Dream Theater - Distance Over Time

Dream Theater Distance Over Time cover
Dream Theater
Distance Over Time
InsideOut Music
2019
7.5
Dream Theater followed their overblown swan song flop for Roadrunner Records with a lot of damage control and by taking a number of safe decisions. So, after an ambitious tour for it, their toured their best album, on its 25th anniversary and now they undertake a 20th anniversary tour for another of their more famous albums. Also their debut with Sony/Inside Out and their 14th overall album is as safe as it could be.
 
Shorter songs that try to cram in as much as they can and feel as a conscious throwback to the band’s pre-millennial style, should be heralded as good news, as if Dream Theater were made great again in their own image(s), but that’s somehow only partially true. While there’s an undeniable turn towards the past and not forward, that seems to be completely missing is the lyricism of Kevin Moore’s performances or even the melodic edge of Derek Sherinian. Petrucci’s influence and presence on this album seems to have increased, resulting in a much heavier and darker sounding album.
 
“Untethered Angel” feels like a typical yet better single that the previous post Portnoy era albums, due to its nice riff, and impressive solos by Petrucci and some of the vocal lines that James Labrie is singing being quite inspired. It’s too sad that he’s comparatively buried in the mix though.
 
“Paralyzed” is a heavy but melodic track that has a bit of an “Awake” feel about it, despite having a more contemporary sound that the band only tapped into well into the millennium.
 
“Fall into the Light” continues in the same melancholic, but riffy as hell direction, with a nice solo section.
 
Barstool Warrior” is a song about alcoholism, but nowhere as broken and dysfunctional as almost everything on “Six Degrees” was and its melodic, bridge and chorus make it rather interesting.
 
“Room 137” is a much heavier number, with a claustrophobic atmosphere and quite a paranoid theme that seems to make its solos more psychotic and psychedelic in same measures to match its overall tone. Fillerish.
 
“Signal to Noise – S2N” is a rather experimental prog piece, with semi spoken heavy verses and a nice chorus and in includes a couple of nice Petrucci moments. It seems concerned lyrically with the state of matters around the world and seeks to maintain a positive outlook, hoping that things will be on the mend.
 
“At Wit’s End” is quite melodic, but maybe a little long winded as it reaches close to the ten minute mark, but does so without being as boring as most songs on “Train of Thought” for example.
 
“Out of Reach” is the most melodic song of the album and possibly, one weird love song, at first reading, but not exactly a ballad. It feels more like something that would have felt appropriate on “Falling into Infinity”, if you catch my drift.
 
“Pale Blue Dot” sprinkles a song that once again shows concern about the global situation, with every trick in the DT songbook to make it feel as vintage DT as possible, which it manages to do, up to a certain extend. It’s also the normal album closer as “Viper King” exists as a bonus track and while it’s not completely out there, seems to be rather atypical, compared to the rest of the album and a little throwaway in all honesty.
 
Basically this is the sound of a band facing midlife crisis, trying to play to its strengths and to revitalize itself by going forward into the past (it’s an oxymoron – I know)! It tries to redefine the band and shuffle the cards, without bringing anything new and it feels like a band trapped, with just enough inspiration to not snap under the pressure of having to consistently one up themselves, an aporia of them being genre-leaders. “Distance Over Time” feels the transitional album that “could have been” after “Octavarium”, at a turbulent time when the band was switching labels and right before a period that would be the band’s driest spell, inspiration wise, up until now. Nothing new, but something borrowed and something blue. It will have to do. I guess.