Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Debunking John Petrucci.


A long time ago, I was a guitar nerd, so one day I bought a CD (yeah, I'm talking about a time where people actually didn't mind buying CDs) called Guitar's practicing musicians vol. 3. There was a piece of music on it called "Bombay Vindaloo", by a band called Dream Theater.
I liked it very much, so I bought another CD, that one from Dream Theater, called "Live at the Marquee", which featured that track. It had other very good tracks, like "Another hand - The killing hand", the intro of which I immediately picked up by ear, or "Metropolis", the intro of which everyone loves, because it's just fucking awesome.

After that, I obviously bought other albums of Dream Theater, and became a big fan, waiting anxiously for their next release : "Awake".

"Awake" delivered everything a DT fan could dream of : great songs, great production, that album was really excellent. Oh yeah, the cover artwork was very good, too.
The only problem with Awake was that song, "Erotomania", because it became too big, for the wrong reasons.
"Erotomania" is an instrumental track which features 2 soli, the second one being a fast (160 bpm, if I remember well) scale broken into string-skipped-quintuplets-pattern.
As soon as the album was released, a transcription of that song was made available in an issue of Guitar World (that I bought, of course, it's the one about punk with a pink cover), and I have to say that I learnt "Erotomania" with the fingerings given in the magazine, that are different from the fingerings found in the song book later released and supervised by John Petrucci himself (but all of you probably don't give a fuck, since you're used to getting your tabs from the internet, right ?).
I bought that book too.

So that was the time when I was a big DT fan.

Then some disasters occured.

The first one, I wasn't aware of, but its consequences were the most terrible.
The second one was the release of "Falling into Infinity", which was the next DT album (I'm not counting "A change of Season" which was good, too) and sucked big time. It actually sucked so much you could see it by the cover : isn't that one of the shittiest album cover you've ever seen ? Especially for a progressive rock band ? I bought that album because I was a DT fan, but even then I thought that was probably one of the shittiest cover of my whole collection of records, and God knows the Varney team has skills when it comes to shitty covers. Like this one, for instance.

That's when I stopped listening to Dream Theater, something like 10 years ago.

Lately, a friend of mine lent me some DT stuff ("Octavarium" and such), telling me that they've become good again. I gave it a try and I have to say : it sucked big time, much more than before.
Of course, it sucked mostly because it was Dream Theater : had it been any other band, it could have been OK. But from the band that once released "Awake", you must be kidding.
It's the exact same shit they've been doing : the same passages of that "riding guitar", the same way of structuring songs, the same lyrics that make me want to butcher a nun...
No seriously, what's your problem, people ? Have you listened to DT lyrics, lately ? "Life is this, life is that" ? What's with all the preaching ? I already have a dad, thank you James Labrie, I don't need you to become my new daddy. As for what life is about, I think I figured it out already.

So while I wasn't looking, Dream Theater didn't evolve and kept doing the same thing. That's cool, because it means I didn't miss anything, right ? Well, there is something that evolved in Dream Theater, and it's John Petrucci's fear.

You remember that I talked about a first disaster that I wasn't aware of at the time. I haven't all the details, actually, but I'm judging by the effects of it and will try to go back in time. The following paragraph is purely fictional, yet probably close to what really happened :

John Petrucci loves his guitar (did I tell you that I bought his first JPM model as soon as it had been released ? Cheap hardware but great sound, really, especially with a clean tone), so it's no wonder he goes to guitar shops regularly to see what's new, try some new gear and all.
Since DT is touring because their latest album, "Awake" has just been released, he actually goes to guitar shops all around the world. Lucky guy !

John Petrucci likes the atmosphere of guitar shops, it's not only about the gear, it's also about signing his own new Ibanez model, giving some masterclass or watching young guitar players who try to impress everybody by playing some Satriani or Vai stuff. It reminds him of when he was a young padawan...
But not that year.

That year, every time John passes before a guitar shop, he can hear a young dude playing that "Erotomania" solo. No more Van Halen's "Eruption", no more "Satch boogie", no more "The Animal"... Now the kids are after him and they practice like madmen to get that fucking solo done !

John then feels something in his stomach, but it's not like the famous electric butterflies, much more like when you got bad grades and your parents are about to find out...

So John knows what he has to do : more practice. He won't let them catch up, and if they practice 8 hours a day, he will practice 16 hours a day ! And if they practice 10 hours a day, he will practice 20 !
Practice has become a terrible obsession for John, but each day has only 24 hours. John is so desperate he starts reading book about black magic - a pact with the devil may solve his problem -, but one day, he finds the solution ! It was there, before his eyes all the time, and he didn't realize !
What a fool he was ! It was so simple though : include practice into songs, so you can practice while playing your songs, while recording your songs, while playing live ! You can practice all the time !!

And that's how you got it : now, every John Petrucci's solo is a piece of shit thats sounds like a drill because it is a drill.
All those tasteful things he used to do, he won't do them any longer. All those melodies, those bends, those emotions he could throw into his soli like the ones of "Voices" or "Scarred", that's over.

John Petrucci experienced the worst thing that can happen to an artist : he became self-conscious.
He used to play what he wanted to play, but now he's just playing what people expect him to play. "Play faster, John !", "John, you're my God, you can play so fast and so clean !".
No one will say "Hey John, you know those littles notes you play during the second verse of "I walk beside you", that sounds tasteful and I really like it !".

He still has a great tone, a good sense of rhythm, of course, but his soli are crap. Machine-gun crap.

John, you've lost it (but I do like those notes you play during the second verse of "I walk beside you").

Oh yeah, by the way : I still like to listen to Mike's drums. That's the only thing I can find interest in when listening to Dream Theater. As for John Petrucci, though I dislike his mechanical playing, I still find his interviews enjoyable.