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The Astonishing

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The Astonishing
Studio album by Dream Theater
Released 29 January 2016
Recorded January–September 2015 at Cove City Sound Studios, Glen Cove, New York
Genre Progressive metal, progressive rock
Length 130:23
Label Roadrunner
Producer John Petrucci
Dream Theater studio albums chronology
Dream Theater
(2013)
The Astonishing
(2016)
Singles from title
  1. "The Gift of Music"
    Released: 3 December 2016
  2. "Moment of Betrayal"
    Released: 22 January 2016
  3. "Our New World (ft. Lzzy Hale)"
    Released: 9 September 2016

The Astonishing is a rock opera, released as the thirteenth studio album and second concept album by American progressive metal band Dream Theater on January 29, 2016 through Roadrunner Records. The album's story was conceived by guitarist John Petrucci and its music was written by Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. Composer David Campbell was hired to assist with orchestrating the album's string lines and choirs. Recording was completed throughout 2015 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long Island, New York, with the exception of vocals, which were recorded in Canada. Mixing and sound engineering were performed by the band's longtime collaborator, Richard Chycki, with Petrucci producing.

The Astonishing is set in a dystopian United States and follows the Ravenskill Rebel Militia in their efforts to defy the Great Northern Empire of the Americas using the magical power of music. It was inspired by contemporary fantasy and science fiction franchises such as Game of Thrones and Star Wars, as well as Petrucci's observations on the ubiquity of technological automation in modern-day society. In their effort to match the album's narrative, Dream Theater wrote songs in a wide variety of styles ranging from mellow ballads to their more conventional progressive metal sound.

Leading up to the The Astonishing's release, the band marketed the album with its own website, fan mailing lists, and trailer. It debuted in the top ten of the Norwegian, Hungarian, Italian, Swedish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Austrian, and Canadian charts, and became the first Dream Theater album to reach number one on the US Billboard Rock Chart. It has received generally favorable reviews and currently holds an average score of 80/100 on the review aggregator Metacritic. The band is currently touring in support of the album.

Synopsis Edit

The following is based on the official synopsis of The Astonishing, published by Dream Theater upon the album's release.

Act I Edit

In 2285, the northeastern region of the United States has turned into a dystopia ruled by the oppressive Great Northern Empire of the Americas. The only resemblance to entertainment that exists is the electronic noise of the Noise Machines (NOMACs). The empire is ruled by Emperor Nafaryus, Empress Arabelle, Crown Prince Daryus, and Princess Faythe. In a distant village called Ravenskill, a man named Gabriel possesses the natural ability to make music and sing ("The Gift of Music"). He has an older brother, Commander Arhys of the Ravenskill Rebel Militia, who has a son, Xander, with his deceased wife, Evangeline ("A Better Life").

Nafaryus hears a rumor about Gabriel being the savior of the people. He and his family travel to Ravenskill to see him for themselves ("Lord Nafaryus"). In the Ravenskill town square, Gabriel is performing for the people when the royal family shows up. He continues playing at the emperor's request ("A Savior in the Square"), nearly bringing them all to tears ("When Your Time Has Come"). As he plays, Faythe remembers how she found a music player when she was a child and kept it a secret all her life, and as she and Gabriel stare at each other they fall in love ("Act of Faythe"). Nafaryus, though briefly moved by Gabriel's song, sees him as a threat to his rule and gives the people of the town three days to deliver their savior to him or he will destroy the town ("Three Days"). Arhys hides his brother and refuses to give him up ("Brother, Can You Hear Me?").

Back at the Emperor's palace, Faythe decides she must see Gabriel again. Disguising herself, she begins to travel back to Ravenskill. Arabelle, knowing about her daughter's intentions, instructs Daryus to follow and protect her. Daryus feels he has always been overlooked by his father in favor of his sister, so he travels to the town with his own intentions ("A Life Left Behind"). Faythe arrives in the town and finds Xander, who trusts her and leads her to his father Arhys. Faythe convinces Arhys that she can help, so he brings her to Gabriel's hideout. Gabriel and Faythe embrace, and she tells him that she believes she can convince her father to give up his hunt for Gabriel ("Ravenskill"). Gabriel tells her that if he could just meet with the Emperor, he could inspire him to restore peace to the land using his gift of music ("Chosen").

Meanwhile, Daryus finds Arhys' home and takes Xander captive. Daryus promises he will guarantee the safety and wealth of Xander in return for Arhys bringing Gabriel to him. Daryus does this hoping that it will gain him respect from his father ("A Tempting Offer"). Arhys is forced to agree to the deal, remembering a promise he made to Evangeline to protect their son ("The X Aspect"). Faythe travels back to her father's palace and learns that her music player once belonged to her father. After a while, Nafaryus bows to the pleas of his daughter ("A New Beginning") and agrees to meet with Gabriel at an abandoned amphitheater called Heaven's Cove ("The Road to Revolution").

Act II Edit

Arhys informs Daryus that Gabriel will be at Heaven's Cove that night ("Moment of Betrayal"). While the meeting time approached ("Heaven's Cove"), Faythe decides that she wants to use the power of her royal status to change the world for good ("Begin Again"). At the amphitheater, Arhys changes his mind on the deal, and when Daryus shows up, they start a fight. Daryus overpowers Arhys and kills him ("The Path That Divides"), unaware that Xander followed them and saw the whole scene. As Xander runs to his father's dead body, Daryus sees the silhouette of someone approaching him. Assuming it to be Gabriel, he attempts to kill him, realising too late that it is actually Faythe ("The Walking Shadow"). Gabriel arrives at the scene and sees his dead brother and the dying Faythe. Covering Xander's ears, he unleashes a scream that causes Daryus to go deaf and that is heard by Nafaryus, Arabelle, and the entire town ("My Last Farewell").

Nafaryus and Arabelle arrive and beg Gabriel to use his gift to save Faythe ("Losing Faythe"), but Gabriel is unable to sing after screaming so loudly ("Whispers on the Wind"). The people, attracted by the scream, show up and start singing, giving Gabriel hope. He finds his ability to sing and brings Faythe back to life ("Hymn of a Thousand Voices"). Nafaryus, realising what he has done, decides to end the conflict with Gabriel and shuts down the NOMACs for good. Daryus is forgiven for his actions, and Gabriel and Faythe raise Xander as a family ("Our New World"). Nafaryus promises to govern the empire as a fair leader in a new world where music is appreciated again ("Astonishing").

List of Characters Edit

  • Nafaryus: Emperor of Great Northern Empire of the Americas.
  • Arabelle: Empress and wife of Nafaryus.
  • Daryus: Crown Prince. Son of Nafaryus and Arabelle.
  • Faythe: Princess. Daughter of Nafaryus and Arabelle. Love of Gabriel.
  • Gabriel: Musician from Ravenskill and brother of Arhys. Love of Faythe.
  • Arhys: Brother of Gabriel, commander of Ravenskill Rebel Militia, father of Xander, husband of deceased Evangeline.
  • Evangeline: deceased wife of Arhys.
  • Xander: Son of Arhys and Evangeline.

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