Mandatory Metal: 5 Essential Dream Theater Songs

Dream Theater, 2019

Heavy music is full of legendary bands boasting deep catalogs stacked with iconic songs — sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, or what to consider their best. With that in mind, we present the “Mandatory Metal” lists, which collect what we consider to be the definitive tracks from various members of the metallurgic pantheon. Up today, Dream Theater, those classically trained progressive metal veterans with their head-spinning epic compositions and mind-bending conceptual albums. The band has a deep catalog stacked with fan favorites, but in our opinion, these five classic cuts are their most essential. If you disagree, sound off on The Pit Facebook page.

“PULL ME UNDER”
Album: IMAGES AND WORDS

In 1992, prog was so exceedingly out of fashion that Dream Theater’s wholehearted embrace seemed, well, almost punk. That this earned some MTV play was icing on the cake.
Sample lyric: “Pull me under/I’m not afraid/All that I feel is honor and spite/All I can do is set it right.”

“METROPOLIS (PART 1): The Miracle and the Sleeper”
Album: IMAGES AND WORDS

In which guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and drummer Mike Portnoy show off every lick they learned at the Berklee School of Music. Set your jaw to “Drop.”
Sample lyric: “Before the leaves have fallen/Before we lock the doors/There must be the third and last dance.”

“THE MIRROR”
Album: AWAKE

Its wounded romanticism would be laughable if the music weren’t so majestic, as singer James LaBrie effortlessly overcomes the cheese factor.
Sample lyric: “It’s time you made your amends/Look in the mirror, my friend/Let’s stare the problem right in the eye.”

“A CHANGE OF SEASONS”
Album: A CHANGE OF SEASONS

Clocking in at 23 minutes, this mini magnum opus is everything a prog fan could want and much, much more. Brevity is the sole of wit my ass.
Sample lyric: “We can learn from the past/But those days are gone/We can hope to the future/But there might not be one.”

“ENDLESS SACRIFICE”
Album: “Train of Thought”

Taking a sudden left turn at Metallica, DT up the crunch without simplifying the riffage. Searing guitar, ornate keyboard fills, and stunningly precise drum-and-bass interplay make this as complicated as classical music—but much more fun.
Sample lyric: “Your light/Shines on my soul/While a thousand candles/Burn.”