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Octavarium is the eighth album by Dream Theater releaesd on June 7, 2005. The album completed the "meta-album" concept started with Scenes from a Memory and is known for it's expansive use of "nuggets"; musical and lyrical cues related to a central theme of numbers. The album is also known for it's title track, which is considered by many to be Dream Theater's best song.
Octavarium

cover art by Hugh Syme

Personnel

Tracklist

1. The Root of All Evil (Portnoy) 8:25

2. The Answer Lies Within (Petrucci) 5:33

3. These Walls (Petrucci) 7:36

4. I Walk Beside You (Petrucci) 4:29

5. Panic Attack (Petrucci) 8:13

6. Never Enough (Portnoy) 6:46

7. Sacrificed Sons (LaBrie) 10:42

8. Octavarium (LaBrie, Petrucci, Portnoy) 24:00

Creation

As opposed to it's predecessor, Train of Thought, Dream Theater went into the studio to write and record Octavarium without any pre-conceived concept for the album, leading it to be a more traditional style Dream Theater album at first glance. However during the process of writing the album, a concept did form revolving around the numbers eight and five. The numbers represent a section of a piano known as an Octave, which has eight white keys and five black keys. Eight and Five became represented in various ways throughout the music and artwork of the album (see below section) and also represents Dream Theater's eight albums and five members.

The album also ends the "meta-album" concept started with Scenes from a Memory, as the album's lead-off track "The Root of All Evil" opens with the same note that ended "In The Name of God" on Train of Thought. The final song on the album, "Octavarium" originally ended with a flute flourish, however Portnoy felt this put too much pressure on the band to begin the next album the same way. A last-minute change had the song end with the beginning of "The Root of All Evil" which tied into the "full circle" theme of the album, as well as the last line of the song "This story ends where it began".

The band also worked with outside musicians again, bringing in a string quartet for the song "The Answer Lies Within" as well as a full orchestra for "Sacrificed Sons" and "Octavarium".

Release

The album was released successfully, initially charting higher than any previous Dream Theater album at #36. The album also got more promotional attention than any previous album other than Images and Words, perhaps due to it being the last album Dream Theater had on their contract with Atlantic Records. Fans speculated that the increased promotion may have been a ploy for Atlantic to retain Dream Theater, though it proved unsuccessful, as they eventually signed with Roadrunner Records.

Unlike its predecessor, the album was leaked onto the Internet significantly before release, though Portnoy stated that the version leaked on the Internet was not complete and would differ from the final product. The main differences seemed to be track times, as the tracks were cut differently due to incidentals on the album; and the ending of "Octavarium" being changed from a flute flourish to a reprised theme from the start of the album.

Although no singles or videos were released for the album, Atlantic did release a radio single for "These Walls" with "Panic Attack" as the "B-side". The single got very little attention, though it did serve a purpose as a way for the fans to hear the songs early on.

The tour in support of album was put off momentarily so the band could take part in Gigantour along with Megadeth, though they did introduce several Octavarium songs into their setlists. The world tour was very successful, with the band touring South America extensively for the first time. The final show on the tour at Radio City Music Hall, where the band was joined on stage with a full orchestra, was filmed and recorded for the eventual release of Score which was also released on DVD. Aside from ending the tour, the band also used the tour to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Reception

Octavarium was released to almost overwhelmingly positive reviews, with both critics and fans calling it an instant classic. Much attention was given to the title track, which many fans considered to be the band's best song since A Change of Seasons. The band were praised for the album's strong central concept and use of "nuggets" which gave the album a lot of replayability. Also praised was the diversity of sounds on the album and the epic feel.

Octavarium did, of course, have its detractors, as some cited songs such as "These Walls" and "I Walk Beside You" to be too pop-oriented for their tastes. Some fans also criticized the concept, though without having any actual criticisms, instead choosing to attack other fans who sought enjoyment in finding the "nuggets".

5/8 Concept and nuggets

Octavarium has a concept revolving around the numbers five and eight, which fans generally refer to as "5/8". Various references to 5/8 have been found in the album, though some are considered to be coincidental. Below is a list of the various 5/8 references.

  • Octavarium is the band's 8th album
  • Dream Theater has five members
  • The word "Octavarium" has five syllables, five consonants and five vowels.
  • Some fans have pointed out that Dream Theater has had 8 members total. This ignores Chris Collins, as he was in the band when they were called "Majesty". However it also excludes Steve Stone and Chris Cintron, though they never appeared on any alubms.
  • At the time of Octavarium's release, the band had five official live albums: Live at the Marquee, Once in a LIVEtime, Live Scenes from New York and Live at Budokan
  • 1985 was the year the band formed (may be coincidental)
  • The initial festival tour to support the album took place in 8 countries (coincidental).
  • 5 out of the 8 songs were recorded using mike's 8th drumkit.
  • The album's liner notes booklet has 8 pages.
  • The album cover, when properly folded out, contains 8 newton balls and 5 birds. The placement of the balls and birds roughly coincides with the band's 8 albums and 5 live albums.
  • On the "dominos" portrait, one domino adds up to 8 and the other to 5. The three birds are assumed to represent three former members of Dream Theater, [{Charlie Dominici]], Kevin Moore and Derek Sherinian.
  • The "maze" portrait has a spider (8 legs) inside an octagonal maze with five layers. The maze also has 8 doors and 8 dead ends.
  • The "underwater" portrait has an octopus (8 legs) and an octagonal stop sign. There are also 5 fish.
  • The "diagram" portrait has many 5/8 references, the most obvious being the 5-pointed star inside the Octagon and it being referred to as "diagram 5:8". There are many more subtle 5/8 references found here.
  • The "pool" portrait has a black ball, which is the 8-ball.
  • The back cover shows an octave, with 8 white keys and 5 black ones. The 8 songs are listed on the white keys and the 5 band members on the black keys.
  • There are 8 tracks and 5 incidentals, arranged in the exact way an octave on a piano is.

Fans have found additional references, some extremely obscure, and some being considered to definitely be coincidental.

Tone and Lyrics

Octavarium is generally more mellow than its predecessors, hearkening back somewhat to the sound of Images and Words. Out of the four tenets of Dream Theater's sound (progressive, metal, melodic and pop) great attention is paid to the Melodic and Pop sounds, with "I Walk Beside You", and "These Walls" being viable pop songs, and "I Walk Beside You", "The Answer Lies Within" and Sacrificed Sons" being very melodic. "Panic Attack" and "The Root of All Evil" are fairly metal songs, with "Never Enough" and "Octavarium" being mostly progressive, the latter also having a mix of all other sounds.

The lyrics tend to be introspective and personal, or related to the band. "Never Enough" was written by Portnoy about demanding fans, "Panic Attack" is about suffering through a panic attack, "I Walk Beside You" is another John Petrucci love song, "The Answer Lies Within" is advice from a parent to a child and "These Walls" is about being creatively stifled. The lyrics can take on a broader scope, such as "Sacrificed Sons" reflecting on the 9/11 attacks, "The Answer Lies Within" being advice given from parent to child and "Octavarium" having general themes of coming full circle.

"The Root of All Evil" continues The AA Saga which was started with The Glass Prison and continued with This Dying Soul and chronicles the sixth and seventh steps in the 12 step program.

Cover Art

The cover art as well as the interior artwork is noted for the many "5/8" references. The artwork was done by Hugh Syne, the first of several covers he would do for Dream Theater. The album art is notable for being a gatefold - the consumer must take the booklet out of the CD and unfold it to show the full artwork, revealing the other newton balls as well as a woman. You can see The Majesty Symbol engraved on the rightmost ball.

A prototypical version of the artwork was shown by Portnoy on his website prior to release, something that caused some controversy as fans nitpicked and complained about the album art, specifically that the strings appeared not to be attached to the balls in any way and that the rightmost ball was not far enough away from the rest. Portnoy responded saying it was an early version, and the fastenings were added later on. Some fans on his website viciously attacked the art, causing Portnoy to regret showing it. Fans nitpicked and called the art "amateurish" which Portnoy responded by giving several examples of cover art considered amateurish that are considered to be classic covers, such as "2112" by Rush and "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath.

Legacy

Octavarium is remembered as being a great album, though some have claimed it hasn't aged as well as Train of Thought. The title track is still considered to be among the band's best work, though the other tracks receive varying amounts of disdain from some fans. To this day, fans are still looking for and discovering "nuggets" on or related to the album.

Re-Releases and alternate versions

The pre-release internet leak of Octavarium that has been downloaded by fans illegally is notably different than the retail version, having different track times (due to how the disc handles incidentals) as well as a different ending to the title track.

Portnoy, through his website's MP4 Productions released a drum cam version of the album, Drumavarium

Confusion with Elements of Persuasion

Prior to the above mentioned leak, files claiming to be Octavarium showed up on many peer to peer networks and illegal download websites. The files were not Octavarium, but in fact Elements of Persuasion, the latest solo album from James LaBrie. Many fans assumed it was Dream Theater as the heavy tone of that album seemed like a natural progression from Train of Thought, and it was later revealed to be Portnoy himself that pulled the hoax, claiming he was having some fun with fans who like to illegaly download the albums prior to release.

Confusion between the albums, however, lingered for a long time, leading to many akward situations, such as fans becoming confused by the new songs at concerts, a Brazilian quiz show that passed off a LaBrie song as Octavarium and one notable incident in which a newlywed couple attempted to use "I Walk Beside You" as their wedding song, only to have the DJ play the incorrect song. To this day, some casual fans are unaware that they have the wrong files.

Although some fans have claimed that using an album that they believe is not as progressive as Dream Theater as a fake leak may have hurt the band's reputation and caused confusion in fans, it may be noted that Portnoy may not have realized how widespread it would become. One positive factor is that it raised awareness of LaBrie's solo album.

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