Don't hear the Dream Theater at all, if anything some of it reminded me of the Mars Volta.
First listen through I was kinda 'meh', but I could tell it'd be a grower and now I'm totally hooked on it. The first time I was listening wanting it to be different, but you have to just listen to what's there and judge it by what it is. It's a great progressive rock album with an awesome concept and top-tier execution. The vocals take some getting used to but in general I like them, it suits the vibe. I didn't like the production at first either (the guitar tone namely), but that's exactly what they were going for and again it fits the spacey psychadelic vibe. This isn't in-your-face metal, this is a pretty nuanced album, with the goal being the general atmosphere that the record unfolds. The pacing is great, the songs are great, and the theme is awesome. They aren't phenomenal lyrics, but the lines you can make out are to the point and emotive.
The most bitchin parts are the Pink Floyd-esque solo in Oblivion (along with the verses, helluva chord progression), the heavy parts of The Czar (when that section is introduced with that delibrate heavy riff does anyone else think it sounds kinda like Savatage?
), the intro to Ghost of Karelia (love how they use that motif and variations on it throughout the album) and Crack The Skye (almost a Western feel), and of course the ending section of The Last Baron, ending the album with a perfect juxtaposition of straight-forward Thin Lizzy bouncing riff yet clearly with a somber/distant vibe. awesome.
The words "matured" and "refined" are usually total bullshit adjectives used to hide the fact that a band has lost its balls and/or creativity, but that describes Mastodon right now in the best sense of those words
. 4 excellent albums in a row is something that few bands at any level have achieved, and all with a distinct yet familiar feel that stamps it as their own sound.