DREAM THEATER — Awake (review)

DREAM THEATER — Awake album cover Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
adg211288
Every artist has at least one album, possibly several, that the majority of their fans will proclaim blasphemy of other fans if they refuse to be sheep and say they don't like it. For US progressive metal band Dream Theater they have three albums this could be said of. They are Images and Words (1992), Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999) and the subject of this review, Awake (1994). The other two are pretty damn fine progressive metal records that are rightly held up as classic examples of their genre. Then there's Awake.

I don't like Awake.

There, I said it, may the God of Prog strike me down for being a heretic.

(The author of this review takes a moment to look around, waiting for a lightning bolt to smite him. Nothing happens, so he continues writing).

It's true, I do not like Awake. I do not hate Awake either, but there's a big difference between not hating something and actually liking it. Awake exists in a void between these two extremes, a void that we could know by various names like 'the middle of the road' or as the kids of today might say; 'meh'. It is an album that does have a few highlights like Lie and the acoustic The Silent Man is also pretty nice, but most of it is fairly average fare for Dream Theater, bland and worse than bland, also pretty soulless. Like the sound of a band who doesn't know quite how they should follow up Images and Words and just went through the motions for a follow-up.

I have owned Awake for a long time now. I don't recall exactly where or when I bought it but I reckon it was in either 2007 or 2008. Over a decade certainly. It was certainly after I'd bought at least Images and Words, Metropolis and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002) – the latter of which was my first Dream Theater album. I loved all of those releases. Then Awake inevitably came onto my radar. I was aware of it's reputation. I was excited to get a hold of a copy. And then I listened to it.

And it just wasn't very good.

I spent the next couple of years intermittently returning to Awake and hoping that it would click. It never did. And prior to this review I reached a point where I did not feel inclined to play Awake ever again. It has in fact been over ten years since I last played the album in full. This is more than Falling into Infinity (1997), it's follow-up, which I can honestly say I don't think I have ever listened to more than once (though I do intend to revisit that album soon). Today I finally got up the courage to listen to Awake again. And nothing has changed. It's still not very good, has only a few highlight moments that still pale next to those from other Dream Theater albums and it still comes across as soulless pap. It's also still not bad, also still not an album I actively dislike or hate (unlike their The Astonishing (2016)). Awake just...is.

The kindest thing I've ever really felt I could say about it is, as stated, that it's not an actively bad album. But in a twist of fate that's perhaps also the worst thing I can say about it as well. We can have a good laugh at a bad album then write it off and forget about it. Awake instead falls into the worse category of (almost) total mediocrity. At least with an out and out bad album you can pinpoint exactly what's wrong with it. But you'll still remember it, if for the wrong reasons. They say bad publicity is better than no publicity. For me that can also be applied to music: a bad album is still better than a forgettable album. Awake for me is a very forgettable album, yet technically has nothing wrong with it on paper.

I do not think that I will ever be able to understand why Awake remains so highly regarded among Dream Theater's work. I know from when I was first discovering the band that there is a faction of fans out there who remained really hung up on the Kevin Moore era of Dream Theater, so maybe that's why. Who knows? I certainly don't care at this point. For me there is absolutely no way that Awake should be mentioned in the same breath as Images and Words and Metropolis. Except of course, to distance it from them.
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42 days ago
I've always rated it highly, but I must admit it's not usually the first DT album I reach for. I definitely go for more often than all of their more recent stuff though.
666sharon666 wrote:
49 days ago
I like this one, but I don't love it. DT have about a half dozen albums I like a lot more. Plus one excellent EP that directly follows this.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
50 days ago
I simply found this one was a grower. I went through a DT face like most of us and while Images and Memory are instantly addictive, this one is a lot more convoluted but i kept giving it a spin every now and again just because it's heavier. After i don't even know how many times it finally sunk into my psyche and now i love it on equal footing with the others. However most other DT albums except for maybe Six Degrees don't get me excited. They just sound like they're retreading the same waters despite them being really well played. DT will never be a favorite band but the first three albums are top dogs in my world. Some classics we just can't get into. Nothing wrong with that, dude.
adg211288 wrote:
50 days ago
I know you're all just talking about them/it rather than actively trying to convince me I've got this one all wrong, but I can't say that anything said here so far has encouraged me to want to give this another chance one day (if anything I'm even more inclined toward the opposite). I'm getting a big vibe that those that like it do so because of it's technicality, which I don't really hear any more so than other DT albums. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that I might notice these things better if the end result actually entertained me. Ultimately that's what I listen to any kind of music for: to be entertained. Doesn't make a difference it's its a generic power metal band that's interchangeable with many others or a progressive act with virtuoso musicians: if it doesn't entertain me it can be the most technically accomplished release in the world; it still isn't going to fly. Honestly I was kind at 3 stars for this, looking back.
51 days ago
I find if I play the album without paying close attention, there are only a few parts that stand out for me and only one song that I like. When I went through a short phase of really liking DT, I came to appreciate the album more. But it’s been a few years since I’ve listened to it and again now there’s just one song that I really enjoy, and curiously that one song is one of the lowest rated on the album.
UMUR wrote:
51 days ago
Yeah I guess in some ways (although Awake is much more melodic), it´s in Family with artists like Spiral Architect, Twisted Into Form, and Sieges Even. Very technically focused progressive metal acts. But Dream Theater have always been very technical, and even on their less "tech" albums/songs, they are always toying with some pretty crazy shit...
siLLy puPPy wrote:
56 days ago
It's not about how long you've owned an album. It's about how much prog you like in your metal sometimes. This is wildly complex prog that requires an appreciation for prog that is twisted and jagged. If the prog part of the equation isn't the problem then maybe it's just an album that will never work for you. However i've truly experienced albums that i didn't like for 20 years and then one day i put it on and it's like a different album. I'm just saying, don't give up! Music appreciation is a strange beast and unpredictable but then again there is so much music to be heard that if you really don't like it then bury it in the back yard :) Prog is one of those wily beasts that can dig into your psyche right away or leave you cold. Sometimes a certain approach is repulsive until you acclimate to it. Just my experience. No insults intended :) Great review. I did read it :)
adg211288 wrote:
56 days ago
I really don't know how to respond to that. I'm seeing a suggestion that I'm not into prog enough to understand this? I hope that's not what you're saying, because I'd actually feel insulted by that insinuation. I certainly don't believe for a moment that you read the whole review, otherwise you'd be aware that I've owned this for over a decade and nothing has changed about how I feel about the album. A few years won't make any difference at this point. I could comfortably never hear it again.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
56 days ago
Probably DT's most complex album. Time signature rich and hard to follow. One of my faves actually. Check in again after a few years. It's more for the extreme progheads.
UMUR wrote:
56 days ago
Heretic ;-)

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