So, according to my half-assed music library database I own more non-bootleg songs by Dream Theater than any other band. This makes sense; I was a huge fan for many years and the band has consistently released official studio, official live CDs and DVDs and an enormous catalog of “bonus” CDs and DVDs for over 25 years. This adds up to 45 full length CDs and DVDs in my collection which yields almost 70 hours of content. I could listen / watch Dream Theater for almost 3 straight days and not hear a single repeat.
While there have been blips in the road here and there in terms of quality…and the band peaked over 15 years ago, the total catalog is extremely impressive, with an overall rating of 75.
A couple house-keeping notes:
- All charts can be clicked to see a full-scale version
- I use a ratings system I’ve developed for my purposes. It’s not very complex but it does account for the difference between a really great 3-minute song and a really great 25-minute song. Read the link if you’re interested.
- You’ll also see something call “Prog Arch” or “Prog Arch Rating”. This is Progressive Archive’s rating for the same item; gives you a sense of how my rating compares to the masses. The site is user-generated and I’ve found it to be an excellent reference; the contributors are clearly big fans of music in general, progressive music in particular and, in aggregate, are a highly informed, conscientious source of music knowledge. Their ratings usually make sense to me and don’t suffer outrageously generous scores like those found on Amazon or the flattened scores (with nothing ranking too high or too low) found on Rate Your Music.
As seen, the band’s official studio output is substantial (over 15 hours) but it makes up less than a quarter of their entire catalog. This is because the band has consistently toured and released many, many live CDs and DVDs. In addition, there is a huge library of “bonus” material. Remarkably the majority of all this music is consistent, high quality with very little filler or duplication.
Any band that’s been around for 25+ years is likely to have some turnover; probably a lot of turnover. Dream Theater isn’t an exception but the band has been relatively stable. While there’s been a total of 9 members, the core four of John Petrucci on guitar, John Myung on bass, Mike Portnoy on drums and James LaBrie on vocals played together for 17 years, generating 10 studio albums. In fact, there’s only been one change since 1998: Portnoy, a founding member and the face of the band for many years, left in a messy dispute but the band had continued on, seemingly unaffected.
Unlike many long-lived bands, DT has never taken a sabbatical, never going more than 2 years between a full-length studio release, for a total of 13 albums spread over 24 years. That’s a consistent output and while there have been some not-so-stellar releases it’s hard to criticize the band’s catalog in its entirety.
Again, we see a familiar pattern: a series of extremely high quality releases early in the career. Since the band’s peak in the 90’s they’ve produced a lot of good music but nothing that has ranked higher than a 75.