Dream Theater – Falling Into Infinity
Reviewed by Christopher Foley
Ah, Falling Into Infinity, the red-headed, allergy-ridden step-child of the Dream Theater discography. The elements surrounding this release have been more than documented, and to keep it brief let’s just say that label issues, as well as a few too many chefs spoiling the dish, resulted in an album unfortunately robbed of what it could have been. That’s right, as even with the finished product, you can tell that Falling Into Infinity wanted to say more than it could, and investigating the omitted tracks and ideas from the sessions furthers that realization.
This was also the first full-length with Derek Sherinian who, despite housing an endless well of talent, was never quite the right fit for Dream Theater. Kevin Moore is sorely missed, although it’s more the stilted songwriting which affects the album as opposed to personnel within the band. Desmond Child has no place on a Dream Theater album, though. This was a bloody awful idea and “You Not Me” makes a lot of the crap on Octavarium look like “Innocence Faded” by comparison. Speaking of which, Falling Into Infinity and Octavarium have a lot in common, particularly in terms of atmosphere and their respective approaches to tranquility, which was maybe a little less intended here. However, I do give the edge to this album, which I’ll express in the coming whirlwind of words.
Despite outside issues plaguing Dream Theater in hopes of greater commercial appeal, the band was absolutely at the top of its game in terms of performance. There has always been something special about nineties Dream Theater; a certain degree of magic which I feel diminished with the advent of Scenes From A Memory. I guess some of it comes from the production, as there was a big change following this one. I do feel it’s maybe a little too polished, particularly concerning the heavier guitar parts which lose a lot of their bite; but boy oh boy is the mix fantastic in its perfect, glistening clarity. James sounds phenomenal as well, despite steering away from the unhinged brilliance displayed in the prior two releases. He largely sticks to his gleaming soft range which is very well performed, although I love it when he goes gruff as there’s a distinct Layne Staley vibe which really sets his vocals apart.
The overall flow here isn’t exactly ideal, particularly the pairing of ballads in the first half, despite the brilliance housed in “Peruvian Skies”. It just feels ham-handed in arrangement, although I’ve always felt the omission of a few key numbers would ensure a greater overall experience. Ditch “Hollow Years”, “You Not Me”, “Take Away My Pain”, and “Anna Lee”, and then we’ve got an album. Hell, stick “Raise The Knife” back in there and I’d give this another half point. It’s frustrating that you have to wade through some decidedly pedestrian material to get to the gems, it’s just very fortunate that they’re particularly fancy gems.
When Falling Into Infinity is good, it really is. “Peruvian Skies” is just about the strongest in Dream Theater’s alarmingly wide ballad repertoire, with ace dynamics and enough meat on the bones to warrant revisits. “New Millennium” kicks off the proceedings with real imaginative, dreamy prog, and is sadly everything the album could have been. Its friends “Lines In The Sand” and “Trail Of Tears” further reinforce the notion, and it’s these tracks that gave birth to my dissatisfaction with the record on the whole, as they’re on par with the band’s strongest material. “Lines In The Sand” is particularly well executed, brimming with cool ideas and dramatic twists – pure prog, and pure Dream Theater. Every time I spin this number I sorely lament crap like “Take Away My Pain”.
Ultimately, Falling Into Infinity is without a doubt an uneven release, although keen use of deleting songs and utilizing the old CD re-writer could award you a better album (seriously, I recommend doing it). Whilst a far cry from the incredible Awake or the overblown Scenes From A Memory, there are certainly a few nuggets to award fans of the band, and if you’re big on the prog rock I’d totally recommend giving the likes of “Lines In The Sand” or “New Millennium” a listen. You won’t really find anything very metal here, though, save for the odd riff. A curious album which sadly received a raw deal; I’d say give it a listen and save the good stuff, you can toss the rest in a bucket with the fish heads and guts.
3.0 // 5