9/10
So how about Dream Theater then? Are the reigning kings of Progressive Metal, a whole sub-genre they helped create themselves, in danger of being usurped by a younger generation of bands like Haken, Animals as Leaders and Leprous smelling blood in the water?
Well. let’s find out together, shall we?
Starting off  “A View From The Top of The World” (AWFTToTW for short) in a spectacularly heavy fashion with the first single, “The Alien” with it’s, to the untrained ear, insane 17/16 beat from drummer Mike Mangini over almost djent like syncopated rhythms and a defiant and self assured vocal delivery from singer James LaBrie. You can tell what genre you’re listening to when the first single is almost ten minutes long and more complex than the Higgs boson theory. It is quickly followed by the incredible “Answering The Call”. Another chugging, ferocious beast in its own right, it has one of AWFTToTWs coolest staccato verses and is a future fan favorite if you’re asking me.
Next up we have second single “Invisible Monster” that loses some of its appeal while sitting next to two stronger songs. It’s still very, very good though. If it would turn up on another Progressive Metal album by almost any other band in existence, it would be considered a classic. That is just how high DT has set the bar for themselves. It features a couple of truly gorgeous solos courtesy of guitar god John Petrucci and keyboardist wizard Jordan Rudess and some catchy song melodies that safely tides us over until the next song.
“Sleeping Giant” follows the pattern of its predecessors by being really heavy, complex as all hell but rewardingly melodic. Bass player John Myung’s instrument has been somewhat subdued the last couple of albums but here it shines like it was the 90s all over again. And speaking of that decade, AWFTToTW sounds like a mix of the bands earlier masterpieces like their breakthrough album “Images and Words” (1992), “Metropolis Pt II – Scenes From a Memory” (1999) and “Systematic Chaos” (2007) both regarding production values and the song quality.
Here I must shine a quick spotlight on singer James LaBrie whose abilities has been a subject of much dispute and debate ever since he ruptured his vocal chords due to severe vomiting when he got a bad case of food poisoning in the mid 1990s. Especially while performing live, he has had a tough time as of late. Having to sing songs that are up to 30 years old in a register only dogs can hear and doing so for up to three hours a night, not taking into consideration factors like having a cold or just having tour weary, torn down vocal chords. DT have been repeating the same formula without much time for him to recouperate since 1992: write, record, tour, write, record, tour, repeat ad infinitum. When the band celebrated the 25th anniversary of “Images and Words” back in 2017 the band tuned down a whole step and he still struggled.
The last 20 months of rest has done the 58-year old Canadian singer a world of good. He simply sounds amazing here. Relaxed, in perfect control of his instrument, his voice hasn’t sounded this good since “Octavarium” (2005).
But I digress… Next up is the very Rush-like “Trancending Time” and it is by far the albums lightest track and feels almost trivial when compared to its more brow-furrowing siblings. It’s a great track and serves a palette cleanser of sorts.
When “Awaken The Master”, which features one of guitarist John Petrucci’s first forays into the world of 8-string guitars kicks off it actually makes your humble reviewer to do a double take to see if it is really his favorite band playing. It is that damn heavy. Once again, here comes a snarling behemoth of a song that is expertly interwoven with some of the best melodies DT have come up with since “Scenes From a Memory” (fellow concept album “The Astonishing not withstanding). Brilliant stuff.
Sounds pretty good so far, yeah? And if that would have been it, I’d settle for that. There are nothing even remotely weak here, everything is just how I want my DT to sound. Progressive as all hell, superb songs with fantastic melodies that are played and arranged by masters of their trade.
But there’s more…
The title track takes upon itself to finish things off and does so in a way I hadn’t even dared to wish for. This 20-minute leviathan of a song is one of Dream Theater’s best epics of their career and take into consideration that includes masterpieces like “A Change of Seasons”, The Count of Tuscany”, “In The Precence of Enemies Pt I and II” and “Illumination Theory”. You’ll have to hit me up in a couple of months to hear where I consider it to be ranking wise as just my eight listens so far simply doesn’t cut it. But I can say for sure that “A View From The Top of The World”, both album and its title track, is something I will take with me on my journey treading the perilous paths of life and I will cherish them from this day forward.
The sheer amount of detail presented on here is staggering and so every subsequent spin reveals some newfound information that is quite frankly some of their finest they’ve produced in their 36 years as an entity. As much as its year older sibling, 2021 has been a crap fest of Old Testament-like proportions but has somehow compensated by offering the Hard Rock/Metal/Prog community some of the best records since the 80s.
The undisputed Kings of Progressive Metal?
Yeah, you guessed it.
This is a phenomenal record and a contender for best album of the year.
Highly, highly recommended!
Artist: Dream Theater
Title: A View From The Top of The World
Rating: 9/10
Label: Inside Out 
Playing time: 80 minutes
Release date: 2021-10-22
Place of origin: USA
Best songs: Answering The Call, Awaken The Master, A View From The Top of The World