DREAM THEATER – Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999)

Review by: Graham Warnken
Album assigned by: Victor Guimarães

I never really feel qualified to analyze prog music, because I’m not really knowledgeable in musical theory. As a pianist of some eight or nine years this really shouldn’t be the case, but time signatures and key changes and whatnot aren’t something I’ve ever really been able to internalize. All this basically to say that I can’t really speak to the technical intricacy of anything on this album.

That said, what I go to prog albums for is an atmospheric listening experience. I listen to The Dark Side of the Moon or Pale Communion or In the Court of the Crimson King when I want to get into a certain mood, when I want to passively let sound wash over me rather than actively engage with the music. And in this respect, I quite enjoyed Scenes from a Memory.

It was always gonna be love at first sight, because the cover art is done by Dave McKean, the man who created the covers for every issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. The Sandman connection is indicative of the thematic material that is to follow: dreams, altered consciousness, the thin line between reality and illusion, etc. etc. Of course, as with pretty much every rock opera, the story is melodramatic and preposterous when examined under scrutiny, but as that’s a given it’s easy to move past. The lyrics are also nothing particularly special, but again, that’s not why I’m here by and large.

The music, then: I listened to the album as one long suite on YouTube with no divisions between songs, so I can’t really isolate moments on a name-by-name basis. The whole, however, was remarkably pleasing. The adjective “dreamlike” is too abstract to use, and bears connotations of hazy, misty ambience that isn’t really appropriate, but the music definitely does communicate the multi-layered perceptual maze that the album is all about. Twisting, intertwining instrumentals, reminiscent of Opeth’s more recent stuff but not as heavy, feel like water trickling through one’s ears or a helix spiraling upward in the brain. It’s an album to get lost in, to be experienced in total rather than in drips and drabs.

I thoroughly enjoyed this listening experience, and look forward to returning to Scenes from a Memory and Dream Theater’s other offerings. Here’s to a proficient, enveloping musical experience—even if the story is still kinda silly.