mess and to put it plainly: things just don't work in this track.

It begins softy, where “Erotomania” left off. Nothing goes wrong until a massive shock wave of distortion hits the listener directly in the face. The production here seems to be lacking; the bass is too low (the bass line is quite impressive here), the distortion is too high and the keyboards sound terribly out of place. Musically, Dream Theater have cleverly taken the time signature changes from “Erotomania,” but this time doubled them up making it one bar 5/8 and one of 4/8.

When LaBrie enters he's only accompanied by Moore (playing simple melodies and chords) which is another use of dynamics but the abrupt change doesn't suit too well. LaBrie sings the first verse beautifully which depicts a story about a schizophrenic who hears Voices inside his head. After the verse there's a short passage where Petrucci slides weird notes conveying a spacey feeling. LaBrie then continues on and the melody here is actually quite refreshing. This is slanted however because of the chorus which follows. Again, like “Caught in a Web,” the chorus is awkwardly out of place. But this time it's made worse because of how everything fades out and by Petrucci adding in a spacey guitar-effect.

It's not that LaBrie is singing particularly bad in the chorus, it's mainly horrific because of the bland chords and amount of distortion underneath. After the chorus, an earlier theme briefly returns and leads into a very Metallica-esque riff. This doesn't add anything to the lyrics, even if LaBrie is singing darker now. The riff is a simple one and doesn't advance. The chorus then reappears with different lyrics but this doesn't help its cause. What comes next could have been an interesting section musically, but samples are added on top which are somehow more annoying than those on “6:00.” Who would have thought that listening to a rap-artist recite to us doesn't exactly add anything to the meaning of the track? Schizophrenia has nothing to do with what is or isn't immaterial and therefore makes the samples just more artsy dribble. There's a lovely 5/4 build-up pattern underneath but it could have been the masterpiece solo section from “Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper,” and it still would have been terrible because of the annoying voice over.

Once again, things fade out and LaBrie soothly sings the next verse. Things remain the same except for the use of backing vocals (also LaBrie) adding to the texture. When yet another verse is added, the music underneath is heavier (a trade-mark Dream Theater technique). LaBrie sings higher and higher until we're hit with another long note and fade out - and then comes the solo section. Petrucci starts off playing nicely (with bends and all) but it rapidly turns into just a Steve Vai solo clone. It's ultimately just another forgettable 'hit-as-many-notes-as-you-can-with-no-meaning' solo.

The lead up verse to the final chorus undergoes a huge change becoming a lot heavier and with a thicker texture. At the end, LaBrie's long note on the lyric: “Darkness” is a nice touch. But it's a shame it leads into the dreadful chorus – even if it is slightly different again. The ending seems quite rushed and out of place, but the concluding Petrucci riff is a good way to take us into the final part of “A Mind Beside Itself.“

It's hard to describe the main underlying reasons of why “Voices” fails overall. It's the first track so far that is lengthy but there is nothing special about it whatsoever in comparison to other lengthy Dream Theater classics. Awake started off as just a metal album filled with short tunes but now with “Voices,” Dream Theater have proven that they still love writing progressive metal music. It's a shame that this track hardly progresses whatsoever from start to finish.

Rating: 2.9/10

6: The Silent Man

The final part of the three-part series feels strangely out of place compared with the other two. It's a short ballad, and a good example of a Dream Theater ballad gone wrong.

There's no intro in the piece; it just goes straight into it. LaBrie almost immediately starts singing and is accompanied alone by Petrucci who plays the acoustic to lighten the mood. With nothing really happening to interest the listener for a whole verse, Moore tries to change that by making a subtle appearance in the second verse by playing high notes softly. Petrucci's chords are somewhat pleasant and he plays diminished and minor chords to add some variation. Because of the simple structure and the ever-repeating feel of the track, no amount of nice chord changes would work here.

Before the chorus, there's a slight pause in an attempt to perhaps make the chorus more powerful. The chorus does nothing to add anything to the ballad. Aside from adding layers (cymbals, shakers and a guitar counter melody) and turning up the keyboard, nothing the least bit interesting happens here. It seems as if the song is actually yet to change at all. The time signature does switch into a 3/8-3/8-2/8 feel though, and the backing vocals (sung by producer John Purdell) aren't bad. The main failure so far is the atrocious lyrics and the fact that nothing has progressed yet – for the listener to be able to actually feel some emotion trying to be conveyed here.

Once again, the melody is quite decent and LaBrie does a good job varying particular notes as he usably does. After the second chorus there's a mini build-up to the short solo section and it isn't effective even the least bit. Even if the solo section was brilliant (which it isn't), the build-up would have ruined it. It's almost as if Dream Theater are filling in pointless gaps and just want to get this bland piece of recording over already.

After the final uninterested bridge (in which nothing changes, of course), this time there is a longer pause before the final chorus. This is an almost lame musical technique from all perspectives. What makes it even worse is that the chorus is still the same musically, aside from LaBrie singing the lyrics:“Tonight, he's awake” a little higher. This does add some emotion but any emotion that could have been created was destroyed long ago. A key change would have fitted perfectly here (even if it is a tad lame), which is what happens during the live rendition.

Rating: 2.1/10
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