What definitely hits me right away is that I can say this is our best album ever. I think the material is just very mature and very powerful throughout; very emotional, a lot of feeling. There is the entire spectrum of feelings within this album and a lot of excitement. I think people will be very much ecstatic about the whole situation. If they listen to the album at least once through, they're going to realize that it's going to regenerate the excitement we had when Images And Words came out."
People have asked us, "wow, do you think all of this solo stuff is an interruption? Do you think the side projects sacrifice any cool moments that could have been Dream Theater music?' And I'll say to all of that, I think the side-projects have been incredibly invaluable because what it's done is create a different environment for us in working with different musicians, different approaches, and that added a lot of excitement when we came into the actual learning sessions for Dream Theater. We were in excellent shape creatively and technically, because we were constantly at our craft in our time away from the band. Everybody has really come together much more on their instruments. And collectively, I think we are more aware of each other and how we write. What has been going on around us has added focus and attention on this album."
New to the line-up is, of course, Jordan Rudess, who has manhandled both crazy-legged Liquid Tension progfests with core Dream Theater writers John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy. After losing two keyboardists to a variety of personal and musical differences, Dream Theater has likely collared Rudess for the long haul. He's just too valuable to lose, rifling this album with an arsenal of refreshing keyboard tones and performances that keep the listener glued to the speaker grill in anticipation of his next feat. He's incredible," reveals James immediately and enthusiastically. He's got a library full of sounds and programs and he's constantly working on this thing. I mean this guy is technically, I think, at the top of his field. Really. I think he is just absolutely outstanding. And we're talking about a person who, when he was 9 years old, went to Julliard, and he was there until he was like 20, 21. And then he had the fire that he wanted to do rock 'n' roll and his teachers and his mentors were all completely aghast and dumbfounded. They thought he was going to grow up and be a concert pianist, and get involved with more orchestral-type music, which in away, is what Dream Theater does as well (laughs). He is just really a very accomplished musician, and he really knows how to work with you. He's not aggressive. He's very open-minded; it just comes with maturity I guess."
Guitarist John Petrucci also gets a major work-out here, blasting in with a number of axe-crazy leads. James offers that this was all part of the plan. Him and I would talk, and he would say "you know, I think I want get back into some really ripping leads. That's where my headspace is at.' And with Liquid Tension there's stuff like that all over the place. And as well, when we got into these conversations, I'd say, "you know what would be really cool, is if you incorporated both the fast heavy leads, and the more David Gilmour-type leads. Because that would really show a really well-rounded accomplished musician. And he goes, "I already had that in mind.' So he was very focused on the fact that he wanted to create a balanced presentation."
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