On Jan. 29, 2016, Dream Theater will release The Astonishing, a two-LP rock opera set in the year 2285. Today, they released the first single, "The Gift of Music," which can be streamed above.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, guitarist John Petrucci explained why they decided to be so ambitious this time out. "The idea to do a concept album as a band felt right," he said. "The last one we did [1999's Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory] was about 15 years ago, and it really felt like we were in a good place to do this."

The story deals with Ravenskill Rebel Militia attempt to overthrow the Great Northern Empire of the Americas. Along the way we meet characters like Gabriel, Lord Nafaryus and Arhys. Petrucci said that he started it about two and a half years ago, and that it took a year to write, because of the complexity involved.

"I knew that what needed to happen, first and foremost, is that we had to have a story to base this on," he continued, "because the idea of basing an album off of a loose concept or something that was sort of arbitrary, that didn't interest me at all. I wanted this not only to be a concept album, but really to write a full show. And to have all the elements in place, the story needs to drive that. We needed to have the storyline, a plot, places, characters, maps — you name it."

But even though it takes place 270 years in the future, a secondary theme about the importance of music in society, was inspired by Petrucci's views on the increasing role technology plays in the creation of music these days.

"[W]hat would happen if music actually wasn't made by humans anymore?" he asks rhetorically. "If there were no need for humans to make it, because some sort of artificial intelligence made it, what would be missing in our souls as a society? And that is an underlying theme; there's kind of a juxtaposition throughout the album of this sort of noise music, this music made by the Noise Machines, this artificial intelligence, and how that compares to the music that Dream Theater is playing as our musical score, which has real piano, real organ, real orchestra, real choir, real instruments."

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