How Dream Theater are redefining the concept album
With new epic The Astonishing, Dream Theater are redefining the concept album and defending the importance of music. Brace yourself: they’ve gone Full Nerd
Peposterous. There is no other word for it. Even within heavy metal, where bombast, self-indulgence and voyages through the surreal and hyperreal are cherished tenets, the new Dream Theater album stands out like a kaleidoscopic monolith floating majestically in an ocean of grey slurry. More than two hours long, and underpinned by an elaborate story set 300 years into some monstrous dystopian future, The Astonishing fully lives up to its name. In fact, Dream Theater may have lost their minds completely...
“Ha ha! Yeah, like, ‘What the hell is wrong with you guys?’” grins guitarist John Petrucci, mastermind of The Astonishing’s concept and narrative, as he reclines on a sofa at their label’s London office, along with keyboard maestro Jordan Rudess and vocalist James LaBrie. “We often ask ourselves that question! As far as timing goes, it definitely felt right for all of us to do a concept album again. The last one we did was [1999's] Scenes From A Memory. In order to do it right, we really wanted to do it to the fullest extent – have a full story, developed characters and not only write an album, but write a show that we can present. And it didn’t start small [and grow], it started off with the full, grand idea! Ha ha ha! That’s just the way we work. Nothing was haphazard at all. It was very thought-out and very detailed.”
You thought we were nerds? Check this shit out
“We’re still a rock band, though!” Jordan interjects with a wry smile. “It’s a little uncommon for every detail to be thought out in a rock band, but still...” “But we’re nerds at heart, right?” notes John, and all three explode into laughter.