In a slight change of pace from my usual blogs based around writing, I decided to take a slight break from it to talk about one of my favourite bands of all time - the American Prog-Rock/Metal act known as Dream Theater.
Why am I writing about a metal band in a writing blog? Well, to be honest, I don't always just look to books and TV for inspiration. Music can also play a part in my writing process. Being a former musician myself I have a huge appreciation for it and the emotion that it can convey. I often listen to music when writing when trying to convey a certain scene. And Dream Theater are one of the bands that I play most often.
With a career that spans back to 1989 (and beyond), Dream Theater have been one of the biggest names in progressive rock world. With influences that range from bands like Metallica, Yes, Pink Floyd and even the legendary band Rush (of which one might argue is their biggest influence - the singer, James LaBrie even sounds very much like Geddy Lee. Even the drumming has similar motifs to Rush drummer Neil Pert), Dream Theater have a style that is extremely heavy, melodic and emotional and technically perfect. In fact, I have seldom heard a band that had better musicians than Dream Theater.
Dream Theater's current line up consists of James LaBrie (vocals), John Petrucci (guitars), Jordan Rudess (keyboards), John Myung (bass) and Mike Mangini (Drums - taking over from Mike Portnoy after he and Dream Theater parted ways). Other notable members included Kevin Moore on Keyboards (up until the album Awake) and Charlie Dominici (their vocalist on their first album - though I have to be honest, I didn't think he was that great). Each member of Dream Theater is perfectly skilled at their instrument - in fact I honestly don't think their are better musicians in the rock world than these guys. Petrucci can play with lighting fast speed and ability that most speed metallers fail to reach, Rudess fingers move across the keyboard like a spider, Myung's bass lines are often overlooked - but never understated. And as for Mangini - well, he has set 5 World Drumming Record between 2002 - 2005, some of which still stand today! So you know these guys have to be good!
But it's not just about speed that makes Dream Theater such a great band in my opnion - but for their song writing skills. Every song is filled with emotion and affects you in a way most other metal songs can't. In fact, Dream Theater songs have more than one reduced me to tears because the emotion feels so real. James LaBrie doesn't scream his lyrics like most metal bands but actually sings them. His voice has garnered mixed reactions from people, but I think he's a great vocalist. It's because of this that the emotion is put across is a way better than just screaming down the microphone.
Also, another plus for Dream Theater, whilst most metal bands are about doom and gloom, Dream Theater's songs usually have a more uplifting message to them. They do have some dark songs, but they have plenty of songs that have a strong message to them. Being that most of the band are Christians and Spritalists, they do try and put across a positive outlook on life - which I think is why I listen to them the most. If I ever get down, I put on some Dream Theater and let the music raise my spirits. The songs pull you into them and take you on a journey - they tell a story rather than just going by "verse-chorus-verse" as with most songs.
Strangely enough, despite the fact that are respected amongst their fans and fellow musicians, Dream Theater have pretty much been ignored by the commercial market - only having one major radio hit in the nineties. In some way though, I think that's a great thing as it means their sound has never been compromised for the sake of being "commercial". They've done what they wanted to do and fans respect them for that.
To be honest, I could go on forever talking about Dream Theater and how good they are - and the many themes their songs cover. But to really do them justice, you need to listen to them. If you're a fan of rock or music in general and don't mind having an open mind, then I truely recommend you check them out. In fact, if you do then I recommend you check out these albums as a starting point.
Images and Words is their second album and a perfect starting point if you're new to them. The songs on this album are more easily listening, yet still technically perfect. In fact, they get to show off just how tight their jamming skills are on this album. It also contains two of my favourite Dream Theater songs "Take The Time" and "Metropolis Pt 1". Take The Time is an uplifting song about not trying to rush through life and just taking a step back to enjoy it. And Metropolis is an exciting, futuristic epic that deals with birth, death and reincarnation. It has a certain sci-fi feel to it, much like the movie of the same name.
Octavarium contains a few "radio friendly" songs and even some more folkier sounding tunes. It's not really considered a great album by some, but I love it. For one reason - the theme of it. The album is based around the number 8 and the theme of the octave. As any musician knows, an octave contains 8 notes and 5 intervals. This was Dream Theater's eigth studio album AND they have five members - coincidence? Every song has a time signature or idea with the song to go with the theme of this number, and each song starts off in a different key that goes up in ascending order. That is clever song writing in my eyes! Not only that, but the final track is a brilliant 20 plus minute epic that is heavily Pink Floyd inspired.
A Dramatic Turn Of Events is their most recent album and has a harder edge than the other two I mentioned. This is an album that will appeal to more heavy rockers, but it still has the positive and uplifting message that I've been talking about. It's also their first album with the new drummer Mike Mangini. And let me tell you, this guy can do with one hand what most drummers struggle to do with two! Drumming wise that is! The songs on here take a while to tune into, but once you give it a fair go, I think you'll agree that it's a very emotional and powerful album.
Of course, I'd recommend ANY Dream Theater album - but these are just the ones I'd pick for beginners.
If my books were ever made into a film, I'd LOVE Dream Theater to do the soundtrack for it because their music is just so powerful and moving. Hopefully others will feel the same way about them as I do. Dream Theater's music is inspiring and uplifting - and as a writer that's what I look for when I look to create stories.
Are you a fan of Dream Theater? Want to share your thoughts? Please do feel free to comment below. I do read all comments and respond when possible.
Thanks for reading and have a great week.