Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Significant Albums: Dream Theater - Awake (1994)

File:Dream Theater - Awake.jpg

My favorite Dream Theater album, without a doubt.

I've been a Dream Theater fan for most of the time I've been obsessed with music. And  the amount of anecdotes related to Dream Theater I could include here is endless, so those will be attempted to be in limitation.

I bought Awake either the same day, week or within a few weeks of when I purchased a copy of Images and Words on cassette tape in May or June of 1995. The things I recall most about Awake initially were:

1) after really getting into Images and Words, Awake sounded a lot louder/heavier and just darker

2) James LaBrie's vocals were less about the falsettos and clean, operatic kind. But more yelling, that made the band almost sound entirely different.

3) This album was rather LONG. I recall the cd copy I bought included a white inserted sheet that was a survey and also a way to join a fanclub or mailing list of some kind. I may be mistaken, but it was either on said white insert or somewhere in the booklet it said "this cd is 74 minutes and 56 seconds, and includes the maximum amount of tme that can fit on a single compact disc" or something along those lines.

But with the impression I got from it, and especially how I was so into Images and Words and eventually When Dream and Day Unite (and the Majesty Demo), I honestly did not get all that much mileage out of this album when I first got into Dream Theater.

I think it was my sensitivity to yelling vocals and even some of the guitar tones being darker.

But I suppose it was maybe within the next 2 years, I began to go back to it and started to enjoy Awake more. Not as much as the others, including the newly released EP A Change of Seasons in 1995. But my ears and taste eventually warmed up to the heavier sound.

I recall even a band like Superior whose debut album Behind I also purchased around that time, due to reading a ton of hype about it on 1 or more of the Dream Theater sites/email lists and through the CD Import company Impulse Music, I also couldn't get into initially, mainly due to how heavy it sounded. I recall once describing it "this is just piano with thrash" lol.

But I suppose at the point I saw a ton of praise of this record among fans in the late 90's, including how much better it was received than Falling Into Infinity, I began to go back to it more and more and started to love it, some 3 or 4 years later at least.

And eventually it came to become my favorite.

Track List:

1. "6:00"   Kevin Moore 5:31
"Six O'Clock on a Christmas morning. Six O'Clock on a Christmas morning"
Enjoyable opener track, which I always associate with an Alarm going off.

The chorus "melody walks through the door, and memory flies out the window. Nobody knows what they want, until they finally let it all go"

That opening snare part, I probably associate with Portnoy maybe more than any other song he ever wrote/played on.

This song, as I finally began to appreciate Awake, was a track that set the tone for the Awake *sound*. From LaBrie's style of yelling/screaming and tone, to the tone Petrucci used. And I think given how different it was from their other records, it caused me to shy away initially, but be able to appreciate with time.

This song features some of Kevin Moore's more odd textures, that sometimes did sound like an alarm clock or something.

"Inside..coming outside..Inside..coming outside...Come Outside"
 JP solo fits really well at that point.

"So many ways to drown a man. So many ways drag him down. Some are fast and some take years and years.  You can't hear what he's saying when he's talking in his sleep. He finally found the sound but he's in too deep."

"melody walks through the door, and memory flies out the window. Nobody knows what they want, until they finally let it all go...but don't cut your losses too soon, cause you'll only be cutting your throat. And answer a call while you still hear at all cause nobody will if you won't!"

I always liked Kevin Moore's lyrics, and this song is a good example why. The emotion and therapeutic nature always worked. I also think the use of samples with "I know all about the honor of god Mary Jane" among them, also works maybe greater than any of the samples he captured and used on Images and Words.

2. "Caught in a Web"   James LaBrie, John Petrucci 5:28
This song probably received the most radio airplay from this record, maybe due to its length and it has sort of a accessible riff and breakdown. I remember thinking this sounded like Extreme or some other late 80's hair metal.

I notice how JP was interested in emphasizing the use of darker toned and less-clean sounding riffs on this record. Whether that was just his personal approach, or some influence from some of the power-chord driving music out there at the time (grunge? I would hope not, but I guess I would not be shocked to learn).

Try to push me 'round  The world some more  And make me live in fear  I bare all that I am  Made of now 
Attractive I don't care 'cause even when I danced with life  No one was there to share 

Does this voice the wounds of your soul? Does this voice the wounds of your soul? 

LaBrie does some seriously fast vocal work on this verse, which often stands out to me but also I rarely understood much of it, until the line about voicing the wounds of your soul. It then leads to the fun bridge where the band have this great building groove., going up an octave or something. JP stands out and makes you want to bang your head.

I think the climax of that \m/ JP part I frequently think-of with JP/DT and with other bands. That riff and a riff he wrote in "Voices", are as I see them, signature to John Petrucci's style. And there may be countless other guitarists who've borrowed or been directly influenced by them.

The ending groovy riff with Kevin Moore's layering really ends this track well.

Caught in a Web is one of those tunes that doesn't seem so amazing, just based on the chorus I think of it for, but after it's over, I always tend to appreciate it a lot more.

3. "Innocence Faded"   Petrucci 5:42
This became one of my favorites, after sort of forgetting about it initially.

The quiet acoustic or bassline? lead into the line is wonderful

Some will transcend spinning years  One as if time disappears 

Another track I hear the 80's Metal element, even down to the vocal chanting harmonies.

Callow and vain Fixed like a fossil, shrouding pain Passionless stage Distant like brothers 
Wearing apathetic displays Sharing flesh like envy in cages Condescending Not intending to end 

LaBrie does some of his best clean falsettos on this verse. I always heard him say though "not intending to HEAR" but like many singers, his ability to just create tone and timbre, as opposed to clearly annunciate certain words, really does impact the sound and quality of the music itself.

Beginnings get complicated  The farther we progress Opinions are calculated Immune to openness 

Beyond the circle's edge We're driven by her blessings Forever hesitating Caught beneath the wheel 

Innocence faded The mirror falls behind you  Cynically jaded The child will crawl to find you.

Labrie and Petrucci stand out again on this last verse. Where it starts out quieter and the dynamics lead to wonderful last verse. LaBrie even does his share of just chanting which at least on this album and the early Dream Theater music, I totally love (I know many do not, but I do like my share of 80's Metal/ falsetto vocalists).

Then one of the coolest outros the band has ever made comes in. The riff from JP and the call and response from Kevin Moore totally works on it. It again almost calls for the the horns. Portnoy's upbeat snare pattern and JP just makes the most of this section. It's so energetic and almost happy sounding.

4. "A Mind Beside Itself: I. Erotomania"   (instrumental) 6:44
A nice tight composition, but still the chops are shown in great form.

The name of this track always through me off, but here's at least 1 definition per Wikipedia

Erotomania is a type of delusion in which the affected person believes that another person, usually a stranger, high-status or famous person, is in love with him or her.

I will admit to have had this to an extent. I suppose it's not of the belief said stranger loves me, but I believe I'm in love with said stranger. Celebrity crushes, etc.

But this track being the 1st part of the "A Mind Beside Itself" suite, I guess I enjoy the textures that come in, namely what Kevin Moore was using. They are so clean sounding. I picture sort of floating above a landscape. Some environmental video footage would work incredible with it (and I'm sure has been made). I also love how they bring in "The Silent Man" theme eventually, foreshadowing.

Also I know its been mentioned by some fans, the guitar solo JP has at the end, at one time, was thought-of as his most difficult. The runs are so rhythmic. Just hearing how Portnoy doubles along him in parts.

5. "A Mind Beside Itself: II. Voices"   Petrucci 9:53
A loved epic by many, the opening in-your-face from JP is what I mentioned above, sort-of a trademark riff or riffs that I have often and may always think of him for.

I always think of a spider with this song and the opening line.

"So Speak. I'm right herrrrre. She used to say to me"

"Judas on the ceiling. The Devil in my bed. I guess Easter's never coming. So I'll just wait inside my head"

Like a scream but sort of silent. Living off my nightmares
Voices repeating me Feeling threatened? We reflect your hopes and fears

Voices discussing me Others steal your thoughts They're not confined within your mind

the almost grindy guitar riff that comes into the verse after that chorus is great. "It says it right here on my Crucifix."

then later the line repeated "others steal your thoughts they're not confined to your own mind" which follows this dark yet almost dreamy part with Kevin Moore's keys and the sample "I don't want to be here cause of my suffering....did you know that reality is immaterial. This is not reality"

Another example of Kevin Moore's talents at capturing and using samples (assuming it was Kevin who did). The build in that section is just so intense. But in dynamic fashion, a slow/softer section follows including some interesting lyrics

Is there fantasy in refuge? God in politicians Should I turn on my religion? These demons in my head tell me to

I remember specifically on the 2000 Fanclub CD they captured LaBrie singing live "God in Billy Clinton" which I probably will always associate with that line, more than the actual lyric itself, lol. But the part after that verse

Seen my diary on the newsstand Seems we've lost the truth to quicksand 
It's a shame no one is praying 'Cause these voices in my head keep saying

Love, just don't stare Reveal the word when you're supposed to
Withdrawn and introverted Infectiously perverted
Being laughed at and confused Keeps us pleasantly amused enough to stay

is probably my favorite part of this song. It is incredibly sad sounding, almost like someone being tortured by their nightmares, or by dark fantasies they have, but maybe are ashamed to admit they do. And the Petrucci guitar solo is another that totally fits. I've seen some people say it's his best, and I actually would have a hard time arguing with. It's kind of David Gilmour-ish in some ways. Such emotion and it almost has a crying-out element to it.

Maybe I'm just Cassandra fleeting Twentieth century icon bleeding
Willing to risk salvation To escape from isolation

I'm witness to redemption Heard you speak but never listened
Can you rid me of my secrets? Deliver us from Darkness?

This last verse is like a ride, the way the rhythm section keeps moving and getting bigger knowing the end of the story is near. It almost reminds me of like in a horror movie and the main character is running to escape from the villain and is almost there. But then in the final chorus, the ending lines:

Don't expect your own Messiah This neverworld which you desire Is only in your mind

kind of tells me it was all just a dream (or nightmare).

I guess I also think of the cover art for Awake and this song most. It's sort of it like a dark, fantasy or horror story, not incredibly unlike many classic horror or dark fantasies. It's an escape to a darker world, that you sort of think is real, but ultimately is only real in your mind. But for some, that is more than real enough.

6. "A Mind Beside Itself: III. The Silent Man" (music: Petrucci) Petrucci 3:47
I once told a friend, The Silent Man is like DT doing "More Than Words" by Extreme, which looking back on it seems incredibly silly. But the purely acoustic piece sort of fits in a small way by that comparison (and time this came out, being not that long after said Extreme tune).

But this song gave John Myung the name given as a running joke, been known to the fans as the "silent" member of the band. He even seems to have a pretty *silent* presence on this track, lol.

But within the "A Mind Beside Itself" Suite, this fits as a calm/cool down piece. Voices is such a ride, a light, softer, almost happy sounding piece made sense. Is it Dream Theater sounding like a singer/songwriter band? I suppose a little.

The strings or cello? I have always enjoyed on it. The lyrics I can take or leave ironically, as this track is more about mood and a calm down before the next round of intensity.

7. "The Mirror"   Mike Portnoy 6:45
This part of the album comes from the quiet side of The Silent Man, to the extremely thick and heavy of this tune. This probably was the song that made me think of Dream Theater more as a "Metal" band, rather than a heavy prog band. The riff is just so thick and grindy, and almost evil sounding.

In fact having Kevin Moore's keys contrast to it kind of allowed me to accept the tone that Petrucci used to set the mood.

I suppose I think of this track for the melody that Kevin Moore plays before the verse leading up to and before the word "Hypocrite." It has almost a christmas-bells element of back and forth, or a bit like Run Like Hell from Pink Floyd, but it's kind of an ear worm.

It's time for me to deal Becoming all too real, living in fear Why did you lie and pretend?

This has to come to an end I'll never trust you again It's time you made your amends Look in the mirror my friend

Great chorus and then another great sample capture with a woman speaking "Everything you need is around you The only danger is inside you"

The next verse has the line "Racing the clock to please everyone All but the one who matters the most" which I'll admit hits my brain frequently. Like going to work in the morning or trying to avoid being late for something like a party or a dinner with people (something I always have and likely will, but thankfully have at least gotten better about, especially just for my job).

But I do sometimes think I do race the clock for others interests or hopes for me, rather than my own personal interest. I used to think the greatest thing to ever happen to me would be to go to bed and wake up every morning without concern about what time it is. Be an Entrepreneur or make my own schedule always. At least have FLEX time, but that probably always will be wishful thinking. But especially when I 1st heard/got into this song, that line hit home for me certainly.

How in the hell could you possibly forgive me? After all the hell I put you through

Even in a fictional sense, this line was something I found impossible to forget.

As this song ends, the haunting piano part that Kevin Moore plays for about 10 or 15 seconds I always get goosebumps. One of my favorite parts of this song and album. So haunting, and the slow build that has some of the those grindy riffs with a whammy bar and Kevin Moore's echoing keys segue so well into "Lie."

8. "Lie"   Moore 6:33
As this song comes in, I used to associate it with "The Mirror" maybe even more than the whole "A Mind Beside Itself "Suite. "The Mirror" was written by Portnoy and "Lie" by Kevin Moore, but I swear the two tracks seem to be part of a suite in the same way as AMBI, at least to me.

Lyrically even in some ways. Like the confession of a Lie is the outcome/confession of the therapy of looking into the mirror and asking about a situation, incident, or something being kept that is not 100% honest.

Musically though, like The Mirror, this tune is quite riffy. The guitars and echoing keys with what sounds like an oscillator being the pitch.

"And I'm trying to get out of a shadow of doubt 'Cause I don't know if I know you ..Don't Tell Me, You Thought of Me"

This part and the way it builds is actually rather groove-oriented. The way the drums and keys and the rhythm LaBrie sings that section in. I actually was just sort of reminded of a band like Faith No More hearing it again.

Mother Mary quite contrary Kiss the boys and make them wary 
Things are getting just a little bit scary  It's a wonder I can still breathe

Never been much of a doubting Thomas But nothing breaks like a broken promise
You tell me 'bout your two more coming But once is just enough for me

It's repeated in this next verse, but with Kevin Moore's lyrics, they often stand out with some of the terms and references. "Doubting Thomas" and the wording of "Mother Mary Quite Contrary," sounding sort of religious. His lyrics always worked on a poetic level, and "Lie" is one good example of that.

"Your town, I'm all alone And I just can't stare at the phone I wanna talk about lifelong mistakes You can tell your stepfather I said so"

This line is rather family-oriented. Dark, sort of a domestic conflict in a way. And I suppose the *lie* that the song is titled for could be again being yelled about. It also does remind me of various family stories, namely I've seen in movies and television.

The Petrucci solo is darker in tone, but with Kevin Moore's organ-sounding lead in, is like of an explosion of sorts. The rhythm section supports with the continued groove. Which after a minute or so, I swear the riff that JP uses is a reference to "The Mirror" in a subtle way.

9. "Lifting Shadows Off a Dream"   John Myung 6:05
Another perfect dynamic which follows the incredibly dark Lie to the beautiful textures of a ballad of sorts. I remember years later hearing that U2 was a big influence on this song (and the band), and ever since I have heard U2 in a cool way on this track

"Moved by desire and fear He takes a few steps away"

"She can turn a drop of water, into an Ocean"

This tune I never was blown away by, but its always been a tune I enjoyed, and through the years, it has become a little bit of a forgotten gem, given the band have not played it live nearly as much as many other tunes from Awake. However, on their current tour, which to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this album, I believe they are.

EDIT: I finished(unedited) up to this point over a week ago, and due to a nasty cold that hurt my ability to do much but work + sleep, and the girlfriend's schedule/being almost always at the girlfriend's place, a location I frankly struggle to do any writing in here. I have not been able to finish this.

But the final 2 tracks are the peak of not only this record to me, but maybe of Dream Theater's musical output.

My free time has admittedly been spent watching College Basketball and Masters golf as well. 

I shall edit this properly soon, and continue on with this project, but the above is my somewhat delayed excuse of some kind.

Also, the "M" key on this rather new laptop of mine is not functioning too well, so that hasn't exactly helped matters.

10. "Scarred"   Petrucci 10:59

I adore this track, and would easily say it's an all-time favorite song of mine among all music. One-of, if not my favorite Dream Theater songs as well.

11. "Space-Dye Vest" (music: Moore) Kevin Moore 7:29
The floating synth on this track is probably my favorite part, and maybe favorite moment of any Dream Theater or Kevin Moore work. It is incredibly dreamy and almost out-of-body-like.