The second half of 2013 sucked. So did the first few months of 2014. I’d rather not get into the reasons why, but needless to say, one of the high points of last year for me was becoming a Progarchist. I say that because being apart of this awesome site has given me the opportunity to listen to music and bands that I otherwise would have never heard, and I have loved it. One of those bands is Dream Theater.
I first heard Dream Theater when my roommate was playing it towards the end of the spring semester of 2013. At first, I didn’t really like it, mainly because of LaBrie’s voice, but I couldn’t complain since I was the one that got my roommate into the “prog” genre in the first place. I didn’t think much of Dream Theater again until I became a Progarchist and received a review copy of their recent self-titled album. All I can say is, WOW. LaBrie’s voice grew on me, and I wondered how I had not discovered this band years earlier. What had I been missing? The technical skill of the musicians astounded me, and I found the vocals haunting. Little did I realize how their lyrics would profoundly touch me over the coming months.
As I said, the last several months haven’t been the best. Most of my family and friends wouldn’t (or don’t) understand it, and that’s ok. Regardless, I found myself drowning in music. I couldn’t/can’t get enough of it. It became an escape for me, and the go to genre when I’m really feeling down seems to be metal. I turned to the heavy metal albums from personal favorites of mine such as Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed. I connected with the anger and the desperation, especially with Avenged Sevenfold’s 2010 album, Nightmare, featuring former Dream Theater drum god, the great Mike Portnoy (coincidence, I think not). Nightmare is dripping with anger and frustration, as the band struggled to cope with the recent death of their drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, who was probably one of the best metal drummers ever (you don’t believe me? Listen to the albums “Waking the Fallen” and “City of Evil”). I also was drawn to the punky pissiness (pardon my French, as it were) of the bands Three Days Grace and System of a Down. I soaked in the mysterious lyrics and awesome rock of Chevelle, which has been one of my favorite bands for a long time (their latest album, La Gárgola, is fantastic). I found myself being drawn into this world of angry rock, while simultaneously withdrawing from the people around me.
I actually enjoy the loud, obnoxious, sometimes screamy sound produced by many of these bands. It has always been a good release for me. But, something is missing, especially from Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold. Hope. Hope is missing. The closest thing any of these bands have to hope is Three Days Grace’s song “Never Too Late.” The rest of it focuses on the darkness they think they find themselves in. That’s ok at first, but after a while, it can drag you down, if you let it. I let it.
This is where Dream Theater comes in. I listened to the their latest album, and I heard the song “The Bigger Picture.” I heard these lyrics and was blown away, as corny as it sounds:
Would you talk me off the ledge
Or let me take the fall
Better to try and fail
Then to never try at all
You look but cannot see
Talk but never speak
You live but cannot breathe
See but don’t believe
Wounds that never heal
A heart that cannot feel
A dream that’s all too real
A stare as cold as steel
I’ve listened to the stories of resentment and disdain
I’ve looked into the empty eyes of anger, fear, and shame
I’ve taken blood from every stone
And traveled every road
When I see the distant lights illuminate the night
Then I will know I am home
Those seemingly simple lyrics rocked me. Then I heard “Along for the Ride” :
I can’t stop the world from turning around
Or the pull of the moon on the tide
But I don’t believe that we’re in this alone
I believe we’re along for the ride
I believe we’re along for the ride
Then I heard “Illumination Theory” :
To really feel the joy in life
You must suffer through the pain
When you surrender to the light
You can face the darkest days
If you open up your eyes
And you put your trust in love
On those cold and endless nights
You will never be alone
Passion glows within your heart
Like a furnace burning bright
Until you struggle through the dark
You’ll never know the joy in life
Never know, never to know
You’ll never know
You’ll never know
I couldn’t explain it, but the lyrics spoke to me. I heard “Another Day” off of Images and Words, and that spoke to me as well. These songs offered hope, not despair. They did not wallow in the gloom, but looked forward to the light. Dream Theater may receive flack for not having deep lyrics or cohesive albums, but to me, it doesn’t seem to matter, because the band accomplished what I believe they set out to do. They wanted to reach somebody and share their hope with that person, and it worked. The best part: not once do Dream Theater sacrifice musical talent to get their message across!
Through the cold and endless nights, I felt alone. I had drifted from my faith in God, and I was in a dark place. Then I heard “Illumination Theory” calling me to open my eyes and to put my trust in love, and if I did, I would never be alone. Growing up, I was always told that God is love, and that He is always there for His children. It clicked for me, and I could finally see the light. It was a rough few months (where the only thing I could find purpose in was my studies, which thankfully I did well in), and I had a hard time relating to the world around me. But, Dream Theater was able to touch my soul in a way that the other metal bands couldn’t. Metal, on the whole, is rather devoid of hope and joy, and that is why I see Dream Theater as an anomaly. They don’t play by everyone else’s rules – they write their own, and for that, I am grateful.
It may seem lame that Dream Theater had such a profound effect on me during those dark days, and I really can’t explain why they did. All I know is that I believe I’m along for the ride, and it’s a ride I’m proud to say I’m now happy to be on. Thanks Dream Theater.