Dream Theater, who we will see again in Chile this year, has come a long way since it was formed at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1985. The progressive metal giants have released 14 studio albums; an EP and a host of live CDs and DVDs showcasing the band’s diverse, true and virtuosic sound.
They are mainly known for their epic and cinematic songs that feature heavy riffs; long musical interludes; extended guitar and keyboard solos; key and time signature changes; and a variety of influences including classical and jazz, which are showcased throughout their catalogue. The band also shows its softer side with some ballads with just piano and vocals and others with the full band giving a glimpse of the full spectrum of Dream Theater’s unique sound.
And celebrating the confirmation of their next show on Saturday, September 10 at Quinta Vergara in Viña del Mar, at rock radio we embark on the not-so-easy mission of choosing the 10 best Dream Theater songs.
Metropolis, paint. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
While ‘Pull Me Under’ may be the band’s most recognizable song, “Metropolis”, which also appears on the band’s 1992 album Images and Words, is a true fan favorite and lays out the seeds of a much bigger song. story that was addressed in 1999’s “Metropolis 2: Scenes From a Memory.” The nine-minute song defines Dream Theater’s signature sound with insanely heavy riffs and mind-altering rhythm and beat changes. It really showcases each member of the band as they go on a musical journey filled with melodic harmonies and chaotic dissonant sounds that somehow work perfectly together.
While it was difficult to pick just one song from Dream Theater’s 1999 “Metropolis 2: Scenes from a Memory,” “Home” is a standout track in the effort. The longest track on the album, at just over 13 minutes, starts slowly as the band builds to an oriental theme before bassist John Myung lays down the song’s theme song. Frontman James LaBrie and drummer Mike Portnoy show off some sweet, low vocal harmonies during the verses. Meanwhile, Portnoy-penned lyrics delve deeper into the tragic love triangle at the center of the concept album. At the track’s 8:40 mark, Jordan Rudess bursts into a frantic keyboard solo; Petrucci then follows up with a graceful harmonic minor lead before heading into full shredding mode. It’s worth noting that the song contains some musical themes and riffs originally featured in the band’s 1992 song “Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper”.
“Lie” from 1994’s “Awake” is the shortest song on this list, clocking in at 4:40. The track features dark, heavy riffs and a fiery guitar solo from Petrucci. It’s a staple of early Dream Theater and contains the memorable Kevin Moore-penned chorus: “Don’t tell me you loved me / Don’t tell me you thought of me / I won’t / I swear I won’t. » The song is really well set up on the “Awake” album, and it comes right after the equally heavy “Mirror”, which ends with the same chord that “Lie” begins. The two tracks blend seamlessly giving the audio illusion of being one longer song.
How am I
“As I Am” features Dream Theater with a musical and lyrical chip on their collective shoulder in this standout track from 2003’s ‘Train of Thought.’ in taking the listener on a musical and lyrical journey about standing up for yourself and finding your own voice. John Petrucci-inspired lyrics and guitar work shine through on this highly memorable song.
lost not forgotten
“Lost Not Forgotten” is included on the band’s 2011 album “A Dramatic Turn of Events,” which is the first to feature drummer Mike Mangini. The epic song begins with a beautiful piano intro before launching into typical DT heaviness with complicated and chaotic syncopated rhythms and intense time signature changes. The lyrics written by John Petrucci tell the story of an ancient tyrant bent on conquering the world and in the end he gets what he expects. Mangini shines on the song with a stellar performance that shows he feels right at home behind the progressive metal titans’ kit.
A change of seasons
“A Change of Seasons” is the 23-minute title track from the band’s 1995 EP, which also features incredible covers of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers,” a Led Zeppelin medley, and more. The roller coaster track explores many musical themes and motifs on the journey through four seasons. It showcases all sides of the band’s virtuoso playing, from smooth yet dark acoustic guitars to some of the heaviest, deepest riffs in the band’s arsenal, along with some incredible time changes and quick instrumental breaks. The song also includes incredible lyrics written by drummer Mike Portnoy, which were inspired by the passing of his mother. “Seize the day / I heard him say / Life won’t always be this way / Look around you / listen to the sounds / appreciate your life while you’re still around.” It all comes to a close at the end of the monumental song when John Petrucci revisits the song’s intro riff on acoustic guitar.
pull me under
“Pull Me Under” is the band’s signature and most recognizable song, serving as Dream Theater’s introduction to the masses. The video got a lot of airplay on MTV’s Headbangers Ball and garnered a generous amount of radio airplay. It is the only song by the band to reach the Top 10 on the rock charts. “Pull Me Under” is the centerpiece of their 1992 album “Images and Words” and features the band’s trademark heavy riffs, complex musical patterns, and their true progressive, virtuosic nature.
“Misunderstood” is probably as close to a power ballad as Dream Theater can get. The nearly 10-minute song is included on the 2002 album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It begins simply with a slow guitar intro with a beautiful chord progression before James LaBrie comes in singing the poignant lyrics that focus on loneliness and deep desolation. The moment before the full band begins the second chorus, Petrucci’s distorted guitar opens and screeches before hitting the low D chord in a chilling moment, sure to have fans backing off to listen again and again.
“Peruvian Skies” from Dream Theater’s 1997 “Falling into Infinity” is a dark and moody track that shows a different side of the band. The song slowly builds over two versus and choruses before flowing into a graceful solo by John Petrucci. The band kicks into high gear and plays the song’s main riff before reaching a head-pounding sonic peak to the song’s abrupt, crushing end.
Take the time
“Take the Time” is one of Dream Theater’s most important songs. It’s as close as the band can get to a pop sound with its memorable anthem and chorus; but conversely features the band stretching out with an incredibly intense, somewhat playful, jazzy instrumental middle section. The song also features powerful vocals from James LaBrie and a beautiful keyboard solo from Kevin Moore; as well as a sweet double lead with Moore and guitarist John Petrucci. The song concludes with a brilliant repeat that reminds us: “You can find everything you need in your mind / If you take the time.”