I have had a long relationship with Dream Theater. Just like in every relationship, there are ups and there are downs, but for the most our relationship has been a loving and caring one. This band has had its changes and difficulties for sure, but very seldom have they done anything to disappoint me. I remember very well the first time I ever heard the band. It was back in 1989 and my musical life was mostly about big choruses, big hair, colorful clothes, keyboards and everything else that was hip at the time. I still listened to metal like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept and Helloween, but my life was dominated by Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Europe and the whole American melodic rock scene. A friend of mine had bought the LP (yes, LP, friends) When Dream And Day Unite and when he put on the album, I was completely floored. Dream Theater didn’t fit into the mold of rock that I was listening to at the time, they stood out like sore thumb, but I loved them instantly. Their mix of symphonic bands such as Marillion and Saga with progressive bands such as Rush and heavy metal like Metallica and Iron Maiden knocked me off my rocker totally and since that day I have been a big fan. When the follow-up Images And Words came out in 1992, I thought the band had split up because there was silence from the D.T. camp for a very long time. That was the best news I got that year and the masterpiece that is that album didn’t exactly make me less of a fan. I don’t think that Dream Theater have ever made a bad album, even though Falling Into Infinity (1997) won’t go down in history as their most remarkable piece of work. Also, I find albums such as Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (2002), Train Of Thought (2003) and Octavarium (2005) somewhat uneven. But Systematic Chaos (2007) and Black Clouds And Silver Linings (2009) brought the band back on the map again and to me, those two albums are up there with Images And Words and Awake (1994) as the band’s finest work ever. Which brings us to one of the most dramatic things ever to happen to the band – drummer, song writer, lyricist and co-producer Mike Portnoy decided to leave the band / got fired. To me, Dream Theater without Portnoy was unthinkable. But the guys managed to rescue their situation when they brought in former Extreme, Steve Vai and Annihilator drummer Mike Mangini. Mangini is a great drummer, I knew that, but Portnoy had some huge boots to fill and even though both Portnoy-less albums – A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011) and Dream Theater (2013) – were high quality products, it was pretty clear what Mangini’s orders were: Play like Portnoy, dammit! I know, it’s not an ideal situation, but I really think the band have made the best out of it – and those two albums are really good. Now it’s time for Dream Theater to release their third Portnoy-less album and this time, they have gone all in, over the top and recorded a whole rock opera – on two CDs. I mean, Dream Theater are hardly an easy listening band normally – you know, 23-minute songs and 40 million breaks in each chorus – but this time we get 34 songs on two CDs, instead of eight on one – totally over 120 minutes of music. Wow! Even for a big fan like me, this might just be a bit overmuch, a bit too hard to swallow. But I have given it my best shot and I think that I have gotten a fair view of how good this record(s) actually is (are). But first, let’s get into the story here and see what they have come up with.