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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover

SYSTEMATIC CHAOS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.31 | 1752 ratings

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jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer
4 stars "Systematic Chaos" is the first record I have listened by Dream Theater. The first song (9 minutes, "In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1", divided in two movements, vote 7,5) begins with long digressions heavy metal and then, after about two and a half minutes, it let a glimpse of a beautiful melody, then a variation and finally, fortunately, the real song has beginning with the singing of LaBrie, whose voice has the merit not to be screamed, as often happens in heavy metal, but to seek the nuances even sweeter and more delicate. The potential of the melody of this song is immense, but is dispersed in the instrumental digressions, which take over the central melody. The song ends after almost a minute of fading. The much shorter "Forsaken" (5 and a half minutes, vote 8+), with a keyboard phrasing (Jordan Rudess) then doubled by the electric guitar riff, is excellent. Even in this case the melody is beautiful, but this time you can taste it properly, thanks to the fact that the song is more structured on the central theme, which reaches the climax in the refrain. With this great piece the DTs find the right balance between class song and easy-to-listen commercial song.

The third and fourth songs turn towards the more aggressive metal, with gothic / dark / death metal colors. The ringrous choruses of "Constant Motion"(7 minutes, vote 6.5) are not suited to LaBrie's voice, which loses much of its charm, and re-emerges in the melodic part of a song actually driven by the frenetic pace of Portony and Petrucci, engaged here in an instrumental tour de force. The following track ("The Dark Eternal Night", 9 minutes) exasperates even more the repetition of these infernal rhythms, and adds an instrumental progrock part with continuous changes of rhythm and phrasing to the guitar, and then return to the singing part, resulting in frankly excessive (vote 5,5). The impression, at this point of the record, is that the DTs express in 9 minutes what would be more effective to express in 4 minutes. The fifth song ("Repentance") is a relaxed ballad, the only one on the album, which continues until 4 and a half minutes with a mild rhythm ("Regret" movement) , then becomes epic with the guitar solo, followed by a Pink Floyd style choir and a long recitative ("Restitution" movement), which intends to focus on the lyrics (vote 7,5). The song is atmospheric, suggestive, lulling, but on the whole it is again extraordinarily verbose considering the musical material available.

The last three songs on the record are the best part of the album. The sixth ("Prophets of War", 6 minutes, vote 8+), returns to present a good melody sung in a wonderful way by LaBrie, seasoned with the power of the group, which emanates an enthralling (almost electronic) musi. But it is with the seventh song ("The Ministry of Lost Souls, vote 8,5), a tour de force of 15 minutes (practically the time of a suite, if it were not, on the contrary, a song strophe-refrain dilated to no end) that the group reaches the highest point of the LP . The melody is beautiful, LaBrie's singing is precise, without overdoing it, without being screamed, and the power of the melody combined with the huge technical rate of the musicians creates a song of great pathos that ... could end after 7-8 minutes and instead he climbs into a totally insignificant instrumental piece, an end in itself, which has the result of dilating it a lot, and then making LaBrie's singing come back to resume the initial, wonderful melody. Anyway, masterpiece. Thus we arrive at the final suite, a condensed album ("In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2"16 and a half minutes; divided in 4 movements, vote 8) that sums up all the merits and defects of this album. The merits are above all the beautiful epic melodies, played with rare precision and power; the defects are the aggressive, dark parts, and the instrumental digressions, which make the pieces longer than the duration reasonable , making it difficult to listen to what is musically very inspired.

Listening to this Lp, about ten years ago, I had the idea that Dream Theater were a group with enormous potential, a great talent for epic and powerful melodies and a great technical rate, but that tended to overdo it, looking strongly of lengthening the pieces with useless instrumental contortions, thus ruining a large part of their potential. I then went backwards, listening to their first records, which confirmed their potential, and shown what heights it can achieve when expressed in a more balanced way.

Medium quality of the songs: 7,5. Vote album: 8+. Rating: Four stars.

jamesbaldwin | 4/5 |

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