"Metropolis, part 2: Scenes from a Memory" is a concept album telling a complex story of love, life, death, the psyche, rebirth and cosmic connections between people. "Typical progressive pretentious lyrical bullsh*t", you might say. Well, if you do not like that, then that is fair enough. Personally, I think that the lofty concept suits Dream Theater's complex music very well.
"Metropolis, part 2: Scenes from a Memory" is one of Dream Theater's very best albums for my money, and it is teeming with music which is pretty much epitomic of progressive metal, blending progressive technicality and comlexity with recognizable melody. Some of the stringer tracks on this album are "Fatal Tragedy" with its (in)famous shrink-n-grow section, the heavier "Beyond this Life" with its catchy choruses, "Home" and "The Dance of Eternity".
Any progressive metal collection that lacks this album is an incomplete one.
(review originally posted on metalmusicarchives.com)
Probably one of the best DT pieces ever mainly because of the famous shrink'n'grow structure.
Dream theater definitely has the most powerful spot between the bands that took the progressive music to the 21st century. The band, that almost broke up after their 3rd album tour ("Awake"), and the constant pressure from the record company to produce hits, has made the musician pretty unstable. As a last minute move, they have turned to the company's management and demanded artistic freedom to their next project - and if this demand will not be fulfilled, they have threatend to end their career. The management have surrendered, and the band started the long & hard process of creating the album... Since then, "Scenes" became the most valuable album ever created by Dream, and most importantly - a perfect figure of Progressive Metal.
"Scenes From A Memory" is a complicated, ambitious rock-opera, 77 mins long. It was called as "Metropolis Part II". The first part, was in "Images & Words" - on track no. 5. But the first part was lyrically weak on the same subjects (Life after death, eternal love, etc.), and in fact Dream have came back to the beginning and tried to continue from the place that seemed right, artistically.
Maybe the fact that all of the line-up is built from new yorkers, you can feel the influence from Broadway's musicals. It comes to an expression in the work of Jordan Rudess, the virtoaus keyboardist (who was a new joiner at that time), which enriched Dream's music melodicly (classic motifs), harmonically (right chords moves), rythmically (not keeping with the cliches of Rock/Metal), and acoustically (additions of sounds such as piano, choir & strings). Rudess balanced & challenged Petrucci, that always went - as a guitarist - to metal. With that, it's important to say that all of the members' name are on the composing, so it is pretty likely a team effort. I've got to mention, that one of the great specialnesses of this album is the brilliant instrumental improvisations, between the melodic instruments - Rudess-keyboards & Petrucci-guitar, who have a great work together and create healthy competition between wonders of players in the rock world.
As you can expect from a band that called itself "Dream Theater", were dealing with a modernic opera (or a musical...), that motorize itself by a dream - according to the story - with the technique called "Regression Therapy", you can hypnotize the patient, bring him back to different reincarnations, and to find out the meaning of problems & complexes in the present. Nicholas, our hero, is a normal guy that is troubled by dreams which include a girl (Victoria) and a house. He turns to a psychologist and realize that Victoria's soul is trapped inside his body (praticullary - in his head). Victoria's story brings him back to 1928 and to a famous murder that was made, it turns out, after the break of a romantic triangle between herself & two brothers - Jullian & Edward. The duty of revealing the past becomes an obsession - trying to find out the truth, no matter the price. It ends, traghically, in a traghedy.
Building a 77-minute long album ain't easy. There is an important need for a link between the seperated parts. It is hard to find the right balance between slow, acoustic tracks, sub-chapters that was meant to promote the plot, improvisations & instrumental inventions, effects, and brief explanations about the advance of the story. Dream Theater have definitely did the job well, and created a wide variety of so-called opposed genres: Blues Rock, Romantic, Heavy Metal, Gospel, Broadway and even Indian music.
I can easily call "Scenes" a revolutionary album, it is an exciting masterpiece, strong & well polished. The recordings are full of little & interesting details, and can testify the hard work in the studio. All the composings are well made, The instrumental performance by the trio (guitar, keyboards & drums) are just breath-taking, and the dramatic plot really expresses in the vocal delivering (by James LaBrie) and in the musical production level. Dream Theater have really built a milestone in the prog rock history, which i can bet that will remembered many years from now... In my opinion, Dream has succeed to compare itself and even uplift the spiritual fathers of the 70's.
This really is a masterpiece, a quintessential modern prog rock concept album. There are many people out there who don't consider Dream Theater to be prog at all. IMHO there are many more who do, and I'm one of those open minded people who have understood that there are many different kinds of prog music.
Dream Theater - generally and on this album in particular - focus on structure and virtuosity. The music is always very controlled, refined and thoughtfully laid out. But with all this technical perfection, this album features beautiful melodies as well.
Production also is nearly perfect, I cannot understand people who say otherwise. However, there might still be a chance that you will not like the album (or Dream Theater) at all: The vocals are not everybody's cup of tea, as are the classical and avantgardistic (ZAPPA) influences and lengthy solos.