From Dream Theater’s acclaimed self-released series of covers albums, we have before us Master of Puppets. This was recorded in Barcelona back in 2002. Just as advertised, it’s Dream Theater doing the whole album live, in sequence, and pretty authentically too.
Dream Theater are a very different band from Metallica. This is bound to be interesting.
The most obvious difference is that Metallica have two guitar players, while Dream Theater has one and a keyboard player. On this, Jordan Rudess does aggressive keyboard solos where Kirk Hammett may have laid down one with his axe. He also plays the acoustic parts on keys. From time to time, you forget it’s a keyboard. In short, Rudess turns the prospect of Metallica with keyboards into a lesson on forgetting your assumptions about keyboards!
James LaBrie fits the silhouette of a young James Hetfield. He sings a convincing Metallica cover indeed! He cuts loose and goes for it. Metallica requires a gritty singer, going for it 110%. LaBrie handles it. For Dream Theater, doing these cover albums (from a wide variety of bands in fact) must be a lot of fun. They would have the chance to sing and play in a way that isn’t the usual for them. Guitarist John Petrucci does not often get to riff on something for five minutes straight like Metallica do.
Lars haters are naturally going to ask “What do Metallica songs sound like with a real drummer?” Hey, I’m no Lars hater. (He can play better than I can…) But in answer to that question I can only respond “fucking awesome”.
Dream Theater cover Master of Puppets without drawing attention to themselves. Mike Portnoy does not grandstand and overplay. Nobody does. If the effort was to do an authentic version of Puppets, as close to note for note as possible, then I say mission accomplished. Beat for beat, this is stunningly true to the original album. The keyboards are the most obvious deviation, and that’s minor. In anything, Dream Theater draw attention to the fact that these are great heavy metal songs. Are they Metallica’s best-ever set of songs? Some prefer Kill ‘Em All, some Ride the Lightning. Any way you slice it, Puppets is metal immortal, a very important record in anyone’s collection. Dream Theater painstakingly learned the album front to back so they could play it live for a few thousand people. They did that because it’s a great album on any day.
Dream Theater’s live covers albums (and many, many other releases) can be found on their own Ytse Jam Records website. Check out the multitude of stuff available (though some are out of print now) and try not to drain your bank accounts.