The third full-length album by legendary American Progressive Metal/Rock band.
Following the release and commercial success of “Images And Words”, Dream Theater entered the studio with an increased level of pressure from ATCO Records to release another hit album, as well as working with a deadline for the first time in their career. The band recorded a much darker, heavier and longer album, creating a strong contrast to the optimism seen in “Images And Words”, for the first time filling a CD with music, something they would later become known for.
“Awake” is known for its brooding themes and heavy guitar riffs. Petrucci used a seven-string guitar for the first time on this album, giving the songs a much crunchier tone. Out of the four tenets of Dream Theater's sound (Progressive, Metal, Melodic and Pop) the album tends to focus on the Metal and Melodic aspects, creating a unique sound in their discography, though there is a lot of Progressive feel on the album, with only "Innocence Faded" being a strong Pop song. "Caught In A Web", "The Mirror" and "Lie" are all Extremely Heavy Metal songs, with "6:00", "Erotomania", "Voices", and "Scarred" being more Progressive. Most of the songs tend to be melodic, with the exceptions of "The Mirror" and "Lie". The album's ballads are "The Silent Man", "Lifting Shadows Off A Dream", and "Space-Dye Vest", the last of which has a unique sound due to being completely penned by Moore.
It was the last album to feature keyboardist Kevin Moore, who announced his decision to leave the band during the recording of the album. The album is also considered to be the band's second highest selling album, behind its predecessor, "Images And Words". There is no title track on the album, but the lyric awake appears in the songs "Innocence Faded" and "The Silent Man".
Much of the material for Awake was written in writing sessions between February and April 1994, during which Dream Theater were under pressure from their record label to produce an album as successful as "Images And Words" (1992) with a single similar to "Pull Me Under". The label wanted the band to produce a more Metal-oriented album, hoping it would be easier to market.
Released at the height of the popularity of Grunge music, "Awake" initially received mixed reviews; more recent reviews regard the album as one of the band's finest.
"Awake" marks a definite change in the band's tone. From the moment the guitars enter on "6:00", the first track, a darker sound is immediately evident, and it continues through the entire 75 minutes of the disc. The complex song structures, marked by arrangements that would give many good players fits, are very impressive. Drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci, in particular, reach new heights with their instruments, but keyboardist Kevin Moore and bassist John Myung hold up quite well, adding to the Prog Metal sound with their own contributions.
The album peaked at 32 on the US Billboard 200 (remaining in the charts for six weeks), the highest position a Dream Theater album would reach on that chart until 2007's "Systematic Chaos", which peaked at 19 (that was eventually topped by 2009's "Black Clouds & Silver Linings", which peaked at No. 6). "Lie", "Caught in a Web" and "The Silent Man" were released as singles but failed to be as successful as "Pull Me Under" had been. The album peaked in the top 20 in four countries.
The band's record label considered the album a commercial failure. This led to the band once again working with David Prater on "A Change Of Seasons" and to the record label putting increasing pressure on the band to make songs on their next studio album, "Falling Into Infinity", more commercial and radio-friendly.
In a 1995 Guitar World interview, Chuck Schuldiner praised "Awake" and the band Dream Theater in general, claiming that "their music is very complex, but they definitely have hooks, which is crucial to making music listenable", citing them as an influence on the more Progressive nature of his band Death's later material as opposed to the stagnant Death Metal scene at the time.
In 2005, Awake was ranked number 390 in Rock Hard Magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. In July 2014, the album was ranked number 1 in Guitar World Magazine's list of "Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994".
"Awake" is a classic album showcasing Dream Theater at their best. This is one of the dark episode of Dream Theater, but remain a wonderful album with complex song writing, beautiful solos and a perfect ambiance in the whole CD from the beginning until the last note of keyboard! A must for everyone into metal!! Easily the most influential piece of Progressive Metal to this day!!!
EastWest Records America/Atlantic Recording Corporation/WEA International/Warner Music Manufacturing Europe GmbH, 1994 (7567-90126-2). Made in Germany. Re-press.
1. 6:00 5:31
2. Caught In A Web 5:28
3. Innocence Faded 5:43
4. Erotomania 6:45
5. Voices 9:53
6. The Silent Man 3:48
7. The Mirror 6:45
8. Lie 6:34
9. Lifting Shadows Off A Dream 6:05
10. Scarred 11:00
11. Space-Dye Vest 7:29
Total playing time: 74:56 min.