Dream Theater Announce “Distance Over Time” Album, 2019 North American Tour

dtdot

I’m interrupting a summer (now gone) of digging deep into the recently-released Dave Matthews Band album, the two excellent Southern Empire albums (do pick them up), and my autumnal tradition of listening to all that is Big Big Train to report what’s been making the rounds on this midterm Election Day in America: Prog metal kings Dream Theater have announced a new album, “Distance Over Time,” which will be released 22 February, 2019.

The band will then hit the road for a North American tour starting in March, and while concertgoers will no doubt be treated to newly-released material from “DoT” (or, as a nod to Rush, should it be “d/t?”), the highlight of the tour will no doubt be the news of the band celebrating 20 years of their landmark album, “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory.”

A short teaser from the forthcoming album, which was produced by guitarist John Petrucci and with sweet artwork by Hugh Syme, can be heard here:

Here are the “Distance Over Time” tour dates for America and Canada. The band also plans to follow the U.S. dates with a show in Mexico City in early May.

March 2019
20 – San Diego, CA
21 – Los Angeles, CA
22 – Los Angeles, CA
24 – San Francisco, CA
26 – Denver, CO
28 – St. Paul, MN
29 – Chicago, IL
31 – Milwaukee, WI

April 2019
2 – Detroit, MI
4 – Toronto, Ont.
5 – Montreal, Que.
6 – Quebec City, Que.
8 – Boston, MA
9 – Oakdale, CT
10 – Red Bank, NJ
12 – New York, NY
13 – Upper Darby, PA
15 – Washington, D.C.
17 – Nashville, TN
22 – Charlotte, NC
23 – Atlanta, GA
24 – Orlando, FL
26 – St. Petersburg, FL
27 – Jacksonville, FL
29 – Dallas, TX
30 – Houston, TX

May 2019
1 – Austin, TX

While I initially gave a solid review of their previous release, “The Astonishing,” I’ve since given it few listens when compared to the albums that came before it, especially the song-oriented releases (rather than concept albums). I don’t know that any information about the tracks on “Distance Over Time” has been made public, but I’m fairly certain that given the scope of “The Astonishing,” DT would likely return to a song-oriented effort on the next one, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing what’s next from the gang.

Confidence Within a Sphere of Creativity: FIRE GARDEN

Fire Garden, FAR AND NEAR (2016).  Tracks: Far and Near; There’s Something; A New Day; Life of a Drifter; A Thousand Lost Souls; War and Peace; Faint Shadows; Whitelight; and Diary of a Blood Moon.

far-and-near
Fire Garden’s second release, FAR AND NEAR.  A must own.
www.firegardenmusic.com

One of the single best things about being a hyperfan of progressive rock music is always dealing with the most interesting of people.  When it comes to prog—the musicians, the engineers, and the fans—we’re all basically a bunch of OCD perfectionists.  And, I think we understand each other in ways non proggers simply cannot (as in, not constitutionally equipped to do so).  In the nearly ten years I’ve been reviewing music online, I’ve met a number of absolutely fascinating people.  None less so than Chicago’s young master of all that is melodic metal prog, Zee Baig.

The moment I first found Zee’s music—as first sold through his ep, aptly titled THE PRELUDE—I knew I had to reach out to him.  I did, he was responsive, and we pretty quickly established a friendship through email.  We talked about war, tradition, music, kids, art.  You name it, and Zee and I talked about it.  Even though we’re only a three-hours drive from one another, we’ve never actually met in person.  Strange, but true.  And, here’s hoping, someday soon this will be rectified.

zee
Zee Baig
Until that glorious moment, I’m more than content listening to Zee’s astounding music.  It, in and of itself, has become a close friend.  The band’s first album, SOUNDS OF MAJESTIC COLORS, has remained in my constant listening rotation since it first appeared in 2014.  There’s no mistaking that the best of Dream Theater influenced and inspired much of the first album, but Fire Garden takes chances that Dream Theater never would.  This is especially true in lyrical content.  To be sure, Fire Garden is no clone of DT.

FAR AND NEAR, Fire Garden’s second full-length album, has just appeared on the market, and it’s a stunner, as strong and as good as anything else that has come out this year.  This is no small praise when one considers how many greats have come out: from Frost* to Glass Hammer to Big Big Train.  FAR AND NEAR stands with those at the very top.

Continue reading “Confidence Within a Sphere of Creativity: FIRE GARDEN”

Jordan Rudess and Zee Baig: Fire Garden’s Heaven

Fire Garden - Jordan Rudess Banner
The fire montage!

Location: Chicago, IL, USA

Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) records guest solo for Fire Garden’s upcoming album

FG_Far_and_Near_Album_artwork
The sophomore album

Chicago based progressive rock act Fire Garden is pleased to announce the guest appearance of virtuoso keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) on their second full length release ‘Far and Near’. The record also features Jimmy Keegan of Spock’s Beard on drums and many others. The album is mixed by Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) and the artwork cover is designed by Travis Smith (Opeth, Riverside, Katatonia).

The album is going to be released on July 29th 2016 through PledgeMusic platform and can be pre-ordered with special exclusives at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/firegardenmusic

Fire Garden’s mastermind Zee mentions, “It’s a great honor for me to work with Jordan Rudess. He is a legend and I have grown up listening to his music and watching him play throughout the years. It’s surreal, and at the same time amazing to see his personal touch on my music.”

Fire Garden is a progressive rock project by Zee Baig from Chicago. The band has released one EP, ‘The Prelude’ in 2012, and one full length record, ‘Sound of Majestic Colors’ in 2014. The brand new album, ‘Far and Near’, is more personal and exploratory in nature, and is ready to release this summer. The band is also ready to hit the road to support the new album.

Contact: Get in touch with Zee at info@firegardenmusic.com for bookings, interviews and promos.

Zee_Fire_Garden_one

They Can’t Stop Thinking Big: Dream Theater’s “The Astonishing”

In a time when attention spans are such that some artists are abandoning album-length efforts in favor of EPs – or even releasing one or two songs at a time – Dream Theater decided to double down with a 34-track, two-hour play set to their brand of heavy, progressive rock with “The Astonishing.”

Such an effort almost demands that a willing listener block out all distractions, don a pair of headphones, and, with the lyric sheet in hand, attempt to make sense of this massive body of music that Dream Theater created on this, their 13th studio album, in one shot.

dt

They surely deserve our attention. Since forming in the mid-1980’s and finding commercial success with “Images And Words” in the early 90’s, the group’s formidable talent pool – no matter who has left or subsequently joined – at times almost seems unfair to other bands in the genre.

Think you have a singer?  James LaBrie’s voice and operatic training makes him better prepared to execute the demands of a progressive rock/metal group than most others. Think your prog band boasts the best keyboardist, bass player, guitar player, or drummer around?  Sorry, but your band is outmatched at every position by Jordan Rudess, John Myung, John Petrucci, and Mike Mangini – four of the most talented people to ever play their respective instruments.  That’s not to say that there aren’t other prog groups making wonderful music on par with Dream Theater – we all know that’s untrue – but there aren’t too many bands out there with the collective ability to play nearly anything they can conceptualize, which makes Dream Theater impossible to ignore.

I began this column shortly after the release of “The Astonishing,” but it was clear that after a thousand or so words (with tons more to type before even wrapping up Act I), the review was far more a commentary on each track and how it moved the story along than a review of the album….such is the effort to write about such a huge amount of music! Additionally, the sheer amount of distractions that come with family and work matters was such that I just couldn’t give “The Astonishing” full and repeated listens, so I’ve had to break up the album into “acts within acts” to get through it.

The album begins in predictable epic form with an overture containing melodies and themes we’ll no doubt hear throughout this play, but once we hear from LaBrie for the first time on “The Gift of Music,” the album steers towards the realm of theater. All of the band members deserve props for dialing back the shredding – or at least strategically picking their spots – in favor of keeping focus squarely on the story.

That story, which is well covered in reviews elsewhere and on the band’s website, represents quite a challenge for LaBrie as he not only sings over much of this album but inhabits the characters as he goes.

And make no mistake: “The Astonishing” is James LaBrie’s tour de force.  By virtue of this being a play set to music, LaBrie simply owns this album from start to finish, displaying his full, dynamic range of vocal ability.  I don’t envy the task of him trying to pull this all off in a live setting, but we have his brilliant performance committed to a recording that will endure well after the tour ends.

As for the individual pieces, “The Gift Of Music” is a classic DT rock track in the vein of the more song-oriented material heard on their previous release.  “When Your Time Has Come” has to be one of DT’s most accessible tracks ever written, certainly on par with a track like “Another Day” from “Images And Words.”  This album boasts more piano-oriented ballads than anything the band has done prior,  but Rudess’ piano playing is divine on this album.  In and around some tracks are musical interludes that take the music from merely supporting the story to animating the story.

“A Life Left Behind” is a track unlike anything we’ve heard from Dream Theater before, the intro reminding me of something Kevin Gilbert might have written.  The album’s penultimate track, “Our New World,” is a triumphant piece as the “The Astonishing” winds down.  Because there is so much music to absorb, repeated listens will undoubtedly bring other favorite tracks to the fore.

The mix on “The Astonishing” is much the same as on their previous two albums, which is that “rich piece of chocolate cake” that Petrucci talked about when referring to his guitar tone on the last album.  It’s a huge slab of ear candy to this listener, but I can understand those who criticize the overall tone as being too polished – it’s a slick-sounding album, no doubt about it – but I bet fans will feel different when this album is performed live.

“The Astonishing” is, quite simply, an intense, overwhelming effort, and Petrucci is to be commended for hatching an idea of this scope and getting the other band members on board with it.  For the listener, the adjectives noted above are pretty much the same, which makes the album a bit daunting when it comes to casual listening.  Since “The Astonishing” was released, I’ve paused to ask myself during morning and evening commutes if I really want to dive into the experience of this album or would I rather listen to something that can be consumed from start to finish in a shorter span.

Because of this, and drawing upon past experiences, I’ve decided not to try to rank “The Astonishing” alongside the rest of the Dream Theater discography, simply because it’s sheer scope sets it apart from everything else. I have the same feeling about Spock’s Beard’s “Snow” or Saga’s “Generation 13” – whether or not I like those albums, I feel like it’s unfair to judge those albums alongside the rest of the bands’ respective output – albums of this scale simply stand alone.

Whether or not one fully embraces the story may determine the emotional attachment one will have to “The Astonishing.” While the music is spine-tingling wonderful in many places, for me it doesn’t quite touch the emotional nerve of, say, the title track to
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” – the first time a piece of Dream Theater music reduced me to tears – but there is still plenty to enjoy about “The Astonishing,” and there’s no doubt that additional listens will reveal additional layers to this ambitious effort…

…and isn’t that what great, progressive rock is about?

Bravo, boys!