Forgotten series: Dream Theater – Master Of Puppets (2004)

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by Tom Johnson

Yep, you read that right: Dream Theater surprised their Barcelona, Spain audience in early 2002 with a song-by-song reading of the 1980s metal classic by Metallica, Master Of Puppets. There then followed this official bootleg of their performance from Ytsejam Records. The recording is a high-quality, professional recording — likely from the mixing desk, from the sound of it.

The band runs through an energetic interpretation, in some places out-Metallica’ing Metallica — which is a surprise given Metallica’s dual-guitar assualt as opposed to Dream Theater’s single guitarist. Somehow, John Petrucci manages to fill enough sonic space that it’s rarely noticeable that he’s handling all the guitar duties, and in many cases he so perfectly mimics the claustrophobic tone of the original that it’s hard to believe he’s not playing through Metallica’s equipment.

In some spots, such as the breakdown of “Orion,” keyboardist Jordan Rudess adds mostly tasteful, if unnecessary, flourishes. Other times, however, he sounds entirely out of place — piano has no place in Metallica, nor (especially) Rudess’ more flamboyant keyboard histrionics. Most of the time, however, Jordan’s playing is inaudible (if he’s playing at all). There are a few times when he mimics a guitar tone to double up behind Petrucci, which is impressive in its ability to fool you into believing you’re hearing two guitars.

If anything leaves more to be desired, it’s James LaBrie’s faltering attempts at copping James Hetfield’s grizzly bark. Hetfield’s approach to singing isn’t suited so well to someone as caught up in operatic singing as LaBrie is, and at times he unleashes a warbling falsetto which sounds entirely inappropriate. When approaching Hetfield’s trademark vocals, LaBrie comes up short, sounding more like he simply needs to clear his throat.

However, the point of a cover like this isn’t only to duplicate an obvious influence for the band, it’s to apply a bit of themselves to it. In regards to that aspect, Dream Theater pulls this off surprisingly well — but it’s going to be almost impossible to keep from comparing the incomparable original.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Tom Johnson
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