Vocalist James LaBrie's voice is tempered by a vicious element that lends a deep sense of anger to many of the songs, but at other times he can be wonderfully delicate and soulful. He retains all of his best qualities from I&W, but he expands his vocal vocabulary by better utilizing his ample range. John Petrucci's guitars are dazzlingly technical, but what makes him so special is that he can isolate and preserve the emotion in the music. For example, the dissonant notes in the solo of "Voices" perfectly encapsulate the feeling of confusion expressed in the lyrics. In a lot of cases, solos present in songs because most people think they have to be. In a Dream Theater record, the solos serve as emotional peaks for the songs. The keyboards imbue the songs with an important sense of atmosphere. Just listen to the haunting "Space-Dye Vest," a beautifully somber song anchored by a piano riff that, while quite simple, speaks to you in more ways than other songs in their entirety.
Some people care little about lyrics, but let me point out that Dream Theater writes great songs; they are loaded with metaphorical references and vivid imagery supporting a deep emotionally based theme. Sometimes a metal band can have brains.
To conclude simply, Awake is an incredible album by progressive metal's greatest band.
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