There are basically two ways to approach Dream Theater’s new album Distance Over Time. The first is to analyze and consider it in the context of the wide and impressive band’s discography (especially the first part of it), which is what every fan does when he starts listening to the new material. The second way is to try to abstract from Dream Theater’s glorious past and consider the new LP in a more objective way, without prejudices or doing continuous comparisons with the band’s milestone LPs. I know that this second approach is very hard to do, and also a little unnatural, but I must tell you that this time I tried. As a matter of fact, it’s so evident that Dream Theater has become something completely different from what the band represented at the turn of the 80s and 90s, that the expectations to have another Images and Words on every new LP from them can bring to only disappointments.
By pursuing this experiment of abstraction, and after listening to the new LP for many times, I came to the conclusion that Distance Over Time has its own character and value. Considered as an absolute work of music, no one can deny that the album collects a number of solid and also relatively varied progressive metal songs. There is a sense of unity and compactness that permeates all the album and, finally, we’re getting rid of all those atmospheric drifts or the didascalic moments that had weighed down the last productions from the band. In many of the songs of Distance Over Time we can enjoy powerful and vigorous riffs, although not really memorable, that alternate with melodic and, at times, poignant sections. Virtuosity is quite controlled and never self-celebratory, with the exception of the inevitable prog rock sections that have been always part of their style and that, however, in this new LP never become excessive.
The album is played flawlessly, and all the expected ingredients of the band’s consolidated recipe are there. I’m lacking, however, enough of those memorable riffs and choruses that would have made the songs real masterpieces. The passion and commitment from the band this time is evident but, unfortunately, we miss that special spark of beauty and “catchiness” that may allow a song to overcome the threshold of enjoyability and enter that of the legend.
I imagine that there will be many listeners that will point out how the first incarnation of Dream Theater was something absolutely unique and different (it’s absolutely true). They will explain that Untethered Angel is the ugly copy of The Mirror and that Barstool Warrior seems to be inspired by Erotomania. This time, however, I want to abstain from this exercise, and after having tried to judge the record in an objective way, I feel that Distance over Time deserves a full sufficiency. I give it a 6.5/10.
As a side note, I want to mention here the impressive performance of the drummer Mike Mangini, another one who has always lived the comparison with the first and most beloved drummer of the band (Mike Portnoy). Well, I listened with particular attention to the rhythm section of the new record and I can say that it’s truly remarkable. There are many ideas that complement and enrich the music played by the other members of the band and, in general, it’s one of the things that surprised me the most of the LP.
My favourite songs of the album are Paralyzed, At Wit’s End and Untethered Angel.
Distance Over Time can be streamed from Spotify.
You can find all the best Progressive Metal songs that were relesed since the beginning of 2019 in my playlist The PROGRESSIVE METAL Radar. Check it out and follow it, since it’s going to grow as soon as other new songs are published.