November 1999 Vol. 3 No. 11
DREAM THEATER - Scenes from a Memory
Dream Theater's fifth studio album is the most artistic and profound progressive rock album since Queensryche recorded "Operation: Mindcrime" in 1988. "Scenes from a Memory", a concept album, is comprised of one lengthy composition consisting of two acts made up of 12 scenes. While their previous work has been ambitious, none contained this focus and thematic consistency.
The album tells the story of a young girl's murder in 1928 through a narrator who is in and out of professional hypnosis throughout. This device makes for quality story telling since it allows the narrator to recount the past while still remaining grounded in the presence. The quintet's instrumentation and orchestration paint the mood perfectly, weaving between the lyrics and vocal interaction in a blinding dance of technical prowess.
With their previous albums, Dream Theater seemed intent (and content) to simply show off their enormous abilities, to the point where they sacrificed the potential audience that their very first single "Pull Me Under" (1992) teased. Now their music, while still inventive and unique, has cohesiveness. This may be due to the fact that all of the band members have moonlighted in challenging side projects away from Dream Theater in the last couple of years. These groups, Platypus, Liquid Tension Experiment and various tribute albums, allow them to spread their musical wings on their own time and dedicate the band time to playing as a unit rather than competing individuals. The results are impressive and should go down as one of the more important progressive rock works in the same category as Rush's "2112" and Pink Floyd's "The Wall".