Octavarium is not only the eighth studio album from progressive heavy rockers Dream Theater, but it also marks 20 years of existence for this majestic outfit. "It's pretty incredible," says drummer Mike Portnoy, "Especially given the nature of what we do. I think maybe that's probably been the secret to our longevity, is that we've never fit in. But it's still incredible that here we are, 20 years later, and we're not one of those bands that's just sticking around on the downslide. We're still growing and progressing with each album and tour." Not only has the five-piece resolutely defied both popular trends and fickle public tastes throughout its career, but Dream Theater's sound and approach is more vibrant, powerful and wide-ranging than ever. Octavarium, produced by the longtime tandem of Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci, and mixed by Michael Brauer, encompasses the many varieties of heavy, epic, complex rock that has drawn legions of fans to the band's monumental catalog of releases and dynamic, marathon live shows.
That catalog extends back to 1989, when Dream Theater released its debut album, When Dream And Day Unite. The group has formed several years earlier, in September of 1985, when Berklee School of Music students Portnoy, John Myung and John Petrucci decided to start a band together. Originally known as Majesty, the fledgling act recruited keyboardist Kevin Moore and singer Chris Collins into the fold. Collins eventually left, replaced by Charlie Dominici, while another band forced them to drop the Majesty moniker in favor of Dream Theater, named after a demolished California cinema. Many more albums followed, including 1994's Awake, 1997's Falling Into Infinity and 1999's Scenes From A Memory. At the same time, Kevin Moore gave way to first Derek Sherinian, then Jordan Rudess. Personnel changes, label turnover, and the ill-timed release of 2001's Live Scenes From New York -- which arrived on September 11th, 2001, with cover art featuring a New York skyline against a backdrop of flames -- roiled the group but never truly deflected it from its musical path. "The biggest reason we've been able to endure that is our devoted fan base," says Mike Portnoy. "Our fans are as big a part of the story as we or our music is. They're the reason that we're able to keep a major label deal and go and play sheds and large theatres and stuff like that without mainstream exposure. It's due to this incredible fan base that stands by us through thick and thin from year to year."
And now that fan base is about to be rewarded once again with the June 7th release of Octavarium. The last album to ever be recorded at New York's legendary Hit Factory before it closed its doors for good in March of 2005, this record is sure to please every single diehard Dream Theater fan out there, and will continue to draw new ones to the band's skillful medley of heavy metallic power, delicate melodicism, and brilliant, literally award-winning musicianship. "There's always gonna be an audience for musicians and artists and people who actually want to create something that's valid and unique," concludes Portnoy. "The rock stardom thing and being on MTV and selling millions of records and being part of a trend has never been interesting to us. We're just five musicians that like to play and write together, and luckily there's this devoted audience that's been behind us all this time."