On January 29th one of my favorite bands, Dream Theater, will release their thirteenth studio album "The Astonishing". It's an epic two hour and thirteen minute (not a typo) 2 disk concept album about a dystopian future where music is no longer made by people, but by machines. It's a timely concept as machines are already starting to replace humans in various tasks. From self-driving cars, to package delivering drones, and even musicians playing full arenas with just a laptop.
John Petrucci (guitars) and Jordan Ruddess (piano) co-wrote the music for the album. They recently joined Eddie Trunk on his Sirius XM radio show to talk about The Astonishing. During the conversation Eddie had an interesting insight about this release. While many bands release singles and have less interest in doing full albums, Dream Theater is putting out a 2 hour rock opera. It's very counterintuitive to the mainstream scene.
Dream Theater have never been about catering to the mainstream. They do what they want and how they want to do it. It's refreshing as it keeps them original and interesting. Part of it is they've established a loyal fan base that supports whatever musical endeavor they pursue. The other part is ambition. No two Dream Theater albums sounds alike. They push their creativity and musicianship to new levels with every album. It's the reason they have many diehard fans (like me) and continue to attract new ones.
The other element behind the new album is the element of surprise. The band had hinted that they were working on a new album, but provided few details. The metal band Disturbed took a similar approach. They were supposedly on an indefinite hiatus, when they surprised many fans over the summer by releasing a brand new album. In an age of social media where artists are providing "backstage" access to all aspects of the recording process, the element of surprise is often lost. Petrucci described the state of excitement back in the 80s when a band like Rush put out a new album. Having few details about the album fans wouldn't know what to expect. It made it exciting. The mystery behind it was part of the experience. Dream Theater is looking to bring some of that mystery and excitement back with this release, and I fully welcome it.
Dream Theater are embarking on a World Tour where they will play The Astonishing in it's entirety. They have made it clear that no other material from the bands catalog will be played during these shows. The band will perform The Astonishing and that's it. They have also promised an epic stage environment with plenty of visuals to bring the music alive. The venues selected for this tour (e.g. Radio City Music Hall in NYC) will give indication that this will be a special night of music. I haven't heard the album but I've already got my ticket for the show. I have so much respect and appreciation for the band that no matter what they do, it's a "just take my money" relationship. If they are playing in a city near you, I encourage you to check out the show. You just may be astonished!