Archival – Fear and Fate (released 23rd April 2021)
John Mayer – Sob Rock (released on July 16th 2021)
Duran Duran – Future Past (released on October 22nd 2021)
Dream Theater– A View From the Top of the World (released on 22nd October 2021)
NickJohnston – Young Language (released 26th November 2021)
Joe Satriani – Elephants of Mars (released on 8th April 2022)
I am grateful that over the last year I have been able to listen to these amazing releases. I enjoyed the music, because I like them all, so to be blessed with albums like this was a lovely surprise. For the first time I didn’t feel like I needed to look for them, they came to me. It is called the ‘law of reversed effort.’
A review of the massive The Astonishing concept album and the second concept album from the band written by guitarist John Petrucci.
A run time of 2 hours making this one of their longest albums. I would have reviewed it sooner but since its release in January 2016 I have needed all these years to let the story sink in. I think at the time I wasn’t quite ready to embrace all of this album. Only a few years ago did I start to listen to select songs from the album again. But ultimately the album is amazing, and I mean that.
It’s full of an incredibly inspiring story about music. It has its own cast of characters and fictional places. It has some amazing songs and singing, which I have yet to find anywhere else. The reason I appreciate it all now so much is because of the story and how beautifully the songs fit with the plot. 2 of the songs, ‘The walking shadow’ and ‘my last farewell’ although slightly sad, are really great songs. ‘A new beginning’ and ‘our new world’ really highlighting the bands musical talents. This is a softer album, but nonetheless powerful. I am not sure whether you need to listen more than once, but I needed to to understand many aspects.
You have to listen from start to finish to follow the story although I selected songs to listen to which I believed could also be in order and you would not be able to tell. This is a rock opera not to miss. It has all the elements of fantasy, both light and dark that you could want. It is musical equivalent to the Lord of the Rings. The main cast of characters from The Astonishing are :
Nafaryus: Emperor of Great Northern Empire of the Americas.
Arabelle: Empress and wife of Nafaryus.
Daryus: Crown Prince. Son of Nafaryus and Arabelle.
Faythe: Princess. Daughter of Nafaryus and Arabelle. Love of Gabriel.
Gabriel: Musician from Ravenskill and brother of Arhys. Love of Faythe.
Arhys: Brother of Gabriel, commander of Ravenskill Rebel Militia, father of Xander, husband of deceased Evangeline.
Evangeline: deceased wife of Arhys.
Xander: Son of Arhys and Evangeline.
The story is set some time in the considerable future. James Labrie deserves a lot of credit as the vocals on this album are particularly strong, not only throughout, has he managed to capture the ‘voices’of the characters, but he has portrayed them as human, whilst giving an amazing performance. It took real courage to develop this album, so you deserve the credit, Dream Theater.
The below is extracted from wikipedia:
In 2285, the northeastern region of the United States has turned into a dystopia ruled by the oppressive Great Northern Empire of the Americas. The only resemblance to entertainment that exists is the electronic noise of the Noise Machines (NOMACS). The empire is ruled by Emperor Nafaryus, Empress Arabelle, Crown Prince Daryus, and Princess Faythe. In a distant village called Ravenskill, a man named Gabriel possesses the natural ability to make music and sing (“The Gift of Music”). He has an older brother, Commander Arhys of the Ravenskill Rebel Militia, who has a son, Xander, with his deceased wife, Evangeline (“A Better Life”).
Nafaryus hears a rumor about Gabriel being the savior of the people. He and his family travel to Ravenskill to see him for themselves (“Lord Nafaryus”). In the Ravenskill town square, Gabriel is performing for the people when the royal family shows up. He continues playing at the emperor’s request (“A Savior in the Square”), nearly bringing them all to tears (“When Your Time Has Come”). As he plays, Faythe remembers how she found a music player when she was a child and kept it a secret all her life, and as she and Gabriel stare at each other and fall in love (“Act of Faythe”). Nafaryus, though briefly moved by Gabriel’s song, sees him as a threat to his rule and gives the people of the town three days to deliver their savior to him or he will destroy the town (“Three Days”). Arhys hides his brother and refuses to give him up (“Brother, Can You Hear Me?”).
Back at the Emperor’s palace, Faythe decides that she must see Gabriel again. Disguising herself, she begins to travel back to Ravenskill. Arabelle, knowing about her daughter’s intentions, instructs Daryus to follow and protect her. Daryus feels he has always been overlooked by his father in favor of his sister, so he travels to the town with his own intentions (“A Life Left Behind”). Faythe arrives in the town and finds Xander, who trusts her and leads her to his father Arhys. Faythe convinces Arhys that she can help, so he brings her to Gabriel’s hideout. Gabriel and Faythe embrace, and she tells him that she believes she can convince her father to give up his hunt for Gabriel (“Ravenskill”). Gabriel tells her that if he could just meet with the Emperor, he could inspire him to restore peace to the land using his gift of music (“Chosen”).
Meanwhile, Daryus finds Arhys’ home and takes Xander captive. Daryus promises he will guarantee the safety and wealth of Xander in return for Arhys bringing Gabriel to him. Daryus does this hoping that it will gain him respect from his father (“A Tempting Offer”). Arhys is forced to agree to the deal, remembering a promise he made to Evangeline to protect their son (“The X Aspect”). Faythe travels back to her father’s palace and learns that her music player once belonged to her father. After a while, Nafaryus bows to the pleas of his daughter (“A New Beginning”) and agrees to meet with Gabriel at an abandoned amphitheater called Heaven’s Cove (“The Road to Revolution”).
Arhys informs Daryus that Gabriel will be at Heaven’s Cove that night (“Moment of Betrayal”). While the meeting time approaches (“Heaven’s Cove”), Faythe decides that she wants to use the power of her royal status to change the world for good (“Begin Again”). At the amphitheater, Arhys changes his mind on the deal, and when Daryus shows up, they start a fight. Daryus overpowers Arhys and kills him (“The Path That Divides”), unaware that Xander followed them and saw the whole scene. As Xander runs to his father’s dead body, Daryus sees the silhouette of someone approaching him. Assuming it to be Gabriel, he attempts to kill him, realising too late that it is actually Faythe (“The Walking Shadow”). Gabriel arrives at the scene and sees his dead brother and the dying Faythe. Covering Xander’s ears, he unleashes a scream that causes Daryus to go deaf and that is heard by Nafaryus, Arabelle, and the entire town (“My Last Farewell”).
Nafaryus and Arabelle arrive and beg Gabriel to use his gift to save Faythe (“Losing Faythe”), but Gabriel is unable to sing after screaming so loudly (“Whispers on the Wind”). The people, attracted by the scream, show up and start singing, giving Gabriel hope. He finds his ability to sing and brings Faythe back to life (“Hymn of a Thousand Voices”). Nafaryus, realising what he has done, decides to end the conflict with Gabriel and shuts down the NOMACS for good. Daryus is forgiven for his actions, and Gabriel and Faythe raise Xander as a family (“Our New World”). Nafaryus promises to govern the empire as a fair leader in a new world where music is appreciated again (“Astonishing”).
It can be quite a moving story. The last part where Gabriel saves Faythe rather than Aryhys struck me as strange. Why not bring back his brother, rather than the princess who is the daughter of the bad leader? Why does Gabriel let his love for Faythe come before his love for his brother? Thoughts like this should be allowed and questions should be answered. It’s a very bitter sweet ending. The journey is thoughtful and interesting. There could have been more characters, but it is small enough to remember and yet, enough to make it nice and complicated. If you tried to figure out the story just by listening to the songs, maybe looking at the insert inside the album, you might understand the story… might. You should read the synopsis first to get a grip of this vast album.
Take a good listen to the songs. Such music as ‘a life left behind’ and ‘chosen’ are real great examples of genuine rock music, not only rock music, but more developed sounding music. It has all the elements of soft rock. I’d argue dramatic too. ‘Chosen’ is definitely a ballad. It is also more than that, it’s a love song.
The entire story focuses on using the magic and power of song to save and free the kingdom. We can see that it is also a love story with sad losses and happy endings. The album is considerable different to the original concept album by Dream Theater – ‘Metropolis part 2. Scenes from a memory’, released in 1999. It is lighter in tone, but also seems to be able to be received by more people. It is no doubt a dividing album, splitting the opinion of fans. As a fan myself I originally felt really let down. But it is a good album. I suppose as a band the highlights are there, vocally at least, even if you cannot appreciate the sweeping guitar parts. Drums are not as prominent and neither is bass. Keyboard/piano and guitar are at the forefront of the entire story with the singer. There is a lot of acoustic guitar work and there is the use of instruments that really mix things up. The band utilise bagpipes in the song ‘The X Aspect’. They use the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, Pueri Cantores boys choir, and Millennium Choir.
When we approach the end of the album ‘Hymm of a thousand voices’ stands out as being a subtle yet beautiful song about this large group of people being called to use their voices to save someones life. They gather together and light up the dark using Sky lanterns and candles. It’s a good way to bring hope and peace to the land, to introduce once again ‘the gift of music’ that Gabriel was capable of.
As we become aware of what changes have unfolded, ‘Our New World’ stands out as a really enjoyable and moving song about starting to build a new world after the absence of music. Faythe and Gabriel go off together with Xander, and they will start to live out the rest of their days. We have to wait until the very end to hear ‘Astonishing’, which is a good an ending as any. It has been astonishing and an incredibly complicated journey, yet all over so quick… ‘Because of you I live again… now I can be a voice for change’.
Although the Astonishing is something of a dividing concept album, it has many great songs, great music, great story and vocals and aims to be one of the better ‘stories’ in modern music. Remember Pink Floyds The Wall? Yeah, Dream Theater aimed this high, and did very well.
I think you’d be able to listen to this album and feel fairly satisfied at how a lot of it plays out, suprisingly so.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
*It doesn’t quite get 5 stars. We all need to be able to appreciate efforts like this.* Well Done.
"No more sorrow filled journeys"sent on a mighty quest... without even realisingPraying and seekingforgot to lookin the only place it could bethat much is to comehere we will be donein no timeno time left to cryprepare for the endsay goodbyesurrounded by ...
Surprised that Dream Theater have already announced another album for release only a mere 2 years after ‘Distance over time’?
New album titled ‘A view from the top of the world’ is scheduled to release on the October 22, 2021. You can pre order the album now.
Following previous traditions of releasing a song early… or 2 or 3… new single ‘THE ALIEN’ is a powerful new song from Dream Theaters new album!
It runs over 9 minutes. I hope this new album has longer songs and a 24 minute song which is not unusual from the band, with most albums containing such long epics. Distance over time the exception, with no epic. However, that was a good, strong album which left much to be imagined about the future of the bands talent. Do they ever stop growing and progressing?
The video to The Alien is visually striking. Particular highlights being the use of space and alien technology to enhance the journey the viewer goes on. It’s an epic adventure, through space. Accompanying lyrics and guitar are great, with some sections whisking my mind back to the days of ‘scenes from a memory’ and ‘images and words.’
I can’t wait until the album is released. It’s great news. The band said in an interview that they had more spare time since they were not touring so they decided to hook up to do ‘what they do best’, make music. If the single the Alien is anything to go by, then I can imagine that the rest of the album is going to be quite the experience.
Felt the iron cloth
Rubbed the fiber
Frost is coming
We are freezing
No longer feeling
Dropped into a black room
No breath that eyes can see
Open spaces and unrecognizable faces
Lack of feeling
There is no air or wind
I can't see the walls
And warm and caressing lavender
Seeped into my pillow
Beginning my days shaving off my sins
Washing away all of those previous whims
Thinking I am the star of the Sims
Driving that car shotgun to Mr Pims
Eagle eyed fraught desire
Wormhole aging attire.
What great news has come upon the American people and indeed the world. George Floyd’s killer was found guilty of murder and guilty he was. A shift in the consciousness of the American people will sweep the world. Let’s hope that the world begins to change and help those who are most in need.
A reminiscent sojourn
Could you make it
To the final
In the court
As days speed by
We say goodbye
Night of our lives
Were what we desperately need
Guided to the gate
Pain that lasts
And leaving young a breath
To much the width
Of narrow path
A great time of change is occurring among humans. People everyday, every second are waking up, in every corner of the globe…waking up to the reality of our existence, to the true nature of the universe and the ultimate wake up call…the reality of what lurks inside themselves.
I’ve been moving from brain to brain, logical to creative and back and forth for some time. I try to use both at once if I can. I am trying to change for the better, to change negative habits, to form new ones and to become a better more rounded person. By developing the weaknesses I can strengthen my strengths and so forth.
Some of you may have read my poetry for which I am grateful. I have started to write long poems/prose. I can understand people might be hesitant to read that much, but I appreciate you taking the time anyhow. I hope everyone takes away something positive from my writing even though it may come across as melancholic sometimes.
Life is an adventure, we all go from a to b. How you travel that distance and what you do between those points is almost entirely up to you. I think connecting with friends and family, engaging in hobbies and passions, working hard, keeping fit and healthy and spreading love and joy are some of the best things you could do in this lifetime. Whatever your path, have the courage and the faith to follow it.
Lord knows…I’ve found my way.
The WayTrue identity revealed...just in time,porous surface cracking lightly,love blister pack on counter-top,hidden and can't go back at all...all that was ever known,everything you've been told,temporary algae on rocks,washed away to the sea,a harsh truth to scrape your soul,prepare for your end.