Dream TheaterIt just keeps getting better for Roadrunner Records. I honestly don’t know how these guys did it. Maybe give credit to head A&R man Monte Connor — in the last 6 or 7 years Roadrunner Records has turned around from a running joke into an industry-controlling powerhouse of a record label. It’s an undeniable fact; there is no one better at selling metal records than Roadrunner. It’s almost become a science; make record, target the market, move 100,000 to 200,000 units seemingly automatically. That’s why it comes as a surprise to no one that Roadrunner recently announced their latest signing, prog-metal titans Dream Theater, with a new disc entitled Systematic Chaos due in June of this year.

The marriage of Dream Theater and Roadrunner just makes perfect sense all around. In Dream Theater you have a band that just finished a whopping SEVEN album deal with Warner Bros. that it probably never belonged in in the first place. After a brief radio/MTV push for “Pull Me Under” from 1992’s Images and Words, the first of the seven albums with the Warner Music Group, someone at the label smartly released that spending cash to market this band to the mainstream was a silly venture; they were going to sell a certain amount of records no matter what, with minimal investment. And from then on, that’s exactly what happened. Surviving label downsizing that jettisoned the band from the Warner label to Elektra and finally to Atlantic, Dream Theater remarkably made it through not only intact but healthier than ever.

The fact that Dream Theater survived a seven album deal with a major and continues to play to sold out theaters and sheds to fans of all ages speaks to the accomplishment and relevancy of this band, despite the fact that many consider 22-minute songs with 10 minute instrumental passages and unbelievable musicianship to be “inaccessible.” You will see as many zit-faced 16 year-old high schoolers as you will 45 year-old mullets in biker jackets at a Dream Theater concert. Given, the one demographic Dream Theater has not quite yet found a way to reach is that 50% of the population possessing boobs; Dream Theater shows are veritable sausage-fests.

Nevertheless, I expect that Roadrunner will do a great job marketing this band and expanding their core fan base, something that the Warner Music Group hadn’t spent a dime on since 1992. What’s so amazing is that the band was able to continually refresh its fan base completely on its own. Did you ever see pieces in Rolling Stone / Spin / Revolver / AP / national and local newspapers / ANYWHERE about Dream Theater leading up to an album release? Nope. Guess what kids, it costs good money to pay a publicist to get this kind of coverage, and guess who pays? The record label. Ever see any banner ads on metal sites, review sites, or Blabbermouth.net? Nope. Guess what, those cost money too. Where WEA was content to sit back and watch the soundscan numbers tick up, I fully expect that Roadrunner will run a real campaign for Dream Theater.

Musically, it’s also a good match. Roadrunner knows Dream Theater are perfectly capable musicians and producers, so don’t expect them to meddle much in the making of the actual music. There will be very little A&Ring in the record making process; Dream Theater wouldn’t have it any other way. Personally, I’m hoping either for a return to 2003’s uber-heavy Train of Thought or to 1999’s epic opus Scenes From A Memory (and, by extension, 2002’s Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence). Perhaps a combination of these styles would hit the spot. I would just hope that Portnoy, Petrucci and co. stay away from the poppier mediocrity of 2005’s Octavarium and 1997’s Falling Into Infinity, neither of which were bad but just didn’t do much for me.

Dream Theater should have been on Roadrunner all along. Congrats to both sides on this one. Can’t wait for the new disc.


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