Friday, March 20, 2009

The Top Five Dream Theater Albums

What would your top five Dream Theater albums be? I wonder about this question occasionally because a.) I am a huge music nerd and b.) I care enough about the band to mentally rank the albums, feel slightly guilty about leaving something out, and then go back and rank them again. I've never committed to an ordering before now, but About Heavy Metal writer Dan Marsicano drew a line in the sand (see what I did there?) with his list (Octavarium makes the cut but Systematic Chaos does not? Really?) and now I feel I have to respond with a list of my own:
  1. Images and Words. Maybe it's because I heard it first, loaned to me by a guy who lived on my floor my freshman year of college who thought I'd like the sound. Maybe it's just because it's got an incredible amount of staying power nearly 20 years later. Maybe it's just "Learning to Live," which remains one of the best songs the band has written. Whatever the case, in the subjective world of best of the best, where every margin is razor thin, Images and Words gets my vote for the top.
  2. Scenes From a Memory. My senior year of college, I spent the year writing an analysis of Scenes From a Memory and got to know it very, very well. That it not only held up to those hours of abuse but persevered as a regular member of my listening rotation ensures its place in the top five.
  3. Systematic Chaos. When I put together my best-of list for the decade later this year, Systematic Chaos will likely be included. I've enjoyed the Ruddess years immensely, but I think this album stands head and shoulders above everything else Dream Theater has done in the past decade.
  4. Awake. Born out of the kind of creative tension that Dream Theater hasn't really experienced since - which, given its effects on the band, isn't necessarily a bad thing -this is the album that's found them at a mix of heaviness and melody that they haven't really reached since. There are a number of highlights to enjoy, but the king of them all has to be the standard-setting "Erotomania," with its section of triumphant guitar chords - a section that one guitar tab transcriber out there referred to as The Chord Progression of the Gods - that has been been my ring tone for the past three years. Still, the inclusion of "Space Dye Vest," a great song that doesn't fit with the rest of the album, gives Awake a flaw that knocks it down a few notches.
  5. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance. This was a tough one, because I don't think the second disc of this album holds up as well as the first one, and I love A Change of Seasons, but don't think the rest of that EP is strong enough to merit inclusion in the top five. In the end I choose Six Degrees... because I love all of the tracks on the first disc, love how they're all tied together with the between-track transitions, and have some powerful personal associations with the album: it was the first Dream Theater album that came out after I got into the band, I saw them for the first time on that tour, I had a powerful dream once about an apocalyptic event that involved "Blind Faith" know, standard stuff.
Your turn: give me your lists (and thoughts on mine) in the comments.


Seth said...

1) Systematic Chaos
2) Scenes from a Memory
3) Awake
4) Train of Thought
5) Images and Words

Honorable mention: Octavarium. It has some of my favorite DT songs (Title track, Panic Attack) and some of my least favorite DT songs (I walk beside you)

SaucyJ said...

Tend to agree on the top 4 but I'm not a big Six DOIT guy - there's not enough of that record that fires me up. For different reasons you could make a case for any of the other records.