Ever since the departure of Mike Portnoy, my interest in Dream Theater waned over time. The band’s drummer audition web series managed to retain some of my attention, and seeing Mike Mangini’s genius behind the kit initially got me somewhat excited to sound what the band would sound like with the new lineup. Unfortunately, A Dramatic Turn of Events turned out to be a rather boring affair, with Mangini’s drumming sounding uninspired, and the overly-generous usage of the triggers making him sound overly mechanical and machine-like. Apparently this was largely due to the drum portions being pre-programmed, and then re-recorded over by Mangini.
2 years later, with Mangini comfortably integrating with the band, Dream Theater released their self-titled album. With 2 years’ worth of synergy, one would expect an improvement in the band’s output, right? Turns out, the songs remain as sadly boring as their previous output. Which led to me dismissing their next release, The Astonishing, as well. What little that I heard didn’t lead me to listening to the album in its entirety.
This year, the band releases their fourth album with the current lineup, Distance Over Time. Initially I wasn’t keen at all to listen to the album, what with 3 albums worth of material that has caused my disinterest. One day though, Untethered Angel popped up on my discovery playlist on Spotify, and the track sounded surprisingly… Good! And hence this review.
Unlike previous albums where the band sounded like they placed their focus on producing the most technical music, Dream Theater instead attempts a more melodic, emotional approach this time around. Untethered Angel sounds like a throwback to my first (and rather late) introduction to the band with Octavarium, albeit with a more technical edge to the songwriting.
For the first time since Octavarium, it sounds as if Dream Theater has finally found the sweet spot of writing music that sounds effortless enough without sounding as though they were trying to hard. While their sound remains largely rooted in progressive metal, there are moments where the band ventures into hard rock territory, like in the first quarter of Paralyzed. Touted as one of the fastest drummer in the world, Mike Mangini also proves himself to be able to sound human, and not sound overly mechanical on the album, even on faster sections like on the intro of Barstool Warrior.
The attention that the band has put into the record’s detail extends to the album’s production value, where unlike recent works with the over-production, the sound on the album sounds sufficiently organic, making Distance Over Time an easy listen on the ears. To make things more interesting, the band even plays with some slight binaural effects towards the end of At Wit’s End, giving a sort of live atmosphere to the track.
At just short of an hour long, Distance Over Time has been the most enjoyable Dream Theater record with their current lineup. While not the most technical, it feels as though Distance Over Time contains some of the more coherent writing that the band has put out over the last couple of years.