If you’re a fan of mysterious stories and great progressive rock/metal music, Dream Theater‘s fifth studio album « Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory » is a must-listen. Recorded and released in 1999, the album came as a sequel to their song « Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper » on the magnificent studio album « Images and Words ».
The album was voted #1 all-time progressive album in a poll done by Rolling Stone in July 2012. The main reason is that there is more to it than just the songs; This album tells a story… Get ready to go on a journey filled with excitement, love, deception, and treacherous murder.
Act 1 – A Regression Into the Past…
Scene 1: Year 2000 – Nicholas, the main character, starts it off in a past-life regression therapy session. The hypnotherapist relaxes him as he enters another state of mind and travels back through time, to meet a stranger girl called Victoria.
Scene 2: Year 1928 – Nicholas is now in a state of trance, he’s lost in the comfort and exoticness of this place.
Some parts in the beginning of the song can be heard on « Metropolis Pt. 1« , the song where Victoria‘s name already figured.
That place and that girl were recurring Déjà Vus for Nicholas, as he says that everytime he closes his eyes he dreams of being in this ghostly, haunting house. He walks into the house and sees Victoria fronting a mirror and wonders why he’s there, and what he has to do with her.
She then expresses her lament in the next verse, saying that something’s tearing her heart into two, and she needs to tell Nicholas about it. « I’m not the one The Sleeper thought he knew » is a reference to Julian Baynes, her husband, whom she had cheated on with his brother, Edward.
Nicholas is out of the trance and back into real life, but he’s still dazzled by this mystery and won’t find peace until he finds some explanations.
Scene 3: Nicholas thinks so much about Victoria and comes up with the only possible explanation; He was Victoria in a past life. They share the same thoughts, the same visions, the same eternity.
Maybe he knows he was Victoria a long time ago, but what her story was, what she was involved into, he never knew. Nicholas sets to find out, and asks an old man who knew what happened long ago in that house; A murder took place, Victoria was its victim.
But that’s still a mystery to Nicholas, he realised that until he solved it, he can’t live his current life, « there can be no peace of mind ».
The song ends to the voice of the Hypnotherapist taking Nicholas to the night « his » murder took place.
Scene 4: « Murder: Young girl killed. Desperate shooting at Echoe’s hill » this is what Nicholas read on the headline of a newspaper from 1928. An unknown witness heard gunshots and tried to help, but he found a woman shot and a dead man next to her holding a gun and a suicide note.
Victoria had a switchblade on her, meaning she expected something to happen, and the murderer’s suicide letter never mentionned his intention to kill or harm Victoria.
Scene 5: Nicholas goes back to real life again, so sad after learning that Victoria was brutally murdered, and grieves her death in her grave. He’s learning about his life through her memories, and the unfairness of her sort was too much for him to take.
He had to regain his composure and accept her death, to move on and try to understand how Victoria really died and why their lives are connected this much.
Act 2 – A Sad Close to a Broken Love Affair
Scene 6: Now it’s Julian‘s (The Sleeper) turn to tell us his side of the story. We learn about his addiction to gambling and drugs; « Lines, take me higher ». He’s begging for help, he wants to stop these bad habits and get Victoria’s love again.
His brother Edward (The Miracle) too narrates that Victoria is crying over his shoulders because of her breakup. « I remember I was told there’s a new love that’s born, for each one that has died » is a line heard on the first part of Metropolis. The Miracle is tempted by Victoria, and wants to make love to her, even if it takes deceiving his brother.
Midway through the song a woman moaning can be heard, along with the sound of a slot machine and a man encouraging a player to keep wagering. This depicts the affair between Victoria and Edward, while Julian is satistfying his gambling addiction.
Scene 7: The Dance of Eternity
This instrumental song is what made this album complete, technically and melodically. The song goes over 128 time signature changes, making it the most complex prog metal/rock song ever.
The last phrase in « Metropolis Pt. 1 » was « Love is the dance of eternity », this could represent when Victoria and Edward make love, a dance that they will remember forever… Or so they thought.
The next song begins with Nicholas going over the whole story in his head, it doesn’t make sense to him. From what he saw so far, the newspaper account can’t be the truth. Did Victoria wound Edward‘s soul and bid him farewell?
We then hear Victoria saying « One last time, we’ll lay down today », this will be her last time seeing Edward, and she wants to make it memorable.
Scene 8: Nicholas is now out of the trance, for the last time, reiterating that he shouldn’t fear death anymore, because no matter what, his spirit will carry on. Victoria shows up and tells Nicholas to move on with his life, she had revealed the truth to him, and now her story won’t plague him anymore.
Nicholas now feels that the reason all of this happened, is that death is not the end, but only a transition, as the Hypnotherapist has already pointed out.
Scene 9: Finally Free
This last song holds information that Nicholas isn’t aware of, because the hypnotherapist brings him out of the trance and he leaves in his car. As we hear thunder rolling in the background, things are about to take a dark turn.
Victoria and Julian run into each other and decide to meet up later in secret so they can talk. She is excited because Julian is the one she has always loved, she’s « no longer torn in two », and is going to break it off with Edward. But she knows Edward would « kill his brother if he only knew » of their affair.
They meet without anyone knowing, or so they thought. Edward shows up, and fights with Julian who brings out a switchblade. Edward shoots his brother. Victoria screams. Edward tells her « Open your eyes, Victoria » and shoots her dead. Julian crawls over to her and murmurs his last words « One last time, we’ll lay down today.. ».
Edwards writes the suicide note and leaves it in Julian’s pocket, and then runs for help to play his part as the « witness ».
As Nicholas arrives home and is comfortably listening to the news, another car pulls up. The Hypnotherapist enters the room and startes Nicholas with a « Open your eyes, Nicholas ». The phonograph gets bumped then we hear static noise, which fades to black. What happened remains unclear.
But on the live DVD of the album, it was revealed that, just like Nicholas is Victoria‘s reincarnation, The Hypnotherapist is Edward’s too. And he has killed Nicholas to complete the cycle yet again…
Overall, it’s only natural if this album would be voted #1 prog rock/metal album of all time. It combines perfect melodies, with an ideal storyline. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, because I personally did. I find its ultimate message of « Death is not the end, but only a transition » something really beautiful to believe in.