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Dream Theater – Distant Memories – Live in London Award winner

Dream Theater
Distant Memories – Live in London
by Jean-François Poulin at 18 January 2021, 6:41 AM

DREAM THEATER is an American Progressive Metal band from Long Island, New York. If you don’t know them by now, well I don’t know if you were living under a rock these last 35 years or so. The quintessential Prog Metal band was formed way back in 1985 and this is their 8th Live album. They have a habit of releasing live albums after touring extensively for one album. It’s a been a staple of the band since ‘’Once in a Livetime’’, a live album celebrating the end of the ‘’Falling into Infinity’’ tour. They pretty much released a live album after each studio offering except for ‘’The Astonishing’’, an album that was not well received unfortunately.

This live album celebrates the 20 years since the release of the landmark ‘’Scenes from a Memory’’ album and celebrating the new album called ‘’The Distance from Here’’. Don’t expect any early material, you have a few songs from ‘’Black Clouds and Silver Linings’’ and the later albums but this is strictly a celebration of sorts for the band . They really concentrate of their landmark album and play most of the last album as well. If you were expecting stuff from ‘’Images and Words’’ or even ‘’Awake’’, you got the wrong live album my friend.

I make no bones about it, I am huge fan of the band and discovered them with a radio edit of ‘’Pull Me Under’’ on a compilation called ‘’Hard Music Vol. 1’’ and this was way back in 1993. My brother and I really enjoyed what we were hearing but he became a big fan right there and then. As for me it took me a few years of musical exploration to really dive into the band and started a 20 year long fandom. I am still amazed that I remember most of the lyrics from ‘’Scenes from a Memory’’ even after all these years and kept singing (not well obviously) when I listened to this live offering. Hell, I don’t remember sometimes what I ate a few days ago but lyrics from a band that struck my imagination, that, I remember like yesterday!

As for the new album, I have to admit it took me months and months to listen to it thoroughly. There was so much new music that was out there and reviews to do, well I put the album aside for such a long time. In the last few months of the pandemic era I was able to listen to it a number of times and it’s one of their very best albums to date. I think the album has the most accurate title, ‘’The Distance from Here’’. It’s a way for the band to reflect on their past and they had a lot of elements from their career on this album. Some songs resemble a particular album and you can see that the past really influenced the future. They were never a band about being status quo. They were always about evolution and reinventing their sound even after the end of the Mike Portnoy era. They never stopped being creative and this album is a collection of great songs, it even has the most complex song structures ever, in the history of the band.

‘’Distant Memories’’ probably has the best production from a live album since ‘’Score’’. I thought the last two live albums had not weaknesses in the production but especially in the vocal performance of James Labrie. I know a lot of people out there don’t like him and some people absolutely love him. He has his weaknesses and had some really tough health problems throughout the years and it affected the power and range of his voice. From his own account it took a good 15 years to feel better about his performances and at times, his voice was breaking. His range was in doubt in times and according to the ‘’Lifting Shadows’’ authorized biography (for any fan out there of the band, this is a must read), he felt comfortable with his voice during the recording of ‘’Black Clouds and Silver Linings’’. I did however feel his voice wasn’t great on the last two live albums actually, he had trouble keeping the high notes and elongated too much. It was annoying at times but on this album, he is totally different.

He worked hard on his voice and this is probably his best vocal performance since ‘’Live Scenes’’. It is really comparable to this and in conjunction with his voice, I felt the backing vocals were so much better than before. They were on point and it was surprising because most of their backing vocals have always been one of their weakest elements. As for the parts that are usually sung by Mike Portnoy on ‘’Nightmare to Remember’’ and on ‘’Scenes from a Memory’’, well James Labrie sings them with some effects in his voice. It’s like a megaphone or something along those lines but it felt fine and I was wondering what they were going to do to replace to those parts. I was pleasantly surprised and it adds something new to these 20 year old songs.

I was happy to know that they used the sampling from the original album and not a live actor to do the part of the psychiatrist and narrator. I remember that the live actor on ‘’Live Scenes’’ was mediocre at best so I was pleasantly surprised with that. As for the musical prowess of the band, it’s still intact after 35 years. They are really tight and I was happy that Jordan Rudess did a big of a ragtime style for the intro of the landmark album. I felt it was unique and for a band so invested in their musical progression and evolution, I enjoyed that they tried something different.

I had spent the last few weeks engrossed in this live album and it’s better and better after each listen. Progressive Metal and DREAM THEATER is not for everyone but for any fan out there, this is something you need to listen to. The live renditions of ‘’Through Her Eyes’’ and ‘’The Spirit Carried On’’ were beautiful and made my cry like a baby. All these months alone and living in a bubble really got to me and the lyrics of both songs really hit home, so much frustration and depression. I guess these songs prevent me of doing bad things and concentrate on the stuff that impacts my life. I have to concentrate on my little daughter and try to pull through in all these bad times that if you do the unthinkable, the rest of the people around you will hurt more than you would ever know.

A landmark live album celebrated in the best way and makes you a firm believer than even after 20 years, it’s unanimous, this album is one of the best albums of all time, Progressive Metal/Rock and beyond…

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Untethered Angel
2. A Nightmare to Remember
3. Fall into the Light
4. Barstool Warrior
5. In the Presence of Enemiest Part 1
6. Pale Blue Dot
7. Scenes Live Intro
8. Scene One: Regression
9. Scene Two: I. Overture 1928
10. Scene Two: II. Strange Deja Vu
11. Scene Three : I. Through My Words
12. Scene Three: II. Fatal Tragedy
13. Scene Four: Beyond this Life
14. Scene Five: Through Her Eyes
15. Scene Six: Home
16. Scene Seven: I. The Dance of Eternity
17. Scene Seven: II. One Last Time
18. Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On
19. Scene Nine: Finally Free
20. At Wit’s End
21. Paralyzed (Bonus Track)
Lineup:
James Labrie – Lead Vocals
Mike Mangini – Drums
John Myung – Bass
John Petrucci – Guitar
Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
Record Label: InsideOut Music
     


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Edited 09 March 2021
 

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