An album by Dream Theater released in 1999 and probably the best concept album released in the last decade (some would argue that Radiohead's OK Computer is also a concept album, but it's not clear). Its full title is Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes From A Memory. Metropolis Part 1 was one of the most loved tracks from their second album Images and Words. It was originally called Part 1 as an in-joke but fans kept asking when Part 2 would be released. Part 2 turned into a whole (and I mean whole: The CD comes in at 77 minutes and 30 seconds, a full 30 seconds less than the maximum possible on a CD) album.

Musically, it is considered by many fans as their best release. It falls into the category of progressive rock -- music with very complex arrangements, time signatures and so on. In particular, the drumming by Mike Portnoy is awesome; not to say the rest of the band is not up to scratch, but the drumming is mindblowing. It is adored by fans, and considered a return to form after Falling Into Infinity. It's good listening even if you're not interested in progressive rock, just skip the progressive parts.

Lyrically, it concerns itself with the story of Nicholas who keeps having dreams and nightmares about a girl called Victoria; so he undergoes hypnosis to resolve the issue. Nicholas discovers he was Victoria in a past life (in the 1920's and 30's). He finds out that Victoria was brutally murdered in a murder-suicide:

Headline: "Murder, young girl killed
Desperate shooting at Echo's Hill
Dreadful ending, killer died
Evidently suicide."

A witness heard a horrifying sound
He ran to find a woman dead and
Lying on the ground

Standing by her was a man
Nervous, shaking, gun in hand
Witness says he tried to help
But he'd turned the weapon on himself

We then discovered that she was murdered by Julian Baynes, who then turned the gun on himself, or so it would appear. Julian had loved Victoria, but had gotten involved in crime/drugs/gambling. Victoria had gone to Edward Baynes, Julian's successful twin brother, for consolation and Edward had fallen in love with her and married her while Julian was in the dumps.

But it turns out that what actually happened was that Victoria decided Edward had taken advantage of her, Julian had come out of his junkie state, Victoria and Julian had organised a secret rendezvous to get back together again, Edward catches them, shoots Julian after a struggle, then shoots Victoria, then makes it look like murder-suicide:

Friday evening
The blood still on my hands
To think that she would leave me now
For that ungrateful man

Sole survivor
No witness to the crime
I must act fast to cover up
I think that there's still time

He'd seem hopeless and lost with this note
They'll buy into the words that I wrote

"This feeling inside me
Finally found my love, I've finally broke free
No longer torn in two
I'd take my own life before losing you"

Then Nicholas wakes up. What happens next is weird ... we hear Nicholas driving home, then getting a drink, then being startled by the hypnotist saying "Open your eyes, Nicholas", Nicholas is violently startled ... and that's the end of the CD. Some people have postulated that the hypnotist was in fact the reincarnation of Edward, who goes to kill Nicholas now the he knows what happened.

Quite a complex story, told well. It works on both a musical and lyrical level. It can be very derivative at times. For example, The Spirit Carries On sounds like it's pure Pink Floyd; like something off The Wall. Other bits sound like Tool, Queen, Kiss, Genesis, Metallica and even Elton John. And this is pretty much deliberate according to the band members; and I guess acceptable in the post-modern milieu. The way they connect it all up together is stunning. They can go from little accoustic ballads through to rock as hard as Metallica's best.

If you're not into progressive rock and want to see what it's all about, this is a good album to start with.