Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2, here is the final part of this surprise review of a music album.
Disc 2 begins with “2285 Entr’Acte”, a short instrumental that combines bits and pieces of the songs on Disc 1. Nice little instrumental, wouldn’t be my favorite but it is sweet. It then becomes “Moment of Betrayal”. Gabriel is ecstatic, certain that the plan he has built with Faythe will succeed and change Lord Nafaryus’ view on life. The Chosen will meet his dear Princess tonight, third day of the ultimatum, to rehearse for the big concert. Arhys contacts Daryus to arrange something near the amphitheater, where Gabriel will be captured. The Ravenskill Militia leader still recognizes that it’s a horrible thing to do.
The next song is “Heaven’s Cove”, a mostly ambient track that conveys an emotional weight, presenting the location of the finale: Ravenskill’s amphitheater, known as Heaven’s Cove. It’s the first location that has a song dedicated to it, presenting its feel; the earlier songs “A Savior in the Square” and “Ravenskill” did this a little, but mostly served to advance the plot. It’s still a sweet melody that turns epic when LaBrie gets in. It helps hammering in that entertainment hasn’t been a part of the people’s lives for a long time now.
Xander runs towards his father’s body in “The Walking Shadow”, and screams at Daryus. Seriously, excellent work there from James LaBrie; if you thought he couldn’t pull off the impressive metal screams, here’s one song to prove you wrong. Daryus, as the monster that he is, assures Xander that his time will come too; by the way, in the lyrics booklet, that part is incorrectly given to Arhys; and with the tone, it’s like the proud warrior is inviting his son to die with him. It just doesn’t make sense. However, Daryus sees a shadowy figure approaching. Thinking it to be Gabriel, he leaps with his sword and attacks, only to realize too late that he has actually stabbed Faythe, his own sister, who was coming to the amphitheater for a rehearsal.
Hey wait, Xander was close enough to be affected by that scream, wasn’t he? No? Ah, okay. As for Faythe, she was listening to her music player when she got stabbed, hence why she was too distracted to react; and apparently the earphones also protected her ears from being affected by Gabriel’s loud scream. Which was, I paraphrase, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrh!!!”
Which, by the way, was not even impressive. I mean, LaBrie pulled off a pretty great scream one song earlier, in “The Walking Shadow”, and then we get this, which is supposed to be a scream so powerful it made at least one person deaf and awoke the entire village, and yet it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. Come on, this could have been better! I know it could have been better! That rale is actually so weak it’s kinda funny. Especially in how powerful it’s built up to be in the story itself.
Also, just how freaking loud was Faythe listening to her music if she ended up unaffected by the scream? I… I… Does not compute, does not compute! Error! Insert Logic file! File not found! Help! Blue Screen! …You get my point. While this is supposed to be one of the most poignant moments of the album, the issues in logic seen here prevent me from fully enjoying the song. I get that it was contrived to get where John Petrucci wanted to go, but… I just can’t ignore these problems! Okay, moving to the next song… we’re almost done! …I hope!
Well gee, he was quick to turn over a new leaf... I guess people will really accept anything when they've got their backs to the wall.
Wait… At that moment, Faythe has been dead for five minutes. And had been stabbed five minutes before that. Arhys was killed about three minutes before Faythe was stabbed. So wait, Faythe, who was dead for five minutes, could be revived, but Arhys, who was dead for 13 minutes, couldn’t? Does it have something to do with the wounds themselves, Faythe could survive for a moment but Arhys died on the spot? Is that why? And the townspeople are still somehow fine with their chant bringing back only one of the two? Gee, what was that exchange like?
“We’re a thousand people singing along to give you the power to bring your loved Faythe back to life!
“But… what about my brother?”
“Only your love! Let him rot!”
“…Do I have a choice?”
“……….Okay then… pricks. GLORY OF SOUND, GUIDE HER TONIGHT…”
So yeah, Faythe is brought back to life by the power of music. Faythe’s parents are overjoyed. Um, they should probably do something about that wound, take her to a doctor or something. Anyway, in the next song “Our New World”, Gabriel and Faythe remember that Xander no longer has a father. They also realize that Nafaryus made a full 180 seeing his daughter brought back to life, so they sing as praise for this new world that awaits them, a world where the sovereign is benevolent and people are taken out of the misery they’ve lived in for so long. Gabriel and Faythe adopt Xander as their son.
Wait, I just realized. Daryus can’t lead if he’s completely deaf. Therefore, the throne of the G.N.E.A. will go to the second royal child in line – Faythe will become Queen! And, thus, Gabriel will be King! So Xander will be a prince! On the plus side, Arhys’ wish came true, his son will never live in poverty again. On the other hand, family reunions will be a bit awkward.
“And this year for Christmas, Granddad Nafaryus gave you a brand new music player! And your deaf Uncle Daryus just gave you a full scholarship! Go hug your uncle, you know, the one who killed your real father! Go ahead, there’s nothing to be afraid of!”
…Damn, that was a nasty joke even by my standards.
“Eternally, in harmony, our lives will be astonishing again.”
Man, what a great album! Despite its many flaws – most of them in the story – I can’t help but enjoy it. I mean, John Myung gets buried under the rest of the music, the volume for LaBrie’s vocals could have been increased a bit in some places (some lyrics are hard to decipher for someone like me, as English is my second language), there’s a bit of an over-reliance on ballads (which I can understand, considering the more “Stage Musical” feel of the whole thing). This is probably their softest album, even softer than Falling Into Infinity. And yet the story is just as strong on the side of emotions as Metropolis Part 2.
It would be too long for me to go back to the multiple issues I have with the plot, although what I remember in the end is that it’s about all the forms of love. Beyond the revolution against the tyrannical powers in place, we have the story of a man who has to choose between saving his son and saving his brother. A relationship that would be doomed between two people who came to love each other at first sight, at first note. We have the love a parent expresses for their child however helpless or rebellious they may be. Love for art, for entertainment, for music. The charisma that makes one move crowds, makes people change their own destiny. It may sound corny, but it’s all there. This is one powerful album we got here. As a bonus, it ends a lot better than the other rock operas that follow the same premise of music being outlawed (off the top of my head, Rush’s 2112 and Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage). It’s still not a full-on happy ending, but the entire album feels a lot more hopeful than those. In fact, that’s the word I get from this story: Hope. It’s the one feeling that can be felt through most of these 34 tracks. Even “Dystopian Overture” I felt was very lighthearted and hopeful for an instrumental meant to convey the horrific future.
Now, does it have plot holes? Plenty. Is it missing a bunch of lyrics? Yes. Are there things that just don’t make sense? You bet. This story only makes sense if you’re willing to make some pretty big leaps of logic, or at least rewrite small parts of it, in order to make it coherent. Keeping in mind that “most technology is gone, humanity is almost completely back to the Middle Ages, nobody’s got time to enjoy entertainment – or even sing, for that matter” is a pretty difficult task. I mean, can anyone among us even imagine a world without entertainment, let alone a world without music? I feel this also slipped out of Petrucci’s mind as he wrote the story, though I can’t blame him; This was a gigantic piece of work, errors were bound to happen.
In the end, I just love The Astonishing. I can’t really speak on the technical side of things aside from those few things I noticed; I don’t play an instrument (I tried harmonica; I stopped due to a lack of free time). Some of you may be able to see these problems better than me. But for what I got, I’m satisfied. Not the perfect Dream Theater album, but a damn good one despite its flaws.
Thanks for reading this review.