Dream Theater - Distance Over Time
InsideOut Music
Progressive Metal
9 songs (56:51)
Release year: 2019
Dream Theater, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

After the major misstep that was 2016's The Astonishing, it makes sense that Dream Theater have gone back to basics for the follow-up. Not only is Distance Over Time more like a heavier version of their 2013 self-titled album, it's the shortest full-length the band have produced since When Dream and Day Unite! And that relative lack of flab makes Distance Over Time a far more listener-friendly experience, even if the band aren't quite able to cut the fat out completely. After all, this is prog, a genre of metal that relishes extravagance and Dream Theater are as full of it as ever, even though the songs rattle along quickly enough. Opener Untethered Angel is the sort of thing the band could do in their sleep, but it has enough nicely crunchy riffing and proggy keyboard frills that it's immediately enjoyable. It's interesting to note that James LaBrie is semi-buried in the mix, way behind the instruments and coated with a variety of effects that make his almost too familiar voice seem fresher and more interesting than it has been.

The production otherwise (courtesy of Petrucci, as ever) is pretty good, giving each instrument space to shine, and enhancing the metal side of the band's brand of prog metal. Songs like the djent-tinged Paralyzed are straightforwardly heavy in a way that we've not heard Dream Theater do in a while and although this just means they're back to the standards of ten years ago, it's still a return to form. So while you'll have heard the band do things similar to, say, the Metallica-esque Fall Into The Light, it's still a well-written, fun track with the usual emotional subtlety of a bucket of cold water ("too much love is not enough for us") but plenty of Deep Purple-y Hammond jamming. There's plenty of variety between songs, the slower, groovier Room 137 contrasting well with the Rush-rocking S2N (likely the first ever metal song to contain an Owen Wilson meme!) and the two even mixing up the vocal effects. The only nine minute-plus song here At Wit's End initially seemed fairly standard but completely threw me when it changed partway through into a rather beautiful prog piece driven by melody, even giving LaBrie's vocals some time with a piano. And the other epic, the eight-minute Pale Blue Dot, is nearly as good, Mangini being the standout for once as he blasts under almost thrashy riffing, before the track launches into a compelling prog instrumental section.

There are a couple of weaker moments, Barstool Warrior being one of the duller tracks with an energy-sapping piano solo and an ending that goes on a little too long, even if LaBrie does more vocal stretching. And mandatory ballad Out of Reach isn't one of their all-time best, but is catchy enough for its place late in the tracklist. Yet all in all this is their best album since at least A Dramatic Turn of Events, and probably the best performance we've heard from Mike Mangini since he replaced Mike Portnoy. He's still not as expressive or individualistic as Portnoy, whose loss the band is only really now over. Time and distance have proved that his desire for Dream Theater to take a break and refresh their ideas was the right one as nothing released since has had the same power or drive as the albums from his era, and what experiments have happened have mostly been mistakes. Distance Over Time may not be as good as Black Clouds & Silver Linings or any album before that, lacking the adventurousness and spirit that used to shine from the band except in a couple of moments. Yet fans will be pleased to have even such a safe album from Dream Theater after The Astonishing(ly bad), and it's a relief to know they've not lost their touch. (Don't miss bonus track Viper King for more cool Deep Purple-esque rocking, it should have made the main album in place of Barstool Warrior.)

Killing Songs :
Paralyzed, Fall Into the Light, S2N, At Wit's End, Pale Blue Dot
Goat quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Dream Theater that we have reviewed:
Dream Theater - A View From the Top of the World reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Dream Theater - Dream Theater reviewed by Rob and quoted 79 / 100
Dream Theater - Live At Budokan reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events reviewed by Crash and quoted 73 / 100
Dream Theater - A Change Of Seasons reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
To see all 19 reviews click here
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