Calling all prog fans of the solar federation: steer clear of this stinker of an album.
WARNING: It is not a prog album.
Sure, there’s about 1 minute and 30 seconds of prog at the end of “The Gift of Music” (the last 30 seconds being the best), and a smattering of tiny prog tidbits on about a half dozen other songs (with only “A New Beginning” [7:41] having any claim to being a prog song). But more than anything else what we have on this putrid, bloated failure is: wall-to-wall cheesy ballads.
The whole thing is tied together by a ludicrous story, poorly written, with moronic characters nobody could ever care about. The heavy-handed lyrics are among the worst lyrics ever written. Ever. I lost count of how many times I heard LaBrie singing about “the light inside of me,” and other such nauseating cliches.
When the histrionic crying started on “Losing Faythe,” after one and a half hours of listening to this wretched album, I simply had to laugh out loud. I pictured Dream Theater fans similarly weeping over their purchase of this colossal pile of crap.
How do I arrive at these judgments? Easy. I simply compare The Astonishing to all the accomplished works in the same genre that DT has chosen for this album. And sorry, this album just doesn’t stack up. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to be singing show tunes from this album at the local Glee club. The songs are so bad, no one ever would.
Go listen to Wicked, or The Last Five Years, or Hamilton, if you want to see what DT, in its hubris, has recklessly invited comparison to. Compare the wit and songwriting skill on such efforts to the total absence of any such merits on this. Heck, go compare The Astonishing to High School Musical and Frozen. Guess what? DT absolutely sucks in comparison. Are you really surprised? No, I’m not. They should have stuck with prog. Because if you want to take on the likes of Idina Menzel, you better bring it. And DT simply fails to deliver. The songs suck. I don’t care how good they are as musicians. They are total songwriting failures by Broadway’s standards. Not even “Hymn of a Thousand Voices” succeeds.
Maybe you think my comparisons are unfair. Okay, go compare this album to Chess, written by the dudes from ABBA. Chess totally works as awesome music theater; this album, however, is a stinkingly bad failure of epic proportions.
Don’t waste your time listening to this album. I did, and every time I wasted those two hours, I thought afterwards: that was time I could have better used to listen to the great new albums by Headspace and The Mute Gods. (Headspace especially. Now there’s a prog album that generously rewards every second of your time!)
Here’s all you need to do if you doubt my thesis: go listen to the closing track, “The Astonishing.” DT packs everything that sucks about this album into one track: the terrible, cheesy lyrics; the sappy, crappy ballad songwriting; and the total failure to deliver any kind of hummable, memorable musical experience. Barf! This stinkaroo of a song is soooo bad!
It sure ain’t no “Grand Finale” of 2112, which their dopey sci-fi scenario immediately invites us to conjure up in comparison. Beginning, middle, end: DT’s blown all of it. We couldn’t even edit this album down to 21:12 minutes of good stuff. Not even then would it stack up favorably to Rush.
What good is being in a band if no one will speak up and say, “Hey guys, this is a really bad idea”? Apparently, no one did. So it’s up to us: let’s make like Mike Portnoy and run the hell away from Dream Theater’s bad choices. Their stinking deuce of an attempt at writing a musical on The Astonishing is nothing short of a musical nightmare.