The Lowdown: For years (actually, make that decades), Dream Theater have been kings of prog-metal — especially judged from their loyal worldwide fanbase. Comprised of members James LaBrie (vocals), John Petrucci (guitar), John Myung (bass), Jordan Rudess (keyboards), and Mike Mangini (drums), few bands — past or present — have been able to reach the elevated heights of technicality that its members exemplify on their respective instrument. On their 15th album, A View From the Top of the World, Dream Theater continue on their path of merging tricky bits (via the music) with melody (via the vocals), along with “thinking man’s” lyrics and themes, not to mention an album cover that screams “P-R-O-G.”
The Good: One would think composing music this complex and demanding would make a band take Tool-like durations between their albums. But this is not the case with Dream Theater — it usually only takes them an average of two years to issue a new studio offering. And that’s the case here (their previous album, Distance Over Time, dropped in 2019). And similar to such bands as AC/DC and Motörhead, with each new studio effort by Dream Theater, you know what lies in store ahead of time, as they have never deviated far from their original musical course. And as expected, that trend continues on A View From the Top of the World.
The album starts off with a bang, as the leadoff track “The Alien” showcases the supreme riffing ability of Petrucci and Myung. Meanwhile, the hard-rocking “Answering the Call” features an outstanding extended guitar solo. Elsewhere, “Invisible Monster” is the most melodic of the bunch, while the title track incorporates sounds from a vintage Hammond organ, an instrument that served as a crucial ingredient for early prog, but slowly seemed to be replaced over the years with slithering synths.
The Bad: The phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is fitting when it comes to the music contained within A View From the Top of the World. In other words, longtime Dream Theater fanatics will revel in the group’s trademark tech-metal, but you can forget about the album being an inviting listen for fans of more easy-to-digest rock styles. And while admittedly quite a few of prog metal’s forefathers issued up extended compositions (Rush, Yes, Genesis, etc.), the many twists and turns provided within the 20 minute-plus album-ending title track may prove to be a bit overwhelming for the meek.
The Verdict: You have to give the band props and respect for putting “musical blinders on” and continuing to honor their longtime sound and approach on A View From the Top of the World. Dream Theater continue to possess some of rock’s most talented musicians, and their skills are displayed throughout this seven-song offering. Any band that makes it to 15 studio albums is obviously doing something right — and A View From the Top of the World shows that the quintet is still offering music that is easily on par with their earlier efforts (even more than 30 years into their career). Which is no mean feat.
Essential Tracks: “The Alien,” “Answering the Call,” “Invisible Monster,” “A View From the Top of the World”
Pick up Dream Theater’s A View From the Top of the World here, and stream the entire album below.