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Dream Theater - Train Of Thought CD (album) cover

TRAIN OF THOUGHT

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.58 | 1393 ratings

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The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars There are only two Dream Theater albums still missing from my review list, so now let's share a few comments about one of the most polemical records in the band's catalogue: TRAIN OF THOUGHT.

When I first heard this album a few years ago, it was a huge dissapointment for me. To be honest, that feeling had a lot to do with what I was expecting from the band after two very important releases in their history. One, SCENES FROM A MEMORY, the best album ever in my book; and, two, 6 DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE, their worst LaBrie-sung album in my view. So, TOT had a lot to accomplish: it had to erase from my mind the bad taste left by atrocious track "The Glass Prison" and most all of the first cd of 6DOIT, and while I knew it was going to be difficult to top SFAM, of course I was hoping that maybe someday an album could do it. Suffice it to say, TOT not only didn't surpass SFAM, but, after my first listen, it even failed to restore the band's good name in my mind after their weakest record.

But what was the problem from a musical point of view? Well, it's easy to say: for me, the album was too heavyand, because of the focus in speed instead of in melodytoo NOISY. This was just the "showing-off" band many people accuse Dream Theater of being, not the fantastic prog-metal, innovative, melodic, intelligent outfit that they really are. The heavyness, but more than the heavyness, the speed really turned me off and away from the album, with such force that I didn't listen to it completely for another year or so (the first time that ever happened -nad has happened to me since - with a DT album.) .

Another problem was the almost complete dissapearance of an instrument I hold in high regard in Dream Theater: the keyboards. Jordan Rudess is all but gone from the final mix, and the songs themselves don't present him with much in the way of opportunities to shine. In a sense, one can say that, at times, this is the "keyboards-less" album of Dream Theater. That, together with the lack of melodic parts and solos, and the rather scarce sections where LaBrie has a chance to shine like he always does, scared me away from TOT.

But then I re-discovered TOT and understood that this was sort of a logical step in the band's career. It's obvious that they are huge Metallica fans, that they love a lot of thrash and power metal groups that rarely get mentioned in the prog-metal scene. So they wished to release a collection of songs with a stronger emphasis in that part of their musical hearts, and let the other part, the more "progressive" part, rest aside for a while. With consecutive listens I started to like a few of the songs and today I have almost no problems with digesting this album in its entirety, but there are still qualms that arise when TOT reaches my ears. Let's review the songs to further explain it.

As I Am (4/10), a rather vulgar, mundane, Metallica-ish song with almost no points of interest. Of course it's perfectly played and is enjoyable, but nothing exciting or too progressive. Overall, a weak opener. The chorus is boring, but the solo is he worst part, one of the most mediocre, boring solos in DT history (there haven't been many that were bad, so this is truly unique in a way). Arguably one of the bottom-three songs in DT's career for me. Awful.

This Dying Soul (6.5/10) The start of the song is incredibly heavy, so heavy that, were the guitars a little lower in tone, we could mistake this as death metal. The main riff is decent when the fellows put some melody into it, specially when they decide to let Rudess actually DO something. The song grows with time, but LaBrie singing with a machine, distorted, is not really my idea of exploiting his abilities. There's a section that truly sounds like Diabolus-In-Musica-era Slayer (??). Another one where LaBrie sounds like Mustaine from Megadeth (??!??) Halfway down the song, when Rudess' piano has a chance to SOUND, we feel like DT is back on track.Too long and metallic. Not the best. Not the worst. Except, I repeat, for the Mustaine-like part: that one is truly atrocious.

Endless Sacrifice (8/10), the begining is OK, finally leaving some room for LaBrie to do what he's best at: singing melody. A slow, mellow track that turns heavy in the chorus, which reminds me of Mullmuzzler. A brilliant instrumental section showcases the members' skills. But it is too long, and near the end it overstays its welcome, till a Maiden-like riff saves the song and rounds up the first good (though not great) piece in TOT.

Honor Thy Father (5.5/10), Portnoy goes crazy; the band goes crazy; we're hearing Machine Head, even Pantera, not Dream Theater. LaBrie with distorsion or screaming=undesirable. LaBrie with melody=the best. Sadly, DT chose to put the first, not the second formula to work in this song. At the middle of the track we have an awful noisy part that has nothing to do with what this group of musicians is capable of. It leads into an instrumental section that bears little resemblance to the truly magnificent instrumental sections in DT's archives. As with many songs in TOT, it's too long. And not really interesting. At times is just progressively-painted noise, whatever that may mean.

Vacant (7.5/10) It had to be the shortest, simplest song the one to remind me who is my favorite singer in the rock world. Just piano, some strings (??), and the best instrument of all: LaBrie's voice singing melodic lines. He sings so soulfully, one can feel when he grasps for breath, when he suffers, when he trembles. Nothing magnificent, but just for allowing LaBrie to sing, it gets a good grade.

Stream Of Consciousness (10/10) The preceding track merges into this one with no pause. Finally, at last, we can feel Dream Theater is coming back. And how! One of their best, if not THE best instrumental piece in all DT's output, a magnificent (this one is) display of abilities, musicianship, melodic skills, and everything that makes this band something special for me. Well, that was a deserved relief after all the nonsense. And the curious factor: DT manages to amaze the listener and to prove they're the best without having to "out-metal" anybody. That is, this is not as heavy a song as others, and it's MUCH better. Superb.

In The Name Of God (9.5/10) It seems the band decided to make their fans suffer in order to get some great music: they forced them (us) to endure more than 40 minutes of mediocrity to be able to finally get our Dream Theater back. This, along with the preceding track, are the best from the album and the ones that cry the letters DT aloud. The chorus is one of those that only DT can do, the instrumental part one of those that only DT can deliver. It's a shame I had to wait so long in order to been remembered of that fact. Not a perfect song but almost. There are still a few moments when the "metallic-factor" tries to strike back, but luckily, they are few and far between.

So, after one year, and after more than 10 listens, I can say that my final opinion of the album has changed, but not as much as I would've liked. Actually, I used to like the first three songs a little bit more, now I truly despise them. But what hasn't changed is the fact that the last two tracks are worth the price of admission. But besides them, the rest is, incredibly, just uninspired material.

Which is my least favorite DT album? It's really a toss-up between this one and 6DOIT. I'd say this one has better "short" (if 10 minutes qualifies as short) songs than 6DOIT, and this one doesn't have "The Glass Prison", which is enough to make it better. But then again, that earlier album had a magnificent title-track, 40+ minutes long, that saved that record from a 1-star rating and drove it to 3-star status. In this case, the last songs manage to do the same: turn a 1-star experience into a 3-star one.

But barely.

Recommended for: die-hard Dream theater fans; DT fans that liked the more metal side of their music; fans of thrash metal that like progressive metal.

Not recommended for: People that don't like metal; people that can't stand when a good band tries to "keep it fast and loud"... And, mostly, Jordan Rudess fans...

... if you listen to this album without knowing any better, you may think the other 4 fired him. He's as lost as Lindbergh's son in TRAIN OF THOUGHT.

The T | 3/5 |

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