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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover

SYSTEMATIC CHAOS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.32 | 1332 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

JJLehto
Prog Reviewer
3 stars "Systematic Chaos" seems to be one of the least popular DT albums, and I understand why. It's more metal oriented, like "Train of Thought", which appears to be an automatic turn off to many fans. However, unlike "Train of Thought", this album is a bit commercial sounding, which of course is a turn of to fans of prog rock and metal in general. I'll admit, I used to be in that latter camp, but many years later I've re-listened and "Systematic Chaos" is a pretty decent album.

I feel a bit foolish taking the "accessible" pill, because it sometimes comes across like this is pop rock, which is quite obviously not true. There are certainly accessible, (or modern, as Portnoy tried to sugar coat) moments but this is actually a very heavy, technical album for DT.

Maybe it's a tad less progressive than standard DT, but it's still prog and really it becomes an issue of splitting hairs... So if you are one who gets caught on the "less progressive" thing, or demand your DT be more melodic in nature, well don't even bother with this one.

"In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1" is the first part of a 25 minute song that book ends the album. It starts off, awesome. Real awesome: a heavy, progressive intro, intense drumming, lots of bass and keyboard and a frantic climax. After your mind is blown it moves to a slower, melodic section. The first 5 minutes are a killer intro. The song then alternates between a heavy wall of chords and spidery riff. The bass is pretty prominent, finally!, and there's a good dose of keyboard. Maybe the wall of chords is "accessible" but damn, call me a metal head: I like it! At least in small doses like this. Song can get a bit stale, but it's real solid and a great opener. Lots of intensity and technicality.

"Forsaken" is sadly quite bland, and I really don't like it.

"Constant Motion" is back to riff based prof metal, and damn are there some great riffs. The song is packed with them, and some are quite groovy. A real progressive song, again loaded with great melodies, riffs and technicality. Again, the bass is nice and audible, which still floors me since you can never hear Myung. Good song, and the few accessible sections don't hang around too long.

"The Dark Eternal Night" now this one is a trip. Some major off tempo grooving and thrashing right off the start. Unfortunately they use those distorted "evil" sounding vocals at times which kind of bug me. Still, gotta love that groove. There's a lengthy middle section that is insane and all over the place, it's awesome. A tornado of music. This kicks into a flat out thrash metal part, and it's pretty intense. That's what I'm talking about...some DT that kicks your ass! This song rocks.

"Repentance" gives us a break, and a pretty nice one. The next part in the twelve step suite, this a pretty mellow, spacey song. Dare I say, Pink Floyd esque? Well why not? Portnoy said so, really it's a pretty accurate description. It's a nice song, real drifty, somber but not too bleak. Featured are several spoken word contributions from some big names, apologizing or repenting to people they have wronged.

"Prophets of War" is a straightforward and riffy, mid tempo song. It's not bad but kind of drags on. A not too aggressively anti Iraq war song, complete with fan group cries. Alright but a little boring.

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" is a long, slower and melodic song. Well, it starts that way, picks up a bit at times and really kicks into high gear in the middle. Then follows some DT w**kery with many guitar and key solos. A bit DT by the numbers, but it's not a bad song. The slower parts can be nice but also drag at times. Nice ending, overall not too shabby.

The album ends with "In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 2" because every prog band needs an album with Pink Floyd style book ends. It picks where the opener left off, and slowly builds to peaks and valleys, before reaching the shreddery. Another DT song that is fine, I'd say even good, but leaves me a bit cold. Can't knock it though, has everything you'd expect and is well done. I'm sure some will knock the cheese factor, but as usual I say just take that cheese and make a pizza with it. This is prog metal.

So after some listens, this turned out to be a pleasantly surprising album. Not spectacular, but pretty good. If you can get over the "accessible" and "more metal" hurdles you should find it a fine album. Heavy, (very heavy) technical, progressive and intense. It has all you want, and done very well, including lots of bass! "The Dark Eternal Night" is killer, as is "Repentance" just in a different way. Stand out tracks in my book.

Three and a Half Stars.

BUMP Three Stars

JJLehto | 3/5 |

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