In an ongoing video series, DREAM THEATER guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess discuss the recurring musical themes on the band's latest album, "The Astonishing", and how they are developed compositionally to enhance the dramatic tone of the story. Check out the first episode below.
"The Astonishing" was released on January 29 via Roadrunner. The CD was made available in a wide range of distinctive versions, including standard 2-CD set, 4-LP vinyl box set and a limited-edition deluxe box set.
Recorded at Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove, New York, with Petrucci producing, studio luminary Richard Chycki (AEROSMITH, RUSH) engineering/mixing and legendary arranger, composer and conductor David Campbell orchestrating, "The Astonishing" paints a tale of a retro-futurist post-apocalyptic dystopia ruled by medieval style feudalism. It's a place aching for a Chosen One to rise above the noise and defeat an Empire defined by the endless drone of noise machines and the illusion of safety in bland conformity.
In an interview with La Grosse Radio, Rudess stated about "The Astonishing": "Well, the story is really about hope and it's about the power of music for healing and bringing good energy and good spirit to people. It was a story that was written by John Petrucci. He originally thought of it, the seed of the idea, about two and a half years ago. And a little over a year ago, he presented it to the band as an idea to do our concept album, and we were all very excited about it; it seemed really great. So after he presented it to us, then we started to work on all the music for it."
Regarding the inspiration for "The Astonishing" story, Rudess said: "Well, I think the inspiration comes from things like 'Star Wars' and 'The Lord Of The Rings' and 'Game Of Thrones' and all these kind of fantasy, sci-fi stories. And it's something that certainly John, who wrote the story, is into and all of us could really relate to. Especially from a musical point of view, to create the music for it, for me it was like doing a score for a film. So I was very comfortable with all the different genres of music that had to be composed, 'cause it was everything from electronic sounds and music — not so much, but there's definitely electronics throughout the album — and also some more classical type of musical ideas to our usual prog kind of metal mixture."
Asked if making "The Astonishing" forced the members of DREAM THEATER to step outside their comfort zone, Rudess said: "I think it definitely challenged everybody. It was interesting especially because, stylistically speaking, yeah, it has the prog and it has the metal — the usual components of a DREAM THEATER album — but it also has more than that. We also had to bring in electronic sounds, so I had to have some fun and search for cool sounds and get into that mode, and also there [are] some classical elements, so I was very much in my classical headspace. So it kind of brought more styles out of me that I am used to doing, for the most part, but more than I usually get to do with DREAM THEATER. And then there were some things that I hadn't done that we were learning, some stylistic things that we were learning. There's a section that's almost like a military band section — I had to try to score that — and there's a little tango section, and we were learning a little bit about that. It was an education for us to do this album as well."