While here at Heavy Blog we usually err on the “for its own merit” side of the album/career debate, choosing to focus on an album’s singular traits rather than its place within a band’s discography, this would be a mistake here. While The Astonishing , one of the most anticipated albums of the year, is certainly a departure from everything Dream Theater has been giving us in the past few years, it’s also a return to several key sounds from the beginning and middle period of their career. Even that departure requires an understanding of the bigger picture of their trajectory; to depart from something, you need to understand something. And so, the first thing that is immediately apparent when the first real track (that is, not the intro) of The Astonishing begins to play is: this is a rock opera. When the second track begins to play, something else becomes immediately apparent: the main touchstone for this album within the extensive Dream Theater discography is Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence . That spring in the step, that hopeful and cheery outlook, screams of that intricate album, the closest the band have come to a rock opera in the past. Yes, OK, but is it a good album ? That’s what we’re all here to find out. In two words: yes and no. In more than that, The Astonishing contains some amazing tracks, possibly the best the band have produced since the lukewarm Octavarium trickled into our ears. When the tracks are playing, it’s impossible to resist how downright energetic this album is. At these moments, the cheesiness is perfectly balanced with that old-school Rush feel that Dream Theater have always been famous for and things work. They work really well in several points: on “Lord Nafaryus” for example, LaBrie delivers the intricate villain role with brilliant precision, doing things with his voice that he never has, as far as register and delivery goes. The artificial strings blend perfectly with the over the top piano, accentuated by signature guitar bridges from Petrucci. This cohesion is perhaps one of the best marks of a good Dream Theater album: when they work together, instead of playing against each other, they sound best. The slightest, cheesy touch from Petrucci near the end really closes the deal, making this one of the best tracks on both albums. This track is followed by two more excellent iterations of this new-fangled sound: “A Saviour in the Square” is epic to the exact degree needed, with a splash of horns to spice things up. LaBrie returns to more conventional grounds and reminds us that, regardless of personal taste, he is one of the most consistently excellent singers in the industry. Personal note time: when “When Your Times Has Come” kicks in, the next track down the line, I get teary eyed. This song is cheese to the maximum degree, but Rudess has chosen old school synth effects, with a wink to Kevin Moore perhaps, and LaBrie executes beautifully. This is “Hollow Years” territory: you know it’s cheesy rock but it just touches something within you and it works. Which brings us to the major defect with the album. Honestly, what band can expect to release 33 tracks and get that perfect balance between emotional propensity and technical achievement? Even Dream Theater, one of the most veteran and influential bands operating today, can’t pull it off. The Astonishing is replete with filler tracks, songs that really have no right existing other than an obscure parts they play in this (rather underwhelming) story that the album attempts to tell. And that’s not enough: cliche guitar parts mix with over-sweetness in LaBrie’s voice and bounce off the most cliche lines that Rudess can make from his keyboards. And they’re repetitive as well. There’s no reason for “Act of Faythe”, one of the cheesiest songs ever made by Dream Theater, to exist when a track like “The Answer” exists as well. There’s supposedly a common theme being iterated upon here but it’s not interesting enough to carry the tracks forward. Nor are the ways in which the band iterate upon it interesting in anyway: they include shifting the mood just a bit to give it a lighter or darker spin and nothing else. All of these flaws extend to the second “CD” as well, and then some. “A Life Left Behind” for example is a track which could have come right out of Awake but it’s successor, “Ravenskill” is completely pointless, taking too much time with its intro and failing to deliver when the main theme is introduced. Since the flow between the tracks, a famous trope of progressive records, has been completely abandoned here in favor of the “track by track” structure of rock operas, the second CD is hard to pin down and connect to the first. By the time you’ve reached it, so many filler tracks have gone by without a clear approach to thematization that the thread is almost impossible to grasp. The narrative has been completely lost and every track, even the good ones, start to sound the same. That’s no accident: even the good tricks utilized on this album are the same old tricks that we know from this album itself and from past entries in the Dream Theater discography. While the overall style of the album is new, in that it taps into tropes that were only lightly present in their careers so far, the track progression is the same tried and true method. OK, we’ve saved the best (worst) for last. Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed that we haven’t mentioned two current members of the band. The first, John Myung, might not surprise anybody; his absence, both in sound and words, from the band is a thing of legend by now. On The Astonishing , or at least on the copy that we of the press received, he is almost 100% missing. Whether in the mixing or in the recording, the bass was completely swallowed by the other instruments and is completely absent from the final product. However, now we come, here at the end, to the most egregious and unexplainable flaw in this record: Mike Mangini. Throughout the album, Magini displays an almost impressive amount of disinterest in what’s going on around him. The drums line are not only performed in a lackluster way, they also sound as if zero effort was put into their writing. We know Mangini is a talented drummer but that talent is nowhere to be found here: obvious fill after obvious fill churn out under paper thin cymbals and pointless kick drums, ultimately amounting to nothing much. There’s literally no moments on the albums that are worth mentioning for their drums and this infuriatingly frustrating, given what we know of his obvious ability. At the end of the day, when you put all of the above together, you get a disappointing album. If this had just been a bad album, we could have chalked it down to age, momentum and being out of touch. That’s impossible though, since when the album is good, it’s really quite good. If only it had been cut to about ten tracks and purged of the incessant repetitions, it might have been the best Dream Theater album in years. Instead, it’s a puerile attempt at a grand gesture that ultimately falls on its face, caught too close to the sun with wax spilling over, giving all its features the same, bland, indecipherable structure. ? Dream Theater – The Astonishing gets… 3/5
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Facebook: Jon Dette Drummer Jon Dette’s name has been surfacing a lot more in the news lately as he’s landed a pair of high profile fill-in gigs for Anthrax and Slayer , two acts he’s played with previously. Dette recently spoke with ‘The Blairing Out With Eric Blair Show’ at the NAMM Convention (video below) just weeks before his offers to join Anthrax and Slayer for dates became wide public knowledge. Dette, who is mostly known for his work with Testament , will sit behind the kit for both Anthrax and Slayer on each band’s respective tours of Australia and he says there’s nothing but respect for the two men whose chair he’ll be filling in the coming months. He explained, “ Charlie [Benante] is one of my biggest influences ever, next to [Dave] Lombardo .” The drummer first sat in with Anthrax last year , taking over for Shadows Fall ‘s Jason Bittner when Benante was unable to tour. The Anthrax skinbeater personally called Dette to fill in, and the drummer recalls, “It was kind of a surreal moment for me to get a call like that, saying, ‘Hey can you help me out?’ Which of course I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I just went and did a Europe tour with Anthrax and Motorhead and now I’m getting ready to actually head off to India and Australia with them in February and March.” As for Slayer, Dette’s stint with the band came between Paul Bostaph and the return of Dave Lombardo behind the kit. He recalls, “Slayer is one of those bands I’ve been playing forever, and so it was so natural, and I think we really felt that when we were in a room together.” Speaking about his past experience, he added, “[There were] so many business things that I got to learn — just the music business in general, good and bad. But, again, just to have the opportunity to play for one of my all-time favorite bands and see the back of their heads every night … I’d like to think I did it justice at the time I was with the band and it was just an amazing experience.” Watch Jon Dette Discuss His History With Anthrax + Slayer [button href=”http://loudwire.com/decibel-magazine-tour-2013-must-see-metal-concerts/” title=”Next: Check Out 2013’s Must-See Metal Concerts” align=”center”]
Neurot Recordings Neurosis singer and guitarist Steve Von Till was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. He spoke about the band’s new album ‘Honor Found in Decay,’ as well as creating music independently and on their own time. Read Full Metal Jackie’s interview with Steve Von Till below: It was five years between albums before ‘Honor Found in Decay’ was released late last year. Creatively, how has that time between albums broken down? Is it a lot of time spent consciously thinking about new music or is it more about living a life of adventure that will ultimately manifest itself musically? It’s more about just surrendering to the flow – it’s complete chaos, we have no set method and it’s definitely not time spent in the brain trying to conceive. This music comes from the heart and soul and it’s really just finding the time together over the years that are the hard part because we live quite spread out but most of it’s just waiting for it to demand attention. It must be kind of cool not having people say, “Oh you have to put out this many records in this certain timeline,” so you sort of have creative freedom to let it come when it’s ready. Absolutely, I mean we all work day jobs and have families and we run our own record label, so there’s no external pressure and that’s the way we like it. This music is so important to us as a form of expression that we really feel the need to keep it pure and the only way to really keep it pure is to keep all external influence out. ‘Honor Found in Decay’ is now being released on vinyl. What’s more obvious about Neurosis in that format compared to digital? I think that’s the era we come from, the album time – where you sit and you put on an album and you absorb the whole thing while holding the artwork in your hand and reading the lyrics and just surrendering to it. I still love that format best myself, I think it sounds best and more natural, there’s more soul in it. Would you consider yourself a purist when it comes to the styles of music that you listen to and recording and everything? No, because you always go for what’s convenient too. I’ve got an iPod, probably like everyone else, but I still prefer to sit and play an album if I can. What kind of stuff are you listening to these days? All across the board, lately a lot of Joy Division and Amebix. Visual presentation has always been such an integral part of Neurosis. You very recently announced discontinuing that element of the band; what made such a drastic change necessary at this point in the band’s career? We always feel the need to push our boundaries and evolve and to go to new places we haven’t been and we’ve had visuals as part of our live performances since 1992. It just felt like it was time for a major change in that way. We started to feel that maybe it was a bit of a burden or that time has caught up to the multimedia aspect of what we’re doing and it no longer feels vital at this point – at least not the way we were doing it. It was time to just destroy it and put it away for a while and see what else comes new. Right now we’re enjoying just being completely liberated and playing under bright light and going for it. Who exercises greater influence over what you do musically: other bands and musicians or the non-musical people central to your life? I’d say the entire world probably influences us but it definitely has nothing to do with what other musicians are doing. I think music is the least influence on our music in some way because when you’re trying to find something original even though we’re all music fans and we love music and listen to a lot of music – when it comes time to create Neurosis music we have to let all of that slide and dissipate and not have other people influencing it. Everything we see, everything we hear, everything we feel must influence some aspect of what we’re doing – it’s probably our emotional world and the world around us that influences us the most. How do you feel about Neurosis being an influence to so many bands today? That’s pretty much the biggest honor that we could have. We think about what our musical heroes meant to us and how we play this really unique, strange, self-centered, self-absorbed music and the fact that anybody else likes it is kind of amazing. The fact that it might go out in the world and be a positive influence and inspire other people to pick up guitars or find their own true musical path or artistic expression, that’s just a great feeling. What can we expect from the band this year? We’ll definitely be playing a few more shows around the United States and we’re hitting Europe in the summer and we’ll just see where it takes us. Full Metal Jackie will welcome Kvelertak frontman Erlend Hjelvik to her program this coming weekend. She can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com .
IHeartRadio.com Slash is digging a little deeper into his ‘ Apocalyptic Love ‘ album with a new video for the track, ‘Anastasia.’ The clip is a live performance of the song, presented by I Heart Radio, that shows off the guitarist and his band’s live prowess. Slash, in particular, is featured within this clip as his dexterity on the guitar is on full display. The musician rocks some serious scales while Myles Kennedy delivers the powerhouse vocals on the track. ‘Anastasia’ follows ‘You’re a Lie,’ ‘Standing in the Sun’ and ‘Bad Rain’ as the fourth single from the ‘Apocalyptic Love’ disc. Slash is currently on tour in Europe with dates booked through March 4 in Dublin. The guitarist and his band will also perform at Ozzfest in Tokyo, Japan May 11. Slash’s promotion may take a bit of a back seat as the year rolls on as singer Myles Kennedy has been working toward Alter Bridge ‘s next album . Watch Slash’s ‘Anastasia’ Video [button href=”http://loudwire.com/slash-guitarist-of-the-year-2012-loudwire-music-awards/” title=”Next: Slash Voted 2012 Loudwire Guitarist of the Year” align=”center”]
Gareth Cattermole, Getty Images Five Finger Death Punch drummer Jeremy Spencer has embraced the rock and roll lifestyle and all that comes with it over the years, and now that he’s sober he’s ready to tell his tales in the new autobiography, ‘Deathpunched: Cheers to My Sobriety.’ The book, which is expected next year, features Spencer on the cover with adult film legend Ron Jeremy. The drummer told Los Angeles’ ‘ Heidi & Frank Show ,’ “The story behind that is … obviously being in a rock band, you dabble in the party lifestyle from time to time. So after years of that catching up to me, I got sober. But we always used to have this saying about doing cocaine, like you would get so cranked on sexually in your brain when you do it — like everything is exciting — but then you get numbed out beneath the belt line area. So we always said, ‘Man, you feel like Ron Jeremy from the neck up and Christopher Reeve from the neck down.’ So the cover of the book is me in, like, a Superman kind of costume in a wheelchair cheersing a martini glass with Ron Jeremy and two hot chicks. So that’s the cover of my book.” Spencer, who just past a year of sobriety on Jan. 8, says he initially planned to self-release the book but now has a deal in place with a publisher and expects it out next year. As for the Five Finger Death Punch’s current status, he reveals that the band are “cocooned up” at the moment working on new music, but do have plans for some spring shows in Europe followed by a summer North American trek. Watch Five Finger Death Punch’s Jeremy Spencer Discuss His Upcoming Book on KLOS 95.5 FM [button href=”http://loudwire.com/five-finger-death-punch-the-pride-video/” title=”Next: Watch Five Finger Death Punch’s ‘The Pride’ Video” align=”center”] ?