In the world of heavy progressive rock music there are few more anticipated events than the release of a new album from American maestros Dream Theater.
With a catalogue of groundbreaking material dating back to 1989’s stunning debut, When Dream And Day Unite, theirs is a track record that’s tried and true.
Released on Friday, the band’s 12th, self-titled offering is no exception.
Containing nine instrumentally breath-taking tracks, and clocking in at over the hour mark, virtuoso guitarist and founding member John Petrucci and his bandmates have well and truly etched another epic chapter in the Dream Theater tale.
This is the first album in which drummer Mike Mangini has taken part in the full creative process and there are obvious benefits.
He joined the band mid-way through completion of 2011’s A Dramatic Turn Of Events, following the departure of Mike Portnoy.
So what can fans expect from the new album?
A mix of high-brow, complex hard rock, heady cinematic soundscapes, and thought provoking lyrical imagery.
Dream Theater is a roller coaster ride for the senses, on which each player is given much scope to show their mastery of their respective instrument.
As always, the technical proficiency is second-to-none, and there are enough mind-altering time shifts and intricate pattern arrangements to please even the most critical of fans.
Opening track, False Awakening Suite is the first of two instrumentals on the album.
At just under three minutes, it serves as the ultimate introduction ... in fact, had it a visual accompaniment, it would serve perfect as a back-up to the opening film credits.
Discussing the tracks online, Petrucci and vocalist James LaBrie, said the piece would be utilised as the intro to the band’s forthcoming tours. In the past they have made use of borrowed material of an equal cinematic nature.
The intro segues perfectly into The Enemy Inside, the first of the full band tracks. Very much heavy metal in structure, it follows a similar style adopted by the band on their last few outings - heavy riffing floating in and out around the vocal pattern.
The Looking Glass is the first of two slightly more restrained tracks on the album. A rock track with an absolutely killer riff, the song focuses on a society obsessed with being famous, highlighting the era of social media and reality television. As with each of the songs, LaBrie shows he too is in fine form.
Enigma Machine, the second of the instrumentals, follows. It is quite honestly one of the most incredible pieces of music I’ve heard in some time.
Throughout the six minute suite Petrucci and bandmates, John Myung [bass], Jordan Rudess [keyboards and continuum] and Mangini, are given equal chance to show their prowess.
While this could easily become a self-indulgent fare, it all works beautifully and nothing is overdone. In actual fact, so proficient is the performance, the listener is certainly left both in awe and wanting more.
Behind The Veil, Surrender To Reason and Along For The Ride are all great album tracks, showcasing a band in complete control.
Completing the package and clocking in at more than 20 minutes, album closer Illumination Theory is pure prog pomp at its best.
Broken into five sub-sections, the song serves as the ultimate end to the puzzle ... dynamic, atmospheric and complete with an overwhelming sense of finality.
As with each Dream Theater release, taking the time to listen to the entire work in the one sitting is the most rewarding. There is a clear start, middle and end.
The album was produced by Petrucci and engineered/mixed by Richard Chycki [Aerosmith, Rush].
Speaking about the album, Petrucci said he looked at every new project as a chance to start over.
‘‘To either build or improve upon a direction that has been evolving over time or to completely break new ground,’’ he said. ‘‘This is the first self-titled album of our career and there is nothing I can think of that makes a statement of musical and creative identity stronger that that.
‘‘We’ve fully explored all of the elements that makes us unique, from the epic and intense to the atmospheric and cinematic. We’re incredibly excited about Dream Theater and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.’’
Dream Theater is available now through Roadrunner Records.