When Dream and Technique disunite
After the unexpected success of the enchanting "Images and Words", and especially the hit-single "Pull Me Under", DREAM THEATER were urged by their music label to release a new album, more aggressive, certainly because of the recent grunge explosion. And that's exactly the main issue with "Awake": under pressure, the musicians didn't have the required latitude to fully imagine and develop their compositions. So the tracks are cold, darker, complex, maybe more modern, but without a proper soul. Those expecting the magic and fantasy of their two first albums may be disappointed. No problem with that, every band can - and must - evolve, but this time the virtuosity nearly fails at serving a real cause or crafting a captivating atmosphere. As you understand, I was mostly deceived by this third studio album.
However, there are some titles that caught my attention. "Erotomania" is easily one of DT's most breathtaking instrumentals. The musicianship is unbelievable, and this track features an incalculable number changes and ambiances! Great! My favorite song of the record is the multi-faces "Voices", alternating calm, floating and raging passages with cool sound effects. The middle part is an iced beauty... Concerning the average titles, "Caught in a Web" and "Scarred" reminds me, at times, the vanished magic of the former discs. "Space-Dye Vest" has also touching moments.
The rest of the disc fails at catching my attention and at really transporting me to another world. Furthermore, the somber and modern musical direction of "Awake" does unfortunately not spare us a few moments of soapiness: "Innocence Faded", "The Silent Man", "Lifting Shadows Off A Dream"...
"Awake" is definitely not my DREAM THEATER favorite, but will allow the band to confirm its leadership in the progressive metal sphere. Too long, too complex, too cold, lacking memorable melodies, this opus is an example where the means - the virtuosity of the musicians - is used as an end, and not to an end. Nonetheless, the band members shouldn't be blamed, they were pressurized by their record label, which is in complete opposition to their style of music, requiring to "Take The Time" to give birth to. As a result, internal dissensions will appear within the group, and keyboardist Kevin Moore will left the ship. Therefore, "Awake" marks the end of the first era of DREAM THEATER.
"Awake" still remains a technical demonstration and a mandatory listen for fans. The newcomers won't find it very accessible, although there are a few interesting tracks that shouldn't be missed. Not the DT album to start with.