Song: Dream Theater - Octavarium
Interval: Octave
Octavarium Lyric: Step after step, we try controlling our fate /
When we finally start living it's become too late

As the scale nears completion, the circle begins to near its end with Octavarium. Set in the key of F minor, it starts out one octave higher than The Root Of All Evil. Despite being one song, it's comprised of five different parts, all alluding to the Full Circle.

I. Someone Like Him
Jordan Rudess starts the song with a spacy continuum solo before we are introduced to the main, grand theme of Octavarium. Soon after, we begin to hear the tale of Him. Not satisfied with being a plain old John Doe, content to living in habits and repetition, He sets his aim on the stars, hoping to achieve something great. After much work and dedication, He seems to have achieved everything that he has wanted, perhaps even surpassed his dreams. He is independent, self sufficient, and enjoying all that he has made for himself. Unfortunately, there is this nagging feeling deep below; maybe in his quest for greatness, he has left behind something on the way. He is living the exact opposite of the life he swore not to take; now he wants nothing more than to complete the circle and work towards that other way of life; to be someone just like him.

II. Medicate (Awakening)
After 30 long years, a catatonic patient awakens to a doctor by their side. The doctor believes that he's found the cure for his condition, allowing them to have a second chance at life. Despite upping the dosage of medicine, the patient slowly begins to slip back into their deep slumber. Before doing so, they thank the doctor for trying and makes sure they realize there is no blame to be passed around. It's not often that we are able to get a second chance, but the doctor has tried their best to make that possible. The patient's voice begins to fade away, eyes closing, returning them to the peaceful state from which they came.

III. Full Circle
A flurry of words, phrases, and names begins to fly out, carefully linked together in a near seamless flow of references. Most of the phrases relate to the band or their influences. Fittingly, the idea of the Full Circle is really driven home here. Each phrase ending with the beginning of the next phrase, forming a strange form of enumeration. Although we don't realize it yet, this is a huge forshadowing to the lyric that appears later, "this story ends where it begins."

IV. Intervals
In the span of 1 minute and 23 seconds, this section draws together all the other songs on the album and unifies it to create the Full Circle. Each song, represented by an interval on the scale is summarized in two simple lyrical lines. To emphasize it, a small snippet of the song is played distantly in the background. Once they reach Octave, they actually reference Octavarium, from within Octavarium, creating a spiraling effect. Without missing a beat, we hear James screaming out, straining his voice, the desperation evident in his voice, "Trapped inside this Octavarium!" Fortunately, the last interval has given us the key to breaking through: "Step after step, we try controlling our fate. When we finally start living, it's become too late."

V. Razor's Edge
The idea of the Full Circle is rehashed again here. As we travel through our lives, we are moving in circles, balancing carefully as we do so as to not interrupt the flow of things. Should we fail to heed the warnings, we will forever do this, ending our story right where it begins. Not so subtly, John Petrucci begins a solo using the melody from the first part, "Someone Like Him," steering the song to end much like the way it began. The final nail in the coffin appears at the very end, a single low F on the piano plays, the very same note that began the album. We have now come full circle and are trapped inside the Octavarium.

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Whenever I get that dreadful feeling that my life is going nowhere, the first thing I turn to is Octavarium. Although it it does nothing to remedy the situation at hand, it gives me that tiny bit of reassurance that I'm not the only one who has felt trapped, and that as long as I continue to press on, I will find my way out. More importantly, it gives me some much needed time to distance myself from my thoughts and give them time to settle. Over the course of its 20+ minutes, the song progresses though five sections, each of them with their own distinct sound and feel, almost as if they were plucked from entirely different songs. But when taken as a whole, they bonds between them begin to strengthen and come together as the different parts of a long journey. As you progress through the different terrains, there are different messages to learn from the words around you. All of them valuable in their own right, but ultimately they share a common theme that builds the message of the entire album: the Full Circle. It's the idea that many events in life are cyclical, presenting themselves in many shapes and forms, but always bound to appear eventually. If we are to stand idly by, we will also be bound to make the same choices, good or bad, over and over, causing us to end up right where we started. To drive the point home, the very last note of the song is the lowest F on a standard piano; the exact same note that started the album. Much like so many times in life, we find ourselves having made a Full Circle, ending right where we began.

That isn't the end to our story though. It may seem we've come full circle, but appearances can be deceiving. While we see ourselves back in the same place, facing the same situation, it's easy to feel that we've gone nowhere. But having walked that full circle, we now carry a whole host of things we didn't have last time: experiences, motivation, inspiration, mistakes we've learned from. Each interval on the way has taught us something new, something we didn't realize before, or something we know how to avoid the next time around: How to overcome obstacles, how to find strength from within, how to break out of your walls, how to reach out to others, how to face your fears, how to focus on the positives, how to rise above tragedies, and how to live.

It's so easy to just get bogged down in our habits and routines, as well as our dreams and aspirations. Putting too much effort towards either side can make us blind to what is going on around us. We may end up wanting what we couldn't have or come face to face with fact that we don't always get a second chance. So in the end, we have to learn to break out of that circle, the Octavarium that traps us. We have to make that effort to steer ourselves in the right direction; walk forward with the experiences we learn from instead of hopelessly walking in circles. The sooner we stop trying to walk that balancing act of life, the sooner we can actually get out there and live for ourselves, before it's too late.


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