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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.30 | 1649 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

1 stars Dream Theater hit the ripe age of 18 since their first official release. Can they continue to make music of quality? Or for some, the question is, can they begin to make music of quality? After all, when Genesis was 18, they'd gone from genesis to revelation, in a matter of speaking. In fact, Genesis were only 9 when they lost Hackett and Gabriel and "sold out", and Van Der Graaf Generator were only 8 when they released their last studio album for almost 30 years. And Genesis is certainly a much more celebrated band (no offense at all to Dream Theater). So, looking at the facts, it would seem Dream Theater has run out of steam, or that they had a long time ago. But, alas, it is not so, and the music here is up to par with the last few releases. If you, like many, really did not like Octavarium, than you may not enjoy this, as it is similar is some respects (though, much more aggressive in nature). All I'm saying, and being completely objective in doing so, and without judging the music, the quality of the music has not faltered since the previous release, and neither have they remained entirely static in their evolution as a band.

It is vital to understand that Dream Theater's music is not black or white, and that the band is not every Progressive Metal fan's dream band. Even die-hard Dream Theater fans foam at the mouth with maddened fury when the topic of this album (and Octavarium, among others) are brought up, and even Progressive Metal die-hard fans proudly shun Dream Theater's music. With that being said, there are thousands of faithful Dream Theater fans who adore every release. So, as you could imagine, it is incredibly difficult to write an objective review, suitable for everyone, without showing some personal opinion on the music. And, strictly personally, I find this album simply "bland", not painfully shameful, not an epic masterpiece, (though it is significantly closer to being the former) but just bland. And now for a factual comment: the import of this album is not very large, and the band's sound has not developed massively with this release, and neither has the genre/sub genre. Why do thousands swarm to this album, then? Because of the personal reasons: because they find it good, just as I find it bland. Therefore, no reviewer can justly do what he is called to do in preparing the reader for what is to come through their speakers when they buy the album in question, or whether or not they should buy the album in question. So, understand that half of all (well written) reviews are all personal and opinionated information, which cannot be argued or denied - and that right there is undisputed fact.

So, pressing onward. The music of the album is excellent it terms of editing and production, though at times lacks in flavour, in spice, in energy, in freshness and in je ne sais quois. Though, since the Scenes from a Memory days they have shed most of their 80s Neo Prog influences, there are still the synthetic keyboard voices, the strong presence of keyboard and keyboard-related instruments (and I must say, Jordan is certainly one of the finest wizards of our age), and though much of the guitar work is reliant on Petrucci's incredible speed and virtuosity, it relies just as much on the melodies. The melodies which are extravagantly played to maximum emotional effect, and that have continued to be just as sincere and numerous as ever. LaBrie's screeching vocal style, always a signature of the band has been toned down a bit here, to deliver a much more soulful and smooth performance, duly noted by many fans. Lyrically, there is a very nice diversity: from the political protests of LaBrie in Prophets of War, to the following stages in Portnoy's Alcoholics Anonymous series, and the fantasy/metaphorical stories of Petrucci. It's quite a good variation between fictional, personal, and political topics, though clearly I listed them in importance on the album. Another example of variation on the album: the acoustic, eerie, atmosphere of Repentance with the crushing brutality of The Dark Eternal Night, with the pop-sensitive rocker Prophets of War (complemented by Queen-style vocals), and the quite epic musical storyline of the two part In the Presence of Enemies, one of Dream Theater's finer tracks to date - and that right there is indisputable opinion. Unfortunately, that isn't exactly much a big compliment in my books.

As for the special edition DVD, I find the documentary extremely entertaining, as well as enlightening. The production is good, though the effects throughout annoy beyond belief! For those of you that found that Porcupine Tree's Arriving Somewhere... DVD had annoying or distracting effects, than be cautious when you watch this one! But besides that, there are loads of laughs (really, there are), and some really interesting footage as well. Interviews reveal much about the subject matter and the conceptual work behind the music, along with footage of the band rockin' in out (not to mention some Portnoy screw-ups - always a laugh). One of the coolest aspects of the album is seeing the band (particularly Portnoy) come up with ideas on the fly (i.e. while they're recording a number), and record them instantly afterward. I'm thinking of the Queen-style vocal part in Prophets of War, when Portnoy says "Wait a minute...I got an idea, I heard something in there, lemme record it before I forget," and that recording (or a very similar one) is the one that made it on the final track. Unfortunately the street-light idea was kinda silly - nay, doinky - and I much prefer the original alum's cover. Though, since the special edition is little more than a few dollars more expensive, (and where I bought it, it was actually less expensive) it is well worth it.

So in the end, in comes down to whether or not you enjoy what Dream Theater have been doing lately. If you have never liked Dream Theater, then you will not like this. If you just don't like Octavarium, than you may or may not enjoy this. If you've been subject to he onslaught of goosebumps at the climax of Octavarium, and head banged away to Train of Thought, then this will get a clear five star in your books. For me, like I said, it's simply bland: nothing more, and probably a bit less.

Shakespeare | 1/5 |


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