DREAM THEATER — A View from the Top of the World (review)

DREAM THEATER — A View from the Top of the World album cover Album · 2021 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The name DREAM THEATER is almost synonymous with the genre progressive metal given that this was the band responsible for bringing this hybrid of progressive rock and heavy metal to the world at large with its lauded “Images And Words” album all the way back in 1992. Despite having existed as the kingpin of the genre for almost three decades now, DREAM THEATER has been eclipsed by countless other bands in terms of consistency and innovation however despite this band’s on again off again commitment to quality control, there is no doubt that this pioneering band has cranked out some ridiculously brilliant music over the years.

I’m hardly one who chomps at the bit waiting for a new DREAM THEATER album to hit the market but i do like the band enough to keep up with their albums and listen at least once before moving on to the next thing. Well here we are in the year 2021, some 32 years after the band’s debut “When Dream And Day Unite” and DREAM THEATER is back with its 15th studio album A VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD with its surprisingly stable lineup since 2011’s “A Dramatic Turn Of Events.” While DT has been on autopilot for a while now simply recycling its past glory and offering okay enough but won’t blow you away albums, A VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD comes off as a nice surprise.

True this new album isn’t reinventing the wheel and could never be mistaken for any other act other than DREAM THEATER but what his album seems to exhibit unlike many of the recent past is a return to the passion that made many of the 90s albums so magical. The tunes seem more inspired, the details seem more ironed out and things don’t sound blatantly by the numbers as they have in the past. In fact this album sounds as if it should be inserted into the timeline where “Falling Into Infinity” fell short. Whatever the case, it seems that the cancellation of the 2020 tour due to the pandemic was just the ticket for the band to find the time to rekindle the dwindling mojo and return to the years of yore when DREAM THEATER albums actually were something to get excited about.

A VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD is the first album to be recorded in the band’s own studio, DTHQ (Dream Theater Headquarters) so perhaps this return to form is a result of musical independence that had been lacking. The album was mixed and mastered by legendary Sabbath guitarist Andy Sneap and the musical team of John Petrucci, John Myung, Jordan Rudess, James LaBrie and Mike Mangini sounds as if these guys on the top of their game once again with seven instantly lovable tracks that offer everything you could expect from classic DREAM THEATER. The band has experimented over the years with varying degrees of progressiveness, dedication to the metal aspect of its equation as well as the other elements that make up the DREAM THEATER equation.

On album #15, the band employs all of the metal heft that you can hear on the heaviest albums (such as “Awake”), the most knotty prog fueled gymnastics (as heard on most of the 90s albums) along with the fearless exploration of virtuosic soloing. On A VIEW you will not hear any of those ridiculously convoluted ballads, no substandard vanilla dumbing down of the extremities or blatant mining of their past. What you will hear is excellent songwriting fortified with high standard musicianship and a return to the more progressive aspects that put the prog in the metal back in the day. The album Shortest track “Transcending Time” is 6:25 whereas the highlight of the album which is the title track clocks in at 20 1/2 minutes with three distinct parts! The recent Liquid Tension Experiment sessions seem to have carried over on this one :)

Let’s face it, DREAM THEATER has peaked and unless the band decides to completely reinvent itself it’s going to be simply retreading that which it has already done and A VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD is no exception. There is nothing on this album that will convert haters and nothing that hasn’t already been explored by the band ad nauseam, however at this stage in the DT game, it’s all about crafting an album that is actually compelling to experience through the band’s tendency to release sprawling albums that defy current attention spans. This one is over 70 minutes long! It’s really hard to say why one album works for me and others don’t but i am quite surprised that this one keeps me engaged for the entire run! This really does bring me back to the era of “Awake” when the band was firing on all pistons. Somehow the pandemic produced a silver lining and some of the classic bands have had the time to reevaluate and reflect on where they once were and where they have drifted. Whatever the case, this is one of the best DT albums for my ears in a loooooooooong time.
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