Founding members John Myung, Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci in 1986Dream Theater was formed in 1986 by guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Portnoy while studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Kevin Moore, a high school band-mate of Petrucci's, was recruited to play keyboards and Chris Collins was enlisted as vocalist.
The quintet settled on the name Majesty for their newly-formed group (a name inspired by Portnoy's description of the closing section of "Bastille Day" by Rush), and the three Berklee attendees dropped out to concentrate on the band.
In November 1986, after a few months of writing and performing together, Chris Collins left the band because of creative differences with the other members. After a year of trying to find a replacement, Charlie Dominici, who was far older and more experienced than anyone else in the band, successfully auditioned for the group. With the stability that Dominici's appointment brought to Majesty, they began playing more shows in and around the New York City area, and gained a considerable amount of exposure for a band that had not yet released an album.
Their first major recording project was The Majesty Demos, a collection of ideas and demos that were released in 1987. The initial run of 1,000 sold out within six months, and dubbed copies of the cassette spread like wildfire through the progressive metal scene all over the world.
Shortly after the release of the demos, they were forced to change their name when another band named Majesty threatened legal action. Various names were trialled until Portnoy's father suggested the name Dream Theater, which was subsequently settled upon.
They signed their first record contract, with Mechanic (a division of MCA), in 1988 and set out to record their debut album.
When Dream and Day Unite was released in 1989 to far less fanfare than was anticipated. Mechanic ended up breaking the majority of the financial promises they had made to the band prior to signing their contract, so they were restricted to playing around NYC. The promotional tour for the album consisted of just five concerts, all of which were in New York or Rhode Island.
After the fourth of these gigs, Dominici was fired because of personal and creative differences between him and the rest of the band. Shortly after, however, Marillion asked Dream Theater to open for them at a gig at the Ritz in New York, so Dominici was given the opportunity to perform one last time. It would be a further two years before Dream Theater had another full-time singer.
1991 - 1994
Following Dominici's firing, Dream Theater fought successfully to be released from their contract with Mechanic, and set about auditioning singers and writing material for their next album. In the time until they had secured a replacement vocalist, they wrote the majority of the music for what would become their second album, Images and Words.
In their search for a new singer they auditioned over 200 people, among them former Fates Warning frontman John Arch, but all were turned down for various reasons. In 1991 a tape arrived from Canadian singer James LaBrie, who was immediately flown to New York for a proper audition. After a short jam session he was hired as full-time singer.
For the next few months, the band resumed gigging, and worked on vocal parts for all the music that they had written to that point. ATCO Records (now EastWest) signed Dream Theater to a seven album contract on the strength of their reputation and a three song demo (later made available as "The ATCO Demos" through the Dream Theater fan club).
The cover of Dream Theater's Images and Words albumThe first album to be released under their new record contract was Images and Words in 1992. The song "Pull Me Under" gained a lot of radio airplay, and as a result the label commissioned a video clip for its promotion, which had high MTV rotation.
The success of "Pull Me Under", combined with relentless touring throughout the U.S. and Japan, caused Images and Words to achieve gold record certification in the States and platinum in Japan. A tour of Europe followed in 1993, which included a show at London's famed Marquee jazz club. That show was recorded and released as Live at the Marquee, Dream Theater's first official live album. Additionally, a video compilation of their Japanese concerts (mixed in with some documentary-style footage of the off-stage portion of the tour) was released as Images and Words: Live in Tokyo.
Keen to work on fresh material, Dream Theater retreated to the studio in May 1994. The 1994 sessions were the first in which Dream Theater as a whole wrote music together that was specifically for an album.
Awake, Dream Theater's third studio album, was released in October 1994 in a hail of controversy among established fans. Shortly before the album was mixed, Moore announced to the rest of the band that he wished to concentrate on his own musical interests and would be quitting Dream Theater. This rocked a band that had enjoyed just two years of stability after a tumultuous first half-decade, but Moore was no longer interested in the life of a touring musician nor the brand of progressive metal Dream Theater performed, so the two parties went their separate ways.
As a result of that news, the band had to scramble to find a replacement keyboardist instead of jumping head-first into touring mode.
Jordan Rudess, an up-and-coming keyboardist who was relatively unknown to that point, was invited to play a trial performance with Dream Theater in the hopes that he would join the band. The gig went well, but Rudess decided to join The Dixie Dregs as a touring member instead of Dream Theater, and Derek Sherinian was brought on as a hired-gun instead. By the conclusion of the Awake promotional tour, Sherinian was Dream Theater's full-time keyboardist.
1995 - 1998
After a petition from fans to EastWest Records, the group recorded their previously unreleased song "A Change of Seasons" and distributed it as an EP with a collection of live cover tracks. After a short run of small "one-off" concerts to promote the EP, Dream Theater entered the studio once more to write their next album.
In all, almost two CDs worth of material was written including a 20 minute long follow-up to the Images and Words song "Metropolis Part 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper". The label, however, did not allow the release of a double album because they felt that a 140-minute record would not be digestible by the general public, so half the songs had to be cut.
In addition to, and as a function of, pressuring the band into adopting a more mainstream sound, EastWest recruited writer/producer Desmond Child to work with Petrucci on re-writing the lyrics to his demo "You Or Me". The whole band substantially reworked the music to that song, and it appeared on the album as "You Not Me" in a form that was barely reminiscent of the original.
The material that made it onto the album proper was released as Falling Into Infinity, which received a mixed reception from traditional Dream Theater fans. Despite the album containing some very progressive-sounding songs, tracks like "Hollow Years" and "You Not Me" prompted some to believe it was the dawn of a new, mainstream-sounding Dream Theater, just as the release of Empire had previously heralded the same shift for Queensrÿche. The album was both a critical and commercial disappointment.
In recent years, the album has been rehabilitated to an extent, and interest was rekindled when Portnoy indicated that the unused songs - including more traditionally progressive cuts such as "Raise the Knife" - would be released through Portnoy's YtseJam Records.
During the European leg of the Falling Into Infinity world tour, two shows were recorded for a live album entitled Once In A LIVEtime, in France and The Netherlands. The album was released at around the same time as the video 5 Years in a LIVEtime, which chronicled the time from when Kevin Moore left the band right up to the Falling Into Infinity promotional tour.
In 1997, Magna Carta Records' Mike Varney invited Portnoy to assemble a progressive 'supergroup' to work on an album, which would become the first in a long string of side-projects for the members of Dream Theater. The lineup that was eventually settled on consisted of Portnoy on drums, Petrucci on guitar, Tony Levin of King Crimson on bass, and Jordan Rudess, who had finished with the Dixie Dregs by that time, on keyboards. The band assumed the name Liquid Tension Experiment, and would act as a medium through which Portnoy and Petrucci could once again court Rudess to join them in Dream Theater. They extended an invitation for him to join them in 1999, and he accepted the offer to become the third full-time Dream Theater keyboardist. Unfortunately for Sherinian, this meant that he was out of a job.
The cover of Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From A MemoryArmed with yet another new member, Dream Theater entered BearTracks Studio once again to write and record their next album. Perhaps as a response to the backlash over Falling Into Infinity, this time their record label gave the band complete freedom with their music. The follow-up to "Metropolis Part 1" off Images and Words, which was written during the Falling Into Infinity sessions (but not used on that album), was taken off the shelf as the first composition for them to work on.
They decided to expand the 20-minute song into a complete concept album, with the story revolving around themes such as reincarnation, murder and betrayal. To avoid stirring up the fan base, a tight veil of secrecy enveloped the writing and recording process. The only things fans knew prior to its release were a tracklist that had been leaked against the band's wishes, and a release date. They knew nothing of the title, the music, or even the fact that it would be a concept album.
In 1999, Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory was released to high critical acclaim. It was hailed as Dream Theater's masterpiece by many fans and critics alike, despite only reaching #73 on the charts.
A massive world tour followed, taking over a year to complete and visiting more countries than they had ever toured before.
For one extra special show, at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, actors were hired to play characters in the story, and a gospel choir was enlisted to perform in some sections of the show. One actor played the part of the hypnotherapist, and gospel singer Theresa Thomason sang the part of the female main character, Victoria.
This show, the last North American date of the tour, was recorded for the band's first DVD release. After many technical delays, Dream Theater fans finally got their hands on the DVD, entitled Metropolis 2000, in early 2001. Shortly after its release, the band announced that an audio version of the concert, with the entire four-hour long setlist (most of which had to be cut from the DVD to save space), would be released shortly thereafter.
The covers of Live at the Marquee and Live Scenes From New York, notice the silhouette of the World Trade Center within the flames on the rightThe cover for the CD version of the concert, titled Live Scenes From New York, showed one of Dream Theater's early logos (the Images And Words-era burning heart, modelled on the Sacred Heart) modified to show an apple (as in Big Apple) instead of the heart, and the New York skyline, including the twin towers of the World Trade Center, in the flame above it. In an unfortunate coincidence, the album was released on the same date as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. The album was immediately recalled, but many copies were snapped up by Dream Theater collectors as a very rare piece of Dream Theater's history. It was re-released with revised artwork a short time later.
Dream Theater once again entered BearTracks Studios to record their sixth studio album. Four years after they first petitioned EastWest to allow them to release a double album, they finally got their chance with Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The first disc consisted of five tracks of 5-13 minutes in length, and the second disc was devoted entirely to the 42-minute title track, which is to date the longest song Dream Theater have written.
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence ended up being received very well by critics and the press. It was the most publicized of Dream Theater's albums since Awake, debuting on the Billboard charts at #46 and the Billboard Internet charts at #1.
Throughout the next year and a half they toured the world once more, with an expanded live show including a select few special "album cover" gigs, in which they played Metallica's Master of Puppets and Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast in their entirety.
At the completion of their promotional tour and a short break, Dream Theater entered the studio to write and record what would become Train of Thought, their heaviest album to that point. The album was a critical success, but it had a polarizing effect, alienating a fair proportion of Dream Theater's fans who enjoyed the traditional progressive rock influence from bands such as Yes or King Crimson more than Dream Theater's modern muses like Tool and Metallica. Regardless, it expanded the band's fan base into new territory, that of mainstream heavy metal and nu-metal.
Their next move was to release another live CD/DVD combination, this time recorded at the famous Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on their Train of Thought world tour. Live at Budokan was released on 5 October 2004, and further propelled Dream Theater's reputation as one of the premier live acts in progressive metal.
Upon the completion of their Train of Thought promotional tour, Dream Theater entered the Hit Factory studios in NYC to record their eighth album. As it turned out, they would be the last group ever to record in that famous studio, and after they wrapped up their final session, the lights were turned off at the studio forever.
The new album, Octavarium, was released on 7 June 2005 and took the band's sound in yet another new direction. Among its 8 songs is a continuation of Portnoy's Alcoholics Anonymous suite (steps 6-7 in the 12-step plan), and an epic rivalling A Change of Seasons and covering several musical styles in its 24-minute running time. The album has caused much controversy among fans, some thinking that the band wore its influences too prominently on their sleeves, eg. Never Enough has been compared to Muse's Stockholm Syndrome, and the relatively radio-friendly I Walk Beside You to the trademark sound of U2 blended with Chicago's Peter Cetera. The album is the last under their seven album deal with Elektra Records. Their plans for the future are currently unknown, although it likely includes slapping together a few sophomoric rifts in a three week period -- the same amount of time the band states they spent writing "Train of Thought."