Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory

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Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
Cover art by Dave McKean
Studio album by Dream Theater
Released October 26, 1999 (1999-10-26)[1]
Recorded February–June 1999 at BearTracks Studios in Suffern, New York; June–July 1999 at Metalworks Studios in Mississauga
Genre Progressive metal, progressive rock
Length 77:06
Label Elektra
Producer Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci
Dream Theater chronology
Once in a LIVEtime
(1998)
Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
(1999)
Live Scenes from New York
(2001)
Singles from Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
  1. "Home (promo)"
    Released: October 11, 1999
  2. "Through Her Eyes"
    Released: May 30, 2000

Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory is the fifth studio album by American progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater, released on October 26, 1999 through Elektra Records. It was recorded at BearTracks Studios in New York, where the band had previously recorded their second studio album Images and Words (1992) and the EP A Change of Seasons (1995).

The album is the sequel to "Metropolis–Part I: The Miracle and the Sleeper", a song previously featured on the band's 1992 album Images and Words. It was also the first album to feature Jordan Rudess on keyboards, and the last for which John Myung wrote lyrics until A Dramatic Turn of Events (2011).

In the late July 2012, Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory was voted as the number one all-time progressive rock album in a poll conducted by Rolling Stone, beating Rush's 2112 and Close to the Edge by Yes, after posting a link to the poll on their website.[2]

History[edit]

Fans had previously requested the band to make the sequel to the first part of the song "Metropolis–Part I" from Images and Words, but they had not yet been able, nor had they originally intended one to be made. With the sessions for Falling Into Infinity (1997), the band recorded a 21-minute instrumental demo of Metropolis Pt. 2 (which was later released by Mike Portnoy via his Ytsejam Records site along with the other Falling Into Infinity demos), but this did not make it onto that album. The demo, which included several musical citations from "Metropolis–Part I" and featured many motifs that would later appear on Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (most notably the majority of "Overture 1928" and "Strange Deja Vu" and parts of "The Dance of Eternity" and "One Last Time"), was however significantly different from the finished album version in most part.

After participating with keyboardist Jordan Rudess in Liquid Tension Experiment, a supergroup composed of various members of famous progressive rock bands, Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci found themselves writing music and working together with Rudess quite easily. They convinced the rest of the band to offer Rudess the position of full-time keyboardist for the band's upcoming album. He accepted, and current keyboardist Derek Sherinian was fired from the band via a conference call between the four members in New York and him in Los Angeles (Portnoy and Petrucci have stated that while it was an uncomfortable and unattractive situation, they didn't want to ask Derek to fly out from L.A. to New York only to be fired).[3]

After his departure, the band went back to BearTracks Studios in Suffern, New York to record their new album, previously the site of recording for Images and Words (a photograph of Beartracks is featured on the album's back cover, meant to represent the house in the album). After the commercial failure of Falling Into Infinity, their record label gave the band free rein over their new album's direction, which led the band to finally finish the story. The final version of the story became a concept album, dealing with the story of a man named Nicholas and the discovery of his past life, which involves love, murder and infidelity as Victoria Page, and as such was heavily inspired by the 1991 film Dead Again,[4][5] more so than the original "Metropolis–Part I".

The album's recording was kept secret, to keep fans from meddling with the band's recording, and to surprise them. However, shortly before the album's release, the track list and release date were leaked onto the internet against the band's wishes.

Following the album's release, the band embarked on an extensive world tour, and at a show in New York City the band actually hired actors to perform the narrative elements of the album whilst they played. The performance was recorded and was released in 2001 as the Metropolis 2000 Live DVD. In 2011 the album was released on LP for the first time to celebrate Record Store Day.

Story[edit]

Characters[edit]

Present Time (1999)[edit]

  • Nicholas – "Metropolis"
  • The Hypnotherapist – "The Miracle"
  • The Old Man

Past (1928)[edit]

  • Victoria Page – "Metropolis/Love"
  • Edward Baynes – "The Miracle"
  • Julian Baynes – "The Sleeper"

Act I[edit]

Scene One[edit]

Regression

The album opens with Nicholas relaxing to the sounds of the Hypnotherapist's voice and entering a hypnotic state in the pursuit of regression therapy. A part of "The Spirit Carries On" and "Home" can be faintly heard in the background at one point. The track ends with Nicholas greeting a girl named Victoria.

Scene Two[edit]

I. Overture 1928

Nicholas is in a hypnotic trance and marveling at the surreal peace and comfort. As he settles into his trance, he begins to focus on the subject of his regression therapy, a girl named Victoria and a life that feels strangely similar to his own. In this song, there are many parts included from other songs from the album. At the beginning of "Overture 1928" (00:05–00:11) and at the guitar solo (01:35–01:51) there are riffs from "Metropolis–Part I". The intro riff is later used in "The Dance of Eternity". The chorus from "Home" appears at the second riff (1:35-01:51). The "Strange Deja Vu" chorus appears from 00:44 to 01:01 and from 02:08 to 02:25. The main theme from "One Last Time" is used from 02:26 to 02:42. A part from "The Dance of Eternity" is sampled from 02:45 to 03:08. This song is also possibly a slight nod towards The Who's 1969 album Tommy and Rush's 1976 album 2112, which both employ the idea of an instrumental overture describing an overarching experience of the whole work.

II. Strange Deja Vu

We hear a little more about previous dreams that have led Nicholas to his therapy, and also continue deeper in the current trance. We learn that every time he closes his eyes, he is taken to this very vivid, recurring dream of another (yet just out of reach of conscious understanding) life. We understand that it is what he's been dreaming previously that has led him to his regression therapy.

The dream is as follows: there is a pathway to a house. Inside the house and upstairs is a room where a girl appears in a mirror. All of this seems very familiar to him, but logically it should not. In this dream, probably because this is actually a hypnotic trance and not just a regular dream, some things seem clearer than ever before. He can see the face of a young girl and poses the question, "Young child, won't you tell me why I'm here?" He sees that she has something to share with him, that there is a reason she is leading him here, a story to be told, and this story is of something terrible that is "tearing at her soul".

Victoria now expresses her first hint at why she is haunting Nicholas. She has been searching for a way to reveal the truth about her murder. She also expresses great lament, "tears my heart into two". This along with the next line, "I'm not the one the Sleeper thought he knew", is her guilt that Julian Baynes never knew about her relationship with his brother, Senator Edward Baynes, which we learn about much later. She feels guilty for what she did to Julian.

Now Nicholas is out of his therapy and back in real life. Even though he is awake, the thoughts and events of this other life are beginning to permeate every second of his day, and this is the beginning of his obsession with resolving this whole thing. He desperately wants to know why this is happening and would cross over to this other world consciously if he knew how. Nothing in the current day matters to him, only learning more about his new obsession. It is here that he has his first inclination that he may have actually lived in the world of which he dreams. He knows that this dreamland holds the key to his peace, and he will not rest until he unlocks that door.

Scene Three[edit]

I. Through My Words

Nicholas realizes that he was Victoria in a past life. He now knows why he feels so drawn to her and her world as they share the same soul.

II. Fatal Tragedy

It starts with Nicholas "alone at night". He knows who Victoria is now, but not why she is so torn or how he is involved. Sometime later he goes to visit an older man, who the story makes a point to tell us is 'alone.' Whose house this is, and who the old man is, are things that are never made clear. The importance of the older man is that he knows of a murder that happened a long time ago and shares what he knows with Nicholas. We learn that a girl was murdered. Nicholas sits and listens to the older man's tale and finds that exactly what happened still remains a mystery.

Nicholas then realizes that until he unveils the truth about what happened to Victoria, he cannot live his current life. He is stuck in this obsession and cannot turn back. We learn then that Nicholas understands that without faith and hope, "there can be no peace of mind"; therefore, Nicholas encourages himself to be strong and have faith that he will find the truth, because without the truth he will never rest. This song ends with the Hypnotherapist speaking and taking Nicholas back to the night of the murder from Victoria's memories.

Scene Four[edit]

Beyond This Life

We learn the newspaper account of what happened in 1928. An anonymous witness heard a "horrifying sound", searched for the noise, and discovered a woman shot and lying on the ground next to a man holding a gun, supposed to be her murderer. The witness tried to help, but the man shot himself. The newspaper account talks of "a sad close to a broken love affair", indicating that others were aware of the relationship between the victim and reported murderer.

At this point the song shifts voice, indicating a change in narration away from the newspaper. It is explained that Victoria had recently broken up with her lover over his waywardness, though she could have forgiven him. Additionally, it is speculated that the reported murder was premeditated.

The narration returns to the newspaper article to inform us of a switchblade found on the scene, suggesting Victoria expected the encounter, in addition to a suicide letter with no indication of the suspect's intention to kill Victoria. The presentation of this new information is inconsistent with the rest of the article, which is explained by the later context that the article is a forgery of the truth.

In the Live at Budokan version, an 8-minute long instrumental jam section between the guitar and keyboard is inserted in the middle.

Scene Five[edit]

Through Her Eyes

Nicholas is awake again. He has learned that Victoria was brutally murdered in 1928. He feels compelled to visit Victoria's grave. He expresses the sorrow he feels for her, and how helpless and innocent she was. Not only that, but since he's learning about his life by looking through her eyes, he realizes that this happened to him also and the unfairness of it begins to nag him.

Upon reaching her grave, he is overcome with sadness. Even the words on her stone indicate that she was a sweet innocent girl who had her life brutally taken from her at a very young age. He is startled by how much her death feels like his own. He compares it to losing someone you love. He continues to let images of her wander through his mind as he just wallows in his sadness for a while. He thinks of how much more he's lived and again is stricken by the injustice of her young death. As the song ends, Nicholas begins to regain his composure and is comforted by the realization that by facing this tragedy and mourning the loss, he can now move on. This time of pain was necessary to accept his death in a previous life and fully comprehend why this other life has beckoned him.

Act II[edit]

Scene Six[edit]

Home

We hear Julian talk of his obsession with decadence and how he is only living a charade. Victoria (as we learned earlier) ultimately leaves him because of his addiction, considered by some to be a combination of cocaine and alcohol (possibly hinted at by the lyrics "lines take me higher") and gambling. Next we hear Edward, giving his account of Victoria crying on his shoulder over her breakup with Julian. He finds himself falling for her, and at first even feels guilt over deceiving his own brother. But his obsession for her becomes stronger than his guilt and he seduces her in her vulnerable state. He soon becomes violently possessive as well.

Lastly we hear from Nicholas again, back in present day, and awake. So far he only knows what the older man told him, and what he learned about the newspaper article in his last therapy session. He knows there must be more to the story and he is obsessed with solving this mystery. He yearns for regression and cannot wait for his next therapy session so that he can get back to solving the mystery.

There are several lyrical similarities between "Home" and "Metropolis–Part I", such as references to "the city's cold blood", a "lake of fire," and the line "I was told there's a new love that's born for each one that has died." Also, "Home" contains the lines, "Victoria watches and thoughtfully smiles/She's taken me to my home," while "Metropolis–Part I" features, "Metropolis watches and thoughtfully smiles/She's taken you to your home." Also, in the last several seconds of the song, the beginning of "Metropolis–Part I" is sampled. At 4:50 a guitar riff from "Metropolis–Part I" is heard.

Mid-way into the song, a woman's orgasmic moaning can be heard, alongside the sounds of a slot machine and a man encouraging the player to continue playing craps (from 07:45 to 08:40). This illustrates the affair between Edward and Victoria happening while Julian is indulging in his addictions.

Scene Seven[edit]

I. The Dance of Eternity
Main article: The Dance of Eternity
As the last line of "Metropolis–Part I" says, "Love is the Dance of Eternity". This can possibly represent when Victoria and Edward make love, the dance because of the movements and eternity as the endless memory of that moment. Or the theme of Spiritualist, that love is the path to happiness for all eternity (Spiritualist's vision). At the beginning of the song a backwards sample of the instrumental section of "Metropolis–Part I" can be heard, as well as a sample from the instrumental break at 4.30 to 4.36 transposed from B to C, with a 10% gradual increase in tempo. The song includes a keyboard riff used in "Metropolis–Part I".

II. One Last Time

This song begins with Nicholas going over it in his head. He is not convinced, from the evidence given so far, that the newspaper account is the truth. He also appears to have heard some rumors, most likely rumors of Victoria's affair with Edward. Did Victoria wound Edward's soul and bid him farewell? Then we see Victoria, in the past again, saying "One last time, we'll lay down today." This may be Nicholas hearing Victoria telling Edward goodbye, that this will be their last meeting.

Nicholas visits Edward's house, where Victoria and Edward had their affair. The house seems to hold many clues and he feels that he is finally shown some confirmation of what he's been thinking. Though he is now awake, as he enters the bedroom, he experiences a sort of revelation, almost as though he's slipped right out of consciousness. The cold returns, as he felt in his recurring dreams before, and he's suddenly outside and hears a woman screaming and a man pleading forgiveness. It is possible that Nicholas at this point suspects Edward and Victoria were having an affair. That is the suspicion to which the home holds many clues. In his current state of dual consciousness, he is seeing Victoria's memories of the fatal meeting, but he doesn't get enough info yet and the scene fades to black.

Scene Eight[edit]

The Spirit Carries On

Nicholas is awake again, and for the last time, under hypnosis and reiterating his belief that his soul will transcend, and that he need not fear death. He believes now that Edward was involved in the murder. He plans to expose the truth behind a crime that happened over 70 years ago. Victoria pipes up, in the present this time, and tells Nicholas that he should move on now, she has revealed the truth to him, but he should never forget her. At this point he basks in the peace that he feels as he has appeased Victoria's nagging and his own obsession. Nicholas now feels that the reason all of this happened, the ultimate message, is that death is not the end, but only a transition, as the Hypnotherapist has already pointed out.

Scene Nine[edit]

Finally Free

The last scene holds information Nicholas is not aware of, because the Hypnotherapist brings him out of his last hypnotic trance and we hear him get in his car and leave as the music takes a dark turn and thunder begins to roll in the background. What we learn is that Victoria and Julian meet by chance and decide to meet up later in secret so they can talk. Julian has discovered that his love for Victoria has allowed him to "break free" from his addictions. He is "no longer torn in two" and has chosen Victoria over his vices. She is obviously excited because Julian is the one she has always loved, and she's going to break it off with Edward. She is no longer torn between Edward and Julian, who she would rather have been with. But she knows Edward would "kill his brother if he only knew" of her affair with him.

They meet without anyone knowing, or so they think. Edward shows up and begins struggling with Julian, who drops a bottle of liquor out of his coat pocket and pulls out the knife. Edward shoots Julian. Victoria screams. Edward tells her "Open your eyes, Victoria," and shoots her also. Julian crawls over to her, collapses on top of her and utters his last lines ("One last time..."). Edward writes the suicide note, leaves it in Julian's pocket and then runs for help to play his part as the witness.

We then are transferred back to Nicholas. He's driving home and thinking about how he is free of the haunting that has plagued him. Also he has learned about his life, that it will carry on after death, through Victoria's presence in his life. Nicholas arrives home, begins listening to the news and pours himself a drink to relax. Soon another car pulls up. The Hypnotherapist enters the room and startles him by saying "open your eyes, Nicholas." The phonograph gets bumped as Nicholas is startled by the Hypnotherapist. Then we hear static noise, which fades to black. The album recording leaves things unclear as to what happens, but it's revealed on the live DVD that the Hypnotherapist, Edward's reincarnation, has killed Nicholas and has completed the cycle yet again. This could be further interpreted in relation to Victoria, whose goal might've been to forewarn Nicholas of a murderous cycle, rather than to ease his uncertainty about the afterlife.

The static from the phonograph marks the beginning of what fans have called a meta-album (also known as an album cycle) where the last note or noise of one album is the same or similar to the beginning of the next, The Dream Theater meta-album spans 4 albums, Scenes from a Memory, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Train of Thought and Octavarium. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence opens with the same static sound, and ends with a long orchestra chord. Train of Thought opens with the same orchestra chord, and ends with a piano note. Octavarium ends the meta-album by having the same piano note in the beginning and in the end (in fact the piano note is followed by the start of "The Root of All Evil", Octavarium's first song), with the last lyrics stating "This story ends where it began."

Influences[edit]

According to the "Making of Scenes From a Memory" video, some of the influences for Metropolis Pt.2 are the following concept albums: The Who's Tommy, Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Roger Waters' Amused To Death, Radiohead's OK Computer, The Beatles's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Marillion's Misplaced Childhood and Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Final Cut. These albums are shown on a table Mike calls "Inspiration Corner". [6]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[1]
Rock Hard (de) 10/10[7]

The album received critical acclaim, reaching #73 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, #2 on the Billboard Top Internet Albums, #6 on the Finnish Albums Chart and #8 on the German Albums Chart.[8] The album was ranked number 95 on the October 2006 issue of Guitar World magazine's list of The greatest 100 guitar albums of all time.[9] It is ranked as the 15th Greatest Concept Album (as of March, 2003) by Classic Rock Magazine.[10] The German Rock Hard magazine voted it Album of the Month, giving a perfect score,[7] and eventually ranked it number 410 in their book The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time in 2005.[11]

In 2012, the readers of RollingStone.com have voted the album into the #1 position of their "Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time" poll.[12]

Track listing[edit]

All music composed by Dream Theater, except where noted.

Act I
No. Title Lyrics Length
1. "Scene One: Regression" (music: Petrucci) John Petrucci 2:06
2. "Scene Two: I. Overture 1928"   (instrumental) 3:37
3. "Scene Two: II. Strange Deja Vu"   Mike Portnoy 5:12
4. "Scene Three: I. Through My Words" (music: Petrucci) Petrucci 1:02
5. "Scene Three: II. Fatal Tragedy"   John Myung 6:49
6. "Scene Four: Beyond This Life"   Petrucci 11:22
7. "Scene Five: Through Her Eyes"   Petrucci 5:29
Act II
No. Title Lyrics Length
8. "Scene Six: Home"   Portnoy 12:53
9. "Scene Seven: I. The Dance of Eternity"   (instrumental) 6:13
10. "Scene Seven: II. One Last Time"   James LaBrie 3:46
11. "Scene Eight: The Spirit Carries On"   Petrucci 6:38
12. "Scene Nine: Finally Free"   Portnoy 11:59
Total length:
77:06

Chart performance[edit]

Year Chart Position
1999 Billboard 200 73[13]
1999 Billboard Top Internet Albums 2[13]
1999 UK Albums Chart 131

Personnel[edit]

Dream Theater
Guests
  • Theresa Thomason – additional vocals (tracks 7, 11), additional background vocals (track 11)
  • Mary Canty, Shelia Slappy, Mary Smith, Jeanette Smith, Clarence Burke Jr., Carol Cyrus, Dale Scott – additional background vocals (track 11)
  • Terry Brown – voice of the Hypnotherapist (uncredited)
  • David Bottrill – voice of Edward (uncredited)
Production
  • Doug Oberkircher – sound engineering
  • Brian Quackenbush – assistant engineering
  • Michael Bates – assistant engineering
  • Terry Brown – vocals co-production
  • Kevin Shirleymixing engineering (tracks 2–8, 11)
  • Rory Romano – mixing engineering assistance (tracks 2–8, 11)
  • David Bottrill – mixing engineering (tracks 1, 9, 10, 12)
  • Shinobu Mitsuoka – mixing engineer assistance (tracks 1, 9, 10, 12)
  • George Marino – mastering engineering
  • Eugene Nastasi – mastering engineering assistance
  • Lili Picou – art direction and design
  • Dave McKeancover illustration
  • Ken Schles – still life photography
  • Andrew Lepley – house photography

References[edit]

External links[edit]