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The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s: #14, Dream Theater

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The ’90s: they were the bomb! That’s why MetalSucks will spend the month of March giving snaps to the decade that was all that and a bag of chips by counting down The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s. These aren’t bands that necessarily formed in the ’90s, nor are they bands that would turn out to be influential somewhere down the road; these are bands that a) were doing their best work in the ’90s, and b) amassed a devout following during the ’90s. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for extreme music. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for yo mama.

Of all the bands to appear on this list so far, none are more singular than Dream Theater. The geographical isolation of their native Long Island is fitting: they’ve existed completely on their own fucking island for their entire. damn. career.

Dream Theater got a taste of mainstream “success” when an abridged version of their eight-plus minute epic “Pull Me Under” got a few daytime spins on MTV, all the push the band would ever need to be vaulted into the hearts and minds of prog nerds everywhere. That this happened in 1992, the year when longhair metal with pointy guitars died a fiery, brutal, definitive death, is all the more fitting and completely telling of their rise: no one else was doing anything even remotely close, making them the sole safe heaven for metal fans of all ages obsessed with musicianship who wanted something more modern and aggressive than Rush. In the decade in which playing your instrument well was frowned upon, Dream Theater were the only place those of us interested in the art of musicianship could go. Seven years and several releases later we got Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory, a book-end on the decade that would go down as one of the greatest conceptual works ever written.

Despite lacking the support of MTV, radio and big label money — all “must haves” for success at the time — Dream Theater have been wildly successful. For going on 30 years now they’ve been filling theaters the world over and releasing albums every few years like clockwork. They’ve never suffered through a dip in popularity and they never went through a creative drought; their music is completely trend-proof (we’ll give Mike Portnoy’s late ’90s embrace of the piccolo snare a pass — everyone was doing it). Through it all they’ve displayed a remarkable ability to refresh their fanbase constantly; at any Dream Theater show you’re as likely to see a 15-year old who thinks The Astonishing is mind-blowing as you are a gray-haired hesher who believes Charlie Dominici is the only true DT singer.

In case Dream Theater’s direct influence on progressive metal isn’t obvious, here are just a few bands who wouldn’t be nearly as popular as they are (or might never have existed) had Dream Theater not paved the way: Between the Buried and Me, Periphery, Opeth, Animals as Leaders, Protest the Hero, TesseracT, Nevermore, Intronaut, Mastodon… I could go on. Sure, some of those choices are controversial, but I’m not wrong; don’t fight me.

We all owe Dream Theater a massive gratitude of debt. Today’s metal scene would be completely unrecognizable to us had they never existed.

THE LIST SO FAR
#25: Morbid Angel
#24: Melvins

#23: Meshuggah
#22: Emperor

#21: Cave In
#20: Botch
#19: Cradle of Filth
#18: Sepultura
#17: Napalm Death

#16: Rage Against the Machine
#15: Type O Negative

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