After the moderate commercial success of the previous LP, Awake, and EP, A Change of Seasons, Dream Theater was under increasing pressure from their record label to make it big on the charts. This meant a CD with more songs, less soloing, and more "commercial appeal."

Die-hard fans gave the album a once-over and quickly cried "sell out." Despite that, the band didn't promote the album much; no music videos were made for the songs, and while on tour for the album, the band played more old material than they did new. Eventually, the fans accepted the release for what it was - A little toned down on the musicianship, but nonetheless filled with many excellent songs that would stand the test of repeated listening. And with time, previous and later albums, which weren't commercially oriented, ended up selling more copies, allowing the band a freedom to say bollocks to the masses and write the music they wanted to write.

Though I'd like to call myself a die-hard Dream Theater enthusiast, I've only been listening to the band heavily since 2001, and I've got an equal respect for their whole catalogue of work. So take that into consideration when I say this album is filled with fantastic songs, some of which represent the cream of the crop of Dream Theater's studio work.

New Millennium is a nicely hook-laden piece that begins with bassist Myung noodling on the Chapman stick, and became one of the band's better concert pieces. Peruvian Skies is a beautiful ballad, mixing 2 parts Pink Floyd with 1 part Metallica and going to no length to hide that fact. Hollow Years received extensive radio play in some parts of the country, and remains on of the better Dream Theater acoustically oriented songs. The extremely catchy Take Away My Pain is a loving tribute from guitarist Petrucci to his late father, while the scathingly anti-MTV Just Let Me Breathe is a wonderful anthem for those who would love to see the music juggernaut crumble.

Truly, almost every song on this album is on par with "good," and several reach into "excellent" territory. Burning my Soul, Hell's Kitchen, and Lines in the Sand form a 23-minute block of music that blends seamlessly together and shows no sign of the supposed "sell out" tendencies some swear the album has.

All in all, this album saw a Dream Theater that was willing to put more effort into writing individual songs and spending less time freestyling, which was a lesson they needed to learn as a band at that point. Some artists can't see the line between a well-executed instrumental break and a tasteless instrumental masturbation session, and in recording this album, the guys of Dream Theater learned that, even if some would argue they didn't need to learn it. The music is much more focused on the songwriting, though that shouldn't be interpreted to mean they don't show off their otherworldly chops here. There's enough soloing to keep most progressive mavens sated.

On an interesting note, this was the only full-length studio album to feature Derek Sherinian on keyboards. Though he played with them on A Change of Seasons and in touring prior to and following Falling into Infinity, Derek and the band parted shortly thereafter, by all accounts on good terms, and was replaced by the much more accomplished Jordan Rudess.

This was also the first album by Dream Theater to be recorded via the traditional methods. Previously, they'd recorded each instrument track for each song separately, then mixed the instruments in the final edit. This time around, they recorded all of their samples at the same time, which again shifted the focus from 5 separate virtuoso musicians to one band playing as a symbiotic whole. Though certainly not the best album in Dream Theater's repertoire, it's nonetheless an excellent disc, full of enough prog-metal goodness to justify making a part of your musical collection.

#...........Time........Track Title

01...(8:20)..New Millennium
02...(4:58)..You Not Me
03...(6:43)..Peruvian Skies
04...(5:53)..Hollow Years
05...(5:29)..Burning My Soul
06...(4:16)..Hell's Kitchen (Instrumental)
07..(12:05)..Lines in the Sand
08...(6:03)..Take Away My Pain
09...(5:28)..Just Let Me Breathe
10...(5:51)..Anna Lee
11..(13:07)..Trial of Tears (Three movements)
      I....It's Raining.....(0:00 - 6:13)
      II...Deep in Heaven...(6:14 - 10:02)
      III..The Wasteland....(10:03 - 13:07)


Other info:

Released September 23rd, 1997 by Elektra Entertainment Group
Recorded and mixed at Avatar Studios, New York City, between June and July, 1997
Total running time of 79 minutes, 13 seconds

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