Cynics might accuse Dream Theater of simply modernizing Rush. In truth, though, this is the record Rush wishes it could make today. Dream Theater blends viruosity, compositional whimsy, and mainstream appeal without sacrificing any of those ingredients.
Mike Portnoy set rock drumming on its ear in 1993 with Images And Words. Now, he turns it around and slaps it silly. Again, Portnoy's chops and polyrhythmic muse are in full bloom. Gone, though, are the triggers that turned his snare into a machine gun. And, as if to celebrate, Portnoy opens the new record with infectious, funky, and exciting drumming on "6:00".
Awake, more agressive and heavy than its predecessor, showcases Portnoy's flair for dynamics, particularly his timely use of splashes and high-end toms. And the drums sound so crisp and live throughout that you can visualize the performance. But Portnoy's genius - something he shares with guitar-god Petrucci - is the ability to let his creativityrun amok without letting it run roughshod over a song. And the listener is the ultimate beneficiary.
- Matt Peiken