A Guide to Dream Theater

A guide to Dream Theater

This is a personal guide to Dream Theater. As such all thoughts are my own opinions and may vary from others. Hope this will help introduce in my opinion the most technically advanced band of the last few decades. They aren’t going to be for everyone and that’s okay!

Who is Dream Theater:

Depending on what album you listen to, Dream Theater is a 5 member band consisting of:

James Labrie- vocals 1991-current

John Petrucci- Guitar 1985- current

Jordan Rudess- Keyboardist 1999-current

John Myung- Bass 1985- current

Mike Portnoy- Drums 1985-2011

Mike Mangini- Drums 2011- current

(just to show the craziness of Mikes drum set)

What is Dream Theater:

Dream Theater is a progressive metal band that for most of their music is dedicated to advancing music by pushing the boundaries of what is possible. This may sound similar Miles Davis and John Coltrane with Kind of Blue and Giant Steps and how they changed jazz music to this day… Exactly!

Dream Theater may not be revolutionizing the whole rock/metal genre but in the prog world they are equivalents to these legendary musicians.

With having 3 of the most talented (again in my opinion) musicians for their instruments in the world John Petrucci on guitar, Mike Mangini on Drums (RIP Neal Peart) and John Myung on Bass and a knowledge of music theory to numb the brains of many a music professor. They have created some truly astounding pieces of music. One extreme example is “The Dance of Eternity” a 6 minute 14 second monster that has 5 key changes, 128 time signature changes over a total of 108 different time signatures.

Okay we get it; they do crazy stupid things with music anything else?

Yes! They create massive intricate pieces of music that is still pleasant to listen to, they have a huge variety of music that is sure to have something to appeal to everyone.

Getting Started:

So you want to find out if this is a band you could listen to or a genre you could even tolerate?

Let’s start with some Metal but not too progy or wild and crazy.

Images and Words - “Pull Me Under” (the song that launched their career)

Distance Over Time - “Unthethered Angel”


Train of thought - “As I Am”- This song has a very Metallica meets Black Sabbath feel to it that isn’t too proggy but just rocks! Also if you want to hear the BIGGEST guitar sound that I’m sure if amplified correctly will tear down a house listen to this… even if you aren’t into big Godzilla like guitar tones listen to the first minute of this as it’s something else.

So you made it through that and now want to liven it up a bit! Fantastic this is where Dream Theater really starts to get good!

Images and Words- “Metropolis Pt 1” ( The one DT song to test if you want to find out if you like the band itself )

Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence - “The Glass Prison” (A sad/ song when you think about it, about Mike Portnoy’s struggle with alcoholism)

Images and Words- “Take the Time”

Images and Words- “Under A Glass Moon”

Distance Over Time- “At Wits End”

Some of DT’s most crazy songs:

Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory- “The Dance of Eternity” 6 min 5 keys 128 time changes…

Octavarium- “Octavarium” a 24 min epic ballad of prog metal/ psychedelic rock

A Change of Seasons- “A change of Seasons” Think 2112 on steroids! This is DT’s best work and if you find you are into them or prog in general this is worth the listen.

Some other fun listens with DT:

DT does Master of Puppets album:

DT does Funeral for a Friend/ A Friend Lies Bleeding:

(Also found on the album a change of seasons)

DT does the whole Dark Side of the Moon Album live!


Not sure if you like Hard Rock/ Metal, try these!

Pull Me Under


Untethered Angel

As I Am

Want a little "What the hell was that?"

The Glass Prison

Metropolis pt 1 (single song you should try to see if you like DT)

At Wits End

Want Something you’ve never experienced unless you’ve listened to Dream Theater before?

A Change of Seasons

Hope some of you find this helpful with giving DT a try. If anyone else has more to add please do! DT has been around for 35 years now and has a huge catalogue, it was hard to do this in a short write up!


Listening to the mess of time signatures that is The Dance of Eternity right now. It really is all over the place haha. Sucker for good drums though.

Same kids that do a sweet cover of 46 & 2 do a cover of Pull Me Under. Pretty good too!

1 Like

Good to know I’ll have to check out those covers!
If you’re looking for drums try Metropilis pt: 1 and octavarium!

1 Like

Very interesting read ! Dream Theater is probably my favorite band of all time and I’ve seen them a total of 7 times in concert already. Actually made a tier list of the albums a couple weeks ago, if any of you are interested. I don’t think there’s a bad Dream Theater album per se, but here we go !

Would be glad to discuss more on the subject :slight_smile: !


My favorite songs are : A Nightmare to Remember, The Count of Tuscany, Pale Blue Dot, In The Presence of Enemies (Part 1 and 2), The Ministry of Lost Souls, This Dying Soul, Endless Sacrifice, In The Name of God, Home, The Dance of Eternity, Metropolis Part 1, Trial of Tears, Hell’s Kitchen & Lines in the Sand, Change of Seasons, Bridges in the Sky, Outcry, Breaking All Illusions.

Dang! That’s quite the list uh.

1 Like

I always find it interesting to see where other rank DT songs and albums because everyone looks for different things! I myself wouldn’t have put Distance over time as an S tier probably A, completely agree with metropolis part 2 being there (i’d add a change of seasons into the S tier… don’t see it on the list though).
I myself really like Octavarium but its pretty split between DT fans.

1 Like

The count of Tuscany and The Name of God are both amazing and I completely spaced putting them in my write up! There’s just too many!

For me song wise in no particular order:
The Glass Prison, A Change of Seasons, As I Am, In the Name of God, Enigma Machine, Three Days, At Wits End, Count of Tuscany, Metropolis pt 1, Presence of Enemies, The Dark Eternal Night, Peruvian Skies… I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting too, also being a guitarist I’m sure my opinion is skewed to songs that John goes a little crazy on.

Great to find another DT nut here!

1 Like

Oh yeah, definitely would’ve put Change of Season up there as well (it wasn’t in the available choices on the website I used). It’s probably in my top 5 songs.

Nice track choices btw! They’re all good! Being an aspiring drummer myself, I can totally understand your preferences!

1 Like

I’m jealous of you getting to see them 7 times! I’ve only gotten to see them once. Wanted to catch them with this last tour but missed them in CA by one day.

Great idea for a thread! My college roommate turned me onto them (and Rush, and Phil Collins, and progressive rock in general) and I had the pleasure of seeing them in concert once. Derek Sherinian was their keyboardist at the time, which I suppose gives away the fact that I’m no spring chicken anymore. Like with a lot of music, the first material I heard is my favorite, which in this case means Awake. I’d rank Images and Words highly as well, and totally agree that “A Change of Seasons” is epic (and thankfully something they played when I saw them live).


I never saw DT live, but did see John Petrucci as 1/3rd of the guitar stars on the G3 tour. He plays like a machine. Ultra precise with no wasted movement. I enjoyed his performance far more than Joe Satriani’s.


Yeah, that’s quite something ! I saw them with Iron Maiden a couple years ago, then I went to every concert I could in my area !


Some people are a bit “salty” when they see him live for the first time, because he does not move a lot and is very focused, but that’s to be expected for someone playing things as complicated as him in my opinion …


Would have been awesome to see them way back in the day though, and a change of seasons live would be incredible! Rush was actually my first concert, man that was a great show, its awe-inspiring what those 3 could do on their own!


Who was the other guitarist you saw for that G3 tour? Steve Vai? I havent been able to make the G3 shows either just due to other commitments but whenever the next one is ill make sure to be there.

@generic He has purposefully worked technique for years to eliminate waste and unnecessary movements etc. due to this he isn’t flashy in appearance but no one has the sheer speed he does. couple that with a good sense of melodic playing and he is one of my all time favorite guitarists :slight_smile:

Ugh… I was supposed to go to that show! we had tickets in Vancouver BC, but then had to go out of town for a wedding… not that I regret going to the wedding… but they are divorced and I could have been at that show :thinking:


G3 2018 - Phil Collen (Def Leppard), John Petrucci, and Joe Satriani.

I’m not complaining. Phil Collen delivered technical, expressive blues with his band Delta Deep. Petrucci delivered long and technical songs in a robot-like fashion (interesting contrast). Satriani made lots of open-mouth facial expressions and performed exaggerated technical riffs. Over and over and over. Then he pulled out the Stainless Steel Ear Piercer guitar! The tone was brighter than 1,000 Grado headphones at once! My ears didn’t enjoy.

I loved the first two, but not Satriani so much.


I’ve seen Satraini once as well and even though I do like some of his studio stuff “surfing with the alien” “the extremist” I didn’t really enjoy his live show as much as I would have hoped.
That guitar/ whatever amp/ eq etc he was running sounds horrible and whoever his sound engineer was for the show should have been fired for letting him play that live. That is so strange coming from someone who usually has a silky rolled off tone.

Phil Collen is extremely underrated as a guitarist, he gets the hair rock treatment for being part of Def Leppard but has for sure pushed himself to be one of the greats.

I hope they do another tour with Petrucci and Vai, I’d love to see them both together.

1 Like

Systematic Chaos is S tier. Sorry. It just is.