Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory1. Scene One: Regression
2. Scene Two: I. Overture 1928
3. Scene Two: II. Strange Deja Vu
4. Scene Three: I. Through My Words5. Scene Three. II. Fatal Tragedy6. Scene Four: Beyond The Life7. Scene Five: Through Her Eyes8. Scene Six: Home9. Scene Seven: I. The Dance of Eternity10. Scene Seven: II. One Last Time11. Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On12. Scene Nine: Finally FreePreface: I wrote this review back in July. I'm only now posting it because I am a master at putting off things I really should do.
Voted as the best progressive metal album of all time, and one of the most highly acclaimed albums from US prog-metal group Dream Theater, "Metropolis, Pt 2: Scenes From A Memory" is one of the most impressive albums I've ever heard. This album is a sequel to the 9 minute long "Metropolis, Pt 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper" - fleshing out a single song into a full-blown concept with an intricate storyline to match. Scenes From A Memory is somewhat unique in that almost every track flows fluidly into each other, giving a seamless listening experience that's almost like watching a play.
The experience begins with "Scene 1: Regression". This sets up the storyline, despite being unquestionably the weakest track on the record. A man named Nicholas is visiting a hypnotherapist to have his dreams analysed - he keeps seeing a woman named Victoria. Little does he know, but SPOILER ALERT
Victoria is him in a past life. As he moves into a dreamlike trance, he begins to uncover her story...
The next track, "Scene Two: I. Overture 1928" provides an awesome beginning to the album. "Overture 1928" incorporates various melodies from the rest of the album. This track doesn't really include much story, it just sets up the listening experience and gives a nice sample of what the next hour of music will contain. This is probably my favourite Dream Theater overture, though I haven't got through their entire discography yet.
This is immediately followed by "Scene Two: II. Strange Deja Vu" where the character of Victoria is fully introduced. This is all seen through the eyes of Nicholas who can't make sense of what he's seeing - it's all just images and words. All he knows is something tragic happened to Victoria. Strange Deja Vu has some really awesome backing vocals, but my highlight is the bridge.
The next two tracks "Scene Three: I. Through My Words" and "Scene Three: II. Fatal Tragedy" are mostly expositional - Nicholas is starting to unravel Victoria's story. "Through My Words" is a quiet and ballad-esque track, but it's so short I think it barely qualifies as its own song! It seamlessly transitions into "Fatal Tragedy". "Fatal Tragedy" has a cool chorus and some nice solo work at the end, but it's one of the blander tracks within the album (mainly due to it being a mini "Beyond This Life").
"Scene Four: Beyond This Life" is the first 10+ minute long track on Metropolis, Pt. 2. The story begins to be fleshed out at this point - this track focuses on the police investigating the scene of Victoria's murder. It becomes evident that the killer committed suicide after killing his victim, and that the witness tried to help but failed. It is also hinted at that the murderer was in love with his victim. Later on this will be revealed as Julian, Victoria's husband. I really like the final chorus/ending of this track - it's a nice contrast of mood from the unsettling tone of the album so far. The soloing is incredibly impressive, if a little excessive.
The last part of the first act is "Scene Five: Through Her Eyes", the most gentle track on the album. The guitar work at the start is lovely. At this point in the story, Nicholas sees the gravestone of Victoria and weeps - he feels an inexplicable connection with her, but still can't figure out why. I think this track is the weaker of the two ballads on this album (the other being "The Spirit Carries On") but still beautiful. The guitar at the beginning is probably my highlight.
The album then moves into its second act (at least, it's second half). This is begun by the bombastic epic "Scene Six: Home". For a track that's nearly 13 minutes long, "Home" is incredibly well paced through interludes, solos and regular verses/choruses. "Home" is based around an exotic Indian-esque riff and features Sitar towards the beginning and the end (an interesting choice, but it works pretty well!). In this scene we discover Victoria is not really as innocent as she seems; "Home" rather explicitly shows her having an affair with her husband's brother (Edward). The chorus is definitely the best part of this track. Over more and more listens this track has become possibly my favourite due to it's awesome wah-wah pedal, powerful chorus and heaviness. Home is an absolute must listen, even if it's one of the least accessible tracks on Scenes.
"Home" segues into what I regard as the technical masterpiece of this album (even if it isn't necessarily my favourite track). "Scene Seven: I. The Dance Of Eternity" is possibly the most amazingly complex and progressive song I think I've ever heard. Within its 6 minutes "The Dance Of Eternity" features 104 time signature changes (!!!) and moves brilliantly through many motifs. This song doesn't include any vocals but has a ragtime section, a great bass solo and awe-inspiring guitar work. This song relates to Victoria being seduced by Edward and "The Dance of Eternity" being love (a callback to conclusion of "Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper").
The second part of this scene is "Scene Seven: II. One Last Time" where Victoria finally ends her affair with Edward. This track has a mournful and reflective feel plus some lovely vocals. This song ends with our protagonist Nicholas exploring a house he sees in a memory, and finally understanding what happened to Victoria.
Possibly the most well-known track from this record is "Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On", the most beautiful ballad on this record. In my eyes, "The Spirit Carries On" takes the concept of "Through Her Eyes" and improves it through being a little heavier and lyrically stronger. "The Spirit Carries On" is Nicholas' feeling of content now he knows the truth. Specifically it focuses on him losing his fear of dying as he now realises that "Death is not the end, only a transition". The choir in this song and the extra female vocals are amazing - this song is incredibly satisfying. A little Easter egg is that it reprises the melody of "Scene One: Regression", giving the album a cyclical feel.
But just when you thought it was over... "Scene Nine: Finally Free" begins. This track was intially, to me, the highlight of the record. It begins in a very gentle, hopeful way as the hypnotist tells Nicholas to "open his eyes". But the song quickly shifts in emotion as the key becomes minor. Whistling wind and thunder are heard as the strings intensify. Suddenly, a flashback begins. The listener hears the thoughts of Edward on the night of the murder. It is revealed that Edward was the murderer - he killed both Victoria and Julian but disguised the scene as a murder-suicide. In an intense interlude, the scene of the murder is heard; screams, gunshots and one impactful line of dialogue.
This is followed by a reprise of "One Last Time", an awesome solo before my favourite section ("as their bodies lie still"). You can really tell that this is the end of the line for the story. The scene ends with Nicholas snapping back to reality and sitting down at home with a record on. That is, until he is disturbed by someone and the record dies off into static after a scream...
"Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory" is an absolute must listen for any rock, prog or metal fan. My highlight tracks are "Scene Seven: I. The Dance of Eternity", "Scene Six: Home" and "Scene Nine: Finally Free" (although I'd suggest "Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On" or "Scene Two: I. Overture 1928" as a first track to listen to). LaBrie's vocals took a little time to grow on me, but I admire the technical complexity and melodies in the music. I'd undoubtedly give this an album a 10/10 - its a classic and hasn't aged at all in the 18 years since its release, as well as being probably my favourite Dream Theater album.Bonus: Vinylly Free
I acquired this album on vinyl - specifically the 2016 repress by Music On Vinyl. It's a great pressing and I'd suggest anyone considering getting this on vinyl gets it soon!
Next review will be when I have enough time to write one and enough motivation to get it posted