Dream Theater and Symphony X: Separated at Birth?

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Cain and Abel. Romulus and Remus. Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar.

Should Michael Romeo and John Petrucci be listed among these great twins? I think so, and here’s why.

As a rule of thumb, I usually try not to make myself even less appealing by letting the world know of my secret love of well-executed cheesiness. But when it comes to my love for Dream Theater and Symphony X, I tend to be loud and obnoxious about it.

I’m such a huge fanboy of these two bands that I started to discover (re: overthink) patterns and parallelisms between their respective careers. And I ended up coming to the conclusion that Symphony X and Dream Theater are THE SAME BAND (gasp). Or, the more likely explanation, they’re two identical twin bands that were separated at birth and raised in two radically opposite environments: New Jersey and Long Island.

This, of course, would lead to the obviously different amounts of success that each of these bands would reach: Symphony X today are, in terms of record sales, a poor man’s Dream Theater. They’re Dream Theater, but from New Jersey.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a closer look:

  1. Band is formed by a bunch of music nerds who love prog rock and metal.
  2. Band writes music that draws equally from both those dorky genres, not giving two craps about being liked or selling records.
  3. Band releases first album with a stock glam-like singer, nobody cares.
  4. Band fires said singer, recruits a more distinct one, releases two classic albums and gets huge in Japan.
  5. Band goes through lineup turmoil, releases an album that’s somewhat different in style to the previous two. Haters hate, album is later considered a hidden gem by nerds like me.
  6. Band gathers its bearings, releases an epic concept album in the year 2000 with the final musical contributions of a key member who had left the band. Said album is widely considered to be the band’s last great effort if not the greatest.
  7. Band loses sight of what’s important, releases an album that will set the tone for a decade of dissapointment, eschewing the progressive elements that made them unique in the first place in favor of trying really hard to be metal and sell records.
  8. Dork is a nerd, writes this article.

So, which band was I talking about? Hint: BOTH OF THEM. I didn’t make any of this up, for real. The similarities sort of stopped when Portnoy left Dream Theater, but still, I think it’s pretty incredible.

Dream Theater’s Images and Words and Awake are the albums that make IMNs go “I wish they made more music that sounded like that”, much like Symphony X’s The Damnation Game and The Divine Wings of Tragedy. This period yielded one epic, 20+ minute song per band, too: SX’s “The Divine Wings of Tragedy” and DT’s “A Change of Seasons” (it was supposed to be on Images and Words but got cut due to its length, so I’m not wrong here), both generally regarded very highly.

Here’s the big hole in my theory: DT lost a key member, Kevin Moore, after album #3; SX lost Tom Miller after album #4. At any rate, both bands’ 4th albums (DT’s Falling into Infinity and SX’s Twilight in Olympus) are usually regarded as not that great, even though I think both of them are extremely underrated and better than a lot of both bands’ more recent output.

Then come #5: DT’s Metropolis Pt. II: Scenes from a Memory and SX’s V: The New Mythology Suite. Where to start. Two concept albums, huge in scope, both with a middle-eastern themed centerpiece (“Home” and “Egypt” respectively). Both these albums have great songs, an interesting story, and musical themes repeated throughout. I could go into more detail on that last part, but I think I’ve nerded out enough for a while.

Here’s where it gets reeeeeeally weird: Dream Theater was supposed to release a song called “Metropolis Pt. II” on Falling into Infinity, and Symphony X was supposed to have recorded a title track for Twilight in Olypmpus. Why didn’t they? Because both of them were 20+ plus minutes and they were told to leave them out. So what did they do? They decided to expand the songs into full-fledged concept albums, scattering the parts that were already written throughout them. And both these epics featured the final contributions from departed members Derek Sherinian and Tom Miller.

After that, DT released Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and SX released The Odyssey. Both these albums have very long title tracks, but unlike previous releases, I find both of them to be extremely boring and overdone. These were the albums that marked the turning point from whence there was no going back: both bands started trying very hard to be metal above everything else, coincidentally at the same time a band member who was crucial to the writing process left. “But they still have weird time signatures, what are you talking about?” Sure, but throwing in weird time signatures once in a while doesn’t mean you’re “progressive”. Where is the contrast, the expression-brimmed atmosphere, the epic vocal melodies and the well-placed leads? They were traded in for percieved edginess (DT) and trying to rip off Pantera (SX).

But enough bitching! I’m going to end this post with the greatness that once was, thankful for every second of wonderful, thought-provoking music that has helped me through life and will continue to do so. Thanks for reading.

 

*Disclaimer: I have family in NJ. If you were offended by any of my japes, well, don’t take it to heart.

  • Scenes from a Memory for the concept album hall of fame.

  • Metaphysical Anus

    Dream Theatre: The only prog metal band that I can’t listen to at all.

  • W.

    Scenes from a Memory is easily on my top ten list.

    • I still listen to it almost every road trip.

      • W.

        Haha, that’s a pretty common practice for me too! Or if I’m studying at home and the wife is out so I can play the vinyl.

      • Xan

        I too have listened to it on many trips to the mountains. I can’t listen to much of the extreme metal while I’m driving because it makes me too skittish. The desire to headbang becomes too strong.

    • Stockhausen

      Don’t you dare start a top ten of all time thread. I will vote Democrat so hard.

      …but yes, it definitely should be in your top ten.

      • W.

        Ron Paul or giiiiiiiit out!

        • Stockhausen

          Ron Paul put Octavarium in his top ten, no way could I vote for him.

    • MoshOff

      Top tier nerd mode on: I actually discovered that the mix that made it on to most of the album wasn’t the original mix. Apparently Petrucci called for a “heavier” mix. Go figure.

      I tracked down the original mix and discoverd that the songs were separate and didn’t flow in and out of each other like on the album. So, as you do if you’re a MASSIVE nerd, I took the liberty of recreating all of the segues using the album mix as a reference. And it sounds AMAZING, I can’t stress that enough. Extra keyboard parts and vocal lines all over the place, and the drums don’t sound like garbage.

      I had it on youtube but it got taken down. If anyone’s interested let me know, I’ll figure something out

      • W.

        I want to hear it!

  • Randall Thor

    Symphony X is a power metal nerd’s Dream Theater

    • I was pretty convinced you were the author of this article until I got to the end.

    • Metaphysical Anus

      Isn’t “power metal nerd” a bit redundant?

    • Not Vincent Bennett

      I prefer Symphony X to Dream Theater. Symphony X is just awesome.

  • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

    I remember there being an early decree here something to the effect of “no fucking Dream Theater”

    • Randall Thor

      Decree overruled by the weight of the steel in my hand.

      • Xan

        Seconded by the withered scraps of cloth in mine!

    • Metaphysical Anus

      Maybe they didn’t have sex with dream theatre?

    • I made MSD an editor and all went to hell.

      • By the way I’m in the process of changing the site’s name to toiletovpower. Will keep you posted with updates.

        • Randall Thor

          Replace FLUSH with HAIL

          • Metaphysical Anus

            That will not go well. Believe me.

          • Cock of Steele

            HAIL AND FLUSH that work better?

      • Metaphysical Anus

      • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

        DT is my #1 guilty pleasure

        • Jöhnny Crünch™

          Wait… what?

      • Negrodamus

        That’s what good CEOs always do, blame the guy immediately under them. Lol.

        • HAHAHAHA!!

        • W.

          Can I be CFO?

          • W.

            I’m going to do so much embezzling it would make Cheney blush.

          • It’s hard to embezzle cash from a stone. Or something. My metaphors suck.

          • Negrodamus

            CAN’T SQUEEZE BLOOD FROM A TURNIP

          • Metaphysical Anus

            You can if you put it up your butt and clench your cheeks really hard.

          • Poop Mango

            That’s not the turnip that’s bleeding…
            *checks*
            Well I’ll be! It IS the turnip!

          • Cock of Steele
          • Stockhausen

            That’s why they call you Joe Mymetaphorssuck’nkill.

          • DeeSnarl

            Can I be ATM?

        • Can I be HNIC?

        • Metaphysical Anus

          Can I be the janitor?

          • Not Vincent Bennett

            No Metaphysical Anus, I want to be janitor. If I can be janitor, I can change my username to Janitor Jim Duggan which happened in WCW, my favorite wrestling company. I like Jim Duggan. He was in the WWE back in the 1980s and he was in WCW from 1994 or 1995 until 2001 when the company closed. He was at least pretty high in the midcard in the WWE but he was basically a jobber in WCW until he turned on America in 2000 for a stable I hate to this day. Fucking Lance Storm and Team Canada were the worst.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            Are you qualified for the job?

          • Not Vincent Bennett

            Of course I am. I have experience with janitorial work and I want to be called Janitor Jim Duggan so I really want this job.

        • Tyree

          Can I be that guy?

    • Not Vincent Bennett

      I thought that I wasn’t going to give Dream Theater another chance after their self titled bored me but then this article showed up. I hadn’t given much of a chance to Symphony X since 2007 when I saw them at The Chance. I didn’t even know who they were when I saw them at Gigantour in 2005, but they were there apparently. I do think Iconoclast is an amazing album compared to the last two Dream Theater albums though.

      • Jöhnny Crünch™

        Iconoclast is a masterpiece

    • Jöhnny Crünch™

      I remember my decree of flush those who do not appreciate Dream Theater

  • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

    DT helped me score my first babe and seal the deal

    • Guacamole Jim

      DT helped to solidify chastity belts around every girl I ever went for.

      • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

        Late 90’s…..Hampshire College….not much more needs to be said…

        • Not Vincent Bennett

          That’s gotta suck. I went to a community college near my house and it wasn’t half bad. I had a group of friends and we all liked the same music. We all liked Symphony X and Dream Theater as well. Also, can Symphony X release a new album already? I loved Iconoclast and I want them to release something else.

          • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

            omg Hampy is like a hippy free love sway with the tunes paradise. it is 0 flushes ever.

          • Not Vincent Bennett

            Poughkeepsie is a place where everyone loves rap and crappy pop music. There’s a very small metal community but it’s the minority of music lovers.

          • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

            everyone I knew who went to Vassar sucked Billy Corgans cock all day long

          • Poop Mango

            I’ve had just about enough of your Vassar-bashing

          • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

            That’s the only thing I hold in contempt for Vassar. I used to drive down there and buy mad weed to bring back up and sell at amazing profits in dimesnacks to the girlies at Smith and nerds at Amherst. Good ol days

          • Not Vincent Bennett

            I live about five minutes from there and the record store I go to is not even five minutes from Vassar. They also have a convention at Vassar that I go to and enjoy. It’s one of those gaming conventions and it’s not half bad.

          • Not Vincent Bennett

            I hate the Smashing Pumpkins because everyone here loves it. It’s the most overrated crap I’ve heard in a long time. I got a copy of their Mellon Collie CD for free from someone who was giving away a ton of CDs and it was horrifyingly bad. There was more filler than most albums I have heard.

          • Poop Mango

            I liked the Pumpkins up to and including that point, but Mellon Collie had an absurd amount of filler. There was maybe one good album between the two CD’s. Siamese Dream was their high point.

          • Spear

            Nah, Russell Alan is too busy doing his faux tough-guy routine with Adrenaline Mob these days.

    • Not Vincent Bennett

      How? Even my ex who loved me hated Dream Theater. I miss her so much. The only reason we went to Gigantour was to see Megadeth but Dream Theater was there as well. I think Symphony X might have been there as well.

    • Howard Dean

      Metal in many of its forms is a mild to severe woman repellant, but cheesy prog/power metal is like fucking DDT.

      • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

        there just was something about under a glass moon that worked my dude….

        • Howard Dean

          Good deal. If it gets the job done, that’s all that matters. 🙂

      • Ferris Mueller

        Compared to Decide, Fetus etc, wifey begs me to put on DT or SX. It’s all about setting expectations!

        • Howard Dean

          I honestly think most of the women I know would prefer to listen to Dying Fetus over DT or SX. At least there is a beat and a groove to slam and proto-slam. The vocals can be tough, sure, but it gets people moving.

        • DeeSnarl

          Yup. Years ago, I was into Elvis Costello, and my (now ex-)wife didn’t like him. Then I got into Napalm Death. She was like, “Could you play more Elvis Costello?”

          • DeeSnarl

            …And now I see that Napalm Death has already been discussed elsewhere in this thread. That notwithstanding, my anecdote above is 100% accurate and I stand by it….

  • Tyree

    This was a great read but do you like the bands Dream Theater and Symphony X?

    • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

      I love them like dem0n0cracy loves random girls

      • You mean you love them like random girls love SMOHLG?
        #SMOHLGFAX

        • Metaphysical Anus

          And like random men love SMOHLG
          #SMOHLGFAX

        • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

          touche!

        • Stockhausen

          SMOHLG once dashed into a burning orphanage, and shot the fire a cool, icy stare over his lowered sunglasses, and doused the flames.
          #SMOHLGFAX

        • Not Vincent Bennett

          SMOHLG can make anything cool, even the word boogaloo.

          #SMOHLGFAX

    • Ferris Mueller

      Two of my favorite bands here. Eh, they probably make my top 50. But yes, I’ve also maintained the two are strikingly similar yet Symphony X hasn’t achieved nearly the success of Dream Theater, in part because their best work isn’t on par with Dream Theater even though SX consistently put out better material IMO.

    • MoshOff

      It would be funny if I knew so much random trivia about two bands I didn’t like haha.

  • Tyree

    Didn’t James LaBrie wear a Napalm Death shirt in one of DT’s music videos?

  • I once sat through a Dream Theater set. I was dying for a breakdown.

    • Not Vincent Bennett

      I know what that’s like. When I saw them at Gigantour in 2005 they were like a sleeping pill with how boring they were.

      • Cock of Steele

        I may be biased because I saw them opening for Maiden. I just wanted to see Maiden.

        • Janitor Jim Duggan

          I didn’t like their performance but I guess it was an off night for them as people say they are amazing live. I’ve heard their live albums and I’m amazed at how good they are on them. I’ve watched a concert DVD of them at Budokan and my god that was amazing.

  • Owlswald

    Prog metal articles make the toilet cleaner and give it more capacity. More of this please.

    • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

      That’s a good point…keeps is clean for easier FLUSHING

      • Not Vincent Bennett

        I agree. There’s a lot of good prog metal out there, stuff like Fates Warning and such. I don’t consider Queensryche prog metal anymore because they have gotten very crappy. I do like Symphony X and though I hate Adrenaline Mob I like that Russell Allen is involved with it.

        • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

          OMG I just blew a load in my basketball shorts when you said Fates Warning

  • Iconoclast is the only Symphony X album I was able to get into. This “older brothers metal” isn’t my thing, but that was a ripping album.

  • Guacamole Jim

    I’m with you on almost everything… except that I thought Iconocaust was a killer record. It was different, sure, but it was killer. I felt they stepped up their game, whereas DT hasn’t done anything good in for-fukkin-ever.

    • MoshOff

      Actually I really, really like Paradise Lost a lot. Iconoclast just felt like a rehash of that album to me. V, The Odyssey and PL are very different albums, and then Iconoclast reminded me of a Paradise part 2 with more derivative songs.

  • Not Vincent Bennett

    I’ve seen Symphony X before and they were good. I saw them in 2007 and they were good. I also saw Dream Theater at Gigantour in 2005 when it came near me.

  • Howard Dean

    Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo has always creeped me out for some reason. I don’t know.

    http://musicmirror.net/symphx1.jpg

    • Not Vincent Bennett

      Get it away from me. He’s staring into my soul! I don’t want him staring into my soul! I am also friends with Mike LePond of Symphony X on Facebook.

      • MoshOff

        No joke, he seriously stares into my soul in every picture of him I’ve ever seen.

    • Elite Extremophile

      hot

    • Jöhnny Crünch™

      I can see why

  • Mr.CustodialArts

    I used to listen to “Images and Words” on my Discman while on my paper route…always felt like a homo when that saxophone song came blasting through my ears. I still feel like a homo, but don’t listen to The Theater much these days.

    • Not Vincent Bennett

      Probably my favorite Dream Theater song is a cover of this song by a band from my area called Zebra. They were based out of Long Island but they would play my area constantly back in the 1980s.

      • DeeSnarl

        Zebra was an a’ight band.

        • Not Vincent Bennett

          They were awesome. They came back here last year but I missed their show.

          • DeeSnarl

            They reunited?? Wow, “Who’s Behind the Door?” is one of my formative “metal” memories. What’s your area?

          • Not Vincent Bennett

            I live in Poughkeepsie. They reunited in 2003 and released an album the same year called Zebra IV, I love Dream Theater’s cover of Take Your Fingers From My Hair. It was a good cover, even if if wasn’t at the level of Zebra’s version.

  • Guppusmaximus

    Another big hole in your theory is the timeline. DT released their first album (that no one gives two shits about because it sounds like a bad Fates warning rip-off) in the late 80s with I&W being released in ’92. So, I think Symphony X could have been inspired…

    • MoshOff

      Shh, don’t break the illusion!!

      Haha, I’m well aware of that. SX formed in ’94, so you’re probably very right.

      • Guppusmaximus

        That would be a great album title:) Sorry, man, I was a DT nerd myself until they went full Metallica. Actually, I was in love with I&W because of those “gay” parts that Mr.CustodialArts is in the closet about. *smirk*

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        I liked the 1989 Dream Theater album, preferably for the song The Killing Hand. They also do a good live album even though their shows are boring. A Symphony X show on the other hand is amazing. So much energy and such good sound live.

  • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

    I just went to get some lunch and the local radio station I listen to was playing Love Lies Bleeding, but not the DT version, unfortunately. Kinda coincidental

    • Janitor Jim Duggan

      Dream Theater’s version of Love Lies Bleeding is amazing. it’s a really technical song to begin with and Dream Theater did the best cover of it ever. Seriously, this is the best version of the song that isn’t Elton John’s version.

  • Simon Phoenix

    I can’t stand either of these bands, but this was still a well thought out write up.

    I guess some bands just don’t need to be more metal (looking at you Europe and Loudness.).

    • Not Vincent Bennett

      Wait, do you mean the Loudness? The Loudness from Japan? I love them! I bought the CD reissue of Thunder In The East a while back and I loved it! I almost saw them too when they came to my area but they cancelled that show.

  • Cock of Steele

    DT never wrote a song like Domination though.

    • MoshOff

      MY DOMINATIOOOOOOOON!!!

      YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!

  • James LaBries solo albums are really good if you’re into Gothenburg

  • Not Vincent Bennett

    Do any of you people remember a band called Spock’s Beard? They were a prog band, apparently still are though they have lost all their key members. I found one of their albums on my desk and I forgot I owned it. The album was called X.

    • DeeSnarl

      I’ve heard their name forever in prog circles, but never really listened to ’em. Any good?

      • Not Vincent Bennett

        I do like the album I have. It’s very catchy and I consider it much better than the album they releases last year.

        • DeeSnarl

          I’ll check ’em. Love me the prog…

  • DeeSnarl

    I love Dream Theater – they rule. Also, I caught so much shit from my friends when everybody went to see Hatebreed, and I chose to go to Symphony X/Devin Townsend with like 10 other dweebs….

    • Not Vincent Bennett

      I’ve seen Hatebreed and even though they weren’t half bad I was in the pit and I got punched in the face by one of the endless douchebag bros that were there. So many bros in one spot that it was a like a reunion for bros.

      • DeeSnarl

        I’ve seen ’em a couple times. They’re… good at what they do. Last time, some guy was passing out fascist propaganda and I followed him around, telling his potential victims that it was Nazi shit. Cuz I’m a crusader for the Right. Er, for goodness, not the right wing. Yeah…

        • Not Vincent Bennett

          I liked their performance and Shadows Fall opened for them and they were good.

          • DeeSnarl

            I saw ’em open for Slayer at my first Slayer concert in many years. They blew my ass to the back wall. Slayer…

          • Not Vincent Bennett

            I never saw Slayer, though they did come to my area seven years ago. I wanted to go and me and my ex girlfriend almost went but I couldn’t buy the tickets in time. We loved each other and I regret breaking up with her. Now there’s nothing I can do to get back with her as she died on Monday.

          • DeeSnarl

            Yes, well, that does suck. Sorry…

          • Not Vincent Bennett

            It’s fine. I know I’ll see her in the next life and that is why I’m going to pave my way through those gates so I can be with her again.

          • DeeSnarl

            What does “pave your way through those gates” mean??

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            I’m going to make sure I go to heaven so I can see her again. That’s what I meant by the phrase. I loved her. She was attractive and she loved me as much as I loved her. Her death was ruled a suicide by overdose as someone found a note near where she died. It was a note that was addressed to me with some of the most haunting yet beautiful things I have ever read.

          • DeeSnarl

            Like what?

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            A lot of things. A lot of memories that we had together, a lot of her saying that she loved me and regret for what she was going to do. I went to a lot of concerts with her. Good stuff too. We saw Testament and Exodus twice, Gigantour in its first year, Anthrax, WASP with quite a few bands opening for them, Celtic Frost on their reunion tour, Summer Slaughter 2008 and our favorite two concerts which were Ministry and KMFDM. The Ministry show was our first date. She loved Kiss more than any band. She always wanted to bring me to see them but we never got to go. We would go into the woods near my house and drink some Natty Ice while listening to Kiss on her iPod. We went to parties in high school and college and drank heavily yet we would never pass out from drinking too much. We dated from October of 2004 to January of 2009. We went to the same high school and were in the same graduating class. I’m going to remember her and the memories we had together for the rest of my life.

          • DeeSnarl

            Of course you are. Good luck…

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Thank you. If you’re wondering her name was Melanie. I didn’t bring that up, so I thought that I should.

      • hatebreed was awesome live when I saw them, I felt like I was inside a music video, the atmosphere was crazy. it was some shitty basement club but for them, it really worked.

        • Janitor Jim Duggan

          They come to my town very often. I only saw them last year because I worked at the venue they were going to and I got free tickets. That’s the benefit of working in the ticket booth, I got free tickets. I got three free tickets and gave two to two of my friends. They arrived about a half hour late but they enjoyed it. They hated Acacia Strain who opened for them though and I loved them considering I met Vincent and he was a nice guy. Shadows Fall, Battlecross and some local band were there too. Battlecross was awesome and I loved Shadows Fall enough to buy a shirt from them. It was a spoof of the Halloween Movie poster but with a bottle of whiskey instead of a knife. I love that shirt.

    • NOW! IS THE TIME! FOR ME TO RISE! AND GO GET A BEER!