2016 Preview: Dream Theater

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Dream Theater release a concept album on January 29.

It’s called The Astonishing, but is actually more than a conceptual record, as guitarist John Petrucci explains: “When we decided to go with a concept, it was agreed that it should not only be an album, but also a show. And that’s what we’ve done.”

Petrucci, who produced the album, was solely responsible for developing the storyline, which he describes as being retro-futuristic.

“It’s set three hundred years from now, which is the future part. But it’s in a time when governments have all the power and common people are fully under their control. So it’s rather like a feudal system, and that’s the retro bit.

“In these times, all music comes from machines and technology; human beings are not at all creative any more. We represent this with electronic music on the album, which comes from the Noisy Machines – or No Macs – who are responsible for all music in that dystopian view of the future. But in a remote village somewhere, one person starts to compose music again, and this is the catalyst for a revolution.”

The Astonishing was first talked about by the band while they were touring their previous, self-titled album, as vocalist James LaBrie outlines: “John told us two-and-a-half years ago that he had the seed of an idea for a concept. We discussed what would be involved, and felt it was the right time to do something so ambitious.”

The band brought in famed conductor David Campbell to work on the orchestration and choral sides of the music. “He’s worked with so many different artists,” says Petrucci, “so we left all of that side to him. He’s done an amazing job.”

The album will be available as both two CDs and four vinyl LPs. And in March there will be a special limited-edition box set, which includes a 32-page booklet, a map of the world described on the album, a poster and trading cards.

On February 18 and 19, Dream Theater play the London Palladium, when they will debut The Astonishing in its entirety.

“We’ll do Act One, then have an interval,” LaBrie reveals. “Then we’ll perform Act Two. That’s two hours and ten minutes of music. We’ll have a huge production to bring it all to life. But we shan’t be using an orchestra or choir, as this will be financially and logistically prohibitive.”