- Mike Portnoy - Drums, co-producer
- John Petrucci - Guitar, co-producer
- John Myung - Bass
- James LaBrie - Vocal
- Jordan Rudess - Keyboards
- Terry Brown - Co-producer
- Theresa Thompson - Additional vocals
1. Scene One: Regression (Petrucci) 2:06
2. Scene Two: Overture 1928 (instrumental) 3:37
3. Strange Deja Vu (Portnoy) 5:12
4. Scene Three: Through My Words (Petrucci) 1:02
5. Fatal Tragedy (Myung) 6:49
6. Scene Four: Beyond This Life (Petrucci) 11:22
7. Scene Five: Through Her Eyes (Petrucci) 5:29
8. Scene Six: Home (Portnoy) 12:53
9. Scene Seven: The Dance of Eternity (instrumental) 6:13
10. One Last Time (LaBrie) 3:46
11. Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On (Petrucci) 6:38
12. Scene Nine: Finally Free (Portnoy) 11:59
After the release of and tour in support of Falling Into Infinity, several changes were made in Dream Theater. Firstly, Portnoy and Petrucci approached management and their label, demanding that they be left alone. Portnoy and Petrucci announced their intentions to self-produce their albums from then on and that they would not accept any interference from the label. The label, perhaps seeing the negative reception garnered by the previous album, relented and allowed Dream Theater creative control once more.
The second major change was the hiring of Rudess, who had worked with Portnoy and Petrucci previously on Liquid Tension Experiment, and had been their original choice to replace Kevin Moore. Rudess joined the band after a discussion while working on Liquid Tension Experiment 2, and replaced Derek Sherinian, who went on to his solo career.
In creating the new album, Portnoy knew he had to do something special. The decision to make a concept album was easy, and the concept came naturally, as he decided to expand on the unreleased Metropolis Pt 2. The album was written and recorded at Bear Tracks Studio, where the band enjoyed the "musical fusion" they had with Rudess.
The mixing of the album is considered somewhat uneven, as disagreements to how the songs should sound led to two different mixes being created. Certain songs, most notably the heavier tracks, were mixed by Kevin Shirley, though Dave Bottril had mixed the entire album, and alternate version exist for the Shirley songs.
The band also worked with outside musicians on this album, bringing in a gospel choir for the song "The Spirit Carries On". The choir's lead singer, Theresa Thompson also sang lead vocals on "Through Her Eyes"
Scenes from a Memory was released successfully, selling more copies than it's predecessor and garnering them a lot of attention. The album was seen as a return to form, which was exciting for both the band and fans. The CD release contained liner notes reminiscent of an opera, complete with two acts and a "cast" listed, to play off the fact that it was a concept album.
Though no video was shot for this album, both "Through Her Eyes" and "Home" were released for radio, with the former also being released as a single, the band's last EP release for quite some time.
The tour to support the album was unusual in that every show started with a full performance of the entire album, something the band had never done before with any of their previous albums. The band's production values increased as time went on, introducing more story elements to the show. The final show was taped and filmed, eventually released as both Metropolis 2000 and Live Scenes from New York.
The album was received extremely well, with most fans and critics agreeing that not only was it better than Falling Into Infinity, but also better than Awake and Images and Words. Critics praised the cohesive concept and story structure, as well as the flawless integration of Jordan Rudess, who is clearly a better fit with the band than either of his predecessors.
Fans also lapped up the album, usually ranking it either first or extremely high among Dream Theater albums, and the general consensus by fans is that it is their best album. The band themselves also say this, saying they only like Systematic Chaos more.
Concept and storyline
The concept of Scenes from a Memory is that it is a sequel to Metropolis, though the concept is very different. While Metropolis was a largely abstract song about two brothers and Rome, Scenes changes all this. The Miracle and The Sleeper are introduced as brothers, Edward and Julian, who both love the same woman, Victoria, who represents Metropolis. In this way, the album has little to do with the original song lyrically, though it does follow similar themes and borrows many of the musical cues from the song.
In the story, a troubled young man named Nicholas is going through hypnotherapy, to analyze his dreams. Nicholas dreams about a young woman named Victoria, who died in 1928. It is revealed throughout the story that Nicholas was Victoria in his past life, and much of the story deals with her. Victoria leaves her boyfriend Julian due to his drinking and gambling problems, and finds comfort with his brother Edward, who she begins a sexual relationship with. In the end there is a "double reveal". Through his research, Nicholas assumes that Victoria was killed by Julian out of revenge, who then killed himself. However through hypnotherapy, he reveals the truth behind her death. Victoria discovered at some point that she still loved Julian, and that her relationship with Edward was very shallow. She begins to see Julian in secret, and Edward discovers them, killing them both, and planting a note on Julian's corpse to make it seem like a suicide, and using his influence as a senator on the local newspapers.
In the story's epilogue, told after the last song, Nicholas leaves his therapy session and goes home, though he is followed by the hypnotherapist, who kills him. It was explained by Portnoy that the hypnotherapist was Edward in his past life.
Tone and lyrics
The tone of the album is somewhat similar to Images and Words, though Scenes is much heavier due to better production and writing. Out of the four tenets of Dream Theater's sound (progressive, metal, melodic and pop) the album focuses on progressive firstly, with melodic and metal secondary, with very little pop sound. Most of the songs are very progressive, containing extended solo sequences, such as "Fatal Tragedy", "Home" and "Beyond This Life", which are also some of the heaviest works on the album. The album's two instrumentals, "Overture 1928" and "The Dance of Eternity", are also very proggy and are seen as some of the band's most difficult music. The melodic and pop sounds do come into play on "Through My Words" and "Through Her Eyes". "The Spirit Carries On" and "Finally Free" are seen as epic mixtures of the melodic and progressive sounds, and the album's opening song "Regression" is a rare acoustic song.
The lyrics flesh out the conceptual story, with the structure being in the form of a play or opera, with LaBrie playing all parts excepting the hypnotherapist, who was played by Terry Brown. The liner notes denote who is speaking, such as "Miracle", "Sleeper, "Nicholas", "Victoria" and such, with additional notation to show whether a passage is taking place in the past or present. Though the album has a cohesive plot, Portnoy, Petrucci, LaBrie and Myung all contributed lyrics, with "Fatal Tragedy" being so far the last song Myung has written lyrics for.
The album's rather striking cover is the creation of artist Dave McKean, who had created similar "mosaics" previously, such as the DVD cover art for the film "Thirteen Ghosts" and the cover of a Sandman comic book. Portnoy saw McKean's previous work and asked him to create something similar, a mosaic made out of photographs of a person's past life. The face in the picture is supposed to represent both Nicholas and Victoria.
Scenes from a Memory is the band's most celebrated work and is considered by many to be their vanguard album, replacing Images and Words. The songs from it are still played live, garnering a huge response from crowds. Many fans have speculated the possibility of a Metropolis Pt 3, though the band has denied any plans to do either a song or album by that title.
Scenes from a Memory enjoys the title of being the Dream Theater album to be performed live in its entirety the most times, with every show on the initial tour being done that way, excepting for one show that was closed by a fire marshal during "The Spirit Carries On", nearly leading to a riot by fans. The band claimed that the final show at Roseland Ballroom would be the final time they performed the album in its entirety, however they did once again on their South American tour in support of Octavarium, as they had not toured there previously, excepting a few one-off shows.
Re-releses and alternate versions
Dream Theater released the portion of the Roseland Ballroom show containing the full album as Metropolis 2000, and later released the entire show as Live Scenes from New York. The fan club CD Scenes from a World Tour is a companion piece, containing various performances from throughout the tour in support of the album. Portnoy also released The Making of Scenes from a Memory through YtseJam Records, containing the writing tracks and also the full album with the original mixes by Dave Bottril.