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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover

SYSTEMATIC CHAOS

Dream Theater

Progressive Metal


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5 stars I loved Octavarium, although it seemed endless people hated the album for sounding too much like other bands, and not enough like the classic style Dream Theater. I awaited the new album wanting some change, but I knew I'd be satisfied no matter what since Dream Theater has been my favorite band for the past 7 years. With that said, Systematic Chaos will turn the heads of the fans that disliked Octavarium and felt abandoned by the band.

In The presence of Enemies Part 1 opened with a near 5 minute instrumental opening of which sounds like Vintage Images and Words - A Change of Seasons style Dream Theater with endless feelings of Pink Floyd, the song overall is an amazing opening and leads into Forsaken perfectly.

Forsaken is the albums pop song, and not in a wuss way like some of the ballad songs off of the past few albums. I would call it the albums "Another Day" or the albums "Innocence Faded" - It is an incredibly well written and catchy piece of music that is sure to stick in your head for days on end.

Constant Motion is a song that brought a little bit of controversy when it was released as the single - The vocals do indeed sound alot like James Hetfield of Metallica, but a whole this doesn't remain as a boring inspiration of Metallica like As I Am was, this song has some amazing passages and vocal melodies.

The Dark Eternal night has one of the catchiest main riffs which just grooves and grooves. The vocals in the verses are like nothing DT has ever done, completely distorted. I love the little bass harmonics you can hear during the verses. The chorus is solid and memorable although the best part of the song is the insane instrumental part in the middle which reminds one of the crazy instrumental passages on "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a memory". Extremely unique track.

Repentance is the next part of the AA saga of which started with "The Glass Prison", continued with "This Dying Soul", and the last installment was on Octavarium entitled "The Root of All Evil". The bass line is taken directly from The Root Of All Evil, and flows extremely well in this style of song format. The song is near 11 minutes of pure depressing progressive goodness. Features clips of famous people apologizing for their addictions and mistakes in life. The song overall has a feeling similar to Opeth's "Damnation" album. Bleak, with extremely trippy usage of delays and echoes. An amazing track I did not expect from Dream Theater. Some Porcupine Tree inspiration for sure!

Perhaps the most unique song is next, Prophets of War has tons of dance oriented music influenced. Once it kicks in full swing the vocal parts are beyond memorable and done in such an interesting fashion, that I just had to say "Wow, thats so sick!". Think of "Disco Queen" by Pain of Salvation, except done in a far better and more memorable way. Extremely catchy melodies and an emotional lyrical and musical build up.

The Ministry of Lost Souls clocks in at 3 seconds under 15 minutes. This song is another slower ballady style song, with some really well written lyrics. The song pulls upon many inspirations seen in the album already, some obvious Neo-Pink Floyd style parts, and another Porcupine Tree vibe flow through-out. This song is a classic Dream Theater building epic similar to the epics from SFAM and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence in this regard. Amazing instrumental passages toward the end and overall amazing song. Also, the opening keyboard riff / theme is very interesting and unique! Go Rudess!! Amazing guitar solo in the near end of the song re-assures me (as the whole album has) that Petrucci can still write memorable and amazing guitar solos like from the Awake era. The song then goes straight into piano and labrie, which is extremely beautiful as the song builds back up into the chorus. "Don't turn your back paradise!!" James emotionally sings before the final guitar solo.

We arrive at the 8th and final track, the second part of the monster epic of which started the album off. "In The Presence of Enemies Part: 2" pulls that amazing riff from The Ministry of Lost Souls a few times throughout aswell, which gives automatic cool points. The song starts slow and builds up, the vocal melody at the intro is VERY interesting as it seems to change keys and notes in a way that makes it stand out, the first time I spun the song I was unsure about the intro as it seemed odd and a bit out of place, but it has grown on me as I realize how cool and interesting it sounds! The song builds up so some excellent riffage and lyrically it is very fantasy based, struggles with a dark master and all that good stuff. Before you think "Is Dream Theater turning into Dragonforce?" think again as this is still very much dream theater. I'd say it sounds like what Iced Earth and Dream Theaters children would produce. At this point in the songs build up, they're is some "Low" demonic style back up vocals which remind me of something used in Iced Earth's "Dante's Inferno". "Dark Master my guide, I will die for you. Dark Master Inside, Dark Master of Men". This song once again recaptures the Neo-Pink Floyd kind of feel while giving it some darker and metal boosts from the first part of the song. At around the 6 minute mark the song draws from the Metallica style metal inspiration seen on "Constant Motion", this also reminds me of "The Glass Prison". It remains extremely unique with some excellent ambient style keyboarding reminiscent of Fates Warning's works like "Disconnected". The songs final minutes are filled with some of Dream Theaters best instrumental work and can only be described as pure insanity. A perfect way to close the album, and I must say that "In The Presence of Enemies" parts 1 and 2 combine to create perhaps one of the Best Dream Theater epic's and perhaps one of the best Progressive Epics in the history of Progressive music.

This is an important album, not just for Dream Theater or for Progressive Metal - but for the music industry as a whole. Progressive music has been steadily growing in popularity of the past 2-3 years especially. This is an amazing thing especially because the music industry and media does not ever promote or highlight Progressive Music on TV or radio. Dream Theater along with Fates Warning pioneered the genre of Progressive Metal, and it is about time they are given the Credit they worked so hard for over the years to receive. This album I believe will be a mile-stone in the history of Progressive Metal, and the question is where the music will go from here!

On a production note, this album is produced by the same man behind the boards as Rush's "Moving Pictures..." album. I Felt Train of Thought was a bit too muddy in production, and that Octavarium had a mixed kind of Production, kind of muddy and not as clear (although I found it had a unique production, I can't say that it was my favorite portion of the album.) for people that agree with me on these things, rejoice as this is seriously the BEST production I have ever heard on a Progressive Rock or Metal disc. It's crystal clear and you can feel the breath between each instrument and different song parts. A pleasure upon my ears for sure!

Dream Theater has returned with an imaginative and epic album, with a scope I couldn't have expected. The album endlessly feels so important and perfect, epic and emotional. Although it never feels like it is overly ambitious or heartless in the way that "Train of Thought" did, just displaying instrumental talent rather than the important of each song and the album as a whole. The fan consensus after "Octavarium" was that Rudess finally felt like he fit the band perfectly with his keyboard playing, well let me re-assure everyone that this is the release where he shines the most along with the band. In "Octavarium" I felt Rudess had the biggest presence of the album, while on this disc he is equal in parts with every other band member. With this said, his playing also couldn't sound better! Amazing solos and melodies, with some unique sound effects and synth patches that Dream Theater has never used before (mellotron!!). This is Dream Theater's "Return To Form", for a band that I believe never left form. - Thats saying alot, and I should re-assure fans of Dream Theater and Progressive music in general that this album is a masterpiece.

Report this review (#121494)
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Octavarium was an album that caused extreme controversy among many fans. And I'm sure Systematic Chaos will be also a heated and debated topic, but most of these discussions will all turn to the bright side and many people will notice the brilliance of the album DT put this time. If Octavarium was a surprise, this my friends, is a shocking and brilliant surprise.

I heard previously both Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night, and ever since then I was sure we were in for a threat. Constat Motion contained some aggressive Metallica- esque vocals from JLB with keyboards backing the dynamic melody, and The Dark Eternal Night contained some of DT's heaviest riffing and drumming ever. But for my surprise, these 2 tracks didn't prove to be a worthy representation of the album. These 2 songs are great, but they are far from the best pieces of music found in this album. Let me ellaborate.

The album opens with the first part of the face-melting new DT epic, "In the Presence of Enemies", it starts with some classic DT instrumental work, well-crafted and well-paced. We are shown glimpses of the beautiful melodies that will be found in the song later on. After the 5-minute mark, James LaBrie makes his appereance with some focused and awesome singing. His voice is completely healed and it's shown here. From this point, the song starts to build up in a way only DT can tell with their instruments. The lyrics are very dark and LaBrie's vocal delivery adds to the mood of the song. After a great build up and some complex DT instrumental passages the song ends with just wind blowing, the same way In The Presence of Enemies Pt.2 begins, but for now the wind just fades out, and leaves us some chance to enjoy the other tracks on the album.

"Forsaken" is a pleasant surprise, it begins with some great piano work from Jordan, and later on it starts to build up to become a powerful pop metal assault. James LaBrie's delivery here is awesome as well, the chorus is the best part on the song, the guitar solo is well placed and well timed, and the lyrics really fit the general atmosphere of the song. After 5 minutes, we will listen to a familiar guitar riff.

"Constant Motion" caused some controversy between fans when it was released by Roadrunner Records for a free download. It reminded everyone of "As I Am", but this my friends, is indeed quite a tribute to old Metallica, but delivered in classic DT style. The guitar riff is heavy, the drums are fast and furious and JLB delivers the verses with some James Hetfield influence. The chorus is great, and it reminded me of "Awake" in some ways, for example, the patch Jordan Rudess uses in the background of the chorus, great stuff. The instrumental section at the middle is DT at it's most classical representation, with a memorable guitar solo from Mr. John Petrucci. 3 for 3, we move on to another previously listened track.

"The Dark Eternal Night" is arguably one of DT's heaviest songs ever. As Portnoy said, this album will contain "skull-crushing riffs", and I'm sure that this my friends, is what he was talking about. The verses are unlike anything DT's done, but I'm glad, as one of the things that got me so deep into DT is the ability to experiment with various sounds, and do it well. The chorus is quite catchy, and the instrumental passages in the middle remind me a lot of "The Dance of Eternity" from Scenes from a Memory. There's even a rag-time piano section! The song ends with some great continuum work from Jordan and heavy riffing in the background. As I said earlier, this is far from the best songs on the album, but it's a great song on it's own.

We move on to another great surprise "Repentance" the 4th delivery in the AA saga. The song opens with an extremely familiar bass line (Yes This Dying Soul, I'm looking at you), and it even quotes the first lines of the lyrics of the previously mentioned song (Yes, This Dying Soul, you cannot avoid your destiny MWHAHAHAHA) but afterwards, it carries on with a haunting piano driven piece, very Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree-esque. LaBrie's delivery is perfect, and after a few minutes we get to listen to a lot of spoken passages by many people, including Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree. the song ends with a haunting chorus from Jordan leading the rest of the band into a spine-tingling finale with a spoken passage. Worthy addition to the saga, and truly a chance to breathe fresh air when the full suite is performed live.

Immideately, we get to listen a familiar synth/piano line from the gift video from Mike Portnoy, only that this time with vocals. "Prophets of War" may be the "Never Enough" of Systematic Chaos, in terms it is kind of Muse influenced. But fear not my friends, this track is awesome, far better than Never Enough. The riff is catchy, and the chorus chord progression is well-crafted. The chants work perfectly in the heavier sections of the song. The verses has some"Disco Queen" from Pain of Salvation influence. The song is well written, and it seems lyrics tell us something too, as the topic is the war from Iraq the world is living today.

Then we move on to the last 2 tracks of the CD, and arguably, some of the best music Dream Theater has ever done. "The Ministry of Lost Souls" opens with a simple, yet awesome string melody driven by Jordan. Then it begins to develop as a piano/guitar driven ballad with beautiful lyrics, one of Petrucci's best efforts in the last years. "Remember me, I gave you life" chorus is truly gorgeous, but you might say "A 15 minutes ballad? Boring..." Fear not friends, after some minutes the song takes classic Dream Theater direction, great solos by Jordan and John, followed by a "out of this world" keyboard-guitar unison and later on the reprise of the beginning theme. The song takes a much more epic and melodic atmosphere, and ends truly grand. A memorable guitar solo by John Petrucci at the end, with some tasteful Jordan string and piano playing in the background. This song is destined to be a Dream Theater, as it reminded me of the Images and Words days.

It's time for the grand finale, we get to hear a familiar wind blowing sequence. It's time to complete the face-melting epic that began a few tracks ago. After some haunting instrumental work, LaBrie enters scene with some memorable vocal lines, until the song takes a dark path into the creeping chorus "Dark Master inside..." that makes my skin chill to no end. The song starts to build-up, the lyrics become darker and darker, until we get another classic Dream Theater instrumental passage. Later on the main ITPOE theme is reprised, and the song achieves it's maximum glory, by closing in a grand and epic way, just like "Octavarium" the song. This song is also destined to become a top 10 Dream Theater song, and a departing point for the new progressive rock and metal in future generations to come.

This was a pleasant CD my friends, it shows Dream Theater, after 21 years is still on form, they can still make memorable music and surprise us. I had an enormous smile after listening to all of the songs contained in here, and I'm sure most of you will be just the same.

Report this review (#121796)
Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I can't believe I'm saying this, but this might very well be the best Album Dream Theater has ever done. It's epic in every way, and nothing short of epic, in the same way SFAM was, even though this album is vastly different. It's a technical masterpiece, the most technically advanced album I've ever heard, bar none!!!!!!! 1. In The Presense of Enemies part 1: 10/10 Wawawiwa this is good stuff 2: Forsaken: 9/10 Much better ballad than "Answer Lies Within" 3: Constant Motion: 9/10 Typical DT single, very enjoyable 4: Dark Eternal Night: 10/10 Heavy stuff, sick instrumental, like "Dance of Eternity" on Steroids 5: Repentance: 9/10 Damn, now I wanna cry, poor Mike Portnoy 6: Prophets of War: 10/10 Awesome Anthem Song, simply awesome 7: Ministry of Lost Souls: 10/10 Just listen, just listen, just listen!!!!! 8: In The Presense of Enemies part 2: 10/10 The most gratifying ending track to any DT album ever. Your ears will bleed, your heart will sink, your soul will wither, and you'll still be wanting more, and than you'll go back to track #1, and listen to the album again and again and again and again, trust me, u will. Just trust me.

I really don't want to elaborate too much, because its extremely hard to put into words the greatness of this album. 2007, we may be hearing the greatest prog album of all time, and I defy anyone to disagree with me once they hear this album. Scenes From a Memory, MOVE OVER!!!!!!!!!!

Report this review (#121815)
Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars It took me 3 or 4 listens to fully aprecciate this wonderful piece of music, but that is the case with almost every Dream Theater album and most progressive rock albums in general. But now I'm absolutely convinced - this is the best DT album since "Scenes from a Memory". If you thought that these guys cannot surprise us anymore, you were wrong. After uberheavy "Train of Thought" and gentle, almost poppy at times "Octavarium" the band have perfectly balanced both styles and produced an exceptional album. It stars with a typical Dream Theater intro, full of instrumental pyrotechnics, but soon you'll realise that this albums is not only about showing off, like ToT was. "In The Presence of Enemies pt.1" is 9 minutes long but not a single note is out of place and unnesecarry. "Forsaken" is a great pop-metal song that could even be a radio hit if given airplay. "Constant Motion", the first single off the album has some Metallica feel, with vocals similar to those from "This Dying Soul" (The "Blackened"-like part) or "Glass Prison". Portnoy wrote this song and he also sings couple of lines here, this is probably his most significant vocal appearance so far in DT music. "The Dark Eternal Night" is the heaviest song on the album and something that scared me, when I first heard it, because of its growling almost death-metal vocals. But apart from that, the song contains some crazy instrumental passages, similar to those from "The Dance of Eternity" and is far from being a dumb death-metal song. "Repentance" is a bit of a surprise. When I saw that it is a continuation of the famous AA saga, I expected another furious-metal song like "Glass Prison" but this is a ballad. It seemed a bit annyoing and repetitive when I've first heard it, but it has grown on me after couple of listens. Nontheless, cloking at 11 minutes, it can get a bit boring. It could have been 2 or 3 minutes shorter. "Prophets of War" is another surprising tune, something that they've never done before. I would call it trance-metal kind of song. So a dance beat covered by bass and drums, but it has great riffing and nice melody. Needs a couple of listens for full aprecciation. "The Ministry of Lost Souls" is another great song, starting as a simple but lovely ballad, before some great instrumental passage, where all band members have time to show their skills. The song's transition to "In The Presence of Enemies, pt.2" is similar to that from "Wish You Were Here" and the transition between the title track and "Shine On.. pt.2". So we have a windy sound, before a bassline appears (another PF influence, "Careful with that Axe..." or "Goodbye Cruel World" perhaps?). The song is very dark in tone, and has many twist and turns, a great ending to a great album! Generally, one of the best pieces of music I've heard recently and album of the year so far. Who knows, maybe even the album of the 21st century so far?
Report this review (#121897)
Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars So, here they go! New material indeed is an outstanding example of band's qualities. I won't review all songs here - these are up to you to explore. Let's look upon the album from another perspective though - we all know how DT perform/create and how successfull they are -> reviewing technical side of this album is not necessary - it is perfect (as usual).

The main topic of this review is "Where did they moved this time?" Answer - "somewhere else!... ...again!" Atmosphere is much darker, but it is still DT! I allways wonder how can they manage to do this without loosing their quality mark. Inspiration for this piece was taken from Pink Floyd (again), Queen, Metallica and many other exquisite artists. There is also a little "nu-metal-radio-pop" discursion in a form of "Forsaken", which is made in a "Evanescence" style (don't worry - performance is still a DT standard!).

Now, let's look over their own influence - yep, it is correct - this album is influenced a lot by their former pieces - and I would say, that by almost all of them - this piece is a great review of all of their scenes, dreams and visions. You'll find all those things you loved before - amazing allegoric solos, that took their place in SfaM, hard riffs so typical for ToT, astonishing song structures (6DOIT, I&W) and exceptional harmonies that brought so many of you to start listening to this group (almost every album - Octavarium in particular). Oh, and of course - incredible 25 miuntes long epic (divided though).

What is new? OK - dark atmosphere and some heavy vocal effects are the main differences. LaBrie's voice is beautiful as always and Rudess/Petrucci's experimenting with new kinds of approach are ON again! (imo - musical experimenting was kept asleep on Octavarium) Portnoy rocks as allways. I have just one request - more space for Myung, please!!

All in all - it is another great album from one of the best bands ever. Even in their own standards it is a masterpiece. But don't expect something unbelievable - you, who don't like DT, won't possibly start love them because of this piece (then I don't know why are you even reading this), but for all of you who love them, for you, that understand the formula "Prog Metal = Dream Theater" - Systematic Chaos is A MUST! -->> 5/5 - I can't give any less...

Report this review (#121906)
Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I am trying hard to get into this album but I am having a difficult time. Obviously, these guys are brilliant and their musical expertise is the best in the buisiness. However, I am almost emabarrased for Dream Theater when I hear the chorus in - In The Presence of Enemies Pts. 1 &2 - to me it's just not the Gods that I always worshipped - it sounds very cheesy and juvenile. Also, what were they thinking when they made Prophets of War? It sounds like Abba, or even worse, Lindsey Lohan! The Dark Eternal Night sounds like something my 17 year old nephew would play in his garage band.

Don't get me wrong, parts of this album like Repentance are exceptional (what a great song!) but most of it sounds mediocre if not bad.

I love Dream Theater, they have been my favorite band for over the past 10 years but I think they should have waited and "gelled" a little while longer and came up with better music.

The intro of In the Presence of Enemies Part 1 is excellent! Many of Petrucci's solos on this cd are breathtaking. Unfortunately the "cheesy" parts of this album kill it. Yes I said "cheesy" - a label not usually given to these Gods of Prog.

Speaking of "cheesy" - this label is usually given to one of Dream Theater's rivals, Symphony X. But, I must say, their new album "Paradise Lost" is AWESOME!!! - Now this is a CD to enjoy.

I never thought I'd say it, but I will - Dream Theater you've been blown away by Symphony X on this one.

Report this review (#122150)
Posted Monday, May 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hmmm, so. This album gives me very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I appreciate that this was overall a better effort than the last record, with quite a few classic DT moments. On the other hand, some songs took a direction which I cannot describe in any other way except mainstream. I'll review each song individually:

1. In The Presence of Enemies Part1: The song starts with a classic DT run to a classic DT riff. The intro of this song is one of the best DT turned out lately. The lead break at circa 2:10 is nothing but mesmerizing. This might not be one of the usual proggy, technical solos of old Dream Theater, but I find that giving the listener a slow guitar melody to latch onto is a very effective songwriting tool. The changes are fluid and neither too sudden nor too predictable. The delivery of the vocal lines is classic. The fast guitar/synth solos towards the end are perfect, blending in beautifully. Overall a solid song, very good, but perhaps not exceptional. [8+]

2. Forsaken: This is quite a balladish song. It has a mixture of quiet moments and heavy guitar riffs. I find some of the stop metal riffs with dubbed synth lines to be quite cliched, as are some of the vocal lines. The change at ~3:20 is welcome, along with the solo, which sounds quite fresh. Overall the song is not so dynamic, with several repetitions, and quite some cheesy synth. [7]

3. Constant Motion: Here starts the trouble. I didn't like the song from the beginning. The first riff lacks any kind of dynamics, and sounds too heavy metal for a prog band. This, along with the Metallica singing put me off almost completely. I cannot understand why Dream Theater are still trying the idea from Train of Thought, which obviously did not work out. As I said, the vocals are a huge turn off in this song, along with the backing and the occasional distortion. The muted riff at ~ 3:50 is too cliched to have a place in a prog album, although the solo right after does give back some dignity. A cheap song which is not up to par with others as regards songwriting. [5+]

4. The Dark Eternal Night: The heavy intro is quite memorable, along with the distortion as soon as the drums kick in. I dislike the sound and delivery of the distorted vocals. 3:40 gives us one of the classic heavy DT riffs, and goes into a medley of sorts, the kind that we always associate with Dream Theater. It is very welcome, perfect delivery. This is where Dream Theater shine. The changing guitar tones are also very interesting. The 'medley' goes into a not-so-much-inspired riff with fast drumming. You can hear the pumping on the compressor, which is good or bad, depending on your outlook. The slow paced riffing which starts at about 7:35 sounds very welcome to my ears, albeit a bit repetitive. During the outro you can hear hihats coming from the right which sound out of place, at least to me. Anyway, overall a good song marred with the bad vocals in the beginning and some uninspired riffing. [7]

5. Repentance: The song starts with a part from Train of Thought's This Dying Soul. I found this shocking on the first listen, thought that it was a bit too much, but this has since then grown on me, especially considering the spacey effects used and the way it perfectly blends in the new part afterwards. The singing is beautiful, the key and mood depressing. The song will start to feel a bit repetitive until it changes at 4:39, with a perfect solo, a slow melody which the average listener can relate to. Then comes the "sorry" bit. You can hear some of the great contemporary stars, such as Mikael Akerfeldt and Steve Wilson, mention an event in life for which they feel sorry. Interesting. After that is the 'aaaaah'ing and 'ohhh'ing chorus part, which sounds unusual coming from a band like DT, though not in the negative sense. Nice song, could have been a bit shorter, but very good and fresh material. [8]

6. Prophets of War: This is the other mistake. Again, this struck me negatively as soon as it started. The riff that starts at ~1:15 is too cliched. Then you get the stadium vocal shouts, which were a huge turn off. Some of the clean vocals by LaBrie are ok, even nice, but there definitely were no memorable parts anywhere. [6]

7. The Ministry of Lost Souls: Here comes the highlight of the album. The song starts with one of the dark haunting guitar and synth lines that never cease to amaze, and goes on into a guitar arpeggio reminiscent of older Dream Theater. Beautiful composition, never feels repetitive. Beautiful vocals and backing. A mesmerizing change at 3:22, with another haunting lead that causes the hair on your neck to stand. Right when you start wondering where all the proginess has gone, you get another confirmation that the band's members have not lost their abilities to create unpredictable music. This happens around the middle part, followed by a syncopated riff reminiscent of some of Opeth's works. The synth solos are also great and well played, as always. This goes into the the haunting guitar line played in the beginning, followed by soft singing. Unfortunately James sings a note off here, which bugs me everytime I listen to it, though its a one-off thing. The ending is nothing short of brilliant, similar in style to Finally Free's drum madness at the end. Overall, a great song, worth every listen. [8+]

8. In The Presence of Enemies Part 2: Starts slowly. Maybe a bit too slow. The tune at around 2:28, which is repeated throughout the album, sounds a bit strange, tending towards the power metal genre, which fits the lyrics perfectly. Some of the riffs here are uninspired. On the whole I disliked the first half of the song, especially the overly grandiose power metal setting and vocals. There are more of those stadium shouts here too. This all changes at the 9 minute mark, with a beautiful riff transitioning into another extended instrumental prog moment. Then comes a fast solo in the old Petrucci style, and a synth solo which is no less amazing. After the three minutes of technical doodling comes a slow melody. Great moody vocals. There is no power metal here, except at the end, where we get the same melody from earlier on. I would have given this song an 8+ except for the first half. [7]

A good album, representing a good effort by the band, with some pitfalls every now and then. OVERALL, 7+.

Report this review (#122155)
Posted Monday, May 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars First off let me state, I was never that thrilled about Train of Thought or Octavarium; however, they are still great albums and contain very epic and brilliant songs.

The production and mixing on this album blew me away.. i honestly feel that this is their best sounding CD to date (sonically).

Now that those two points are aside lets move on to the actual review:

In the Presence of Enemies PT 1: What a great opener.... the first 5 minutes are what makes me love this band, pure instrumental chaos...... even though a riff sounds a bit like a riff from "Sacrificed Sons" in the beginning.... From the vocal melody to the bass line, this song really kicks ARSE and when conjoined with PT 2 it really can stand up to "A Change of Seasons" or "Octavarium". I can say I was blown away the first time I heard this song, just because everything about it though not entirely new or different was so refreshing to my ears. Hard to explain I guess.

Forsaken: I love the piano line into the typical alternative metal gutiar riff..... James sounds amazing... perhaps the lyrics in the chorus are cheesey.. however great vocal melodies and huge chorus followed by a really beautifully phrased guitar solo... overall solid track from Dream theater, just nothing especially special...

Constant Motion: By now, everyone and their mother has heard this track... besides the obvious "hetfield" inspired vocals and metallica esque parts this song again was refreshing to hear, atleast to me. You can really hear the bass punch through on this track... The second verse has a great groove and feel, the chorus while isnt their best, is different and listenable.... the instrumental part is where this song really shines.. great groove between the drums and bass, followed by a really well written guitar solo, compared to the likes of "Lie" or even "under a glass moon". I kind of like this keyboard solo, except for the odd middle section.... doesn't make sense in this song... decent track, nothing special... not a good representation of dream theater as a single... people may get the wrong idea about they're about..

The Dark Eternal Night: A lot of bass drumming from Mike Portnoy, heavy 7-string riffing, Very Phil Collins sounding chorus, long instrumental break, a la heavier dance of eternity or something, followed by a super wank fest by JP, outro is like misunderstood, unnecessary... good track at best

Repetance: Very eerie, dark, spacey sounding song, with the Riff from this dying soul's verse serving as the main musical Motif throughout... I like the lyrics, chorus is good, middle section is long with a lot of voices (repenting??), followed by OOOOs and AAAh's and a thick ass bass tone, i like it... great track

The Prophets of War: WELL, this track will probably be flamed by a lot of dream theater fans. I personally like it. Maybe it is muse influenced?? I don't listen to them so I wouldn't know... but the song instantly connected with me... with the shouts in the chorus, to the mellow, acoustic strumming breakdown with james..... and the odd-ball verse... its all gravy to my ears...

The Ministry of Lost Souls: You know the beginning reminded me a lot of the title track (8vm).... with a beautiful chorus.. at the 7 minute mark it turns into complete Dream Theater mode very reminiscent of trading of solos a la..... Six Degrees and Scenes...... then into a very Liquid Tension eqsue unison... this is perhaps one of my favorites.. Mike Portnoy said he wanted this ablum to have balls, but this track is just a beautiful piece of music, very graceful..

In the Presence of Enemies PT 2: Starts slow, instantly picks up, soaring chorus.....followed by like the middle riffing found in "the glass prison", then a long instrumental breakdown and the JP solo in this song made me a smile for some reason.....good closer and a great conclusion to this 25 minute epic...

This is a great way to start off on RoadRunner, everything on this album in some ways is a new and refreshing departure for Dream Theater even though it is your typical Dream Theater.. the album has their best mixes by far.. and i can honestly say, it might be their best cd since dare I say, Images and Words. I am not some ranting fanboy.... because it took me awhile for me to warm up to ToT and 8vm, which are well below, Images & Words, Awake, and Scenes...

kudos dream theater

Report this review (#122197)
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars i was very skeptical and confused in the beginning, i must admit. When i heard Constant Motion it was the very very very(!) first time i could not understand where this track goes and what Dream Theater is trying to prove. Anyway, i cant believe that i would ever say that but this my friends is probably the best Dream Theater record. Roadrunner, to start with the label, it seems to be the best home for Dream Theater. Thats important, maybe the most important thing for a band nowadays. I think that the Theaters did the most representative work for DT music. They simply took 8 completely different sides of this band and gave their best to each one. What do we have here? The ballad, the metal- crushing-riff hit, the heavy track, the soulful track, the experimental, the classic prog DT and of course the great epic!The best sounding album Dream Theater has ever delivered, the best mixing, their musicianship at the top and im waiting for the reactions when it will normally be released! it will shake the whole music world for sure!!
Report this review (#122253)
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Reading the other review put me a bit at ease. I find it comforting to hear that other people also have difficulty with a couple of the songs on the album.The first time I listened to the songs "constant motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night" made me wonder where DT was heading to. However after hearing the album for a couple of times, I appreciated it more and more. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed at first. But now I too think it is one of the best DT albums around, right after Octavarium. "In The Presence of Enemies" is truly a masterpiece, I only think it is a pity that they didn't put it on the album as one peace, however, listening to the album continuously makes the circle go round and blends the two songs nicely together. Both symphony X and DT have become a little bit "heavier" on their latest albums. Btw did you know that on the next tour symphony X is playing as a small show in front of Dream theater? I'm looking forward to that concert, seeing them both!

Definitely gonna buy the special edition (with the 5.1 mix dvd) once it comes out after consideration I'm still gonna give this album 5 stars

Report this review (#122424)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Systematic Chaos, dont like the title, and aside from two little things that i will get in to shortly, thats about the only things i dislike about this album.

Train of Thought followed an album that is considered by many as the second or third best DT album of all time. Six degrees of inner turbulence is a great follow up to DT masterpiece, scenes from a memory, and blends the heavyness with the artistic proggyness that DT has been known for since their early days with Images & Words. ToT didnt live up to expectations due to the fact that it lacked the creativeness of their last two efforts, but hey, its difficult to follow those two albums, even by their standards. After that, they tried to redeem themselves (even if they don't want to admit it) with Octavarium. They still mixed in a couple of experiments, with I walk beside you and Never Enough, but they included an homage to their favorite songs from their favorite bands in the epic 24 minute behemoth "Octavarium". Many thought the song was great but the rest of the album lacked the magic from 6doit or SFAM.

It's really difficult that after 20 years you can continue to create and innovate. To make a great album, all 5 ingridients must be in sync, and the time must be right. All of this makes it really hard for a band to mesh and bring us the fans a masterpiece. Systematic Chaos isnt a masterpiece, but is close.

The album starts off with a song that will leave many thinking what if. This is because the song is divided in two parts it was intended to be one big 25 minute monster), and to some it should have stayed in the original form, and to others it encloses a concept that circles the whole album as one. The thing is that this is the way DT chose how to put it, and it changes the way the album will be perceived.

In the presence of enemies pt. 1 starts with a guitar bass drum scale to beggin a riff that very much isnt what we are used to with them. It sounds like a LTE album has just started. Thats the same feeling i had when i first heard Overture 1928, so it must be good. It is, at first we get a riff that will be included more times in the second part of the song, and some wicked patches on the keyboard. We get a 5 minute instrumental piece before starting off with the lyrics, which sound very dark and interesting, telling the story of some sort of master and his servant. The song ends with the words redemption, with a long scale between Rudess and Petrucci that brings a smile to my face. A sound of wind ends the song...

We get to Forsaken, a song that starts with a mysterious piano followed by a hard metal riff that is as good as it gets. Another dark song that seems to have intersting lyrics. Its a more straight forward song, but that doesnt mean it isnt good. The riff must be the best in the whole album. So far Petrucci seems to be in his best form. The chorus is catchy a little bit cheesy but it fits with the song. Overall very satisfying.

A very controversial song was presented by the band in their Myspace site. Constant Motion is a very Metallica-esque song with hard on your nose metal up your @$$ feel. The riffs are very very good. It quickly becomes a favorite for metal fans, and one of the worst dt songs for more prog oriented listeners. To me its a great song because i love both sides of the coin, and this is about as good as you can get with fine hard rock. The solo in the middle has a great musical passage that can be cataloged as one of the best parts of the whole album. Only complaints? The same that have plagued many DT songs, they seem to be taken directly from their influences. Its very much Metallica sounding, no disguising or anything. But hey, they are fans and they dont care to show it.

If Metallica of the St. Anger era is your cup of tea, then this song will remind you of a famous tune called Some kind of monster, as The Dark side of the night seems to take many things from it. Probably the heaviest song in DT history is also one of the best songs they've written in a while. Even by the standards presented already in this disc it shines. Some will hate the distorted voice, but it fits very well with the general theme, its also very dark and moody. The main riff is catchy and if you get to see the video of the band playing it in studio you cant help but admire the complexity of the whole song. The time signatures change constatly and bring diferent scales and sounds. If you like instrumental sections, this one has a big one. It sounds a lot like the isntrumental part in Endless Sacrifice, but way better. It also reminds me of the solos and instrumental parts from SFAM. They clearly took something out of their best album and pasted it in SC.

After 4 unique and interesting songs we finally get to a so-so song. Repetance is the 4th installment in the AA Suite, started by The Glass Prison way back in 6doit. At the beginning of the song we hear a little bit of the rip-off riff (from steve vai in fire garden suite that is) from This Dying Soul, but in acoustic form. The song is very sad, and for the first five minutes is a great song, but after that it goes in circles for way to loong, 5 minutes to long. If this song was shorter it would have been good. To bad its 10 minutes.

Muse has been one of the favorite bands for Mike Portnoy, and we could tell that in Octavarium with Never Enough being a direct rip off of some of their most singular sounds. This time its more evident they wanted to sound like that band. You can never sound like the original. They use the same sound patterns but with their styles and make a very good son in Prophets of war. Many of you may be familiar with the song if you saw the bday video where the group of winning fans where recorded for a chant of war. It sounded like a big bad metal song was in place for these chants, but no, you get this trance-metal song that sound very bad ass but with a save the world twist. The main riff is very catchy and gets in your head.

Of all the songs, The Ministry of lost souls was my least favorite when i first heard the album. Mainly because it sounds so much like ToT Inspired songs or Sacrificed Sons, which didnt age that good with me. The instrumental part didnt seem to make sense, but that is the same thing i thought of the song Beyond This Life from SFAM, after a few listens i finally got it. Its a ballad with a power instrumental section. And its darn good. After the song finishes with strong LaBrie singing, we hear the wind blowing again and get to the epic final track...

When we first started listening to this album, we got an inconcluded track that continues with one of the best efforts in DT`s career. In the presence of enemies pt.2 is a dark powerfull ending to a fine album. It contains several sections that remain true to the first track and continue the nice story explained in the opening. The dark chorus stays with you through the song and is played in several forms, until we get to one of the best instrumentals in any song i have ever listened to. After this we finally get an ending worthy of an epic album. Way better than 6doit, ACOS or Octavarium`s endings, In the presence of enemies ending is truly remarkable finishing with the words "Dark Master" that brings shills, and a sense of satisfaction that only comes from the very best. This is indeed a great song that is perfectly played, and even if devided in two, is a 25 minute epic that will always be remembered as a comeback to DT's best.

All in all, Petrucci seems to dominate, LaBrie doesnt shine in the same way he did in Octavarium. portnoy is just being himself, nothing special, Myung is left in the shadows even though his excellent playing should be put in a higher volume. Ruddess stil brings out his wacky over the top playing but still doesnt achieve Kevin Moore status as a key player.

Systematic Chaos may not be the best name to a dark album, but the sounds inside make it worthy of the DT name, and finally brings back the glory from SFAM a 6DOIT. Well done...

9.2 out of 10.0

Report this review (#122604)
Posted Thursday, May 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars 1. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 A nice beginning, strong progressive effort that even Yngvie guitar couldn't ruin. 4 stars

2. Forsaken A filler for eurovision song contest. 2 stars

3. Constant Motion Anthrax did that already back in 80's and did it much better, so what's the point? 2 stars

4. The Dark Eternal Night Have I ever heard anything this bad? I think I haven't. How many music genres the were combined? 10? 1 star

5. Repentance A nice QR ballad...at the beginning, but it's way too long for a non-developing song. "Repetance" would be a much better name for it. 2 stars.

6. Prophets of War ABBA? this begins with an ABBA tune! Even if they try to insert alots of power, they totally fail in it. 3 stars

7. The Ministry of Lost Souls It's so many times heard cheesy Smokie song with a cold and calculated showing off interlude loose to composition. 2 stars

8. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 This could be a best song of the record without the pointless showing off -section at the end. 3 stars

This record leaves me totally empty and cold, it's thoughout calculated music, as if it was done by a computer program to please everyone: it combines disco from Abba with Raw metal of Anthrax, cheesy ballads from Smokie to Yes-like complex playing with Yngvie Malmsteen on a guitar! And many, many more! Amazing! This music has no soul! And so clear borrowing mentality does't attract me either. But "something for everyone" seems to be working - considering their record sales :O

Report this review (#122675)
Posted Friday, May 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well where to start?! new DT! ALRIGHT! but sadly i don't want to be the one to say this but this album is not as good as i thought it was. Now before you go flying off the handle here, and flip out seriously consider what i'm saying. DT has always been a band that pushes the envelope, blending styles, of extreme technical prowess while still having good songwriting. I don't know where to start here, but i'm all saying is that i wasn't wowed by this album.. GOING THROUGH OTHER PEOPLES REVIEWS you can really see the real DT fans here, people who saw the evolution from when the majesty demos came out.. they know what its about.. what they are saying is true DT has kinda gone a little mainstream... I MEAN ROADRUNNER RECORDS? C'MON! I MEAN THEY HAVE GLAMOUR SHOTS FOR THE ROADRUNNER LABEL? some songs on here are great.. but a great number of them have such a boring feel to them...playing songs that could have easily been pulled out of a freaking mudvayne album.. DOn't believe me? try humming that song DIG, by mudvayne to the dark eternal..whoa very close...disgusting...event the bass pops.. so many of these generic tracks really make me fear for the future of prog metal. I LOVE DT, but this is no masterpiece like SCENES FROM A MEMORY, honestly to some who are new to DT, you may like this.. but still i hate it, its way to boring, generic, and way way waaaaay! to corny... bottomline this is no masterpiece like people are saying... its good but i could name 20 prog metal albums off the top of my head that are equal to this without even sitting down and thinking. I do recommend you sheck out in the presence of enemies pt2 though.. its pretty good!
Report this review (#122717)
Posted Friday, May 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Dream Theater has been going in a bad direction for a long time now, or that's what I think. After SDOIT (especially the 2nd half) I've really not been impressed by the content they've put out. Partially this has been caused by the development of my taste of music but a factor not to be overlooked is also the musicianship of the band members.

Let me start by saying that the best album by DT is by far Images and Words, and I think many will agree with this. Sadly the band has not made such amazing art after their second album although up until Train of Thought I always thought of their music as pretty good. And despite the occasional non-prog song, I always felt that their music was progressive. I don't agree with the critique against SFAM entirely, because the album still has its good moments, although more scarcely after years of listening (unlike for example IAW).

Now this particular album I've only had time to listen to briefly, but it quite confirms the fears I've had ever since I realized Octavarium is actually not that good for an album (it was only good at start because of the utterly horrible TOT). It's of course a bit harsh to say that this album isn't good after only a few listenings but I doubt it's gonna get any better for me. This is because all the other of their albums (except for TOT) have blown me away in the beginning.

I'll try to comment on a few songs to further explain my feelings for the album:

Constant Motion. This is a good one... but it's really just a metal song, hit material, kinda. Also I feel like I've heard variations of the melodies a thousand times, reminds me of TOT.

Repentance. I can't believe it. This is the third album they've put the TOT riff on. And I'm so far missing the link between the riff and the song, not good.

Prophets of War. Hmm, quite straight forward metal, reminds me of Sacrificed Sons quite a bit, AGAIN not good.

In the Presence of Enemies (parts 1 and 2). This mostly covers for the 'prog' material for this album. The song is okay, I don't deny it, but what basically should be an epic doesn't feel like it, unlike Octavarium, which made me crazy the first time I heard it (although I've come to realize it's really nowhere near A Change of Seasons). Dream Theater in my opinion have never been that good at composing full length epics and this really doesn't make a huge exception. Still, it's one of the highlights of the album, which really tells you much.

All in all, I feel a great deal of missing potential with this album. Lack of creativity, familiar sound and feel and lack of real innovations seriously cut the points for this one. Surely this is better than your mainstream metal (tho not by a large margin) but as a prog metal album, and as a DT album, I wouldn't recommend buying this unless you are a die-hard fan. I doubt I will buy this myself, and I have 7 DT studio albums on top of each other just 3 feet away from me.

Therefore: 2/5 stars, meaning Collectors/fans only

Report this review (#122736)
Posted Friday, May 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars No matter what Dream Theater release, fans never seem to be satisfied. Train Of Thought was too heavy, Octavarium wasn't heavy enough, Falling Into Infinity was too poppy, etc. With Systematic Chaos, Dream Theater have found a happy medium between all the elements that have defined their work for the last twenty-one years, creating a stunning listen.

One off the surprising things about the album is how quickly it pulls you in. There's no dicking around this time. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 blasts right into a five-minute instrumental section that just feels so well executed. Nothing stands out awkwardly or grates on your nerves. Just solid musicianship, packaged together brilliantly.

The album is fairly well balanced when it comes to heavy and soft tracks. Constant Motion grooves and thrashes through plenty of head-banging riffs, but it still has room it's second half for a amazing guitar solo, accompanied by some grooving bass work, and some stellar keyboards. The Dark Eternal Night is even heavier the Constant Motion, but unfortunately the first four minutes are kinda boring, thought it does have some great riffs. By the second half, the song picks up a bit, though it's still the weakest track on the album.

Of the softer side, we have Repentance, a ten minute ballad that is pretty emotional and cool, though it does go on a bit too long. The Ministry Of Lost Souls is even longer, but unlike Repentance, it's packed full of great instrumental touches, and is far more sweeping and touching. It's lovely, but even it manages to show off plenty of fast, blaring technicality.

Two songs that might be controversial for returning DT fans are Forsaken and Prophets of War. Forsaken is an obvious pop-metal tune, but it works so darn well, it's hard to dislike it. It's more of an obvious single than Constant Motion, and I'm sure when released, it will spar some attention to the band. Prophets of War is hilariously cheesy, but in a good way. The high vocals during the main verses come so unexpectedly, but fit the song to a tee. Add a catchy chorus, and you've got a mighty fine song.

Overall, Systematic Chaos is a great listen, and should be a required listen for any DT fans. There are plenty of brilliant songs, and while this might not be your mama's old Dream Theater, it's still a wonderful new addition to the band's discography.

Overall Score: 4.2 out of 5 Recommended Tracks: In The Presence of Enemies, Forsaken, Prophets of War, In The Ministy Of Lost Souls

Report this review (#122746)
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's been 1 week since I first had the chance of listening to DT's long-awaited album, Systematic Chaos. It was something i was really looking forward for so long and as a hardcore DT fan, listening to an upcoming DT album is always a special experience (more like a ritual i dare to say :P).

I found the first review extremely detailed as far as the music part is concerned, to be honest if i had to describe the songs one by one i would 've done it likewise more or less so i believe there is no point in adding something else about this part of the album. After 15 or so listenings I must say that I'm starting to really dig Systematic Chaos and I can say that once again DT succeeded in delivering a truly unique album.

Most you of should already know, or learned from some reviews, that this album includes some really controversial songs like "Prophets Of War" or "Forsaken" which create the usual misunderstanding about a DT album. To me, the biggest problem of this record isn't that a song might sound too poppy or thrashy or whatever. After all, even the greatest DT albums (I&W, Awake) included balladesque songs ( "Another Day" and "Silent Man" respectively) that musically had little to do with the rest of the songs. The problem is that this record doesn't flow.

The songs individually are great but no matter how many times I hear this record I still believe that "Constant Motion" is REALLY out of place. Do not misunderstand me, it's a great song and I really love it but musically it doesn't belong in this album. The fact that it was the first officially released song from SC makes me even more to believe that it was put in this album to give the impression that the rest of it would sound like it. A catchy, fast song to attract more buyers that fancy straightforward music is indeed the best choice for a single. But fortunately or not, it has nothing to do with the rest of the album.

One other song I have serious doubts about is "Prophets Of War". Why Dream Theater do this to themselves? 20 years now they have proved to be great composers (SC is no exception) with groundbreaking ideas and stuff that simply cannot be written or even imagined by other musicians. With "Never Enough" we all said, "Ok, they like Muse they just wanted to do a song sounding like Muse and that's it" And no matter how good and enjoyable song "Prophets Of War" might be, it's like it came from a tribute band to Muse. It's such a shame that fantastic riff was wasted in an imitation song. Dream Theater always sounded like Dream Theater and nothing else. That's why they became that big band they are today. And its not like they are out of ideas or something. Songs like "The Dark Eternal Night" and "In The Presence Of Enemies" prove the exact opposite thing.

If some of you believe that DT simply writes whatever they like let me tell you one thing. Its really NOT like this. With Systematic Chaos they indisputably prove that almost each song serves a purpose. "Constant Motion" is the lure for the more "classic" heavy metal listeners, "Forsaken" is the radio-friendly song, "In the Presence of Enemies" is the one to please the progressive share of their fan base etc. Frankly, as I said above, it's fine by me since I enjoy the songs but allow me to argue this "We play what we like" attitude.

Overall, Systematic Chaos is surely better than Octavarium but doesn't quite reach the majesty of I&W, Awake, SFAM or 6DOIT. Those that describe it as an album equal to the aforementioned, they exaggerated a bit because of enthusiasm.

Individual Song Rating: In The Presence Of Enemies 5/5 - Forsaken 4.5/5 - Constant Motion 5/5 - The Dark Eternal Night 5/5 - Repentance 5/5 - Prophets Of War 4/5 - Ministry Of Lost Souls 5/5

Report this review (#122772)
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, I loved Octavarium, and I have loved every album from Dream Theater, in different ways, except Train of Thought... I never really understood that album, it's not bad though... Anyway, Systematic Chaos has leaked and I've downloaded it, but don't worry, I've already pre-ordered it too. Have to say that it was better than what I expected after I had heard "Constant Motion". But after I've heard the whole album, I'm relieved! I thought it would be another Train of Thought. But I have to say I like Octavarium a bit more, if you look at the albums in their entirely. But let me show my opinions to each song...

1.In The Presence of Enemies Pt.1: I love the first minute of this song! And I think what happens at 2:10 is beautiful! And like every melodic solo Petrucci play, it's wonderful! I have to admit I like Petrucci more when he plays slow than when he plays fast, he's got such a feeling! The riff is good. The fantasy lyrics isn't intresting to me, and that's too bad, 'cause this album has got plenty of those fantasy lyrics. But I have to live with it, and the music is what's most important. I think this song loose something when the vocals come in. Don't know why, but I think the intrumental beginning is better than the actual song. Overall: 3/5 stars

2.Forsaken: Well, this song is... don't know what to say about, it's a good beginning, but the chorous is bad! very bad! And the song in it's entirely isn't very good at all... I wouldn't say it's too mainstream, 'cause I liked "I walk beside you" and "Solitary shell" from Octavarium and SDOIT. But this song just doesn't work for me. Overall: 2/5 stars.

3.Constant Motion: I don't like the beginning or the verses, and I don't like the fact that it's very similar to something by Metallica.. But I like the chorous though, and I like the intrumental part. And there's one thing that I love in this song, and that is between timestamps 2:48 to 2:56! Overall: 3/5 stars.

4.The Dark Eternal Night: Like "Forsaken" this song doesn't work for me! I remember when I had only heard "Constant Motion", "Forskaken" and this song... from that moment on I totally lost my hope of a great album... but that was then! Overall: 2/5 stars

5.Repentance: This is where I start to like this album, really! Well the opening of the opening track is brilliant, but this is a beautiful piece of melancholic music! Beautiful vocals! Beautiful meldoies and I just love the Pink Floyd inspired "ahhh" choir part in the second half of the song! But it's not perfect, but the best song so far! Overall: 4/5 stars

6.Prophets of War: I love the beginning, and I love this song, the only thing that I don't like about this song is the heavy riff at timestamp 1:11 and the chants in the end. Overall: 4/5 stars

7.The Ministry of Lost Souls: This is the very highlight of the album! Everything about this song is brilliant! Simply a masterpiece! The melodies and the solos and the vocals are all great! That's simply it! Overall: 5/5 stars

8.In The Presence of Enemies Pt.2: As "part 1" I don't like the lyrics at all! But the music is very good! And I like the vocals on this one! The melody at timestamp 13:13 is beautiful and very cool with that keyboard sound! That is a melody heard before throughout the album though.. Overall: 4/5

SYSTEMATIC CHAOS: 4/5

(I'm sorry for my english, but I'm just a young Swede so please, do not complain!)

Report this review (#122799)
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an excellent album. I like it better than octavarium, train of thought, and SDOIT.

In the prescensce of enemies part 1: possible my favorite song. It starts out with an amazing instrumental Then goes into the actual chorus. The whole song overall is good and well written.

Forsaken: I guess I would have to say that this is the radio tune of the album. Its really catchy and the lyrics will get stuck in your head. It lacks what your used to in traditional DT music.

Constant Motion: When I first heard this song I didn't really care for it so much. It has a very metallica feel to it. The more I listen to it the more I enjoy it. The instrumental part is pretty cool.

The Dark Eternal Night: I have mixed feelings about this song. Its the heaviest song on the album. The chorus is good although some of the lyrics get a little cheesy. Some parts of the song are so heavy I almost can believe im listening to DT. The song is still enjoyable although it feels like something you would hear from a heavy metal garage band at some points.

Repentence: This song is good. Its one of the slower songs on the disc but it still rocks. It gives me a really strange feeling that I like. The lyrics on smart and the music overall has kind of like a dark soothing sound. At the ending it can get repeptative but maybe adding somthing would have ruined the song.

Prophets of War: This song has like a techno dance beat going on. It will make you wanna start moving around. The chorus is good but the song is very repatative. It still has a good sound and people will still enjoy it.

The Ministry of Lost Souls: A great song with yet another dark but heavenly feeling. I enjoy the lyrics and the instrumental stuff in the song is awesome although I wouldn't say its DT's best.

In the Prescence of Enemies Part 2: It starts from where the first won left off. This is the part of the song that gets heavier and darker. The song at some points has the like snake charmer feeling. The lyrics and chorus are good and the soloing is good.

Overall the albume is awesome. Defenitely another surprise from DT and I think everyone will enjoy it. The ablum as a whole has a nice mood to it. 4.5/5 stars.

Report this review (#122808)
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars After two years from the discussed "Octavarium" and with one new record house (the Roadrunner Records, that happening numbers between its artists varied band metal of), the Dream Theater is returns to you in scene with a new album that, like always, has been the much attended from all fan. There is without a doubt an enormous change of style respect to "Octavarium" that to part the long final suite from 24 minuteren was not successful to convince a lot; a compound to my way to see between the genius of "Scenes From to Memory", the hardness of "Train of Thought", and some element of "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" renders this somewhat cd interesting, even if to the end not it can and it does not have forzatamente to be made to coincide this new album with jobs of the past. I will analyze to hour all the traces that compose the album one for one

In The Presence Of Enemies Pt. 1:8 Indeed shining beginning, those prog famous express and being involved for famous hits since endured; the sung one is made to attend for some minute (during which however it is remained easy taken from the instrumental part), large beautiful riff of Petrucci and inserti huge of a Rudess in large I dust; the arrival of the vocal part of LaBrie very turns out immesso and equally very sung, while the final part with growing of rhythm does not leave to decrease the attention of the listener. "Amazing"

Forsaken: 7+ Followed Intro to the pianoforte immediately from a riff seed-distorted and the return of the keyboard of Rudess for this piece, with a particularly sweet LaBrie that it remembers the style of the Evanescence and band similar; little elements prog in the melodia that it remains however pleasant and accompanied from sung a still much precise one. To signal the assolo of Petrucci after the half that puts its company also on this brano. "Gradevole"

Constant Motion: 8- First "particularly hard" song of the cd, sound that it remembers the Metallic one with the added one of typical progressive elements of the DT. Also the voice of LaBrie has been adapted to the style of the song, with the aid of Portnoy in second voice; riff of Petrucci much heavy it accompanies to you from the keyboard of Rudess seppur not too much influential; from the 4 minuteren in ahead one finds again the spirit prog of band and the solista Petrucci that we know, followed from one splendid assolo of Rudess; best also the part of battery skillfully managed from Portnoy. "Enlivened"

The Dark Eternal Night: 8+ Strange piece, still undoubtedly harder of the previous one for sure features, with frightful a vocal beginning, voices of LaBrie and Portnoy distortissime. Fast and hard at the same time this brano perhaps heaviest is never produced from the band, could be defined one risen of Progressive Heavy \ Trash! During ritornello however the LaBrie it makes good use of its vocal ropes, always with the accompanyment of Portnoy (than in this album it more makes use of the voice than in the previous ones). Perhaps to my opinion in this brano infuences of "The can be recognized Glass Prison" but still more than "The Dance Of Eternity" seppur with one style particularly harder. To notice the frightful instrumental part they give shortly before 6 minuteren in ahead, where the technical ability (in particular of Portnoy) comes fully taken advantage of. On the whole once "digested" this brano it turns out full of loads and at the same time much technician. "Impressive"

Repetance: 7,5 Quarter leaves of the saga on the alcoholism written from Portnoy: this time draft of a slow song, that it remembers the style of the Pink Floyd. First struck they resume the topic of "This Dying Soul" of ToT, is musically that like text; the song to me seems posizionata inside very of the album in how much serves to "giving a little breath" to the listener after the two previous ones; the piece is articulated on intriguing atmospheres seppur not enlivened, always good the accompanyment of battery and guitar (pretty assolo to half the song), and in particular the voice of LaBrie that donates a sure fascination to all. Before the 6 minuteren there is the typical one I use of parts spoken already tried in several previous jobs, you follow from vocal accompagnamenti of LaBrie lacking in text and from an other section speech. "Reassuring"

Prophets Of War: 7,5 Other particular trace of the album, beginning in style MUSE and with a LaBrie that the high part of its vocal extension takes advantage of; after the first minute one joins riff of Petrucci and one voice of Portnoy once again distorted to accompany the sung one of LaBrie. Melodia all light and linear adding, that it comes amazingly but decorated with the voice of the public who scandisce in chorus some words key (lasciamo therefore to imagine this piece to you from the alive one!). Unknown from minute 4 in ahead the sung one of Portnoy that remembers nearly rap seppur in tonality a much lowland; subsequently still LaBrie and the public. "Being involved"

The Ministry Of Lost Souls: 9- This song is articulated tendentially in two parts, the first slower and struggente one while second chasing and technically the more excellent one. Epico beginning thanks to notes of keyboard of Rudess accompanied from the others, but after a splendid section of acoustic guitar begins the cantanto of LaBrie: majestic its interpretation, nearly moving, second me to the levels of "The Spirit Carries On". It continues melodia that it is always involved more with passing of the minuteren in growing, also thanks to the accompanyment of the battery and the keyboard until minute 7, where without warning the song changes face: the sound of the progressive ones it knows them majestic in chair with a riff from brividi of Petrucci that before interrupts that dreaming atmosphere of some second ones, excellent also the assoli of large Rudess and the accompanyment of the bottom of Myung. From minute 11 it comes resumed the topic of first part and there is the return of sung in a livelier atmosphere the hour, the brano is concluded vanishing melodia in way the much tenuous one. "Sublime"

In The Presence Of Enemies Pt. 2:9 The beginning resumes the atmosphere tetra (the sound of the wind) with which it had leaves you the Part to us One, the first notes of keyboard puts an restlessness feeling until the arrival of the voice of LaBrie, always much intense one. After two minuteren and means the bottom of Myung joins that gives a remarkable depth to the accompanyment of the keyboard, subsequently to 3.20 the song ignites (as usual thanks to the guitar of Petrucci) and the voice of LaBrie becomes "bad without warning" for some striking alternating to more the classic sweet stamp. After minute 6 an unexpected change also this time, the income (also here unexpected) of the chorus of the public one nearly to exalt the imposing accompanyment of Petrucci and Myung to the vocal part more entusiasmante than LaBrie. Indeed remarkable (and to my opinion never borings) the evolutions in pure style progressive of Portnoy and companions in these minuteren of song, worthy sure to compete with best pieces than "Scenes from to Memory". After the long instrumental part the sung one of LaBrie for last the two minuteren returns, accompanied from sound solemn thanks in particular to the keyboard of Rudess. The end of the song (and the album) still is governed from the battery of Portnoy. This brano, with the previous one, fight to my opinion for the title it of better of the cd. "Epica"

CONCLUSIONS: Perhaps goodness knows, the Dream Theater could seem ended with "Octavarium", but with this album it seems that they want to demonstrate that they have wants to astonish and still to experiment, and second me are resolutions in nearly exemplary way. Total ballot: 8,5

Report this review (#122822)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Ok to cut to the chase I am very disappointed but not overly surprised with the lack of creativity, well everything really, in this album. On the first listen it left me feeling nothing, little desire to listen to any song again, which is a very very bad sign for an album I have been eagerly anticipating for some time. The riffs (which almost touch on nu-metal sometimes), i found able to predict their direction on the first listen which is another really bad sign for an album and doesn't leave a lot to get into on subsequent listens.The melodies forgettable and these are big no no for any good prog group and it makes me wonder how much effort DT put into the creativity of the songs (I'm referring mostly to forsaken, constant motion, prophets of war and the dark eternal night). Now why a band would want to sound like Metallica when they themselves are infinitely better than said band escapes me completely. But I don't know, I guess I've been hanging out for another Scenes From A Memory at each release and each new album seems to step further away from that beacon of sweet sweet music, I mean I got the S.O.C winners cd and i found that to be more creative and more interesting to listen to than this turd of a record, maybe thats a bit too harsh but I said to my friend that this album has pretty much ended my phase of Dream Theater for the time being and I can say that it's a really sad way to go, like shooting the dog when its time comes and being left with only the memories... The good songs were the intro, In the Presence Of Enemies pt1 and Repentance. Repentance however sounds like it came from Opeth's Damnation if you take James' voice away...
Report this review (#122928)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars First of all I think every time a band like DT (representative for their style) releases a new album everyone is expecting a good product.

For me this album is a good one, not their best but a good one. The first impression was, like others reviewers observed, that the album combines different styles and every song is distinctive to other. The long intro on the first track is very well chosen and creates a good start for the album.La Brie voice sounds very interesting and more adequate on experimentation than on Octavarium (Bono style on some tracks) and gives a strong personality to the songs. I like very much the new sound of John Myung bass, sound who reminds me the sound of Warwick bass guitars,a sound very well balanced on tracks (distinctive but not pregnant).Jordan Rudess is also present ,but his presence is more subtle and gives the atmosphere of the tracks by difference to Octavarium where his presence was more evident.Portnoy ,as usual great ,impressive double-drumming (heavier than Train of Thought) , remains the soul of DT and one of the best drummers of his generation.Petrucci completes the circle with good guitar playing in the same manner as he did on previous albums, nothing unusual to me. As highlights I would pick In The Presence Of Enemies, Constant Motion and Repentance. A weak point, a song that sounds totally inappropriate to this album is in my opinion Prophets of war. Overall the album is dark with strong riffs, very quick drumming and with a huge production. Again the technique won over the sensibility of interpretation,wich is not a bad thing after all, but I think the good times for DT are about to begin once again.

Report this review (#122941)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Two years have been passed since Octavarium. Personally, last two releases have been a bit disappointing, especially ToT. But let's turn the past page. There's the new album outcoming, "Systematic Chaos". Well, I found this album better than the recent ones. It's something new, all songs sound different, good instrumentals, no "undue influences", ecc. Let's examine the album:

In The Presence of Enemies Pt.1 : First part of the SC's big epic. It starts with an instrumental part which sounds SO good. It's fresh, original, but it's DT stuff, no way. After 5-6 minutes, Labrie vocals enter the song in an amazing way. Nice ending too. Maybe the best track in the whole album? 8,5

Forsaken: A radio song, a single. Not much at all, but sure better than "The Answers Lies Within" from Octavarium (their comparing due to some similiarities within the two songs), both lyrics and music. Nice chorus, only it sounds a bit "cheesy". However, a worth listening. 6,5

Constant Motion: First single from this album. What can i say... The vocals in the verses are too much "Hetfield-ish" (sounds boring after some listenings) and instrumental is out of context. However, bridge+chorus, saves the song from a reject. One of the poorest tracks (not much at all). 6

The Dark Eternal Night: The HEAVY one. It begins with a skull-crashing riff that leads into verse. AMAZING verse. Labrie's distorted vocals sounds like cookie-monster ones. Chorus is a bit repetitive, but it's good however. Instrumental is some kind of WOW. Sounds a bit like "The Dance of Eternity". It's a pity it's too much long. Less 2 minutes could have been very good. 7,5

Repentance: What?!? Very unexpected track... sounds a bit like it came from "Damnation" by Opeth. Anyway, a fantastic track. Very emotional. Lyrics sound good. Using other artists' (D. Gildenlow, M. Akerfeldt, S. Wilson....) voices which excuse themselves with the band, it's an original idea. Only too much long, again. 8

Prophets of War: Poor song. Trying to make something sounding new, Dream Theater forget to do their own music. The whole song sounds too much Muse-ish, and chorus is too similiar to "Wherever I May Roam" song (by Metallica). Some good starting point, but it's all too confused. Try again? 5,5

The Ministry Of Lost Souls: Oh my... well, this is simply the best track from SC. It's basically a ballad, but it sounds very dark and emotional. Instrumental part is quite good. Ending again is something unbelievable. Masterpiece. 9-

In The Presence of Enemies Pt.2: Good first part sequel. It can be compared with "The Ministry..." because of tymbric similiarities. Very dark, begins slow while finishing heavy and powerful. Amazing track. 8+

Systematic Chaos: 7.5(8) / 4 stars

Report this review (#123004)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Coming off the heels of an album which I personally found great, but which doesn't seem to have a very large following 'round here, I listen to "Systematic Chaos" and try to find out where things went wrong. Personally I don't care too much about the similarities between the styles of certain songs and other bands' style; DT has provided enough things to the progmetal genre to prevent me from screaming if suddenly some song sounds "like somebody else". In any case "borrowing" from other sources is not a recent phenomenon for them, "Hollow Years" sounded an awful lot like Sting! Remember those days?

The point here is that, no matter how hard I try, I can't connect with this album. It doesn't do anything for me. After a really good opening song (best one here, in my opinion) and a pleasant ballad, there's not a single song that I don't find overlong and ultimately boring. And this comes from someone who has no problem listening to endless (for instance) Flower Kings songs, so it's not a matter of having short songs or long songs. In this case, almost all of them and keep on going long after running out of things to say. For me, this album is a collection of songs which could have been good if the band had made up their minds. But they try every song to cover so many styles that the end result is close to "Who cares? Get on with it!".

"The Dark Eternal Night" could have been good and powerful, yet it jumps from a trashy beginning to a pop chorus and suddenly, weird out-of-nowhere prog sections. Way too much, way too long. "Repentance" has a beautiful but ENDLESS coda. "Prophets of War" is just dumb. God knows why "The Ministry of Lost Souls" lasts 15 minutes. And the same goes for "In the Presence of Enemies, pt.2": I expected a good continuation of the first song, my favorite here, but... nah, dumb dark lyrics (a constant throughout) which go on and on and on... it's even painful to listen to the whole album from start to finish. Even the solos feel forced this time. On the performance side the guys offer their usual professional skills, but on the writing side, for instance, what happened to Rudess??? He sounds weird for the sake of weirdness.

In any case, I couldn't call this bad... I call it sad. A huge promise which progressively dissolves with each extra minute most songs go on for.

Report this review (#123187)
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must start saying that after ToT and Octavarium, i thougt that with this new album DT were going deeper and deeper, with no returning point in the horizon. Specially with Octavarium dissapointed me a lot, so my hopes for these new album were not so good.

The first impression wasn`t so good, but undesrtanding a prog album take several listens, so i took my time until I finally was ready to give a proper review. And I must say that this album is far better than the last two albums. Let's start the review:

In the Presence of Enemies Part 1: Very nice instrumental intro, quite diferrent from the last albums intros, it has got a very Falling into infinity Style. Petrucci shines from the beginning and also rudess plays in a "Sherinianeske" way. Awesome for me. A lot of inspiration in the riffs, great feeling, nice way to start and album. 9/10

Forsaken: The most catchy song on the album, and the most comercial from my point of view, but despite all this, it doesn`t sound as cheese as most of Octavarium songs. 7/10

Constant Motion: Its rather heavy from the begining, but unlike Tot songs, it`s quite short, and doesn`t have those boring instrumental section of that album. In a very Metallica style, nothing new, the song reaches a quite decent level, mainly in the powerfull instrumental section. Petrucci solo and Myung sound is awesome. 7/10

The Dark Eternal Knight: If the last one was heavier, this one is even more. The riff from the begining is very catchy, the chorus are quite interesting, labrie singing is good, but the problem with this song is that the instrumental section is to long, although in some parts it`s very good. It could have been better, for moments it's very uninspired. 6/10

Repentance: From this point, this album begins to shine. This song it`s very long ballad, almost monotonal, but the sound texture behind the surface it's very interesting. La brie really shines, and felt very comfortable here. very dark but beatifull, it develops quite fluid, and it doesn`t seems to last 10 mins. Petrucci shines again, like in every song of the disc.9/10

Prophets of War: Well this song it`s very strong, in spite of being quite similar tu muse. La brie is awesome again, and the middle section is wonderful. The background vocals are not so good, but is a well done song anyway. 8/10

The Ministry of Lost Souls: Very Beautiful keybord intro, one of the best from Rudess, and the feeling of the whole song is incredible. La brie is at the top here, petrucci is simply awesome. the instrumental section is pure magic. It ressembles a lot of Dance of Eternit, but less crazy of course. The end it' is simply painfull to your heart. 10/10

In The presence of enemies part 2: this song is the perfect end for the album. it has a very dark atmosphere that prepares you. It is really strong, it starts growing on until it explodes in the insturmental section. A lot of SFAM again, the sound is not so heavy and this helps a lot. 9/10

The overall is 4 stars, a great album, not the best, but much better than the last two. If you stop listening DT after SDOIT, the you should perhaps start again with SC.

Report this review (#123202)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars My expectations for this albums were extremely high. I discovered Dream Theater about two years ago. It wasn't until i heard A Change Of Seasons that I really started listening and it quickly became my favourite band.

I've never really been able to appreciate their later albums, with Train of Thought being the exception. In an interview one of the band members stated that the new album would have material that would certainly appeal to their long-time fans, so I expected to hear at least a spark of Images & Words or Awake in the songs.

The new album I feel is closest to Train of Thought but doesn't capture the freshness in that album. I really miss the searing high vocals of LaBrie and I fear he'll never really recover from his vocal chords rupturing. Also it sounds like the music was written and the vocal melodies were sort off pasted onto that which really removes a lot of tension from the music. There are certainly very clever riffs and movements in the songs but somehow they don't really stick out like they did in earliers works.

I think the main reason for their albums turning up like this is they're not crazy kids anymore who have a burning passion to simply make kickass music and take years to perfectionize a song. Lock the DT members up in a cave for four years and I swear you will get an album the world has never seen.

Report this review (#123220)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Power chords. Cheesy choruses. Juvenile lyrics. Punk rock-like acoustic breaks "exploding" into chorus reprises. Who is this? Honestly, I'm not sure whether the band even knows anymore. I guess one good to come out of this is that we get a decent sampler CD out of the deal. "The Dark Eternal Night" is a tame if not humorous MEGADETH experiment. With "Forsaken," PAIN OF SALVATION gives us one of their typical works in all of its bombastic Swedish-metal glory. Oh, and lets not forget those DREAM THEATER covers that we can find spread throughout the blandness. In fact, the band does a fairly sufficient job in kind of sounding like DT, especially when it ventures into some predictably "unpredictable" instrumental sections featuring ridiculous time changes and glaringly incoherent guitar and keyboard solos.

In all seriousness, though, this is arguably DREAM THEATER'S greatest failure. FALLING INTO INFINITY surely had its disappointing moments. But we sometimes forget that that album also featured some DT classics like "Trial of Tears," "Lines in the Sand," and "Hell's Kitchen." SYSTEMATIC CHAOS, on the other hand, sounds forced, contrived, and unambitious. It is the sound of a band that seems to be so aware of itself and its need to satisfy its fan base that it cringes away from exploration and authentic experimentation.

The biggest shame here is that we can catch glimpses of a genuine effort. By taking some risks in exploring a musical theme in a passionate way, "Repentance" shows that DT can still create heartfelt music. And despite its flaws, "In the Presence of Enemies" (originally written as one long song) features moments of successful hard rock and emotion. On the whole, though, this album's self-consciousness proves to be its tragic flaw, and it is made only the more noticeable when considered alongside the contemporary releases of some other comparable bands. While PORCUPINE TREE and DEVIN TOWNSEND continue to put out classic albums by devoting themselves to concepts, DT seems to be stuck on themselves. And I will argue that it won't be until they can place themselves underneath their music that their true talents will be revealed.

Report this review (#123243)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I expected a better album but!?It seems like they tried to hard and they sort of failed. I would like to point LaBrie's poor performance almost on every song, like he didn't feel like singing at the time they were recording.With his reputation I really expected better performance.Petrucci pulled of some of cool solos but not as cool as before, it's done only by experience, not by heart.I hate Portnoy's kick drum sound, as if the heads weren't tuned at all(tippical roadrunner sound, do all drummers play on the same drums at roadrunner?)

In the presence of enemies pt. 1 - Until the singing starts it's quite a good tune but it becomes a bit tedious afterwards.

Forsaken - Nice intro riff but the song is really borring

Constant motion - It's not bad but it's to repetetive, sounds like Metallica, Antrax...

The dark eternal night - Interesting riff in the begining, than the stupid distorded vocals(vocal melody is not that bad but the vocal distorsion is a bitt to much).Middle part is tippical "crazy section', especially when clean guitar breaks of from all that distorsion.

The rest is not really worth of commenting.Nice try, but I think that it's to forced. Symphony X blew them away with "Paradise lost"

Report this review (#123385)
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Let me make my 20th review on this very anticipated Dream Theater album.

First, this album is not as good as I thought, but it is still worth the price of buying it. I think (as I always think of a Dream Theater album) that the instrumental parts were too long, too stretched. Here is my track by track apreciation of the album.

In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 : First half is an instrumental part similar to any other DT song (I just said what I think of that). Second half, on the other hand, is incredible. Progressive metal at his best. This, itself, is a reason to buy the album. (9/10)

Forsaken : There is a simple way to describe this song : a pop song played in a Dream Theater way. Really not the best part of the album, but it well fills the hole between the opening and Constant Motion. (7/10)

Constant Motion : The very first impression I had of this song is : ''What? This is a Metallica cover, right?'' Finally, it is not a Metallica cover, but it sounds so much like it that it could be a Metallica song. After a couple of listenings, I thinks it is a good song, just too Metallica-influenced for me. (7/10)

The Dark Eternal Night : Very easy way to describe this song : ''What's this crap????? They really thought someone could like this song?'' Some riffs are acceptable, so is a couple of voice melodies, but the intro sucks, Portoy's vocals sucks and the rest of the song is not better. (4/10)

Repentance : Nice song. I have a pretty much simple idea of the song. It's good, nothing more, nothing less. (8/10)

Prophets of War : I love this song. This is one of the rare Dream Theater song that I can listen to twenty time a day and not get bored. Intro is great, verses are great, chorus are great, bridge is great, and I was surprised to see there is no solo. This also is, alone, a good reason to buy the album. (10/10)

The Ministry of Lost Souls : I love this song too, but there is just one reason why my rating is not 10 like Prophets of War. The instrumental part is boring and totaly useless. I don't see what was the idea of including it in the song. Otherwise, the song is even better that the previous one, Prophets of War. (9/10)

In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 : This is without any doubt the best part of the album. Every single part of this song is incredible, there is only the part with the croud shouting ''Hey'' that is a little weird, but nothing to change my ideo of the song. Even the instumental part is unbelievable (I said before that I am really not a fan of Dream Theater's instrumentals). (10/10)

Overall rating of the album is 8/10. Four stars.

Report this review (#124309)
Posted Friday, June 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Brilliant!

Great album. I, like so many others eagerly anticipated this album for way too long and finally its arrived, and it doesn't dissapoint. Every DT album is different. They have never done the same album twice, and that is the beauty of this band. Too many people criticise DT so much, comparing each album with Scenes and I & W. We should just listen and compare their albums with the other bands in the genre rather than their own ones. DT are without doubt one of the greatest bands of all time, and this album has many magical moments. On TOT petrucci seemed to be more predominant, on Octavarium, Rudess was. Now on Systematic Chaos, Petrucci dominates again. I'd say it was their best work since six degrees. The albums production is incredible. It sounds absolutley brilliant. It's no Scenes or I & W but its still a great album The highlight is of cource the mighty epic, ITPOE. But let's take it track by track.

1. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 (9:00) - This starts the album in full DT style. 5 minutes of instrumental beauty. Petrucci shines here, and where introduced to some of the riffs we'll hear sung by LaBrie later on. This track really gears us up for the rest of the album, and splitting the song up worked really well. Great blend from the windy noises into the forsaken piano intro too. 10/10 2. Forsaken (5:36) - The shortest song on the album, the catchiest, the most radio friendly. Despite all these factors it is a really great tune. Starting with a beautiful keyboard intro, in comes JP with some great rhythm work. Great work by LaBrie. A very powerful chorus. Some fast lead work that leads into the chorus reminds me of a similar line to that thats played in Pull Me Under. Great guitar solo and above all a really enjoyable track. 9/10

3. Constant Motion (6:55) - The promo song for the album. When I first heard it i really liked it but couldn't help but notice the very Metallica style vocals. Intro riff is very DT. A good instrumental break and some nice guitar/keyboard solo's. Probably the second least progressive song on the album. Some great guitar riffs, prooving again that theres a huge metal side to DT. Just like Forsaken, a really enjoyable track 8/10 4. The Dark Eternal Night (8:51) - Ahh yes, the heavist song on the album and perhaps the heaviest DT song of all time. Mike Portnoy said he wanted the album to have balls, and this song is a great representation of that comment. JP gets out the 7 string for some great intricate riffage. LaBrie and Portnoy share the dark vocals in the voice, and the chorus is very nice, like forsaken, something to sing along to. Some incredibly technical instrumental work in the middle. Ragtime piano solos, and intense metal riffs blended together quite humoursly really breaks up the intensity of the song. The guitar solo is insane and there is a great slow metal ending where JR gets out his continuum. very dark, incredible song. 9/10 5. Repentance (10:43) - I love the metal but I think i just need a little break....ah...Mike Portnoy and his track organisation skills answer your call. This is the next song in the AA epic, and the first slow one. It's a slow epic. Very beautiful song, with many guest appearances. I'm not sure of all the voices but I can make out Steve Wilson from PT, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Michael Akerfeldt, Steve Hogarth and many more legends. A great solo from Petrucci. The song drags on a little, but not enough to get tired of it. The song bears a striking resembelance to PT and Opeth on their Damnation album, but its still DT. I really enjoyed LaBrie on this song. 8.5/10

6. Prophets of War (6:01) - Interesting. At first I wasn't too fond of it, but after a few listens I started accepting the Muse influence and enjoying the song. Great chants from the fans and a very new sound for DT. 8/10

7. The Ministry of Lost Souls (14:57) - My god, the second this begins an incredible keyboard line flows through you. What a great intro. A 15 minute ballard. With some old and new elements combined. The acoustic passage reminds me of Octavarium. Different key, but same idea. The chord progression is more radio friendly, but its still brilliant. The pre-chorus makes me feel like I'm in a perfect world, floating on a cloud. The chorus then reminds us that this isnt just a happy track. I think I know what JP is refering to in his lyrics to this one, and its very deep. Great solo section, and incredibly instrumental section, very traditional DT, that we've missed in the last two songs. A very long guitar solo ends the song, and its great. This song is beautiful. 10/10

8. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 (16:38) - Oh, thats right. 70 minutes ago we heard it, now its back. The wind, the bass, the keyboard. Very dark section. There is a lot of lyrics in this song, and in comes LaBrie to start us off with some strange vocal melodies. Petrucci's volume pedal gives the song an incredible atmospheric feel. We hear the pre- chorus, in its slow version. "Angels fall, all for you, heritic." The lyrics are fictional, and many have said they don't enjoy the lyrics on this song in particular. But I think its a great new direction. " Dark master within, I will fight work you." That dark melody heard in part 1 comes back in part 2. More strange vocal melodies. LaBrie proving he can go very high. Now we move into fast intensity, some backup chanting really adds to the power of this section. One of my favourite parts on the album, beacuse its just so enjoyable. Some great keyboard from JR that sounds similar to Never Enough. The instrumental section is full of signature DT style riffs and some incredible guitar & keyboard solos. JP prooves he is still one of the greatest of all time, as does JR. JP seems to involve more sweeping and tapping in his solos in this album, which is great. Very Metropolis, and they proove once again that no other band can play like them. Oh my god, Rudess shines with some incredible epic keyboard to bring us back into the chorus. LaBrie's greatest moment on the album is when he sings the next lines, with so much energy and feeling, " My soul grows weaker, he knows and he waits." The ending is very similar to the endings of Six Degrees and Octavarium and this song stands beside all of the other DT epics. 10/10

Report this review (#124428)
Posted Sunday, June 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
semismart
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Dream Theater is probably the best known and most imitated progressive metal band in the world and if truth be told, they probably pioneered the sub genre and if the didn't pioneer it, they certainly are responsible for bringing the genre to the forefront in the music world. I must have written sixty or seventy reviews of progressive bands and some, maybe a quarter, sound very close to Dream Theater and some of them are very good. I even have a Listmania List on Amazon entitled Know some other bands similar to Dream Theater. In short, they have become the measuring stick for other Progressive metal bands. Or if you want to face reality, Le Brie, Portnoy and company are the kings of Progressive Metal.

So, is Systematic Chaos the best thing Dream Theater ever did. Probably not. After all, they have released around a dozen albums, many of which are classics. But I will say this; Systematic Chaos is probably the best album they have released in this century.

Systematic Chaos

Look for a heavier sound than on their last and least favorite of mine album - Octavarium and surprisingly a hint of .Pink Floyd. Especially in the slower but brilliant fifth track, 'Repentence.'

Overall, Dream Theater after briefly experimenting with new sounds have returned to their roots-a variable speed, sometimes hard driving metal sound that was the backbone of their earlier days. The eight tracks average almost ten minutes a song as the album comes in at just over seventy-eight minutes. Obviously, with Systematic Chaos you get your money's worth.

All in all, this should be a dream come true for Dream Theater fans. Final rating 4.65 stars-BUY IT !

Similar Bands: Dreamscape, DGM, OSI

Report this review (#124465)
Posted Sunday, June 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Breath Taking

After the good-but-we-do-the-less-possible-effort-exept-for-the-main-track Octavarium album, Dream Theater is back with its new album ! And believe me or not, this one kicks ass ! Dream Theater, master of prog, are back for their 9th studio release !

Melodic, heavy, heart breaking melody, dark ambiance, great prog instru, those are the adjectif we can associate to this album ! Here is a quick view of the album, others had made a better "in depth review" so I will not do it.

In the presence of ennemies part I is a great prog introduction like the old good time of SFAM

Forsaken is a "very commercial" song with a wonderful chorus and Petrucci solo

Constant Motion is one of the two heaviest songs of the record ! It just kick the hell out of ground ! The prog section is just great FOREVER MORE INTO THE NIGHT BLISTERING !

The Dark Eternal Night is the second heaviest song, very surprising from DT, but so much enjoyable !

Repentance is a heart breaking and sorrowfull ballad. The next part of the AA saga.

Prophets of War is a very Muse-ish song, but far better than never enough, this one is more DT than Muse

The Ministry Of Lost Soul is THE prog song of the album ! The main theme is just one of the most beautiful DT has ever write ! The song is beautiful, the instru section rages and james labrie is at his best !

In the presence of ennemies part II closes the record the best way possible ! Probably the darkest song DT ever write !

Conclusion : This album gave me chills, put tears in my eyes and made me jump on my chair shouting out loud ! Everything I expected for a dream theater album was in there ! Every member is at his best !

I'm a huge fan of dream theater, and I was a little disapointed by Octavarium except for the title track, but here, we have a great DT album !

If you are looking for pure emotion, heavy songs, complete mad solii, and dark ambiance, this album is for you ! If you just want to hear a great progressive album, this album is yours too

And if you don't want to listen to prog, what the hell are you reading this ? O_O

BUY IT !

Report this review (#124587)
Posted Monday, June 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars SC is far from the masterpiece everyone claims it is but hey, it's Dream Theater. Therefore it is a given that five stars will appear everywhere. BTW I used to be a DT fanboy.

I still enjoy albums like Awake, Falling into infinity, Train of Thought and Octavarium. These albums showed more maturity than this mess that is SC. Heaviness for the sake of heaviness, speed for the sake of being the fastest and make fanboys go crazy. Technical wizardry does not give an album more credibility by the way. It seems SC is adressed to a younger audience in search of such technicality.

Why rip-off bands like Muse (Prophets of War with its arpeggiators is soooo like Muse's Take a Bow" and Metallica (Come on, constant motion would have been relevant on a 90s trash album).

In the presence of enemies is nowhere near the other epics they have made, lyrics sound very rhapsody-esque ( another band I used to be a fan of but hey...I grew up). It's just speed and technicality, no feeling or relevant message whatsoever...

Forsaken is an OK track, I find it enjoyable although a tad cheesy.

Constant Motion is....a joke

The Dark Eternal Night is allright on its own...but I am tired of DT's 10-minute-ish songs...they ALL have the same structure(not prog)...verse, chorus, verse, chorus, instrumental part with shredding, outro....think Panic Attack, Sacrificed sons, Ministry of lost souls, etc,etc...anyway the song is a good rocker on its own

Repentance is THE ONLY TRACK that actually features subtlety ande nuance...OMG!!!! That's miraculous coming from these guys who like to outline everything VERY boldly.

Prophets of War is a good song by Muse....oh right I already said that one...still an OK track

The ministry of lost souls is good, sounds way too big to convey any emotion...huge lack of subtlety. For the song structure, please refer to Dark eternal night

This being said, some might actually consider this a masterpiece and your opinion is as valid as any. I think that after 20 years, DT should consider acting their age and make more mature music and start experiencing in subtlety. Heaviness is pretty cool sometimes but such a blatant use make this record pretty chaotic...haha sorry for the pun

Although thumbs up for the sound engineering by Paul Northfield, the record sounds crystal clear...making this album a good 2 stars...

Report this review (#124772)
Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I loved "Octavarium," at least most of the songs; but truly, the only tracks that ever held my attention long enough to be enjoyed numerously were "The Root of All Evil," "These Walls" and, naturally, "Octavarium" herself; for "Systematic Chaos," it's no longer the same nonsensical drivel... and truly, I'm not here to wreck on "Octavarium," because it was definitely a musical release Dream Theater had been writing on for awhile and they deserve the credit for creating such beauty, but let's be honest: the bulk of that album ["Octavarium"] had songs too full of dreamy, juvenile "emo" lyrics; with "Systematic Chaos," for the most part, this has all been taken care of.

And, following a true engulfing from "Systematic Chaos," I'd even go so far as to say the musical attributes of "Octavarium" were very forced, sort of, in the sense that the musical strides didn't really match the feel of the songwriting, which is wholly agonizing to deal with when put into perspective from an ensemble who's responsible for creating the musical and lyrical masterpiece, "A Change of Seasons."

But regardless, after listening to "Systematic Chaos," my eyes are struck again, my head is pounding and I have been left with such a fulfilling mark of long-forgotten passion that I have nearly completely elapsed Symphony X's upcoming album, "Paradise Lost," which is scheduled to be another magnificent hammerstrike. The guitars on this album (Petrucci and Myung included), the drums, and especially Rudess' keys, were all so poignant and on-stroke that, following a second indulging, I was welcomed with a sentiment that has escaped me since listening to Neal Morse's "One": after listening to it a second time, I still needed more. Lately, although the albums from several artists have been remarkably well done, after a second listening, I wouldn't really need more at that time; "Systematic Chaos" has broken this blockade.

Against my own desire, I won't be providing a track-by-track analysis as I usually do; rather, I'll opt for the shorter choice of offering my three favorite tracks: "In the Presence of Enemies (pt.I)," "Repentance" and "The Ministry of Lost Souls," the last of which is absolutely [expletive deleted] beautiful; the greatest song since "Stream of Consciousness," I daresay. Although I enjoyed "In the Presence of Enemies (pt.II)," it still wasn't nearly as great as its first chapter, primarily due to the heavier overtones.

Another noted song would be "The Dark Eternal Night," which is hands down Dream Theater's heaviest song sing the "Train of Thought" era, which, while not a very good thing in terms of studio recordings, will no doubt be a delight to hear when they play it live. Oh, and "Forsaken" is a ballad I've been waiting for Dream Theater to write since "Anna Lee," and I was very much relieved to hear it... even if the lyrics, particularly, weren't my style, I can't help be give James LaBrie the credit he no doubt deserves, for singing it so beautifully. It almost makes up for his work on "Prophets of War," which, to me, was an abhorrent eyesore of a song. And, I suppose, even "Constant Motion" deserves a mention, even though it's single I'm not too fond of.

All the same, this album is truly a masterful composition. It has the musical treads, as I talked before, that "Octavarium" lacked; it has the guts and purpose that "Metropolis, pt.2: Scenes from a Memory" had; and, for the most part, it shines the lyrical genius that was once found in their greatest epic of all, "A Change of Seasons." I think "Systematic Chaos" is a priceless gem in the Dream Theater collection, and listening to these three songs alone ("In the Presence of Enemies (pt.I)," "Repentance" and "The Ministry of Lost Souls"), I'm filled with such thrilled bliss that, already, even after just swallowing the album for a third time, I want to go back and re-live the roller coaster again.

... however, now I have a DVD to watch, as the set that I ordered on F.Y.E. was the "special edition set," and I have yet to watch the video added on the second disc. No matter how one spins it, I think it has to be realized that "Systematic Chaos" is another album, affluent with unencumbered grandeur, that has finally been pieced together.

Report this review (#124792)
Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ive been a huge fan of DT since i 1st heard Images and words, since then ive been impressed with each album that has come along but never have i been as impressed as with this new album. They have combined there metal roots with there prog roots and the end result is breathtaking, i really admire the way they can put down there heaviest song to date in The dark eternal night and not only does it have melody but at the half way mark they put this proggy keyboard moment in that should not work but it does, they could have a huge hit with the song Forsaken because its got that Evanescence vibe running through it. Constant Motion the 1st single is a slice of melodic metal that they achieved with As i am and i love the James and Mike twin vocals, looking forward to see what they do with the video, Repentance goes into a mellow mood and shows they can do the LESS IS MORE, this song is all about Mike's 12 steps into the AA programme and i can't wait to see them perform the whole programme when its finished.Prohets of war has the most memorable of guitar parts on the album, its the only song written by James labrie and has 60 fans chanting away that adds character to the song and has my favourite lyrics on the album. Ministry of lost souls starts of at a mellow pace and is the most proggy of all the songs, the word Wizardly certaintly come to mind on the awesome song, really love the vocals on this one. Presence of enemies pt2 has to be one of the best Dt songs ive ever heard, its got all the elements that DT are well known for, i love songs that take you on a journey and you just don't want it to end and thats the feeling with this glorious epic. Ive got the Special edition which contains a 90 min making of the album which is a humours, jaw dropping and interesting docementry with a 5.1 mix to go with it.
Report this review (#124821)
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'll keep this short and sweet: This is DT's best outing since the Images & Words/Awake era abut be awake that musically, Systematic Chaos is quite a bit different from those two albums. I am going to ahead and say that unless you have quite a large metal background already established in your collection and enjoy acts such as Opeth, Pain of Salvation, Devin Townsend plus a little bit of Metallica then you may not enjoy it as much as I have. I will also go on the record and state that even though it gets very close, it still doesn't match I&W or Awake, instead falling just a little short. All in all however, fans of progressive metal who love the long instrumentals often displayed in DT's work and are looking for a nice blend of the band's styles between the 90's and 00's will more than likely cherish this brilliant outing by one of the best bands (if not, the best) of today's progressive metal scene.

I'd also like to to add that the special edition of the album is also very much worth an extra few bucks as the documentary and booklet included are both interesting and introspective of not only the album but the band itself.

Report this review (#124842)
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Going to my local shop, I wanted at first to buy the magnificient Blackwater Park by Opeth. Well it wasn't there. Instead I came back home with this new DT album ( which is ironic since I was so hyped about the album and didn't really realize it was out the same day....). Anyways here's my feeling.

Like always the musicians are top-notch and, at least for me, LaBrie is a very gifted singer. Regarding the package, (I have the special edition), I find it very well designed and the ants somehow reminding me the famous trilogy Les Fourmis ( Webber), although I don't think it bears any significance in the lyrics themselves.

It starts out with a very ''Acid Rain'' intro although it gets a bit darker later. '' In the presence of Enemies pt.1'' is a very entertaining tune and really foreshadows what's in for us.

As for track 2-3-4, respectively called : Forsaken, Constant Motion, The Dark Eternal Night feel very boring. Of course there are high points here and there but all in all these tracks aren't really interesting to me (at least for now) although I haven't give up. I would say Forsaken is the better of the 3.

Now we get our hands on the real album. ''Repentance'', like many have said, wouldn't feel out of place on Damnation altough there is an exotic vibe to it that is actually refreshing ( other attempt by DT felt just ..weird..).

Perophets of War is a very uplifting tune I would say. I don't find it very dark like many would like to deem it. The chorus and the shouts feel very Power Metal to me (in a positive way since I absolutely love Power Metal) . A simple yet good song but that you dont really listen over and over again like the last 2.

Last but CERTAINLY not least ''The Ministry of Lost Souls''. Firstly, I really love the title and, for some unknown reason it really reminds me that Harry Potter and the Deatly Hallows is very much on it's way. Now on with the song: to me the real highlight of the album and one of the best DT song. It has everything : complexity, creativity, tightness, technicality and emotion, ow so much soul has been put into this song. The chorus is simply gorgeous. Really a tour-de-force. There's nothing I can much more say. Just Listen !!

'' In The Presence Of Enemies pt.2'' : Really just see above for description. The only difference is the lyrics. Many have come to dislike the lyrics but I like them (influence from Power Metal). Epic in every way and much darker than ''Ministry''. The end is very spine tingling. Another chef-d'oeuvre. Really great effort. And for a long time it seems the band, (to quote Have a Cigar), did pull it together as a team and not each soloing its way on its own.

Letdown : Constant Motion, The Dark Eternal Night Highlight : The Ministry of Lost Souls, In The presence of Enemies

Final Verdict: 80 min that will make you begging for more. For now 4 stars (85%) altough it may change (for the better of course). After all, it's A DT album.

Edit: After many months, the album didn't quite grew on me like I thought it would. The Dark Eternal Night is the stand-out track, quite suprisingly after hundreds of listening sessions.

Report this review (#124887)
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars A well recorded, even album. Paul Northfield has done nothing but help. Definately something you can listen to from start to finish without getting bored, or, without feeling overwelmed and assaulted. The track "In the presence of Enemies" is probably no "Change of Seasons" or "Octavarium".... but they seem to be going for a different mood with the entire CD and it fits in excellently with the overall package.

The vocals are not too breathy or melodramatic... Since Score was released, I was hoping for great vocals on this studio release, and I'm pretty happy. I think Petrucci stands out among the rest, but honestly that may be because I listen to the guitar more than anything else no matter what I am listening to. Everyone seems like they are playing well "as a band".

People have called this album "dark", which is a more fitting description of the lyrics than the music. Influences, of course, are present - but this sounds like an honest, well crafted, well written collection that furthur defines Dream Theater.

Report this review (#124897)
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ahhhh, a new DT album! Like a breath of fresh air. Or, maybe not? On my first listen, I just sort of sat there and waited, thinking to myself "Some thing's wrong here." It took me a couple of listens before I could start pulling apart the good from bad, but what was good was very good, and what was bad wasn't exactly terrible, but not the Dream Theater I've grown to love. Let me just start out with this: This isn't their best work, nor is it their worst. I feel compelled to say this because everyone's been completely in one spectrum or another, when really it's neither of them.

In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1- (9/10) The cd opens with an excellent instrumental piece, which is somewhat unexpected seeing as most of DT's albums start right off with lyrics (with the small exception of New Millennium), but this was done excellently. About five minutes into it, Labrie comes in the lyrics, and every thing's great. Sounds good, great concept, good instrument balance; every thing was there to put this as one of the top albums.....

Forsaken- (5/10) ....then I listened to this. I was shocked to hear the pure mediocrity of this track. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, but this really isn't DT. Almost sort of reminded me of Nightwish, if I do say so myself.

Constant Motion- (6/10) Hmmm, the title track? I'm still not completely sold on this one. Yes, sounds like DT, but the riffs are ones I've heard from every other metal band out there. It's alright, but not the intense, punch you in the face with creativity from DT.

The Dark Eternal Night- (8/10) I don't see everyone else's problem with this song. It was one of the better songs off the album. This is what I expect to hear from DT. Have I heard something similar from other metal songs, yes but where would music be if we didn't copy one another once in a while. The heavy intro, off meter riffs, excellent creative middle instrumentals,and decent (decent, not great) lyrics all worked well to make a good track. The instrumental middle had numerous riffs and style changes working perfectly with each other . Great song, very good instrumentally; lyrically, it's o.k. Classic DT.

Repentance- (10/10) Unbelievable! I can't believe that they had it in them to write something like this. This was the stand out track of the album by far. They mellowed down big time for this one, and it worked out perfectly. The famous voices apologizing concept was very intelligent, and the mood was set perfectly to set up the lyrics. Yes, some of the riffs are the same from "This Dying Soul", but this is a continuing series of songs; there should be something in each of the songs to remind people of this. It's length was perfect, along with everything else about this song. It's already one of my DT favorites.

Prophets of War- (3/10) Are you kidding? We go from absolute amazement to this? This was not a good song at all. The beginning just kept reminding me of techno. Even when Petrucci comes in, they're playing eight note root to fifth stuff that you hear daily in pop music. Not cutting it for me.

The Ministry of Lost Souls- (6/10) O.k., now that I've recovered, this one's alright. It reminds me of Six Degrees with the electronic orchestra beginning (which isn't really a bad thing). I'd put it in the league of "The Great Debate" or "Voices"; not bad songs, but nothing I'd go out of my way to listen to. Very nice chord work by Petrucci in this one though.

In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2- (9/10) Very good continuation of part one. Every thing's done well in this one except for the intro lyric of "Welcome tired pilgrim". It might just be the way Labrie sang it, but to me it sounded very cheesy. Still, all in all an excellent song. A great instrumental section towards the end which kind of reminds me of "Dance of Eternity."

O.k., final verdict- It was a good album. It had it's ups for downs, but theres more positive than negative. Not the best album of the summer, but it will do. If you're looking for better, check out Symphony X's "Paradise Lost" (absolutely intense by the way) or after almost five years of waiting, Planet X's new studio album "Quantum"

Systematic Chaos gets a 7/10, a 3.5 by prog archives scale, rounded off to three which is "good but non-essential".

Report this review (#124968)
Posted Thursday, June 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Great stuff!! Complexity is there along with the lyrical excellence. I will say things are bit hard to get into because there is just so much stuff to digest - demons, vampires, politics, soberness, etc. The thing that really brought this home for me was the DVD. Once you see that I think you will be hooked. It really gets at what these guys do and what the thought process is. The one minus on the DVD is the lack of John Myung vocal commentary and seeing his working process, but that is the mystic of Mr. Myung. Never seen but always heard. Splurge on the Special Edition DVD set. It is very enlightening and can probably be used as an educational tool for those who play guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, sing, and want to record some music.

This is an album worth buying because it is very different than previous efforts. I think that is Dream Theater. They aren't heavy metal bashers, they aren't ballad writers, etc. They are musicians who play instruments very well. They like to experiment and be creative, while trying to satisfy fan outcry. I like it when they buck the fan system and do what they want. I have every studio album from Images and Words, and I will say this one shows a great maturity in many ways. The sound and production are amazing. The vocal dynamics are some of James' best. Myung doesn't freak out as much but I like the "simplicity" of this bass and the sounds he gets. He's like the Miles Davis of prog bass playing - the notes he doesn't play are equally as important as the notes he does play (I think a fan said that about him, so I won't take the credit for that). Petrucci does what he does, makes guitar playing look easy. If anyone's 17 year old kid's garage band can do what he and Dream Theater do then they need to get a contract going. Mike is amazing as usual, and to see his work ethic is sick. I think he needs to be committed sometimes with all the stuff he does. Oh, and there's Jordan...ummmm...Amazing!!!! This guys fingers don't stop, and he can play anything. I can't believe that he scores out all of his music. You see that on the DVD, and it is amazing how easily he translates everything. His knowledge of the technical matters is astounding. He really can program all that stuff and use them to their fullest potential. Bottomline is these guys are musicians first. They are the sum total of an equation that keeps playing out - music. They have the gift and they are using. Anyone who says they aren't jelled needs to go back and listen the disc, then go see them live. They are very jelled. And not to knock the fans out there but sometimes with musicians of this caliber we may not understand everything they do, as they perceive it. It could be that you just don't understand what is happening and that your mind is closed to what you are hearing. Be humble in the face of what you hearing.

Great effort by the boys and I hope the next album is an Elton John album where they just ballad out and go orchestral. Anyway, enjoy this album because it is something different than what's out there, and because these guys really understand what they are doing. Besides how many bands with this following write about vampires and biblical beasts from revelations, and then throw out political jarbs on top of all that? The diversity is there. Seek and you shall find.

Peace Ya'll

Report this review (#125089)
Posted Thursday, June 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think the best thing that can be said about this album is its diversity.

The album starts off with a true progressive sound, with the full band kicking in for In the Presence of Enemies: Part 1. James doesn't appear for quite a few minutes, and personally i think this is a slight downside of the song, but everything else, from his raspy vocals to the sweet guitar/key unison at the end garner this song a 9/10.

The second track, Forsaken, starts with a light piano melody that reminds me a bit of Wait for Sleep. Then the guitar kicks in, and while the riff is sweet, it does seem pretty standard rock. LaBrie's vocal lines are again fantastic in this song, namely the line "I have to know your name, where have i seen your face before!" which is delivered with a ferocity I haven't heard since the Awake days. Petrucci creates a stellar solo (a common theme on this album), so this substantially boosts the song to a 7/10.

The third song is the first single off the album, Constant Motion, and is the first heavy metal song - a third genre from three songs. The comparisons to Metallica are definitely valid, especially in the vocal lines. For me this is the weakest song on the album, but it more than saved from the intense instrumental section. Everything from Myung's bass lead to the backing riff at 4:00 is amazing, and then Petrucci delivers one of his finest solos, period. A quiet start that builds up into quick pull-offs, a tap or two, great alternate picking and finally some amazing shredding arppegios to close. Easily one of his best solos in my opinion, and overall the song garners a 6.5/10 from me.

Continuing the heavy metal genre, we have The Dark Eternal Night. Definitely one of Dream Theater's heaviest songs, ever, in terms of drums, bass, guitar and most noticeable the vocals. The 'screams' from Portnoy and LaBrie are a new foray from them, and when in a rocking mood, sound great. The lyrics here aren't to my liking at all, but luckily i listen to DT for their musicianship and not their literacy. The instrumental section here is top quality, with great time signature, wicked bass (especially around 4:00 to 4:20!) a bit of ragtime from Jordan and clean gutiar from Petrucci. I felt the solo was not needed, and the backing riff to it did nothing for me. Overall, not quite The Glass Prison, but still a great heavy tune, getting 8/10.

Another track and another genre, this time what I'd call light prog. Definite vibes of Pink Floyd. Some of the best lyrics on the album, but musically is where this track shines. Cool relation to This Dying Soul and a moody chorus, with another fantastic, melodic solo from Petrucci. The voices add real emotion to the song and the outro, while it does drag on for one round too long, is melodically fantastic. One of my favourite DT 'slow songs', with a 9/10.

Hey look it's Muse! The next track, Prophets of War, starts nearly identically to Muse's Take a Bow. The similarities are hard to forgive until the crushing guitar riff comes in, joining with the bass and drums which is unarguably Dream Theater. The disco feel of the second verse draws comparisons to Pain of Salvation's 'Disco Queen' in style, but shares no melodic resemblance like the introduction does to Muse. The song continuously improves and peaks with Mike Portnoy's rap - a spoken word interlude with an atmospheric background and breathtakingly emotional delivery. "Your empathy, means nothing if there is no honour" is one of the highlights of the album. The only song without a Petrucci solo, and it didn't need it. Overall a 7.5/10, but this varies to an 8.5 depending how annoyed i get with the Muse introduction.

The album moves into stunning territory with the final two tracks - The Ministry of Lost Souls is another prog epic by Dream Theater, a definite fan favourite already. The song delves straight into a beautiful Rudess riff, before Petrucci takes over with melodic acoustic chords that remind me of A Change of Seasons. Lyrically one of the best songs on the album, the chorus outro mimics the verse chords, with Petrucci showing tremendous restraint and focusing on melody over techinicality. The outro to the second chorus builds with a bridge, and some stunning bass/guitar unison work, even if it only lasts 10 seconds, before a pickslide leads into the heavy instrumental section. While this transition seems slightly forced, it is not unbearably so, and the song makes up for it with some blinding solo's and one of the best key/guitar unisons the band has done (that trill at the end is amazing.) Petrucci then reprises the intro Rudess melody, before the band stunningly cuts out to allow LaBrie the final verse. This reminds me of Finally Free when the acoustic guitar cuts in, and the similarities to this song continue as the song ends with Portnoy slamming the drums behind a Petrucci riff, akin to the drum centred closing of Finally Free. A true classic - 10/10.

The album closes with Part 2 of the opening track, and it doesn't disappoint. Some of Myung's best bass work is on show here, from the first 2 verses which have him leading the tune, to the little bass 'fills' he concocts during the epic closing (behind "My soul grows weaaaaaker"). Although i did laugh, literally, when I heard 'Dark Master within, I will fight for you!", I again reiterate that DT is all about the music for me, so i could look past these (embarrassing) lyrical flaws. The reprises to Part 1 in this section are many, and they are fantastic. From the "servants of the fallen" to the vocal lines echoing Petrucci's previous guitar work...it's a true masterpiece and an incredible way to end a great album - 10/10.

In closing...this album for me is definitely DT's best since Scenes From a Memory, and probably sits 3rd or 4th overall (behind Scenes, Images and Words, and Awake). The diversity is the highlight here, as there is truly something for everyone. The album gets 5 stars for this very reason: it truly is progressive, and showcases DT's talents across many a genre.

Report this review (#125155)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Melomaniac
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Here I am, against all odds, reviewing the latest from Dream Theater.

Let me put it this way : it's the first DT album in the Rudess era that really sounds like a band working together for the sake of songs. Labrie found his perfect range, he no longer goes into that high registry (you know how on some songs in the past he went so high that we actually had a hard time understanding the words he sung... take these lines from Take the time from Images and Words : "If there's a price to pay, a wasted year, a man must learn to cope ; if his obsession's real, suppresion that he feels must turn to hope...") Now people like you and me understand what he's saying because we read the lyrics, but if we never had the lyrics, I doubt we would have understood anything, and there are countless examples of this throughout DT's recorded output.

There is also a lot less over-the-top musical noodling (over noodling being the main reason why I loathe Scenes from a Memory as much as I do) ; now of course it wouldn't be a DT album if there wasn't any, but I find that on Systematic Chaos, these moments are well integrated in the songs.

Rudess is also more well integrated in the band, and I find his parts more tasteful than ever, he didn't overdo it this time.

Petrucci is also to be commended for his playing on SC ; take In the Presence of Enemies pt.I for example ; after some high speed noodling in the beginning; he goes on with a very nice heartfelt lead in which he stretches his notes, bends them, and plays with FEEL. His solos are also better than ever, as he no longer starts them at full speed and keeps them like that until the end, he builds them up, they are actually saying something this time around other than "Look how fast I can play and how many trillions of notes I can throw in a couple of seconds".

Myung is equal to himself, and I always thought he was the most constant and tasteful player in the band. Also one of the band's best songwriters ; too bad they don't let him write as much these days.

Portnoy is Portnoy, a technical monster as always, only now he infused dosage in his playing, and to good effect.

Another good point about SC is that the poppier songs are good this time around, not like that awful 'I Walk Beside You' from Octavarium, which sounded so much like Coldplay it was... well, sh!tty. Forsaken is a great song, and Prophets of War, though very reminiscent of Muse, is still very good.

The excellent "Repentance" also shows how DT have matured as songwriters, using delicacy and subtleties as they have so rarely done with this much efficiency in the past.

I have to admit that it's the first time in a long, long while that I love all songs found on a DT album. Very diverse, very tasteful.

So yes, it definitely is my favorite Rudess-era DT album, and an album that drew me back to a band I thought were lost, caught in the traps they set for themselves. Not a masterpiece, but if they keep on going in this direction, the next DT album might be one.

Four stars !!!

Report this review (#125172)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars It took a few listens for me to get this CD, but it has finally sinked in. I agree with previous reviewers that have stated the strength of the album is its diversity.

Track 1 is a very good track, especially the 5 minute intro, where the band sounds at top notch prog-level. Track 2 is just plain rock, it has a catchy chorus but its not what you would expect from the once called gods of prog-metal. I had downloaded track 3 before getting the CD, it does have its moments, specially petrucci's insane riffing on the middle section but the lyrics are quite pointless. I believe that Jordan plays a very limited role on this CD, the consequence is that you get songs that sound a lot like the bands that influenced JP, JM and MP. This is the case with track 3. Track 4 is even heavier than track 3, in my opinion that makes it better. MP shows us a marvelous double bass drum technique, as if he were still 19 years old. The lyrics improve IMO in this one too, the instrumental section here is top quality, but Jordan is again maintained on a very low key. The downside for me on tracks 3 and 4 is the rap-like singing, witch has been around for about 4 albums now, plz guys get rid of it. Track 5 is wonderful musically, James's voice is phenomenal, but the lyrics here disappointed me again. Specially due to the fact that this is the fourth album that includes MP's AA theme. Enough is enough Mike. The repenting voices at the end were a surprise, a good one actually, a very noticeable opeth, PT influence that shines through creating clear skies. Track 6, what can I say, Disco?? opera-dramatic-rock?? similar to "never enough" with a muse influence, IMO not the direction DT should take, but the song has its moments. AHH! Finally, we get to the best part of the CD, Track seven IMO es the best one, all of the great things we like about DT are present in this song, Respectable Lyrics, James's best range of vocals backed by his own harmonies, a fantastic instumental section, and a beautiful JP solo to end this masterpiece. See waht happens when Jordan is unleashed?? Track 8 is the continuation of track one. Just an excellent song. A great instrumental section towards the end. Again, Jordan's symphonic influence clearly improves the writing and compositional arrangements of the other band members.

In the end, i would give the CD 4 stars, i think DT is trying to define the direction they want to take their music after 20 years of giving us the best of prog music. Id be a little worried of the highly religious content on the lyrics, and of the popish and rapish orchestrations, so plz guys when you do decide where youll be headed artistically, make sure you take into account what we have to say about it. After all its us that have supported you during those 20 years of great music!!

Report this review (#125179)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
TRoTZ
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars With "Systematic Chaos" Dream Theater just confirmed the obvious: their ideas have reached a state of exhaustion, and even worse, what we would never think of pointing the finger - their technical rock - even that surprisingly started to succumb, together with the band's obvious lack of effort. It seems that, these days, the band assumes people are more interested on their technical covers of classic albums (aka Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", Iron Maiden "The Number of the Beast", Metallica, etc, as if they could actually elevate them) than on their own ideas. Almost every moment of this album seems a dejavu from the past.

"In the Presence of Enemies, Pt.1" relies entirely on a variation of the memorable riff of Images and Word's last tracks. And of course we have the same cheesy ballad we are used to, this time "Forsaken". "Constant Motion" shows a refrain virtually equal to Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence's "The Glass Prison". "The Dark Eternal Night" could be a weaker song taken from Train of Thought, with the same tempo changes tricks and dark riffs, but this time even them are trivial and forgettable. "Repentence" is the most compelling track, one of the few moments which we can find some soul on the music, but it copies literally the memorable riff of Train of Thought's "This Dying Soul" and developed it in a more contemplative, depressive way, in the aesthetics of the same album's "Vacant". "Prophets of War", another Muse-like song, an even weaker effort than Octavarium's "Panic Attack". Cliches, cliches, cliches. Two final songs (along with the auto-plagium "Repentence") save the album from the total disgrace, "The Ministry of Lost Souls" with the only original memorable passage a gifted guitarist like Petrucci has to offer (even though I have the impression I've heard something similar somewhere...) and sparse moments of sensibility, together with the last track, but they bring nothing of new as either.

Even if we ignore the overall senseless lack of passion, there isn't the formidable technical wizardry seen on "Images and Words" or "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence", neither "Train of Though"'s memorable and complex riffs. What impresses more is, while they created a huge musical movement with "Images and Words", and unanimously considered one of the most effective music machines of all times, they reached a point where they even are unable to standout in their own genre. As a band's own member said, this was meant to be "music with balls", a statement that just proves they are not concerned with art anymore, but only in satisfying their easy-going fans.

Report this review (#125185)
Posted Friday, June 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars

A Trip to "Train of Thought" and "Octavarium"

As far as music style, not much that I expected from Dream Theater way before they released their 9th album "Systematic Chaos". Their musical identity has become obvious especially in combining complex structure with bridges in staccato style played in relatively fast tempo with skillful musicians who really master their individual instrument. Oh yeah, who would dare to challenge John Petrucci in his virtuosity of fast guitar playing? Or John Myung who masters in dancing his fingers on his fretted bass guitar? Or, with Jordan Rudess' great keyboard playing? Last but not least: Mike Portnoy dazzling drumwork? Well, I can say that all of them are top notch musicians with their own identity.

But of course along the way with waiting process of the next album, one thing laid firmly in my head: OK, musically I would not expect fundamental change - but how the songs would sound like? Would that be a really melodious song like "Sacrificed Sons" or energetic songs like "The Root of All Evil" or "Never Enough"? Would that be possible that they would come up with something similar to "Scene From a Memory" - the band's legendary and masterpiece album? I was not quite sure, really. But I intentionally take out my expectation of being like "Scene From a Memory" just to play safe and preparing not being dissatisfied a lot if it turned out differently.

"Excellent!", that was my first reaction the first time I listened to this album especially the opening track "The Presence of Enemies Part 1". Well, in a nut shell, I can get everything that Dream Theater I expect to deliver: complexity, melody and great performance. I sensed varied feelings about the album as I spun the album over and over and it all boiled down into a sort of conclusion that this album represents a marriage of "Train of Thought" album, characterized by heavy guitar riffs and music, and "Octavarium" album, including those influences (in musical styles) of other bands like Pink Floyd and Muse. Why do I say so? It's basically due to the facts that I found similarity of previous two Dream Theater albums.

The Octavarium Part

The Octavarium-like music has basically characterized the style of the overall album. I can mention the following tracks as Octavarium-like: "The Presence of Enemies Part 1 and Part 2", "Forsaken", "Repentance", "Prophets of War", "The Ministry of Lost Souls". Overall, all of them account for 75% of the whole album style. I don't see any similarity with other albums like "Scene From a Memory" or "Six Degree of Inner Turbulence". I would say this part has portion of mellow style as well.

The opening track "The Presence of Enemies - Part 1" is really kicking. It starts beautifully with a combination of bass, drum, guitar with excellent riffs which moves wonderfully into nice opening led by keyboard and then followed by music riffs that remind me to the style of "The Great Debate" (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence). The long opening part of approximately 5 minutes enriches the beauty of this track especially when it shows the guitar and keyboard melodies which are really great! What a great intro part! I enjoy the guitar riffs and LaBrie powerful voice and nice lyrics. I am totally satisfied with this track. [5/5]

"Forsaken" reminds me to "Sacrificed Sons" of "Octavarium album". It starts beautifully with melodic piano solo followed with a blast of music dominated by soft riffs. The music flows naturally. The melody is catchy and very nice. On composition, this song is not as great as "Sacrificed Sons" but it offers excellent melody sung excellently by LaBrie. [4.5/5]

"Repentance" has an introduction of "This Dying Soul" of "Train of Thought" album. The music style reminds me to Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree. It's not a bad track at all and it offers good melody in mellow style with practically no heavy rhythm. There are narration in some segments of the album augmented with keyboard work that sounds like a mellotron - in smoother fashion. The guitar solo by Petrucci does not truly reflect the music of Dream Theater, it's like David Gilmour, I think. The trouble with this song, for me , is at the last 3 minutes where the music is repeated over time until it ends. This is not good at all and very annoying. [3/5]

"Prophets of War" is an excellent track with heavy influence from Muse. Not only Jordan provides keyboard sounds which in a way emulate the music of Muse, but he also gives sufficient nuance to accentuate the music. I like the parts where LaBrie says "Time to make a change!" and also the part where there is narration at the ending part of the song. [4.5/5]

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" is another composition that reminds me to "Octavarium" track especially its opening that comprises light music with string orchestration followed with acoustic guitar fills. LaBrie enters his voice wonderfully and the music flows smoothly in mellow style. The music moves into crescendo to parts with colossal style where the string orchestration at the background helps accentuate the overall textures of the song. Mike Portnoy provides his jaw-dropping drum work especially with his 10" tom sounds. The interlude part in staccato form reminds me to the interlude of "Sacrificed Sons". The riffs produced with this interlude is really killing and is very Dream Theater! [5/5]

"The Presence of Enemies - Part 2" starts off with bass guitar beats followed with guitar and keyboard works in ambient nuance. LaBrie enters his voice powerfully in mellow style. The song moves gradually into higher tone at approx minute 3. It then moves again into higher tone combined with orchestration. Guitar is not played as complex as it used to be in previous albums. The beauty of this song is on backing vocals which sound like growling.Also, I enjoy Jordan Rudes keyboard solo during interlude part of the song followed with Petrucci solo. The interlude reminds me to "The Great Debate" song. [5/5]

The Train of Thought Part

As far as my ears can classify, two songs fall under "Train of Thought" music style: "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night". Key characteristic under this style is: relatively straight forward music with heavy riff produced by guitar and screaming vocal work, all of them are heavily influenced by Metallica. It depends on your musical taste. If you can enjoy something really hard and heavy like most songs in "Train of Thought" album or song like "The Glass Prison" of "Six Degree of Inner Turbulence" then you would be OK with these two songs. These two songs provide great energy to the album as a whole because many songs in this album contain mellow section. I rate these two songs with [4/5] respectively.

Conclusion

With such a long review I explore at above sentences, it's clear that I recommend this album to be owned by each of you - especially those who really love progressive metal album. Well, it's not that all songs are progmet, actually. My overall rating for the whole album is [4.2 / 5] - highly recommended, and don' miss it! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#125311)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars Dream Theater has been taking the easy way already for the previous two albums, Train Of Thought and Octavarium which essentially indicated lack of inspiration within the band. Still having compositionally strong moments there and here (like Endless Sacrifice and the epic Octavarium), the overall mood has been a little tired. It's like they've found the ultimate DT formula (technical stretching, basic pop/rock choruses, heavy riffs, etc.) and doing it in a very calculated way, mostly without inspiration. This time they did this album probably while listening to radio, there's absolutely nothing new here, only some "influences" (rip-offs in my opinion) from other bands. I wonder if they keep the band going anymore because of any other reason than money.

Well, perhaps I should say a few more detailed comment about the album. The first minutes of the first track actually promise a pretty good album (if not the most interesting), but right after them you come into the first vocal part, and it just gets boring as hell. This keeps going on for the rest of the album with the exception of The Dark Eternal Night which is listenable for the sake of heaviness (some decent double-bass drumming and seven-string riffing), but doesn't get too interesting either, and is equipped with the most embarrassing DT vocals ever (LaBrie has just too good technique to do such distorted vocals and should quit doing them before actually damaging his voice). Constant Motion has a nice chorus but most of the song is trashy Metallica rip-off (and who cares about Metallica anymore anyway?). Repentance is deadly BORING. The first six minutes of In The Presence Of The Enemies Pt.2 is OK with spacey vocal section, but the silly lyrics are disturbing ("Dark master, my guide, I will die for you", WHAT?!) and the rest of the song is unmemorable instrumental self-indulgence and in the ending section an unnecessary repeating of previous themes just for the sake of being an epic. The songs I left unmentioned are completely unessential in the DT catalogue as well. And there's one more complaint: now that LaBrie has regained his incredible range that we witnessed during the Octavarium world tour and especially on the Score live recording, why the hell isn't he using it? The vocal performance here is disappointing, it's like he had done the vocals without warming up, just doing some ordinary things. Probably it's because he's as tired as the rest of the band, not willing to explore and break his limits anymore.

If there would be one word to describe this album, it would be: TIRED.

Report this review (#125319)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars After more than 20+ listens (which is actually about minimum for this album, otherwise review is not objective enough & rating doesn't mean nothing!) I can finnaly review this album, from a band delivering us great music from more than 20 years. This album is actually conceptional at least as much as SFAM was, but in completely different wider way(s). Ist's a concept/ definition of their music, their influences, and ther (few) past, present & future fans, which will not be turned away because their technical complexity, even there is plenty of that genius stuff for which DT is known for! This is the point where this great waried mix of their discography, influences, and new modern prog works as a masterpiece! [b]People who will get familiar with the band first[/b] time through roadrunner, will find some "catchiness" in this album! Once they will dig it deeper, they will soon discovered what DT means & why are they one of most responsible bands today, for modern prog getting more popular, what we old fans already know! [b] People who are classic oldschool DT fans[/b] ("I & W/Awake/SFAM * 10 wanters" :P ), will soon find enough greatness for them in this album, & a warrning that they should not give up listening to their great varied music! "The Ministry of lost Souls" serves this purpose perfectly! Lyrics are great, but not only on this song, where they are not so perfectly hidden by a "fantasy horror mask". A lot of (maybe) random references/metaphors can be pulled out, which actually work! Example; 1. "The (ministry->service) (of->for) (lost->and found again with SC) souls (DT-> fans!!)

2.

"In The Presence Of The Enemies-> potentially new fans/metalheads who know/buy roadrunner records & don't-> didn't like DT.

"DARK MASTER within, I will fight for you, Dark Master of sin, now my SOUL is yours, Dark Master my guide, I will die for you, Dark Master inside"

-> Alyrics that actually sounded humorous to me (& many others), untill I figured out that DARK MASTER., could be actually DT himself & SOUL his fans, who give him life (by supporting the band & understanding their music!! You can guess this one;

I've been waiting for you, Weary preacher man, You have been expected, now we can begin, Let this hallowed DAY OF JUDGMENT RING, I have known you Father and your sacred quest, BLESSED SOLDIER FIGHTING, YOU SHALL NEVER REST, I HAVE KNOWN YOU, BUT DO YOU KNOW ME? Angels fall all for you, heretic Demon haunt, bleed for us,...

There are also some good b-horror references of H.P. Lovecraft's most popular horror novel in TDEN & nowadays state of america's politics over Iraq in POW, etc,..

There is probably no coincidence that DT cooperated with Pain Of Salvation singer Daniel Gildenlöw & Steven Wilson, from Porcupine Tree (that also signed to Roadrunner), because SC / Scarsick / Fear of a Blank Planet->creates 2007,s trinity of moderen prog, which brings new prog fans (to this site),& DT has one of the bigest if not THE BIGEST credites for that. Therefore this album deserves a masterpice score, even if it's not on "one-thing focused" story driven album like SFAM, which can be easier rated as a classic, by a majority of people! Their next album might be just that (Metropolis pt. 3 ?) - with DT, you never know & this is what's the best about them!

Report this review (#125347)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was initially a little hesitant about the new Dream Theater album, but I'm always welcome to suprises. Systematic Chaos is DT's most cohesive work since 2002's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Whereas Train of Thought was one long metal song with little diversity and Octavarium's diversity reached the point where the flow was greatly interrupted, Systematic Chaos flows quite nicely which makes quite an enjoyable listen. It is darker and heavier than Octavarium, but not like Train of Thought. Mike Portnoy's AA suite continues here with "Repentence," a much mellower and calmer song than the last installments have been. This is a great song and probably my favorite on the whole album. The spoken confessions in the second part of the song are rather eerie and make for a fun listen. "Prophets of War" (note the pun) is an updated version of "Never Enough" and works much better than the latter. And don't forget the sick riffs on "The Dark Eternal Night." In all, Systematic Chaos is a great album- one of DT's better works. It possess the dramatic and symphonic edge that I feel have been missing from their albums a bit lately which I feel kind of brings back the vibe from their older albums. It is also worth mentioning that "In The Presence Of Enemies" is a great song- DT never lets us down with their epics.

The special edition packaging was well done too. The slipcase art was a little weird, but who cares? I like slipcases anyway. The DVD documentary was well done and very informative, funny and entertaining. It's obvious they had a good time recording this album, which definitely shows on the final product. I have not heard the 5.1 mix because I don't have anything to play it on to hear how special it is, but whatever- just play this album loud and you're good.

Standout songs: "In The Presence Of Enemies," "The Dark Eternal Night," "Repentance" DT Cheese Moment: The "dark master" section of "In The Presence Of Enemies, Pt. 2

Report this review (#125350)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Another technically brilliant release from Dream Theater. Flawless playing and production and some well written music and lyrics, pretty much what you would expect. And I think that's a bit of problem for these prog-metal giants nowadays. I found this album a bit too predictable after Octavarium which I feel is more diverse. Even so it is a very enjoyable listen and well worth picking up but that said, there are other DT albums you should get first namely Images And Words, Awake, Scenes, and as much live stuff as you can afford ;-)
Report this review (#125424)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Once again, a technically and lyrically wonderful CD! The creative minds are in full motion on this one! Jordan's mix of cutting-edge sounds with vintage techniques really shows his prowess as one of the most inventive and relevant keyboardists in music today (this coming from a drummer who used to laugh at bands using a keyboard!). As a drummer, I can find only pleasure in Mike's playing. It's what I have always wanted - Neil Peart with begger balls! John and John also exceed all expectations (I only wish John Myung were a little less talkative on the "Special Edition DVD). Vocally, James comes through flawlessly!

The only detraction for me: Though a big fan of the dark sound Dream Theater has usually played, I am not a big fan of the whole "Dark Master" fantasy-thing (no matter how subjective, or internalized the story is supposed to be).

Other than that, Systematic Chaos is a winner in my book and I look forward to seeing them in the States for the first time when they open the tour in San Diego. I was lucky enough to see them at the Buddokan for Train of Thought and in Tokyo for Octavarium while stationed in Japan.

Just keep in mind when reviewing a band like Dream Theater: whether or not you like the album should be the focus. Saying what is (and what is not) a "real" Dream Theater CD is up to the guys in the band. After all, half the fun of listening to them is seeing what off- the-wall stuff they will come up with next!

Report this review (#125477)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album has caused a lot of discussion on this forum and the least I could do was to give it some time before I 'll try to write this. Being a constant fan of DT and after a couple of hearings I feel ready to review their new work.

Before Octavarium every DT album had a main direction. Some were harder, some a bit pop, some were more prog. Don't get me wrong, all albums are complex, multi-level and in their way masterpieces. But you feel that every record comes from somewhere and goes somewhere, leaving you with a gapping mouth. But with Octavarium DT took a strange turn. Everything was coming from different directions. That felt strange but also made this album quite interesting and one of their best. So the question was "How they will catch you this time?"

I confess, after hearing a very few parts of this album on the Internet I had a fear that a repetition of a well known recipy will come to surface. But I stopped right there! I waited till the official release of the album, not paying any attention to the various reviews here and all over the net. And when I first listened to the whole album I was awe struck.

This time DT took everything to a new level. They provided a darker, heavier, more atmospheric album. Yes, it sounds different. Regarding what I previously mentioned, in this album every song comes from a different direction, deservingly making this an actual trip. I don't like to get this song by song and it will be unfair to just focus in some of them. Every track has a role in here to create this masterpiece and words are poor. They still have virtuoso technical parts, as heavy as it gets but they also give you beautiful atmosphering moments that this time are more in length. And they also get more political in some of the lyrics expressing more openly their beliefs. And if you ask me they speak the truth.

Every aspect of their greatness is kept here. Great guitars, thunderous and well put solos. I also feel that in this album you can enjoy more Myung basslines. Everything I could say about Portnoy's drums will be futile. He is by far the best drummer of our time and this album is just one more chance to understand this. Keys are perfect, voice is once again perfect with diversity and interesting twists. Very fresh work

Once you think that this band has done everything and you don't know what to expect of them, they just keep on surprising you. This is their best work since "Six Degrees..." and being very prog it should be kept on the home page of this site for a long time!

I feel that sometimes the aren't enough stars to rate an album...I can only end this by saying that they are the greatest prog metal band, they actually invented the whole thing by influencing EVERYONE and they are back!

Report this review (#125525)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
1800iareyay
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Dream Theater had lost many proggies with their last two releases. Train of Thought, while enjoyable, displayed next to no progressive qualities while Octavarium drew its influences from U2 and Coldplay. But the band steps up for their new label with what may be their most progressive record yet. The production is killer. I'm not one to write in all caps, but JOHN MYUNG'S BASS IS AUDIBLE! Yes, you heard correctly, they've finally decided to add him to the mix, and his contributions here are some of his best. LaBrie's voice has been improving since Octavarium and it shows with more range and versatility. Petrucci, who has been stagnating on the last few albums, gives some phenomenal performances that remind us why he is so revered in the first place. Rudess lays down a host of unison lines and surprisingly heavy riffs plus he brings back the continuum. Portnoy is, as usual, awe-inspiring.

The album opens with part one of "In the Presence of Enemies". Five minutes of astounding instrumental work give way to great vocals from LaBrie. They're finally playing up his great soft vocals that he used so well on earlier work as well as The Human Equation. "Forsaken" and "Constant Motion" follow and, while they lack lyrical depth, are fun heavy tracks. "The Dark Eternal Night" gets a lot of flak here. I'm not sure why, it's a great rack. Myung uses popping and, later, a pick to change things up. The riffs are great and the continuum solo is terrific.

"Repentance" continues the AA suite with a atmospheric track that conjures images of Floyd and soft Opeth. The decision to add guest voices speaking rather than singing is unique and brilliant. Even though the band wrote it this way just to provide a break for when the suite is finally played live, it fits the mood of the two steps. "Prophets of War" pays homage to Muse at the beginning, then goes back to DT. This is the best song lyrically on the album and it's one of the few political songs in the DT canon. "Ministry of Lost Souls" is a monster with atmospheric balladry giving way to killer solos from Petrucci. This song puts him back on top. The album closes with part two of ITPOE, and it's even better than the first part. Myung's performance here is one of his best, certainly the best bass performance he has put in since Metropolis Part II.

Lyrically, this album is laughable. Every track but Prophets is steeped in banal fantasy. ITPOE at least uses it as a metaphor, which greatly increases the value of the lyrics. However, it is the band's best album since SFAM and it shows the band acting like a band again. The lyrics prevent it from being a masterpiece, but if DT keeps it up, they'll have another classic in no time.

Grade: B+

Report this review (#125528)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I purchased this a week ago and have listened it to around 10 times but all to no avail. Granted, it ticks all the boxes but possibly this is the most damning thing I can say....through an exhaustion of ideas, a work has been created based on a template of all that has gone before. The most positive thing I can say is that Petrucci's guitar riffing is actually quite inspired at times. All this would be enough in itself to keep me onside, but no, they had to go for the lowest denominator....cheesy lyrics (dark master....oh please), a chorus on one song lifted from the Village People, and to cap it all nu metal quotations throughout (those dual distorted/monster vocals really are crass). The only explanation I can think of is that this is a result of the label switch to Roadrunner and there is a strategy to appeal to a greater number of tenagers. Well if it makes Portnoy and Crew rich fair enough, I can't knock them for that. I guess poetic and meaningful lyrics are not required for that market. And where is Rudess in all of this? He seems relegated to a minor supporting role. I'm hoping that once the band have got this one out of thier system, I can look forward to a return to maturity in around 2 years time. Here's hoping.
Report this review (#125609)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm giving 5 stars to Systematic chaos as 4 stars would be a bit underrated althought 5 stars may seem too much. Say that the right vote would be 4.5 stars.

It took me two or three listening to get the grasp of this album, as the sounds and themes used sometimes have a feeling of "deja entendu"; many passages resembles Train Of Thought, althought you won't have the feeling of a Metallica clone that album had. Nonetheless, the mood of the whole album perfectly resembles the chaos in the title. When you get in the mood, you'll surely like this album. I believe it's one of Dream Theater's best, standing very close to the previous one (Octavarium).

The album is made up of 8 tracks 5 of which are 9 minutes or more. This is probably the fact that it needs more than a single listen to get the whole grasp of it. All songs aren't easy, they all expose rhythms, sounds and effects that arent quickly grasped if not by a careful listen. At times, the sounds and passages can be a bit "baroque", wether for the sounds used or the musicians' technique.

This album is crafted, studied, it's not the work of spontaneous musicianship. Examples are the first and last song that compose a suite (In The Presence Of Enemies) divided in two parts; Repentance, the 4th part of the multi-album suite by Mike Portnoy. That does not mean that the work is bad! Systematic Chaos is a very nice album, but it won't be a love at first sight, it'll need a bit of time to be fully appreciated.

"In The Presence Of Enemies - part 1" (music DT, lyrics Petrucci) Since Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, it was DT custom to begin the new album with the last notes of the previous one. Systematic Chaos doesn't and in the end that's good. In The Presence Of Enemies it's a 9 minute track with a 5 minutes instrumental intro (one of the most impressive passages in the album) unlinked with the conclusion of Octavarium; it contains the first two parts of a suite that will be closed by the last track in the album. Beautiful music, intriguing lyrics. score: 9

"Forsaken" (music DT, lyrics Petrucci) It may seem a more commercial song at first, but time after time, the song will reveal more than it's "easy" chorus, distinguishing as one of the best songs of this album. score 9

"Constant Motion" (music DT, lyrics Portnoy) This song is a bit disappointing. It seems that there could be something more but it always resembles something already heard (maybe on Train Of Thought?). The voice hasn't higlights to remember, music is quite "normal". score 7.5

"The Dark Eternal Night" (music DT, lyrics Petrucci) This song resembles much Train Of Thoughts in the mood it spreads. Dark, chaotic, and beatifully engineered. LaBrie's voice exposes an effect that makes me shiver, the long instrumental section in the middle so absolutely "chaotic" is a very well crafted jewel of technique. I like it, very much. score 9

"Repentance" (music DT, lyrics Portnoy) Here we are. Starting with "The Glass Prison" on "Six Degrees", Portnoy has developed a story. A bit long I may say. This song is a bit like Disappear or Misunderstood on the aforementioned album: no guitar solos, no wild keyboards or drums, but a simple acoustic ballad. The first part is not so outstanding, the second part raises the score of this song by a good deal. The different voices that talk on the sad music are something really really lovely. score 8.5

"Prophets Of War" (music DT, lyrics LaBrie) Like Forsaken, this song may seem a bit "easy", yet LaBrie voices (especially in the ending section) and the way Rudess keyboards sounds are the two pillars that this track is built upon. A nice little tune that will stay on your mind for quite a while. score 8.5

"The Ministry Of Lost Soul" (music DT, lyrics Petrucci) This track is simply perfect. Everything from the first second to the end is simply beautiful, the instrumental intro growing little by little, the sung part, the solo in the middle, LaBrie reprise and the fading instrumental section. This song simply makes me shiver, maybe one of the best DT song I've ever heard. 15 minutes, nearly, yet you will not notice that it's so long! score 10

"In The Presence Of Enemies - part 2" (music DT, lyrics Petrucci) The second part of the suite starts slowly and it will reveal that the whole track it's more than 16 minutes. You will feel the length of this song more than "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" that is only a minute and a half shorter. Yet little by little this song will grow, and get his strength. Nice lyrics, nice voice effects, nice instrumental parts. score 9

Report this review (#125682)
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars On Octavarium's "Never Enough" Mike Portnoy wrote "I can only take so much of your ungrateful ways/everything is never enough." Well, dang! Makes me hesitant to write anything less than a glowing review of "Systematic Chaos." But, alas, to my own self (and personal musical opinions) I must be true. Let me say up front that I most certainly appreciate and admire the time and Herculean effort it takes to record an album of original material. It's very hard, intensive work. Tremendously demanding and life-consuming, too. However, art, by its very nature, is always subject to criticism. That's the price you pay for making your product readily available to the masses and official prog reviewers.

I feel like I've gone to a five-star restaurant and one of my favorite chefs has set out a huge eight-course meal for me. Yet no matter how much I yearn to experience pure ecstasy with every bite, nothing tastes spectacular to my palate. I know the highly skilled chef did his utmost in preparing and presenting his creations but I can't fool myself into liking his new dishes just because he has knocked me out with many delectable cuisines in the past. Unfortunately, that's how I feel about this album.

"In the Presence of Enemies - Part I" has an instrumental prelude that starts things off promisingly with both John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess working in tight tandem before introducing the tune's grandiose melody. But then you get to the "Resurrection" portion of the piece and it quickly turns into a contrived metal song molded around juvenile Faustian lyrics penned by JP where the downcast protagonist is told by some up-to-no-good apparition that he can lead him "down the path and back to life/all I ask is that you worship me/I can help you seek revenge and save yourself/give you life for all eternity." Excuse me, but I think I've heard this one before. Petrucci also contributes the words to "Forsaken," a run-of-the-mill rocker that is a throwback to the 80s. I understand that a significant portion of Dream Theater's fan base prefers the metal side of their "progressive metal" mentality but I'm not one of them. Sorry, but this loud number doesn't take me anywhere I haven't been a thousand times before. I also know that lyrics have never been this band's forte but singer James LaBrie can only do so much with insipid lines like "close your eyes/and hold your breath/to the ends of the earth." Say what?

Next is "Constant Motion." I'll admit that I've never owned a Metallica CD but I'm familiar enough with their music to know that this song sounds like they might as well have recorded it themselves, complete with grunts and death growls galore. JP dominates the track, turning in a blisteringly fast and clean guitar solo but what has happened to Rudess? He's gotten lost somewhere way down in the mix, I guess. "The Dark Eternal Night" follows and it's becoming obvious that Petrucci has become obsessed with the underworld. I'm still wondering where Jordan has gone to as I find myself being bombarded with more non-stop, headbanging heavy metal and some kind of demonic, electronically-altered voice telling me that he's "the ultimate god of a rotting creation/sent to unleash this curse." Charming. Things do get interesting during the complex and challenging instrumental section where Rudess actually makes an audible appearance. These superb musicians haven't lost their chops, that's for sure.

Now is a great time for a change of pace and the Porcupine Tree- flavored "Repentance" arrives in the nick of time. Portnoy's continuing ode to substance abuse recovery is one of the few bright spots on the album for me as both Jordan and JP create some excellent ambience underneath James' emotional vocal on the first segment, "Regret." On the second part, "Restitution," the guest speakers' voices are novel for the first minute or so but then they start to drag the momentum down like they did back on "The Great Debate" in 2001. Same thing with the chorus of "ahhs" and big, fat chords that follow in that they drone on far too long and nothing remarkable happens. I can't believe that neither Rudess nor Petrucci couldn't have provided a stirring ride over all that wide open space. It seems obvious that the song desperately needed a spark of some kind.

"Prophets of War" is pretty much a straightforward, anti-war rock tune but the melody line is mundane and instantly forgettable. Some of the octave guitar parts and drum patterns remind me of "My Hero" by the Foo Fighters which, in and of itself, is not a bad thing but I expected more originality from these guys this far into their illustrious career. Rudess' opening symphonic keyboard sounds and JP's ringing acoustic guitar tones gave me hope that "The Ministry of Lost Souls" was going to be the epic that would save the CD but, despite some terrific dynamics, the tune's pomposity overwhelms its potential. I still have to designate it as the best cut on the album, though, mainly because of Jordan's brief but impressive moments and Petrucci and Mike's intense performances. But JP's ongoing devilish lyric content still seems far beneath their professional standards.

"In the Presence of Enemies - Part II (The Heretic and the Dark Master) takes up the last sixteen or so minutes of the proceedings in four phases. "Heretic" has exciting music but the lame words LaBrie has to sing like "my soul is yours/Dark Master I will fight for you" are downright embarrassing. I mean, is James supposed to be an Orc? "The Slaughter of the Damned" is next and here we get some angry, unison crowd shouts and Rudess has disappeared once more. "The Reckoning" provides a welcome break from the inane Hell and damnation recital with some of the better instrumental segments of the whole album. Jordan triumphantly returns from wherever he was hiding and matches Petrucci stride for stride as they race at lightning speed together over Portnoy's thundering drums and John Myung's skillful, too-often overlooked bass runs. "Salvation" ends things with a return to the original theme from 78 minutes earlier. It's been a long journey through some very dark sewers.

When this group released the risky, multi-dimensional "Octavarium" and then the phenomenal triple live CD set, "Score," I thought I was hearing a band that was ready to take that next huge step into unexplored musical realms where they would continue to blend majestic symphonic colorings with complex metal-tinged rock anthems and vocalizations to create even more magic. I was mistaken. Their love of metallic rock and roll is firmly entrenched in their psyches (to the delight of millions of their most loyal fans) and I don't think it's fair to slight them without mercy for returning to their steely comfort zone just because I wanted something more progressive. Hey, you can't have everything. But my sincere hope is that in the future they will take brave chances once again and reach for the stars.

Report this review (#125694)
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I am not a progmetal fan and I only like some parts of the music by Dream Theater, nonetheless, this week I have done my best to get into the new Dream Theater album that causes mixed feelings on Prog Archives. Many years ago a friend recommended Dream Theater to me, he said "have you heard that new USA band that also plays work from Rush?". I didn't need more to get motivated to listen to Dream Theater and soon I was listening to their first album. Then I discovered that prog metal is too heavy for me and listening to this new album I have the same experience: I am blown away by the exciting interplay and awesome talents on guitar and keyboards (lots of sensational soli), the rhythm-section is awesome and Dream Theater delivers many good breaks and shifting moods. But after 20 minutes it starts to sound the same for me, all those scale-acrobatics, that heavy double bass drumming, the fiery sound of the guitar, another similar sounding synthesizer solo and I am not up to the vocals. Good music but to me it sounds too clinical and too predictable.
Report this review (#125726)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars When i read !wovˇ "mostly all the songs are more than 8 minutes lenghth" i was happy before listening to it.But that was the length i think that DT considered necessary to develop all these complex songs.

Songs are complex and as usual very well interpretated.

But here we listen to a repeated formula of DT.I miss more originality.

Long songs are not enogh to create masterpieces .A band really need to put on their maximum creativity and originality,and as i said those elements are missing in this album.

Too much Metallica imitation sometimes adding a flavour of Pink Floyd and King Crimson (combination yet prooved)

3 *

Report this review (#125755)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Systematic Chaos... hmmm... what can I say about this album? for me is one of the best albums from "Rudess Era". Really complex, technical, dark... I really like this album.

In The Presence of Enemies Pt.1: Awesome intro, cool singing, HUGE UNISON! 9.5/10

Forsaken: A more commercial song, but still being a nice song... great feeling by Petrucci. 8/10

Constant Motion: Nice song, but not the best. 7/10

The Dark Eternal Night: The heaviest song by DT. Really crazy interlude!!! 9/10

Repentance: One of the highlights. A really beautiful ballad. 10/10

Prophets of War: WHY MUSE? WHYYYYY???? 5/10

The Ministry of Lost Souls: One of my favorite songs ever!! starts with a really beautiful ballad, and later a great interlude, there's no words to describe this song. 10/10

In The Presence of Enemies: The BEST song on this album. Starts really calmed, and later it comes heavier and heavier, and it ends really really epic. I dare to say that "The Reckoning" is the best instrumental section ever made by Dream Theater.

Systematic Chaos= 9.5/10

Report this review (#125778)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars A band that seriously needs to spread their wings and branch out into new territories.

Do you ever get that feeling upon hearing a new album that you know exactly what will come next, even though you've never heard the piece of music before,a deja vu type of feeling? This is how I felt about Dream Theater's latest release, Systematic Chaos. There's little to no variety in it from their previous works of the last 10 years. You could swap the names of the albums from any of them and no one could tell the difference if they were not extremely familiar with the band.

As an example, take a track like In the Presence of Enemies, where before having even heard it, I could tell exactly when Petrucci would have a ridiculously out of place solo, how Rudess would follow right after him with another ridiculously out of place keyboard extravaganza, and how there would be a unison after it.

The band has become formulaic pop music in this regard, you can predict the poorly designed metal riffs, the speed of light guitar solos, the keyboard coming over the top which has no place being involved to begin with. The idea of progressive, is that you are presented with music which presents you with challenges. The only real challenge hear is keeping up with the number of notes being played, but an experienced listener can keep track rather easily, so there leaves not much meat left, meat being music. The band has always stated they do what they do and don't care, because they enjoy doing it. That's perfectly fine, because I'll enjoy not listening to a rather formulaic and uninteresting album they've produced yet again.

Report this review (#125813)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Dream Theater at their most derivative, dumbed down, and uncreative; "Systematic Chaos" is a big letdown after the excellant "Octavarium", but still mainains a sliver of the band's exciting potential.

The biggest problem, is the band's very tired formula which is even more by-the-books here than ever before. The songs and playing have zero subtlety, and the entire album is so upfront and banal that it comes across sounding more like a release from their mainstream peers than what we should expect from those who have always strived to break the mold-- at this point the band might just be so in love with itself that stagnancy is the name of the game. The energy created by their technical playing on this release is completely hollow.

Most of the songs come across as reassembled bits from previous works, or worse yet-- as big, dumb, metal riffs lifted from other less reputable artists. More painful, are the few quite moments on the album, which are just mediocre ("Repentance" is the band's worst ballad... seriously). And, yes, even more painful... are Petrucci's embarrassing lyrics, more insipid than ever (although he's not alone: LaBrie has written the same song 3 times in a row now with "Prophets of War"). None of the members deliver anything memorable (except for Portnoy, whose backing vocals are painfully exposed, and for the always excellant Myung, whose fat sound is thankfully more audible), which is really too bad given the band's past excellence.

There are a few redeeming instrumental moments, some of which even manage to generate a little excitement, but by the time the listener hears them they are likely to be to jaded to care.

Coming from someone who genuinely loves this band, I can say that this album is a big let- down; the guys should have spent another year hammering out new ideas before recording. Hopefully tour attendance this time around will clue them into what their fans want (and deserve)... progress!

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 1

Report this review (#125908)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars My initial reaction when I span this disc: Dream Theater is back!

Quality-wise they are back. I was losing a bit of faith with their latest albums. Train of Thought had minimal effort on songwriting [the album was finished in two weeks] and focused on showing off, with Ruddess using awful keyboard sound selections. Octavarium was too varied for its own good, was not complex enough, and had some plagiarism problems. This album, while its sound stays true to those two uneven albums, the songwriting is better and borrows elements in their earlier albums: complexity and melody. This is probably the first album since Images and Words where the instrumental sections and solos generally compliment the compositions and are not there for the sake of showing off and providing entertainment. Unfortunately, it's not an improvement in every way because the lyrics are usually laughably bad and very embarrasing except a couple of songs.

The album starts with the first part of In The Presence of Enemies which initiates with heavy soloing. I think it starts very awkward and abrupt as it could have used some sort of build up. The heavy instrumental introduction is five minutes long, but after the first or second minute I can get into it regardless of its awkward beginning. It features a beautiful guitar melody and some extremely complicated arrangements. The second half of this opening song features an improved James Labrie, who seems to have finally recovered from his vocal chord rupture a decade ago. Forsaken is a very radio-friendly track with piano-work that reminds of Evanescence, simple yet effective guitar riffs and memorable melodies by Labrie. Why this wasn't the single of the album is beyond me. However, why is Dream Theater singing about vampires?? Constant Change and The Dark Eternal Night are the two heavy "Train of Thought" kind of tracks that are a bit weak on melody. "Constant Change" is the single and sounds like Metallica with keyboards. Vocals are somewhat annoying in the verses but fortunately Petrucci lets go a great solo here. "Dark Eternal Night" has even more embarrassing lyrics about a mummy? The song starts great with a nice trashy riff but the processed vocals screaming "No one DARES TO ... SPEAK of the terrible DANGER!!!". It's just cheesy beyond imagination with only melody in the pre-chorus and chorus which are good if you ignore the lyrics. The instrumental section is just hilarious, what on earth are they doing? It sounds like circus music in odd time signatures. It is still entertaining in the same way an awful B-side movie is.

Fortunately, those two heavy songs are redeemed by the excellent second half of the album.

Repetance is the continuation of the Alcoholic Anonymous suite. this song is surprisingly an extended ballad, and easily my favorite of the AA songs yet. It starts with a familiar guitar line and a processed vocal from what appears to be Steven Wilson himself. The first half is a very melodic and moody composition that is heavily influenced by Porcupine Tree and Opeth's Damnation era due to the guitar sounds, composition and arrangement-style, and the use of the mellotron. One of Petrucci's finest and most melodic solos lead into the second half of the song that has voices from famous musicians and build up into an unexpected coda with "ahhh" vocal harmonies, fat riffs, a growling bass, and eventually more voices. It could have been a bit shorter, but it's still a magnificent and surprisingly stripped down track.

Prophets of War starts electronically in a way that reminds me of Ayreon until a driving and memorable guitar line breaks it into a chorus, which later contain crowd chants and war cries. This song is an attack on the Iraq War, which I agree with the views of Dream Theater once again [Their previous "In the Name of God" was spot on]. This, along with Forsaken, could have been the single as they are both catchy and accessible and Prophets of War even has a rapping section.

The Ministry of Lost Souls is for me the highlight of the album and among Dream Theater's greatest musical achievements. It is a trip back to Scenes from a Memory's best moments. The first section of the song is reminiscent of "The Spirit Carries On" with soaring guitars, Ruddess tasteful playing, and Labrie being at his most emotional. The beginning of the instrumental section is so dramatic that I love it. It quickly turns into heavy metal for a couple of minutes and then James Labrie has a short moment to sing again in a symphonic ballad section and a brilliant guitar line finishes the piece.

In The Presence of Enemies resumes with embarrasing lyrics "Dark Master I will Fight for you", but musically speaking, it is better than the Octavarium epic. This epic has elements of almost all the tracks in the album except for tracks #3,4, contains a long and complex instrumental section that has an excellent mini moog solo that brings back the excellent melody in the beginning of the first part of this epic. The song finishes off in a similar style of Octavarium: symphonic and majestic.

Overall, this is an excellent album by both beginners and fans of Dream Theater. It summarizes everything that is Dream Theater and partially brings them back to their past where their instrumental noodling was not so excessive.

1. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 (B+) 2. Forsaken (B+) 3. Constant Motion (C+) 4. The Dark Eternal Night (C+) 5. Repentance (A-) 6. Prophets of War (B+) 7. The Ministry of Lost Souls (A) 8. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 (B+)

Report this review (#125912)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
WaywardSon
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars After hearing "Constant Motion", I was expecting an album in the same vein as Train of Thought, however I am happy to report that this album is very diverse and has some great new surprises.

Unlike Octavarium, John Petrucci plays lots of solos, from slow emotional solos to downright shredding! The guitar solo on "In the precense of Enemies PT 1" in particular has some really good emotional playing by Petrucci.

John Myung´s bass has (at long last!) been turned up in the mix and is really noticeable on songs like "The dark eternal night"

James LaBrie experiments quite a bit on the most commercial song on the album, "Prophets of war" and there are parts where he does a brilliant Freddie Mercury imitation! The good news is that there are no songs as commercial as "I walk beside you" off Octavarium. On "Foresaken" his voive reminds me of the Images and Words album, he is on top form.

This album needs to be heard on headphones to fully appreciate. There is actually a lot of playing by Rudess (from ragtime piano to guitar soloing on keyboards) After a few listens I realize that Jordan Rudess plays a very strong role on this album.

Mike Portnoy is brilliant as usual, spectacular drumming throughout.

From the slow, almost Floydish "Repentance", to the bombastic "Dark eternal night", Dream Theater covers a lot of musical ground. Some call this "catering for everyone´s tastes" but I call it "musical diversity"

"The Ministry of lost souls" is my favourite track on this album, starting slowly and building up to an instrumental high, which reminds me of Metropolis in many ways.

Without a doubt, their strongest album since Scenes from a memory. Only time will tell which album is actually better.

Report this review (#125932)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Systematic Chaos was a dissapointment to me. When I listened the first song: In The Presence Of Enemies Pt.1 I was very pleased about it, but after Forsaken, Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night, the dissapointment struck me. Forsaken is quite ok at first but the chorus is horrible. Same with constant motion. It's ok for a song to have heavy riffs there and there but a song based wholly on a hevy riff... it just shows a lack of inspiration. Besides it sounds just like metallica. Then The Dark Eternal Night. Whose idea was it to put the vocals through that distortion? It really sucks. However there are some good tracks too. Repentance is ok, Prophets of war is ok, Ministry of Lost souls is actually really good. Also In The Presence Of Enemies Pt.2 is very listenable. The Album is not SO bad after all but my expectations were very high after the brilliant Octavarium
Report this review (#125942)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was pretty optimistic about this album after what I feel to be one of the band's strongest releases, Octavarium. Unfortunately, Systematic Chaos sees Dream Theater playing it safe and taking the predictable route. Systematic Chaos is by no means a bad album. In fact, I find it very enjoyable and it often makes for a great listening experience. In the Presence of Enemies is one of DT's finest pieces in the last ten or so years, and Forsaken and Constant Motion make for great proggy singles. With the possible exception of Dark Eternal Night, which is pure total Dream Theater wankery, every song on this album is at the very least decent. But the problem is, there are very few moments that are extraordinary. I was hoping that the band would try for something different like they did with Octavarium, which though was criticized by many fans was at the very least a creative departure for Dream Theater. Though it is somewhat enjoyable, I cannot give Systematic Chaos more than three stars because I know that Dream Theater has and can do much better. If you're a Dream Theater fan you will no doubt enjoy this album, but for the rest your money could be better spent elsewhere.
Report this review (#125973)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Every one of Dream Theater's last 7 studio albums (not including WDADU) should be considered essential, because they're all absolute masterpieces of progressive music. One thing interesting about Dream Theater is that they manage to stay current while staying progressive for the most part, while also changing their style in sometimes radical overhauls from album to album, and it has never been more present in the last three albums;

"Train of Thought" was balls heavy, no way around it. The guitar work was phenominal and the individual instrumentation is among Dream Theater's greatest work to date, but the song writing often lacked the cohesiveness to create the perfect album, often times resulting in terrifyingly lost instrumentals in which the 4 instruments wank off.

"Octavarium" essentially eliminated the wankery in most songs (it slipped into "The Root of All Evil" and "Sacrificed Sons"), but also eliminated much of Dream Theater's progressive roots in favor of a more mainstream sound. Octavarium's brighter moments soared among Dream Theater's greatest acomplishments, particularly the title track "Octavarium" which stands as one of the five greatest songs in progressive metal history (in this author's humblest of opinions). However, the less amazing moments of the album had longtime fans calling for blood.

I'm pleased to report that "Systematic Chaos" shatters the stereotypes formed through multiple listens of both albums by combining the best parts of both! The title "Systematic Chaos" could be interpreted as representing the uniting of Dream Theater's two polar opposite styles; the systematic "Octavarium", with its clean songwriting, meets the wildly unpredictable and chaotic "Train of Thought." The combination of the two is generally clean and unique;

1. The individual performances of the four virtuoso instrumentalists Portnoy (drums), Rudess (keyboard), Petrucci (guitar), and Myung (bass) and the incredible singer Labrie are all at their absolute peaks; this is Myung's best album to date, Petrucci's best album technically since "Train of Thought" and tasty-wise since "Awake," Rudess's best album since "Scenes from a Memory," and Labrie's best output since "Awake." Labrie and Myung in particular mark the improvements of this album over the previous three or even four albums; Labrie's voice is finally back to 100% after his vocal injury a decade ago and he utilizes much of the range of his voice, hitting both high notes and low, "Awake"-esque passionate notes. The only criticism I have of Labrie's performance is that he adds -ahhhh to a few too many words. Otherwise, I'm proud to say that he has made one of the more extraordinary comebacks in singer history. Myung is an absolute beast on this album. Myung has always been one of the more ignored members of Dream Theater mainly because of awful production keeping him out of the mix for a lot of songs, but for this album, he is extremely audible and he's practically tearing phonebooks. This brings up another point...

2. The production is the best that it has ever been in a Dream Theater album. "Falling Into Infinity" held that previous crown. Paul Northfield does an absolutely phenominal job with this album, as do Petrucci/Portnoy in their production roles. The bass is audible, the vocals are soaring. The drums are thunder, the keyboard and guitar are lightning. Standout job by the boys, and I pray that it continues.

3. The songwriting is generally phenominal, with minimal wanking yet extensive showcasing of talent (in a tasteful manner, usually with subtle sliding and quick time signature changes). The mainstream influences are not as blatantly apparant as they were on "Octavarium," but they are still present; "Constant Motion" has a verse which sounds a lot like Metallica, "Forsaken" sounds a little like an Evanescence song, and "Prophets of War" has an intro which sounds like "Take a Bow" but heavier (and better), with Freddie Mercury screams randomly placed in the middle, and "Repentance" draws from some of Opeth's and Porcupine Tree's softer moments. However, Dream Theater's most obvious influence on this album is Dream Theater.

To make a long story short, Dream Theater has radically changed their style yet again, this time to combine both the soft and sweet "Octavarium" and the heavy "Train of Thought."

Song analysis:

In the Presence of Enemies parts 1 and 2: 10/10

This begins with a bang. The first four minutes or so are an overture of sorts of what is to come in the 25 and a half minute epic, which is split into two parts which bookend the album. Although the entire song is amazing, this four minute section of the song definitely stands out as the greatest part of the song, and can definitely be highlighted as one of the better parts of the album. In the Presence of Enemies is split into five sections; two instrumental sections and three "plot sections," in which Petrucci takes the listener through the journey of a man who turns his back on religion in favor of the devil, but then later repents by freeing his soul of the evil that once penetrated it. A corny story, but it's executed convincingly by Labrie's powerful voice, with some absolutely terrifying backing vocals by Portnoy. Petrucci's solo which closes part 1 is extremely technical while being totally fitting with the mood of the song, which is excellent. Part two is thrilling; although the chorus contains extremely cheesy lyrics (DARK MASTER WITHIN/I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU!!!), Labrie again delivers it in such a powerful way that it softens the blow. Labrie is clearly the highlight of the entire song.

Forsaken: 9.5/10

Although there are a few seconds here and there that bother me because they're boring, this is easily Dream Theater's best radio-friendly song they've ever made. The twinge of Evanescence in the vocal melodies is what makes it radio friendly; the rather symplistic main riff, the complicated yet beautiful piano intro and strings patch in the chorus don't hurt either. Again, Labrie comes into this song seemingly on a mission; he delivers the album's knock-out line in this song; "Then rising suddenly/I felt a chilling breath upon me." His vocal delivery on this part, along with nearly every other line in the song, is among his greatest work to date in any song he's ever been a part of, let alone a Dream Theater song. Petrucci has a nice little diddly solo in the middle, and the little .5 second guitar slide before the chorus is really quite difficult to play. Tastefull technicality; see what I mean?!

Constant Motion: 8.5/10

This will probably be the second most controversial song on the album. It's the album's first single (why they chose this over Forsaken is a mystery). Labrie is a beast on the song again, but the vocal melody of the first and third verses are so blatantly Metallica influenced that it's almost embarrassing to listen to. The instrumental breakdown is so...classic Dream Theater though. Incredible to listen to; even after 20 years these guys can write in strange time signatures and write breakdowns like that. Then Petrucci solos and with every second of that solo eleven small white doves die. Probably his best shred-solo in fifteen years; it's incredibly fast, yet unlike shred-solos found on "Train of Thought," it has a perfect place in the song. Rudess's solo isn't quite as dynamic, but it's pretty good as far as his solos go (as in it doesn't ruin the song or the moment). The song isn't perfect by any means, but it should go over well on Headbanger's Ball and other metal-friendly TV shows/radio stations.

The Dark Eternal Night: 7/10

This song is strange. The clean vocals are incredible, but the problem is there aren't many clean vocals. Much of the song is sung in a duet between Labrie and Portnoy with mega-distorted vocals. The song barely sounds like a Dream Theater song most of the time, and while that isn't necessarily bad, in this case it isn't really a great change. It's confusing to me as to why they decided to go with the duet when Labrie is on fire the entire album, but that isn't the only thing wrong with the song; when the song finally gets into the instrumental passage, it has a definite direction. However, the instrumental swings the song away from that direction by introducing a strange, jazzy breakdown at time stamp 4:50. Then it swings back into an entirely new, uplifting (yet still heavy) direction until it randomly switches back to the main riff (which has an annoying bass drum line in it). Then everything stops, and Petrucci unleashes a technically advanced solo that has no apparant place in the song whatsoever, followed by an abortion of a solo by Rudess before you kick back into the main portion of the song. Whoever had the idea of joining the instrumental portion with the verses is absolutely insane. The song's really not that bad at all, honestly; it has a catchy chorus, and the entire song sounds like a cheesy horror movie (it even has the trademark cheesy horror movie piano line inserted in it, which definitely kicks major ass). It would have scored a 6/10, but at time stamp 7:33 it slips into one of Dream Theater's ballsiest, coolest riffs of all time. Over that riff is a continuum solo, an instrument Rudess acquired for last year's Octavarium tour. This solo is incredible; I'd like to hear an entire album where Rudess uses this instrument. I love it!

Repentance: 9.5/10

Jesus. I've never gotten more chills down my spine in a song than I did when I first heard this one. A continuation of the AA saga, "Repentance" retains both lyrical and musical themes from its previous installments "The Glass Prison," "This Dying Soul," and "The Root of All Evil." From the opening notes to the first line "Hello Mirror...," it is blatantly apparant that Dream Theater decided to try something new. Mellow, spine chilling music is difficult to find in modern music, and is probably best demonstrated by Opeth and Porcupine Tree. "Repentance" does everything these two bands set out to do and more. Labrie delivers yet another knockout performance, probably his third best song on the album behind only "Forsaken" and ItPoE, but he isn't the standout on the track. Myung's performance can only be described as beastly. Nothing else to it; the man is clearly among the greatest bassists of all time. The main bassline is incredible, I love it! The spoken word passages from music greats such as Akerfeldt, Wilson, Gildenlow, Vai, Morse, Satriani, and Jon Anderson, all add to the song. Petrucci lays down a tasty solo somewhere in the middle. Beautiful track.

Prophets of War: 8/10

The song has a sort of disco vibe to it, which is sort of unusual. The entire track feels like there's something missing. However, Portnoy's Mercury-esque screams are welcome. Overall the track doesn't stand out much, except for the chorus riff, which is definitely one of the band's best riffs ever. It's a standard chord progression with a definite twist. Probably Labrie's worst track, and even that isn't anywhere near as bad as it could be. Not a standout, but fun.

Ministry of Lost Souls: 9.5/10

This song is probably a little longer than it should be, and the instrumental section is moderately out of place, and it's a little repetative. However, the lyrics are absolutely incredible, the instrument work (particularly the epic string/brass layering patch by Rudess) and the singing are among the best moments on the album. Who the hell ever thought Dream Theater would write a 15 minute ballad and keep it from being boring? I wish they changed the vocal melody up once in a while because then it would have been a 10/10, but as it is it's already among DT's best work. The instrumental is technical and is a nice break from the balladous nature of the song. The ending is extremely epic and honestly should have been used as the ending to the album.

Overall, essential album for both collecters and casual listeners.

Report this review (#126190)
Posted Sunday, June 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Waiting for this album was very intensive, but now few minutes after the listening to "Systematic Chaos" I must say that I´ve heard one of the best hard´n´heavy album ever ! Every single DT album is a special and very different from each other and the new one doesn´t mean any exception. "Systematic Chaos" is a pure art from one of the best proffesionals on the music scene ever. Everysingle tone, note, solo, drum part or vocal part is on the highest possible level of metal or progressive music. I´m a metal and rock fan for twenty years and I must say that Dream Theater is definitively the best band which I´ve ever heard. They are so different from every single band on the scene, their music production is far above everything what you can hear for many years and their progress from their very beginning is such a huge... At the end I must say that "Systematic Chaos" is a piece of true musical art and I´m glad that I can enjoy this jewel more and more!
Report this review (#126297)
Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's probably the best album of DT since Images and Words (1992). If you like progressive music you must buy it. In this album, old and new musical elements together and it's modern masterpiece of progressive music. Heavy things, dramatical things and melancholical things in that. It's the stone which is in the Dream Theater Temple. This album is the best at 2000's. In the Presence of Enemies is the best epic of DT's history. IT'S REALLY FANTASTIC !!!!!!!
Report this review (#126533)
Posted Friday, June 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars With Systematic Chaos, Dream Theater confirmed a level of technical brilliance and inspiration impossible to match by any other group in the genre. In fact, in my opinion, not only they are the best, but between them and the second best group are some 10 blank places. So it goes like this: DT - first place, then places 2 to 10 - not taken, then probably Fates Warning (DT are their fans), then the rest of them... Some fans and anti-fans probably wonder why their albums are so diverse, why an album is mostly prog, the next is heavy, the next is symphonic, with Octavarium Orchestra, etc. The answer is BECAUSE THEY CAN. They can play anything if they want to, even jazz, I suspect. From the first notes, it's like they take you by the hand and show you how it's made... Their music is no chaos, it's organized (pun intended) and structured. You can listen the first song and then go home saying: "OK, another perfect album..." Their music is not easy, although they make it look so easy. You need to have some musical background, to have an idea of the theory, the work behind the music, etc. Otherwise, you don't understand it. I'm pleased to see though that even the anti-fans bothered to write a review, allbeit a bad one. That says something. Until now, 125 people reviewed this album, making comments on the music of DT, comparing it with the music of other groups. That says something, too. If I consider that an album is not worthy, I don't bother to write about it... Now returning to Systematic Chaos, I will not analyze each song, many other reviewers have done that. I will only say that DT are back with another stellar album and I'm thinking seriously to place them on par with Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, ELP and the other classics (in my book, of course). So 6...(oops, I did it again, sorry)...err, only 5 stars, that's all I am allowed.

Report this review (#127385)
Posted Monday, July 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Back to the future.

Indeed, this new Dream Theater is showing signs of going forward, but the initial buzz fades and soon we realize the wheel hasn't been reinvented. Far from dissing this record, Dream Theater is showing some signs of fatigue and redondance (track 3 and 4 are ressembling strangely) and is clearly picking out stuff out of every album they've made.

Basically, Systematic Chaos is a mish-mash of their prolific career in the land of metallish progressive music. First and foremost, it rocks and rolls and scorches your ears many, many times. A nice and somewhat new feature is the vocals provided by Mike Portnoy, with distorded and scary effects, adding more darkness to an already gloomy record. Yep, DT is meaner than in Octavarium, much meaner.

While Octavarium stated everyday life and such in a contemporary way that made it irresistible, Systematic Chaos is exploring new lyrical ground and heading maybe into a more Nightwishesque pattern. Some will like it, some will not. I frankly feel this kind of fantasy/gothic lyrics are not what DT are doing best and the music is...well...sharing that direction often enough to realize it quickly. Uh oh, exit are the U2 references and the ambient/ electronica keyboards...darn, all the good changes are gone!

Lots of fine instrumental passages are decorating the whole scene, and DT doesn't disappoint here. The oscar goes to Petrucci (once again) with a good mention to some fantastic solos of Rudess. Frankly, everybody seems to enjoy themselves and Labrie's back to his old pattern of 'private parts sqeezing' vocals. And this is too bad for me because I liked the way he sang in Octavarium. Aw man, the good don't last too long and again, Labrie is full front with in voice, like other DT records.

Honestly, DT has good ideas for goths and is surprisingly aggresive in certain moments. I'm not a goth, I'm not into aggresive moments and I dislike the return to the Images and Words/ Awake period.

Not as preppy, classy nor upbeat as Octavarium but still a solid and generous block of concrete.

Report this review (#127591)
Posted Thursday, July 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
sleeper
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Dream Theater, love them or hate them, there's no escaping from them. As the self-proclaimed standard bearers of progressive music (they're probably the most commercially successful prog group of the last 15 years, so maybe they're right on that), whenever Dream Theater release a new album, everyone knows about it. But, 18 years on from their debut, When Dream And Day Unite, what do they have left to show us, and after the dreadful Octavarium, can they still provide good music?

Octavarium was a disaster, easily their weakest album, and amongst its several flaws there were three major issues that needed to be sorted here on Systematic Chaos. The first was that John Myungs bass was completely lost in the mix, except fro a few select parts were he took centre stage, which was a massive shame as he's one of the best bass players around and the most consistent performer in Dream Theater. Second was that the band took influences from a very wide range of groups, not just the usual stock of Yes, Pink Floyd and Metallica, but the likes of Muse, U2 and Coldplay, and rather than incorporating these influences into the sound, it ended up more as a cut-and-paste job from all the bands that influence them, the sound of Dream Theater was near none-existent. Lastly, in an attempt to have Jordan Rudess's keyboard work more fully integrated and integral to the music than he had been since Scenes From A Memory, John Petrucci held back heavily on his guitar work to the point were it felt constrained and lackluster. But things have been turned around here, right from the opening bars of In The Presence Of Enemies Pt1 to the closing of Pt2 John Myung's bass comes through clear as day, the U2 and Coldplay influence is gone and the Metallica, Yes, Floyd and (for one song) Muse influence is integrated more fully into the sound and style of Dream Theater successfully, and finally Petrucci's guitar playing has some real bite and feel to it again.

Once again we have a very full CD here, 78 minutes of music, but of the eight songs on here I can honestly say that none of them are actually bad, probably for the first time since Scenes From A Memory, its just that some are far better than others. Forsaken, Constant Motion and Prophets Of War are the "weaker" songs on here, though weak is probably a bad term for them as I still like them, they just don't match up to the quality of In The Presence Of Enemies (Pts 1&2), The Dark Eternal Night, Repentance and The Ministry Of Lost Souls. One thing that the interested should know is that you are most definitely in the wrong place if you want deep and meaningful lyrics. What you have here is mainly fantasy sort of lyrics (without being overtly so, in a power metal kind of way, thankfully) with Repentance and Prophets Of War holding the only "real world relevance" sort of songs. That's not to say that the lyrics are bad, you'll find worse on Train Of Thought and Falling Into Infinity, its just that not everyone is going to like them.

Of the songs themselves, In The Presence Of Enemies, the 25 minute epic split into two parts like Floyds Shine On..., is the stand out of the album for me, and works brilliantly as both opener and closer of the album. The opening half of In The Presence... is the closest thing to an instrumental that this album has with the first 4 and a half minutes of the 9 minute piece being given over to the most interesting and dynamic instrumental that DT have done since The Dance Of Eternity on Scenes From A Memory. Indeed, it may have been better to have made the song in 3 parts, with part 1 split into two separate pieces, the first being the instrumental. Of course the lyrical part is just as good, it just may have been better served separating the two parts. The most important thing this 9 minute opener does is show that all major faults from Octavarium are gone. Myung is audible again, it is most certainly DT playing at being themselves and not someone else, and that Petrucci has opened up a bit more, but has maintained some of that restraint he practiced on Octavarium giving a lot of feel to the sharp bite of his guitar playing. Of the really good songs on here, the next one is The Dark Eternal Night. Yes, it is ridiculously over the top and possibly the most technically demanding song they have ever written, but its just such good fun and, though composed as a technical tour de force, they don't lose sight of the need for melody and create a very enjoyable song, as long as you don't try and take it seriously, because its not meant to be. This is followed by one of the most unique songs that the band has ever written and composed, Repentance. This makes up parts eight and nine of Mike Portnoy's AA series, and possibly the best of the lot, certainly rivalling The Mirror. The uniqueness comes from the fact that this is a very soft and slow song, by their standards, with a real Pink Floyd feel, dominated by clean guitars atmospheric keyboards, this ends up being a very melancholic song, despite recycling the main riff from Train Of Thoughts This Dying Soul (though slowed down and cleaned up a lot) and I think it works better here. This song is also noticeable for a real who's who of prog names (plus a few others) like Daniel Gildenlow, Steven Wilson, Steve Hogarth, Neal Morse and a few others adding voices showing repentance for certain things. The Ministry Of Lost Souls feels close to being a 15 minute ballad, but the music is far more varied, if very definitely emotionally charged, than your average ballad and makes this song one of the best here. It even feels like it wouldn't have been totally out of place on Images & Words or Awake, though its much more highly produced than said albums.

Of The other three songs, though they don't match up to the standards of those already mentioned, they're certainly not filler. As The Dark Eternal Night is one of the most technically demanding songs the band has ever written, Forsaken is one of the least. Its much more of a pop song than any other song on here, but far better than many previous efforts the band have made at this, with an almost Evanescence sort of feel to it, though very definitely Dream Theater. Constant Motion was the song picked to be the single from Systematic Chaos and is the most Metallica like of the songs, but with a very interesting instrumental section in the middle. Constant Motion would have fitted well on Train Of Thought, though would probably have stood out on their as its clearly a bit more restrained than the all out tech-fest of Train Of Thought. Lastly, Prophets Of War is the only James LaBrie written song on here and seems to be following the political subjects initiated in Sacrificed Sons from Octavarium. This time the lyrics don't follow the atrocity of 9/11 but Americas own actions since then. However, rather than just criticize the actions of the Bush administration, as so many others have, he also focuses on the hope for the future and "setting things right", something that more people should look at to be honest. Musically this song has a very strong influence from Muse, just like Never Enough from Octavarium did, but this time it works much better, though it might be taken just a bit too far. The problem with these songs is that they are just not quite as strong compositional as the others on the album, though still quite enjoyable.

Overall this is Dream Theater on top form, all the musicians give what is certainly their best performances since 1999's Scenes From A Memory and LaBrie gives what is definitely his strongest vocal performance for the band yet, he's found how to work his voice and range brilliantly and has completely abandoned the unintelligible wailing that marred his performance on Awake. If you were looking for the band to come up with something completely new then you are going to be disappointed, but they are still the masters of this style of progressive metal and perform it better than any of the similar bands like Vanden Plas and Shadow Gallery. I fully admit that I was worried that Dream Theater may have lost the spark to create truly interesting songs and that the were on the rocky slope to oblivion, but here on Systematic Chaos they come back with a real bang, providing their best album since the classic masterpiece Scenes From A Memory, and a piece of work that I consider to be behind only the aforementioned Scenes... and the classic Images & Words, clearly there's life in the old dog yet. A brilliant album that is only let down by the fact that three of the compositions are clearly slightly weaker than the others and that, though the bass is definitely audible this time, it could still have been a bit more forward in the mix. A very strong 4 stars from me.

Report this review (#128213)
Posted Thursday, July 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Systematic Chaos", Dream Theater's ninth studio album in 22 years, may be their first ever Top 30 hit in the UK but, for me at least, it is not the band's most enjoyable album to date. The chart entry probably reflects the fact that the band have been steadily picking up faithful fans over the years and, once captured into the fold, few leave because the quality is consistently of a high standard.

So, not their best but still very good.for me, it's not a contender for their best because there are two tracks, Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night, on which the band forsake any semblance of melody and give us pure grunge metal. Ok, Dream theater have always been a heavy band, sure, but they have always carried that in style, mixed it with other styles, always given us plenty of melody and invention - but on these two tracks there is nothing and for those of us who like a like sweet something with our mashed brains then it's a grim 15 minutes as the tracks occupy places 3 and 4 on the album.

The remainder of the album is excellent, up to their highest standard, which makes the anomaly seem all the more peculiar, but it is clearly something they intended and, being a stubborn sod who likes to listen to albums the way the artist has conceived them, I am destined to hear the two tracks every time I play the album. The excellence of three-quarters of it does mean that I will play it, but perhaps not as much as my favourite Dream Theater albums: Images & Words, Scenes From a Memory Pt 2 and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.

Report this review (#128392)
Posted Saturday, July 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another Dream Theater album, another controversy. Are they plagiarists? Are they kings of prog metal? Are they all washed up?

My answer is, none of the above. While not being a big fan of prog metal, I do like some of it now and then. And ever since 6 Degrees, I've had a fondness for Dream Theater. Sure, they are not the most innovative of bands. They don't try crazy experiments and they are not on the cutting edge of prog. But they are all fantastically skilled musicians who put a great deal of thought and effort into each release. Do the people who used to like them and don't anymore really expect them to drastically change what they are doing? Or do they want them to create Images and Words over and over and over again? I honestly don't know. But for my taste, this album is pretty darn good.

Lets get one thing out of the way right now though. The lyrics that Petrucci has written on this album are at best, laughable, and at worst completely terrible. I've never thought he was a great lyricist to begin with, but at least his lyrics were not completely silly like they are here. I'm not really sure what he was going for with the lyrics for the big epic In The Presence Of Enemies, but whatever it was it was a mistake and a failure. Oh well, on the whole Dream Theater never was much for lyrics anyway (except the very rare Myung lyrics.......he should really write ALL their lyrics........though Portnoys are not too bad most of the time either). I could also do without the spoken word parts and the shouting, chanting bits, but that is a minor complaint (let Labrie do ALL the vocals from now on though guys......please, please, please...........he is after all, the only one who can actually sing and he is quite good at it).

Labrie is great on this album. Lots of power, passion, dynamics in his singing. I used to hate his singing, but the last couple of albums have really changed my mind about that. I guess his vocal training has really paid off.

The others are just as proficient and skilled as usual. Which leads me to what I really like, the intense and complex instrumental parts. Some have stated that these seem to have no relation to the songs and are pointless. Initially, that was my impression as well, even though I like them. But after several listens I think they are no more pointless than the ones on Images and Words, Awake, Scenes, etc. I find myself smiling during all of them. The songs themselves are pretty much a summation of what DT has done up to this point. In the case of Forsaken not such a great thing for me, but in the case of In The Presence of Enemies a very good thing. Constant Motion is a Metallica song I think. Or, at least, tries very hard to be one. Since Metallica has long since stopped writing anything anywhere near this good, I have no problem with this and kind of like this one. It is the only one where other vocals actually seem to enhance it a bit. Some Slayer influence in there as well, especially in the solos. The Dark Eternal Night is another good heavy song with some good instrumental parts, but I'm getting a bit wearied by the metal onslaught at this point. Which is why Repentance is so perfect at this point of the album. It's pretty repetitive, and probably could have been a couple of minutes shorter, but it's so amazing to actually hear DT playing with restraint that I can't help but like it. Prophets of War features the best lyrics of the album, which is nice since I really didn't like Labrie's lyrics on the last album. This one seems to be yet another Muse inspired song, though for the life of me I can't really understand the accusations of plagiarism (I've only heard two Muse albums, so maybe I'm missing something but neither this or the song on the last album sound very much like any Muse song I've heard......though the influence is quite obvious). Ministry Of Lost Souls is the kind of song that makes DT fans cream themselves. And for good reason. A very lovely symphonic vocal section leads into a long, intense and complex instrumental section which eventually resolves perfectly back into the opening section for a dramatic ending after the final vocals. A great song, and probably one of my favorites by DT in a while. The final track, the second half of In The Presence Of Enemies, is also outstanding. Quite dynamic with a great instrumental section toward the end. If not for the cheesy lyrics and sometimes cheesy chanting and spoken word, this would be a real masterpiece as well. Still, the epic as a whole is great and probably their best to date. The last couple (6 Degrees and Octavarium) I have trouble thinking of as prog metal epics because there isn't a whole lot of "metal" in them. This one is definitely a prog metal epic. Personally, I think they should have opened the album with the entire thing and ended with Ministry, but what the heck, it works just fine the way they did it.

So this is not the most innovate and exciting thing DT have ever done. So what? It's still a really good album with some really good pieces of music on it. Not perfect by any means, but probably my overall favorite so far. I didn't much like this band when they were new and cutting edge back in the early 90's. The vocals were unbearable to me, and I felt their influences were too obvious and they tried too hard. Here they are perhaps a bit too professional and habitual, but it's all done so well and with such skill and precision I can't help but enjoy it. This may not be in my top 10 this year, and the band as a whole may not rank that high with me, but I have a great deal of respect for them and what they have done. And I really do like this album for what it is; a prog metal album by a seminal prog metal band doing what they do best. So, my rating is really a 3.5, as this is not going to be an excellent addition to just any prog music collection. But if you like prog metal, it's certainly worth hearing. If your like me, and only like occasional prog metal, you could do far worse than this album. And DT fans..........well, you already have it. For the sake of the archives, and for the fact that this is so far the most enjoyable DT album for me as a whole, I'll go ahead and round that 3.5 up to a 4. Your millage may vary.

Report this review (#130066)
Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#130372)
Posted Thursday, July 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm still listening to this album and have yet to fully get used to it. Octavarium took me awhile to get into, but once I did I thought it was phenomenal. As of this moment I think this may be their weakest album since Falling into Infinity, but that doesn't mean its a bad album because DT always puts out kick a#s material. I hear a lot of music snobs who couldn't play anything on any instrument piss and moan about DT last few albums. I read one review on hear where someone said Scenes From a Memory had too many technical virtuoso parts on it! Lol! Also, anyone who compares Octavarium to Coldplay or U2 is on crack in my opinion. If you think Octavarium sounds like Coldplay then you must think Images and Words sounds like Dave Mathews!

I also hear people say this is the first album in awhile where you can hear the bass. I've never had a hard time hearing the bass on a DT album myself. SC has a much different feel than any other DT album and though it is 78 minutes, it feels like there isn't much substance here in many of the songs. You still get way more bang for your dollar here than with most albums you could spend money on. Anyway, this album seems to have some filler in it and it isn't as strong as the last few albums and I am actually for the first time since Falling into Infinity, disappointed a little, but I will still be at the DT concert in Cleveland in August!

Report this review (#130450)
Posted Friday, July 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is Dream Theater's best album but they have matured a lot as songwriters and musicians. This is one album where everything's in place. James Labrie's vocals are perfect in this album. He sounds a little different from their earlier albums but is still good. Portnoy is singing a lot these days and sometimes he overshadows Labrie, especially in songs in "The Dark Eternal Night" and 'Prophets of War". They're probably doing it to sound nice in live concerts but it's not a good thing to underplay a vocalist like Labrie.

Jordan Rudess has blended well with the band in all the songs and there is not even exagerrated note or a monotonous riff. John Petrucci guitar playing is great in this album. He doesn't show-off with high-speed alternate picking or mindless shredding, unlike other guitarists, and uses his technique for the songs. This makes him stand tall! His soul-melting solo in "In the Presence of Enemies" is awesome.

John Myung is one musician who's been giving his best, consistently and I think he is the best bass player around. He doesn't use his signature Six-string bass in this album but still sounds good. Portnoy gives a Nu-metal touch to his playing and the one thing that would make this album different from other DT albums is his playing.

SC is an aggresive album and all the songs are good but not outstanding. It doesn't have a "Glass Prison" or a "Spirits carries on". One other thing that I don't understand is why a senior band like DT should get inspirations from lesser known bands like Muse.

Overall the album gives a fresh, new feel to DT's music and is worth buying. A real treat for all DT fans!

4 Stars for sure!!

Report this review (#130690)
Posted Sunday, July 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dream Theater's ninth album is a bit of a mixed bag, but is still a good album. I really wasn't sure what to think when I was getting this. I didn't have high expectations, but my expectations weren't low either, rather somewhere in the middle. Hearing "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night" ahead of time didn't exactly change those expectations (but neither song is particularly representative of the sound of the remaining songs).

So after finally buying and listening to it, I was very pleased. It had sounded like a return to form, a good point to be at this point in time in their careers. But after a while, my enthusiasm for this album has faded. Systematic Chaos just doesn't sound that fresh as it did when I first listened to it. A couple songs on this album in particular are a problem. "Constant Motion" is just a poor metal song (I don't listen to Metallica, so I can't speak of the similarities people point out). At least it was the single from the album. And "The Ministry of Lost Souls" is a rather dull song (and it goes by pretty fast when I listen to it, despite its length), I don't hear what's so great about it. But these are just the low points of Systematic Chaos. There are still several good songs. One of my early favorites was "Repentance", very uncharacteristic for Dream Theater, a soft and slow-moving song, odd for a continuation of Portnoy's AA Saga, compared to the last three songs of the series. Although I really liked this song at first, it tends to drag on toward the end, and could use more variety in the playing. However, it's still a good song. And for anyone who didn't hear the Muse influences on "Never Enough" from Octavarium (I didn't hear it at first since I hadn't heard them prior to Octavarium), listen to "Prophets of War". This song is heavily influenced by Muse. A solid song despite the obvious Muse influence (I'm not saying that's a bad thing). Surprisingly, one of my favorite songs on the album has become "The Dark Eternal Night". The opening riff pulls me in when I listen to it. The solo in the middle is excellent. But I'm glad they don't let Portnoy sing more often because he doesn't sound good on this song. Now for the epic: I think "In the Presence of Enemies" is their second or third best of their three songs over 20 minutes. It's a great song, easily one of the best on SC. But the lyrics get... cheesy starting in the second part. Yes, I'm talking about the "dark master" parts. Still, this song is great musically, particularly in the fourth and fifth parts (I think).

Now, don't get me wrong about what I was saying earlier; I still think this is a good album. However, Systematic Chaos lacks a truly excellent or standout track, which hurts it, unlike the last two albums (The title track from Octavarium and "Stream of Consciousness" from Train of Thought). It is a bit stale compared to Dream Theater's other works. I can't help but feel a bit pessimistic about their future albums at this point though. I hope they are able to put out stronger albums in the future.

Report this review (#130825)
Posted Monday, July 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars 2.5

The best way to rate an overhyped album is to look on it through a prism of time. Obsession of first months sapped, and now we can listen to it without this emotional overdose (positive or negative ? choose the one side you like most). The truth is always somewhere in the middle.

OK, it's stupid to expect for a new SFAM or I&W. Times are changing, and DT have new idols now ? MUSE instead of YES and METALLICA instead of RUSH. Floydian notes didn't go anywhere, but they're less noticeable (thanks God they haven't ripped another PF stuff this time). Some songs are great (25 minutes of epic are quite impressive despite some obvious clichés thrown here and there), some are not ("Forsaken", "Repentance" and "Prophets of War"), but it's all so subjective, you know?"Dark Eternal Night" and "Constant Motion" both sound extremely cool (yes, I kept my ears closed to the fact of blatant METALLICA rip- off and still do), and La Brie is better than he had ever been since "Awake"! "The Ministry of Lost Souls" is another good song, with predictable structure (ballad/instrumental vvackery/ballad coda) and earworm-like tune.

The problem is that I didn't like the album. I listen to it from time to time, but it's hardly my fave release (one of the worst from DT, to be fairly honest). It's better than "Octavarium", but it's the same way 'poorly average' in the same time. Not recommended for beginners, not recommended for early DT fans - feel free to pass it by.

Report this review (#130851)
Posted Monday, July 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
kunangkunangku
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Expectations aren't always high for any established band. Chances are fans don't even know what they actually hope for. This is also the case for Dream Theater, who has become undisputed poster boys in its genre, i.e. progressive metal; they just can't get away from such situation. Good thing is, however, Mike Portnoy and the rest of the guys have so far never made their fans, metalheads throughout the world, truly disappointed.

Here, in their ninth studio effort, once again the 20 year old band mercilessly shows how they've been in a level of "we-can-do- anything-we-want", as if they were a master painter who, besides technical capabilities, had been collecting under their belts every colors available and a huge pile of canvas. Fortunately enough, they seem never lack of ideas; ideas flow like a mountain river.

Like in their previous albums, especially since Images and Words (1992) that catapulted them to international success, even onto MTV screen, they still play with adrenalin-pumping technical prowess: highly energized, lightning fast, and Switzerland watches precision. These are typical metal elements. But, at the same time, they also generously incorporate powerful melodies in their musical structures.

We may recognize here that they mix all the best parts of their previous sounds. By listening to it in its entirety, we might come to a point where we can't just say it tends to Train of Thought metal and less progressive, vice versa. Every element shares equally space width and well blended with the music --heavy and soft, restrained and unleashed, and also both technical and emotional.

On top of that, everyone still can get compositions packed with rapidly shifting time signatures, virtuosic solos and unisons, and massive riffs that made the band famous. The album title, albeit contradictio in terminus, says it all --chaotic, yet controlled.

If it has to be mentioned, this album is partly having Train of Thought's dark and heavy elements and partly highlighting Octavarium's grandeur and flair. There's absolutely no single song deserves to be missed. Everything meets even the lowest level of expectation from die hard fans and those who appreciate the music in a reasonable manner alike. And for those who wouldn't mind to dig his or her wallet deeper, the special edition package --with a CD and a bonus DVD --surely would worth the price.

Report this review (#132065)
Posted Monday, August 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's hard to explain what is missing (again) from DT's new album, beyond genuineness.

After the forgettable "Octavarium" we get back the original DT sound again. There are hard and lyrical parts either, there are good songs, a much better singing by LaBrie, there are real progressive parts, "but something's still missing".

To me, the missing part is the unimitative progressivity, what I've been always waiting from this band since the release of "Images". SC is a very good (but not a perfect) metal album which contains progressive elements. (in composition, playing, etc).

I think they have changed their basic composition-technique and their songs became more similar to an average rock composition (altough with difficult rhythm, but that is not everything in music). And they have lost their innerdeep moments. The moment when the bullet is just leaving the gun but does not reach the victim yet, like on the SFAM. At the very moments like those whole lifes can be live through, universes can born and collapse simultaneously...

Along with those they have got very exciting concerts so they didn't forget to play music, only just can't make good new stuffs. We hope for a better DT album next time.

Report this review (#132450)
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I come at this one from the unique perspective of being somewhat of a DT newbie, without the baggage of past expectations about this band. Sure I've heard them before but I've never been a big DT "fan." So when a friend dropped a copy of Systematic Chaos in my lap I decided it was time to give the band a fair chance and listen to them as if they were a brand new group. And from that perspective, without having to judge this album against their back catalogue..

I like this.

It was certainly helpful to have the bonus DVD to be able to get a real sense of the personalities and the band at work in the studio. After all these years together I see a bunch of guys who still have fun and who admitted that making this album is the most fun they've had in the studio since "Awake." They still play at the top of their game and aren't particularly worried about whether prog purists are going to judge them on the basis of being groundbreaking. Let's face it, most bands break ground relatively early on if they manage to at all, and if they stay together as long as DT many are putting out dreck that isn't anywhere close to the music on this album. Where were the lads in Led Zeppelin this far into their musical careers? Doing stuff like The Firm? Shaken 'n Stirred? Even if Bonzo hadn't died, In Through the Out Door showed they had little magic left. And it isn't just Zep. Based on the history of many progressive and straight rock groups DT aren't doing too badly here. So I'm not judging their ability to break new ground. I was more curious to find out if they were making music that appealed to me as a rock fan.

In the documentary, Rudess delivers a line that would be the perfect title to his future book about the group should he ever write one. As he's working on this keyboard run and having some difficulty with it, he says "we have problems playing slow." It's a funny moment but actually they do just fine playing slow and heartfelt when they want to and it's something I wish they'd do a little more of in the future. I know their fans love the warp speed stuff though and that's fine too, after all, it's their band and their fans are extremely loyal! Portnoy also explained how much better it is for them to write and record together on the spot in the studio as opposed to writing things individually at home and then coming together a year later to record, by which time he says they will have lost the spark and the freshness of the idea. It's much more exciting to work with something they just came up with rather than an idea from a year or two back. Portnoy is hilarious on camera, so brimming with boyish energy that he physically cannot stand still during the interview, he rocks back and forth like someone who has to take a leak really bad.

Getting on with the music of Systematic Chaos, "In the Presence..part 1" begins with a bang and a little bit of flash by all. I really like this opening as it serves notice well of what is coming. Around two minutes Petrucci lays down the first of many heartfelt solos, lots of tasty melody and notes held for the right amount of time, bent just about perfectly and lasting about 2 minutes. Really good so far and then... The vocals kick in around 5 minutes and I'm forced to deal with, kicking and screaming, what had been one of my complaints about DT. Pretty boy Mr. Labrie. But for the most part I think he does a nice job on this album. He still has this somewhat pretentious melodrama about him that bugs me but I can deal with it when I'm enjoying the material, which I do for the most part on this album. This is a very successful opener of heavy prog with even some fusiony moments.

"Forsaken" starts with a heavy groove and some nicely layered guitar alternating with good keyboard. The chorus is awfully sing-songey but even with a moderate cheese factor I still think this is one hell of a well done light-metal (pop-metal ballad?) song that I can enjoy if I check my prog cynicism at the door. It is soaring in its feel and really succeeds with outstanding writing and delivery. It might be the "pop" song on the album but it's not a track I'll be skipping over my any means. Nice.

"Constant Motion" is one that I hated at first but has grown on me some upon many listenings. The only Metallica I can appreciate any more are the Cliff albums and this reminds me of lamer 90s Metallica. It's well played of course but is one of two songs that drag on the overall album, thankfully those two songs are among the shorter ones. Not bad if you dig the Metallica sound but the vocals especially make me cringe.

"The Dark Eternal Night" begins with crushingly heavy bombast and great drumming. This one is also very metal but to me more successful than "Constant Motion." The heavily distorted vocals alternate with clean ones and just foam at the mouth in their fury. About half-way through there are some really funky exchanges between the various players that display their finesse without getting too warp-speed. It's probably pretty easy for long time fans to take songs like this one for granted but for newbies this is some pretty wild stuff! This song reminds me of classic Sabbath. You have the Iomni mega-riff, the playful jamming with tasteful bridges, and the lyrical themes that either Ronnie or Oz would surely love to belt out.

"Repentence" is change of pace for sure. Very brooding, eerie clean guitar and vocals remind me of some Porcupine Tree. A slow pace with acoustic guitars, wonderful keyboards throughout and a beautiful guitar solo ensue. Then they string together a bunch of spoken word sections by famous people on the topic of regret that is a great idea, although they leave a little too much music over the top making the actual words difficult to understand. This is followed by a Floydian like section that is dreamy and nice. It works as a breather before more spoken word returns. This song in itself is a bit of a breather on an otherwise very heavy batch of songs and it's a definite highlight.

"Prophets of War" is the other song that doesn't work so well for me. It seems pretty clichéd to me and the lyrical message seems forced. Definitely one of the weaker moments on the album. Did the Democratic Party write the lyrics for this one or what? I totally support anyone's right to release an anti-war song but at least make it interesting and thought provoking. Thought provoking and clever this is definitely not and I would have dropped it from the album. Maybe they should have consulted with Bright Eyes instead of Kucinich's speechwriter for the lyrics

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" starts with a beautiful melody which very much reminds me of Pain Of Salvation for some reason. Again I like the softer texture the acoustic guitar introduces and the slower pace in places. Labrie is at his best here with some truly gorgeous harmonies behind him and the electric leads are great too when they pop up. The middle section shifts into an extended jam that breaks from the original melodies but is inspired and interesting. The third section is similar to the first but with a bit more majesty and another restrained melodic guitar solo until the fade out. This is a very good track.

"In the Presence..part 2" is the grand finale and it begins appropriately with a very Floyd like opening. Vocals begin about one minute in and the music is very spacey and dreamy with a monster bass part around 2:45. At 3:25 they kick in full throttle and this leads to the "Dark Master" chorus that has apparently set off the cheese detector for many fans, but they actually address some of these lyrical issues in the documentary. If you have a problem with them I suggest listening to their explanation before writing off the whole CD. This track moves like a true epic and rocks very hard while remaining varied and interesting. There is some ensemble playing in the middle/late sections that is as interesting as similar Rush stuff you might compare it to. I love the way it winds down out of this section at 13:15 like a downhill skier after hitting the last jump and then coasting towards the finish line. Then we hear the original melody from part 1 arise from the ashes to wrap the album into a cohesive package. The piece gets more grandiose as it lays down an impressive ending to this fine album.

Recommended for DT fans of course, but also for non-DT fans who are curious. I believe this to be a good introduction to the band as it is accessible, interesting, and offers the video documentary (at least for now it does.) And for the prog metal fans who thrash this album, while I respect your opinion, would you feel the same if you heard this material played well by a new band rather than DT?

Summary: DT may never be my favorite group but any band that can put out a disc like this after roughly 2 decades is doing something right. And doing something Yes, Genesis, and Floyd didn't manage at roughly the same career points with Big Generator, Invisible Touch, and Momentary Lapse. Even with the two missteps noted (Constant Motion and Prophets of War) I can still award this album 4 stars without hesitation. One of the other Prog Reviewers writes of DT new releases: "chances are fans don't even know what they actually hope for." This is a great line and there's plenty of truth to it. DT probably just can't win anymore. Any direction they take will piss off one contingent of fans or another. I guess that's the burden of hanging around for 20 years but I personally believe they can be proud of this album.

Report this review (#132776)
Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Although I've listened to a lot of progmetal during the last twenty years (think of a few interesting bands such as Mastermind or Magellan in the recent times for example) substantially I share the same thought as Erik Neuteboom and Joey Kelly: I don't criticize the technical approach of D.T., whose solos are often outstanding, but rather I'm not fond of their way to compose as well as of the music colours They use...their suites, often lacking such an important dynamic mood that I need as a classical composer (the loud but also the soft tones within the same tune, I mean...), begin to annoy me after 20 minutes of solos; moreover Jordan Rudess on keyboards doesn't make me change idea about their music project all along their career...that's a certain sense of tiredness, though the present "S.C." is generally regarded as their best album since "Six Degrees" and their execution is often stunning as well, after all! Nevertheless - in my opinion - They need some fresh new music ideas to make a renewal of their old project or should think of exploring new territories (like in the albums by L.T.E. for instance). Otherwise if They don't try to change route, their music will be cloned by themselves forever as a continual loop and naturally their albums become automatically boring.

At the end - if you're a prog metal fan - you couldn't stay too much far away from "S.C." and you should add an half star at least; otherwise you could look forward hearing something new...I let you decide, as usual!

Report this review (#133373)
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Unlike most DT fans out there, I found in Train of Thought and Octavarium two great albums. In Train of Thought (true, not their best album) they achieved what they wanted and presented the fans with a unique cd. Octavarium is more of a hodge-podge, yet they gave the fans a new side to DT along with one of their best songs, Octavarium. Then it saddens me to see how these two didn't get as much credit as Systematic Chaos, which I would say doesn't deserve it. This is why:

Systematic Chaos lacked work in my opinion. It is true that it contains some of the most virtuous and complex parts the quintet has ever played, yet what joins these parts substract some of the merit. In the documentary coming with the special edition cd, Portnoy says that they didn't carry any ideas coming into the studio to write and record Systematic Chaos. I know many great cd's have been written this way (one just has to listen to Liquid Tension Experiment), but the weak chorus for Forsaken or the flat riff in Prophets of War as the fans chant tear down the expectation built by the quiet piano and the very ''Muse-like'' parts respectively.

In addition, this album could be criticized along the same lines as their two previous works. If fans out there consider Train of Thought to be the ''heavy-album'' and Octavarium the ''proggie-album,'' how come they don't call this the ''main stream-album.'' Not that having a more main-stream sound is bad, but if you were to accuse DT for writing music for a segment of their fans, then they continue to be guilty. Some songs, like Forsaken or Constant Motion, have a very rigid and traditional song structure. The production doesn't help their cause, with guitars having a more prominent sound than most other instruments. Finally, the lyrics. In the DVD documentary they speak of fantasy writing. When I think of good fantasy writing I think of Blind Guardianl. DT in Systematic Chaos writes about a vampiress, a big bad monster, and a dark master. And if the lyrics are there for the sake of aesthetic, DT should know this is not up their alley.

This is still Dream Theater. It is still worth a listen and the album has its highlights such as The Ministry of Lost Souls and Repentance. It is hard not to expect great work from DT, but I must say this album was a disappointment. Probably my least favorite DT work up to date.

Report this review (#133382)
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Muzikman
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The last time I listened to an album repeatedly, I mean twice a day for a stretch of two weeks, began the day I picked up Black Sabbath's 1973 album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. It became a permanent resident on my turntable and drove my parents crazy. History does repeat itself and for many reasons I could not stop listening to Dream Theater's most recent release Systematic Chaos. I have long wondered if they could possibly release an album as good as Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence; now I am elated to discover that they have surpassed that 2002 release for consistency and overall excellence in production, musicianship, lyrics and storytelling - this is their best effort to date!

It may have something to do with the fact that last year offered the band their first vacation in 10 years. They were obviously in dire need of a break, and it probably saved them from self-destruction. Additionally, following their emancipation from Atlantic records and a brief stint with Rhino, they have found a home at Roadrunner Records - a label that I would consider a major indie with a very independent attitude and approach. A band of down-to-earth gents like Dream Theater can finally thrive with a label like this and they deserve to. They returned to the studio, reinvigorated, in 2006 and began recording this dazzling session.

I have never had any doubt about this band's ability to perform with excellence at all positions on stage and in the studio. Incredibly, they feel they have more to prove to themselves and to the world of music, as James LaBrie comments on the 90- minute bonus documentary on the included DVD. LaBrie is the consummate showman and his vocals, as always, are incredibly strong on this release. He reaches deep within himself to bring each character to life on every track, and he makes it all real in your mind's eye. Then when you see him do it all in a live performance you find yourself falling into his overpowering web of influence. He mentions in the documentary that he has not had this much fun since the band recorded their 1994 release Awake; that's a long time to wait to get that euphoric feeling back - doing what you love in the studio.

Each musician is an undisputed star in his own right and respective position within the band, and contributes to Dream Theater's quality and uniqueness. John Petrucci (guitar) has made the Ernie Ball six-string, The MusicMan®, his friend over the years. He becomes one with his guitar on this release and his writing has reached another level as well. Jordan Rudess (keyboards) is phenomenal in setting the tone for the rest of the band to jump in and launch into each track in typically grand style. By letting his versatile, classically trained fingers do all the talking, he draws upon his palette of moods to paint extraordinarily rich atmospheres. Moreover, Mike Portnoy (drums) and John Myung (bass) are arguably the best rhythm section in the universe.

Their positive attitudes shine throughout, even in light of the fact that their music is dark and full of fantasy. The opening track, "In The Presence Of Enemies", sets the stage for the entire album by leading in with a long instrumental break that builds into a mountain of music. then LaBrie's vocals come in - it's vintage Dream Theater.

My favorite track, "Forsaken", is a story about a female vampire who visits an unknowing soul during the night and leads him to believe that she is taking him to paradise. All the while, his lifeblood is being sucked from his body, renewing her life and making him her possession for eternity. Petrucci plays some very heavy and melodic riffs during the run of the song and LaBrie takes you there scene by scene in a passionate and dramatic fashion.

Every track offers an intriguing story with incredible music driving it along, sometimes at hyperspeed then geared down when necessary so you can visit each setting, and become intimate with each character. It all develops inside your head, and with several listens following along with the words, you suddenly find yourself living each role. This is potent stuff - the kind of music that is impossible to forget.

The Special Edition of Systematic Chaos includes a DVD that features this epic recording in awesome 5.1 surround sound. Once you hear it, nothing else will suffice. You also get an inside look at the recording process via a 90 minute documentary hosted by drummer Mike Portnoy - the man is a riot and a total nut, and I loved his commentary and interaction with fellow band mates. Interviews with all the band members except Myung are interspersed between segments of studio footage.

I could go on ad infinitum about this release, but it is time for you to get your own copy. You can be certain of one thing; this album features some of the best progressive metal you will ever hear - bar none. From one corner of the planet to the next, the Dream Theater machine reigns supreme.

Report this review (#133825)
Posted Sunday, August 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Amazing album. I've been a long time Dream Theater fan, and this is definitely one of my favorites.

I found a lot of the reviews to be great, and a few of the lower ratings to have valid statements, as well. Sadly, there were probably more that contained premature statements and ignorant suggestions.

For a Dream Theater fan, I don't think you could have asked for more. I think they will continue to make Music they enjoy creating. Cry about it if you want - they are doing what they love to do, and we gain what we decide to gain from it. There's certainly no room to complain to belittle their genius, creativity, or just plain ambition. It's kind of embarassing reading it, knowing it's coming from fans of Music.

Report this review (#134861)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars THE DARK ETERNAL DECEPTION

Mike Portnoy announced this album like this: This album will be full of what our fans enjoy, the big epics, crushing riffs and all the stuff that made Dream Theater big, this album will be enjoyed by all our fans. When he said that, he didn't think of me. I've been a fanboy of this New York band since 2002, and I've seen them falling down from the top of my favorite bands. When I listened to this one for the first time I was really excited, "In The Presence of Enemies" has a thundering start that reminded me the good old days of the Liquid Tension Experiment mixed with some Math Rock, thing that Dream theater has never done before. And I said to myself: "HELL, YEAH, MY GUYS ARE STILL ALIVE". As the album goes by, it decreases in a dramatic way; I felt I knew the songs without even listen to them. I guessed the next riff, the next melodic line, the solo structure, everything; and that sucks so bad. What I've always enjoyed of Dream Theater is that they were unpredictable, I've seen it on Octavarium, I thought this would only be a transition, but it wasn't. Once again they copied the melodic voice line of Metallica's "Blackened" (thing that they've already done in "This Dying Soul). After "Octavarium" (the song) I expected some change, I thought they will explore some other types of music.

They have found commercial success with Octavarium and they tried to repeat the same formula. I think it's time for them to change. First of all, Mike Portnoy has to learn he can't be on everything. He has to stop doing self-productions, he needs to give the other members they need to create and bring this band to life again, and he needs to stop singing.

As I said before, there are some good points, as the first part of "In The Presence Of Enemies" and "Repentance", which finally closes the cycle of Mike Portnoy's AA Saga.

Overall, in my opinion, this is the worst album they've ever made. They are just a cartoon of themselves. They need a 360 twist, they need to expand their musical horizons and get out from the hole they're stuck in. So, I'll give them 2 stars. Sorry guys, you deserve no more!!!

Report this review (#136310)
Posted Tuesday, September 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars There is only one word to describe DT's latest and that word is 'meh'...

15 years since DT took the world by storm with Images and Words the band seems to have hit a rut. A big one. For the past 4 years they seem to have become lazy in their songwriting, and the energy of their older works seems to have been lost - and yes you've probably just read those same words in 435 other reviews by others, always quick to criticise what is and will remain for years the most virtuosic band in the world.

The new album is decent enough, if you're a fan like me, but it just doesn't blow you away, like the first time I heard Metropolis Pt.2. The epics are there as is stunning virtuosity, but the heart is missing. In all the attempts to stop themselves from falling downhill the band have lost the soul from their music.

The opening track is good, as is the Ministry of Lost Souls but most of the other songs are bland and pretty uninteresting. Don't get me wrong there are some good moments on the disc, the instrumental on Constant Motion, the intense mood of Repentance and the sadness of Ministry really boost the album, but sadly only enough to appeal to long time DT fans like me.

If your a fan by it. If your not listen to it first, but i'll make this clear, Systematic Chaos is passable. Oh yeah if you like Muse don't listen to Prophets of War - You've been warned!!

Report this review (#137083)
Posted Saturday, September 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Oh no! What a disappointment, Dream Theater turned death metal! When a couple of months ago the title for the brand new album, which was still a mistery for everyone, was officialised, most of the Progarchives forum users were full of doubts about it: "Systematic Chaos"; a title like that was This album is really disappointing for every prog lover, not of course for any DT fanatic, who will be enthusiast to hear once again the usual infinite repetitions of patterns and scales by Petrucci and Rudess....What's missing this time is the feel to it, which was what made the previous album Octavarium acceptable, in fact in that work there was much more interesting lyrics, much more orchestra,a wonderful title track and much more to say: all elements which are lacking at all in this particular album. The ridicolous and hardly believing thing about "Systemathic Chaos" is the total lack of musical personality from the members of the band: the evidence of this fact is the "Prophets of War" song, in which, once again, DT sounds exactly like Muse; cold lyrics, which, in the end, when the attempt to involve the listener is merely failed, space about mythology,fights against monters (The Dark Eternal Night) and Satan (In The Presence Of Enemies Pt.2), in certain point the listener is tempted to ask himself if this is a DT or a Cannibal Corpse album. The only two songs which could be more interesting for a prog lover are "Repentance" and "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" which, in spite of all the rest of the album, are quite intense even if surely not DT at their best. What a dissapointment after Octavarium have to deal with such an awful album like "Systematic chaos". The times of "Metropolis Pt.2, Scenes From A Memory" are definitely gone. I suggest this album only to DT die-hard fans.
Report this review (#137860)
Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Dream Theater's latest studio offering has all the hallmarks of a great Prog Metal record. In short, everything you have come to expect from a band of their calibre. However on the 24 minute title track at least of their last album, "Octavarium" Dream Theater hinted that they may be moving away from The all out Prog Metal of "Train of Thought". This does not seem to be the case as this album in some ways seems to take a few steps back falling somewhere between 2 in terms of progression. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing but it would have been interesting to hear them follow that vein a little more.

Fortunately "Systematic Chaos" stands up on the strength of the material and is one of their best releases of recent years. The album is bookended by "In the Prescence of Enemies" , Part 1 and 2 which is one of best tracks on offer featuring the kind of impeccable musicianship you expect of Dream Theater. Heaviest moment comes on "The Dark Eternal Night" which has an instrumental mid section that had me hitting the replay button again and again. The closing riff must be the dirtiest Petrucci riff ever and has a great Keyboard solo from Rudess that I initially mistook for a Guitar.

After the bludgeon of "The Dark Eternal Night" following track "Repentance" is well placed and takes things down a notch. And very good it is too.

Weakest track is "Prophets of War" which lesser bands would no doubt be happy to have written, comes across as ordinary in such illustrious company although you've got to admire their cheek for such obvious Queen influenced backing vocals.

So to sum up, if you're looking for Dream Theater to boldly go where they haven't been before then you may be disappointed with Systematic Chaos. However if you're content to hear them play their Prog Metal in much the same vein as before then this is a highly enjoyable release and one of the best albums of 2007.

Report this review (#139154)
Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Two of their three last albums before this one were the most progressive they had produced so far : "Six Degrees" and "Octavarium". One being their most heavy-metal and little interesting to my ears "Train Of Thought". So, I wondered which way "Dream Theater" was going to head for "Systematic Chaos". And actually, to satisfy (or disastify) their fans, they will opt for a mix of the genres (but their most heavy side will be scarce, fortunately).

Only two tracks belong to the heavy metal and unintersting stuff : "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night". Best avoided if you can't stand this genre.

"Forsaken" on the contrary is a good pop-rock song. Straight-forward composition; strong but not heavy. It features crystal clear vocals and combines a very melodic chorus with even some light passages. I guess that devoted "DT" fans (which I am not) will not really praise this song. But as far as I'm concerned, I like it.

Some other pieces of music are really nice to listen to. "Repentance" for instance. It sounds almost like a "Porcupine Tree" song. Soft melody, backing voice from the other world, great background choir, spacey mood. This has little to do with "Constant Motion" of course and it is all better for me.

"DT" presents another hard-rock-pop one with "Prophets Of War". I have mentioned already that a song or two from "Octaviarum" were "Muse" oriented ("Panic Attack" and "Never Enough"). When I listen to this song, it is a confirmation of this. Same sort of song structure. Of course, LaBrie does not sound as Bellamy but the music is rather similar. And I like it.

The long "Ministry Of Lost Souls" (almost fifteen minutes) started as a soft rock-ballad; mellow vocals, symphonic backing band and it builds crescendo. This song structure has always pleased me. At half time, the more traditional "DT" gets back with these characteristic bass riffs. A powerful intrumental part will close this good number. Some maestria from Petucci combined with some very pleasant keyboards work. A mix of prog and hard-rock. The final guitar solo is beautiful and emotional. A rather succesfull song. A highlight.

There is of course another epic here. Divided in two which I don't like very much. This song in its texture and spirit is similar to the great "Six Degrees" (over forty minutes) and "Octavarium" (almost twenty four minutes). This is a great number in which you will discover all the aspects of "DT" music (except the heavy side). Symphonic moments, sweet vocals, harder approach as well at times (but not too often), great guitar soli for Petrucci and great synthesizer as well.

I guess that the influence of Rudess is determinant in their evolution since from the moment he has been on board (well on the keyboards I mean) the band has generated its most progressive music ("A Change Of Seasons" excepted).

This is a very good album. If only "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night" would have been cut !

Four stars as such. This is another album that could please a lot of progheads.

Report this review (#141755)
Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am 52 years old. Professional drummer for 35+ years. Love chick Corea,Dave Wekyl band, Yellowjackets, as well as Beatles,Yes,Genesis{pre 1976},Zep,sabbath,and many more.I am not a metal fan.I always liked DT but not what you would call a follower. This cd from my standpoint is a masterpiece. I can`t stop listening to it. I also took 3 thirteen year old drum students of mine to DT`s Philadelphia Tower theater show last month. They were blown away{so was I} and are buying up all DT` stuff.I bought all their DVD`s and cd`s as well since the concert.. I still like this the best. And I have a 17 year old heavy metal double bass pounding student who was`nt sure if he liked DT,who now loves them as well due to this CD. It`s great to sit with him and figure out the odd time signatures and how Mike weaves in and out of them.He is a metallica fan and likes queen and yellowjackets as well.These kids seem to be open to everything old and new.And this CD gives us both. So maybe DT sees the future better than some think. Reading the reviews it does seem DT can`t win trying to please thier fans.It`s either to this or that. I`m sure it isnt easy for them to pick a direction. I like this direction. They certainly have endured.It is great to see such an eclectic effort. I can see a whole new generation of fans coming up for DT. And a few old ones as well. :`} Much like Yello jackets it is great to see a band stay together for so long and make such great music. It makes life as a musician worthwhile. I am grateful. Oh and if Mike Portnoy is listening,I too am a freind of Bill`s.
Report this review (#142613)
Posted Monday, October 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars Systematic Disaster.

I've been highly critical of just about everything Dream Theater has done post Scenes, but I could always say that there was at least one song, most likely more, on every studio album that I could really enjoy. Systematic Chaos changed that claim. This album comes off as a Dream Theater album covering Dream Theater songs. All the clichés rightfully or wrongfully attributed to them are displayed here, almost shown off even. From what I deduce listening to this album and hearing Mike Portnoy's comments about it before the album was released, Systematic Chaos seems like it was written for the fans, with the intent to please them. They appear to have wanted to make an album to please fans of all their different time periods. And as always happens when writing to please somebody, the music is cold and not pleasing anybody.

Systematic Chaos shows a band mindlessly going through the motions. The whole affair is so predictable and indistinguishable from anything they've ever done (in terms of sound not quality). Besides the prominence of Mike Portnoy's backing vocals I noticed nothing different from this and anything released prior. And that isn't exactly a welcomed change.

I'm sorry for the overt negativity of the review, but I could find no silver lining.

Report this review (#144540)
Posted Sunday, October 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Being a Dream theater fan...then a prog fan, I have all their stuff and always look forward to new stuff from them. I love seeing them live and truly admire their talents and music....

Octavarium only confirmed some ideas I had about the band however and now SC has done the same. A SERIOUS lack of melodies and direction therein.

The piece opens with a Rush style chop and riff thing that drags and drags. This seems to be the theme throughout the CD. Forsaken is a good straight ahead rocker but is almost too predictable and forgetable.

Great music is about the careful combination of chops, riffs and melodies. Octavarium doesnt have it...and neither does this record. DT need to get a Producer to not allow THEM...meaning Mike P and John P to run the show. Their singer who still sounds amazing, needs to be allowed to write songs and most importantly, vocal melodies. Thats what singers do...not drummers.

they just need to get back to their roots....emotions and great melodies. Images and Words, Awake, Scenes and 6 degrees had it...but this record doesn't.

Its a good CD...but not their best. I'd recommend it, but think the guys need to get a Producer that can help them focus on their talents....not others talents. They need MELODIES !!!!!!

Report this review (#146043)
Posted Saturday, October 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was honestly satisfied with this album, especially comparing it to what I've heard from the past couple albums DT has put out. Both parts of In the Presence of Enemies are great, or at least as great as anything the band has put out since Scenes from a Memory. Most of the tracks in between were simply good. I thought it amusing how Forsaken was hyped up as the album's "single" when many fans and even the band members themselves were less enthusiastic about it compared to Constant Motion and even The Dark Eternal Night (both of which seemed oddly similar). This album has nothing really new for DT nor was is meant to have anything new. The main complaint I would have with this album is how it, dare I say this, caters somewhat to mainstream metal, which even Petrucci himself admitted in an interview of trying to "broaden" their fan-base. I did luckily see them perform on their Chaos in Motion tour, and I'd say LaBrie has definitely improved on his live vocals (as well as looking better with a beard). Overall I liked it better as a metal album than a progressive album. It is however a good progressive album, indeed one of the few for me to buy this year.
Report this review (#149774)
Posted Friday, November 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Dream Theater returns in full force!

First off, Id like to make an aside by stating that I find it unfortunate that many bands can grow so large and so hyped that their music often gets looked down upon simply because they are popular. I've always found this the case with Dream Theater, many people frowning on them simply because so many others think they're the best thing since sliced bread. While I fall somewhere closer to the "best thing..." side of the spectrum I often try to listen with a critical mind to the music they're making. On this particular outing I find that Dream Theater has produced one of their best works, and now I'm going to get into the review.

While not quite up to caliber with some of their most popular works (ex: Scenes from a Memory), this is an album that far surpasses some of the bands recent work, making it likely the best thing they've made since "Six Degrees". DT has also steered the ship in a more heavy direction, perhaps provoking the responses they've been getting from the prog community. However, what does not change is the pure musicianship put forward by the members, and the supreme storytelling that we're used to from the band.

Starting with the first part of the book ending track IN THE PRESENCE OF ENEMIES PT 1 opens with some quick guitar and launches strait into the 6 or so minute overture, one that's (much heavier than, but) likely on par with something like Overture 1939 or Six Degrees Overture. The rest of the track slows down, if ever so slightly, as Rudess's keyboard launches into the vocal segment. FORSAKEN is a bit more "poppy", but only in structure, the story of a man who's taken away by a vampiress. Some great vocal work by La Brie here, but definitely not the album's standout. CONSTANT MOTION is the first single off the album, and is a blindly fast track that's great by all means, likely the best choice for a single since 1993's Lie, notable in the track is the stupidly fast guitars and the vocal harmonies between La brie and Portnoy. THE DARK ETERNAL NIGHT is likely the heaviest piece of the album accompanied by some saloon piano randomly thrown into the soloing. An interesting track that's fun to rock out to. REPENTANCE is the next part of DT's "AA" saga, and while this one's slower than the rest in the series, it's still a bit redundant in sound. A good track taken on its own or paired with the others in the series, but for those of us wanting new material only on new albums, you may be a bit let down. Moving on, PROPHETS OF WAR is a short number that targets the Bush Administration. THE MINESTRY OF LOST SOULS is a beautiful song that highlights exactly what DT does best. It starts slow and ends with beautiful soloing that can only be described as excellent. One of DT's finest moments. Finally the album ends as it began with IN THE PRESENCE OF ENEMIES PT 2. Another fine epic by Dream Theater, and the coda is just as good as the beginning. Accompanied by some fine storytelling ("Welcome tired pilgrim/into the circle/we have been waiting. Angels fall, All for you, Heretic") this is easily the epic we would expect after the previous album's fantastic title track.

While the metal in this one definitely is heavier than DT's other albums this is not one to miss. While prog-heads may find that it's a bit too over the top, those of us who got into the prog genre through metal while have a fine taste of nostalgia left in our mouths while still hearing some new material. 4 stars, this one's excellent.

Report this review (#149888)
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Love them or hate them, you have to face the fact that nobody does it quite like Dream Theater. To say that other prog metal bands are as good as or better than Dream Theater is to say that immitation maple syrup tastes like maple syrup, or better. And it doesn't. While the band has a propensity for speed and mind bogglingly technical passages, the band never sacrifices emotion for technicality. Never. If you think so, you have an unjustified bias and refuse to accept it. And so maybe they have been waering their influences on their sleeves a bit lately. If Dream Theater wants to try something that sounds like Muse, Dream Theater can try out something that sounds like Muse. They are forward thinking guys, who appreciate what newer bands are doing. So what if they want to have a little fun and try out a new sound for a song? It still sounds like the same band, and it's not copying the other band at all. Get over it, guys. Dream Theater writes and plays in a way that no other band can match. Look at the fine details. The transitions, the harmonies, the arrangements, the fusion of styles, the memorability of the melodies, the way the band has connected their whole discography musically and lyrically, etc, all come together to shape a career that no other band has been able to compete with. The band has had virtually no radio play for over a decade and they still manage to book Radio City Music Hall. You can go to Guitar Center and ask anyone there about Dream Theater, and there's a good chance that they're familiar with them. Why is that? It's because the band can play, and they do, but they also write songs that are easy to get into for even those who don't understand progressive music or music theory. They can connect with fans just as well as U2 can, and they do it with a heavy mix of intricacy and passion. When you watch the group play, you can see how into it they are. They aren't just playing because they can and it sounds good; they are playing because they love to do it. They put their souls into the music. They have such character on and off the stage. They are true musicians. If you don't like them, fine, but don't ever say that they just masturbate with their instruments, and don't ever say that they don't do what they do very well.

Now, let's look at Systematic Chaos, the band's 9th studio release. Granted, the band has not evolved much over the past few years, but they are trying new styles for fun. We have another attempt at DT Muse, and to a much greater success, with "Prophets of War," and some Beatles influence in the proggy masterwork "The Ministry of the Lost Souls.'' Thrashy metal gets a lot of attention on "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night," and while some of it sounds a bit mainstream, there are enough quirks and what not to keep things interesting. "Repentance," the fourth chapter in the AA series is a dark, atmospheric tune. "Forsaken" is perfect single material and the DT we know and love is all over the epic "In the Presence of Enemies," with a fresh sound of course.

If you're not into DT, this won't change your mind. Only you can change your mind. If you're into DT, this is another excellent release, with a few weak spots. Sometimes it seems like the band is just coasting, but they always end up throwing something in there to keep your interest. And they are on the top of their game with the longer tracks especially.

Report this review (#150767)
Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I always like reviewing Dream Theater albums because they have been a constant and important part of my past and musical education. So many firsts with this band in the early 1990s.

Unfortunately, this band appears to have died an ugly death soon after welcoming in a new millennium. Systematic Chaos, I so looked forward to hearing in its entirety after catching a promo of the instrumental section of The Dark Eternal Night -- driving, crazy, complex -- you know the story. So, upon receiving the CD in the mail, I took 80 minutes of my life to devote to a complete listen. I was blown away immediately. In the Presence of Enemies (part 1) is what most others have written: a very nice integration of all of the players feeding off each other and building the mood of a piece of music to climax rather than each blowing individual loads, one after the other. However, the magnificence created in the first half of this piece with JP's huge melodic theme is destroyed as soon as we get to the generic metal section where "I saw a white light shining there before me." I'd heard the lyrics would be based in fantasy (and honestly, JP did a good job with this on the band's early albums), but this was just pathetic and seemed to be more veiled in religious overtones. I know JP is a catholic and all, but I'm not interested in religious metaphors from Dream Theater.

Forsaken and The Ministry of Lost Souls, in my opinion, are the good tracks on the album. While Forsaken is DT's ode to Evanescence (whether on purpose or by chance), it still works as a strong song and fits Labrie's style perfectly. Ministry, even though it is also mired in religious overtones, works well and carries with it a melancholy often not found in DT's music...though I doubt the non-DT fan can make it through 7:00 to get to the driving instrumental section. The other cool song, IMO, is Prophets of War despite its lyrical content being a clear bone thrown to the anti-Bush movement (didn't Portnoy once say he supported the war? I know he did... Yeah, ok, so Labrie wrote the lyrics. Well, he's Canadian and expected to be an anti-war liberal). I like the electronic loops by Jordan but think the crowd chants were a bit too much...but hey, it made for a nice fanboy session/chance for MP to beat his chest. Yeah, it's another Muse ripoff too!

So, here we are again with the same complaints that the previous two DT albums got from me: ripoffs galore..and not even subtle ones like you hear on Scenes From A Memory. More attempts to sound like James Hetfield (Constant Motion) and oddly enough, I hear a melody line from Anthrax's "I Am The Law." Why do they keep doing this? Metallica was relevant in the 1980s. How is this progressive? The Dark Eternal Night, aside from its killer instrumental section is just plain stupid crap that you'd expect from a band just signed to Roadrunner Records. Oddly enough, DT claims to do all this themselves yet this album reeks of the same stench Train of Thought carries..."I wanted it to have balls!" It has balls if you're not a talented musician, but otherwise you have a pair of christians and a couple of Jews (perhaps non-practicing) trying to write evil metal music. It just comes off as childish. Finally, speaking of ripoffs, DT goes and rips themselves off; this time with Repentance. Yes, I know, I know they're writing a "megasong" about AA and want to carry themes. Just like Root of All Evil stole a section from This Dying Soul, this entire song is built around TDS. When the album first came out, all the DT fanboys on the DT forums were going on and on about how this iwas their best song ever!!!!! Um...no. I only feel like falling asleep, and I like Camel's Dust and Dreams and Opeth's Damnation. At this point, I don't even have the energy left to tackle In The Presence of Enemies (part 2). It's just ridiculous. Cool instrumental section though but utterly stupid song. I guess JP has to let his catholicism shine through. All I have to say is that "Voices" was far better.

So, if you're already a DT fan, you probably already own Systematic Chaos. If you're just getting into the band, skip this one for now. Get Awake. Get Images and Words. Hell, get Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The second disc alone is worth it. Save this for the day you decide you've just got to own them all!!!

Report this review (#152350)
Posted Friday, November 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I purposely waited for quite some time before reviewing this latest by DT because I wanted to give a justified judgement about it instead of making a hasty conclusion after one or two listenings.

I have to say I was a bit anxious about this one because Octavarium was an album I had ambivalent feelings about. There was the supersong, two nice ones and the rest questionable. This could mean DT was declining a bit but that was to be awaited with their next release. I think it's safe to say they recovered, at least that's my opinion of course. I think DT has managed to make an album without any poor or even lesser songs. In this case I could have done the review after a few listenings because my opinion hasn't changed after a couple of months. I will give ratings for each song:

1. In the presence of enemies pt.1. Great opener, somewhat mysterious sounding track. 4.25 stars.

2. Forsaken. Could have been on Octavarium but better than those tracks. 3.75 stars.

3. Constant motion. More or less the same. Another accessable one. 3.75 stars.

4. Dark eternal night. My personal favourite. Great heavy track very suitable for live gigs. 5 stars.

5. Repentance. Starts off like a balad, then getting rougher. Very nice. 4.25 stars.

6. Prophets of war. Mediocre track. Not really impressive. 3.5 stars.

7. Ministry of lost souls. One of the best, great epical track. 4.75 stars.

8. My second favourite coming close after Dark eternal night. Even (much) better than previous or pt.1. 5 stars.

So I think we can say this is more than a decent album, I think this is worth the qualification masterpiece. And we all know what that means. This is one of DT's very best and I'm happy to say they are still up for the job, hopefully for many years to come. Final note: I like the yells they do in some of the songs. It's a new element and I think it works very nicely.

Report this review (#152768)
Posted Monday, November 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Dream Theater were my introduction to prog, and to metal, and I thought they were the best band ever. It's sad to see the only prog I categorize them with nowadays is that they're getting progressively worse. I can't put a finger on when it started, but DT have slowly but surely succumbed to pointless solos, uninspired ballads and generally emotionless and meaningless music. Sure, they still occasionally have their moments, but I think their problem is they're trying too hard to make their music sound "cool" (more accessible to the mainstream?) than actually producing some excellent music that they were somewhat once known for. Systematic Chaos has a lot of these "cool" moments, to name a few there's Constant Motion, The Dark Eternal Night, and the cluster of fans hoo-haring in Prophets of War. All of these songs sound good on first listen, but they just lack anything special to keep my interest any more. Many of the solos found on this album sound very familiar to past work, rehashed. It's truly sad, because the album starts off well with In The Presence Of Enemies Pt. 1, and for this song alone I'm not going to give this album one star. Unless you're a die hard fan, stay away.
Report this review (#152941)
Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
maani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Founding Moderator
4 stars I will probably be burned as a heretic, but I like this album ALOT more than Octavarium, and as much as almost anything they have done except Scenes. Rather than do a song-by-song analysis, I will simply make some general comments.

I find the writing on most of the album as good as or better than most DT albums. Forsaken, Constant Motion, The Dark Eternal Night and Repentance stand out here, though all of it is recognizably DT; indeed Forsaken and CM have joined my favorite DT tracks of all time. There is also a cohesiveness about the writing (both lyrical and musical) that matches almost anything they have done except Scenes. / The jams here are also highly laudable DT, particularly In the Presence Part I (superb!), The Dark Eternal Night (ditto!) and the end of In the Presence Part II. The boys are in fine technical fettle here, doing what they do best. / The lyrics are also among the best, most compelling they have written, and just esoteric enough to keep the "faith" theme therein interesting. I also feel that Labrie's voice is better here - clearer, more confident and expressive - than I have heard him in some time.

Yet perhaps the thing I like best about this album is something that some other reviewers complained about; the "nods" to various other groups. Because this album, more than most other DT albums, does indeed contain nods to (as opposed to simple "influence" by, which is ever-present) everyone from Black Sabbath to Rush, from ELP to Metallica. Whether it is "fritched" growling vocals or death metal chord structures, melodic nods or rhythmic lifts (there is a particularly deft and direct lift from the end of Karn Evil 9 toward the end of the final jam in In the Presence Part II), it is these "homages" that I think add to the brilliance of this album, since, after all, Dream Theater HAS been influenced by all those groups in various ways. And yet the "nods" to these groups are done without interfering with the either the thematic nature of the album or the inimitable DT style.

Unlike most other DT albums, this one truly grew on me: I kinda liked it the first time; liked it better the second; and now, after the third complete and careful listening, have come to the feelings and conclusions above. While there is much to love and admire about many other DT albums, Systematic Chaos can comfortably take its place in their pantheon - a place of some honor and respect.

Peace.

Report this review (#153962)
Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dream Theater sort of got out of a hole with this album and stepped into another: firstly, unlike Octavarium, this album is far more progressive in spite the fact that it is not concept disc. The songs are far more expansive in terms of genre and interpretation, they seem to be more elaborated and are more expressive than the one's on Octavarium. However, the contemporaneity of the sound, riffs, keys, etc don't really impress me as the band doesn't return to the past enough; I wasn't expecting a copy of one their previous successes, but more influences from the past, let's say, trend of rock with a certain emphasis on them. it would be absurd to say that Systematic Chaos is a trendy disc: it has enough moments that can be classified as being classical, only that the level to which those parts are taken is rather "childish", just like in "The Ministry of Lost Souls", for instance. The first song is called "In the Presence of My Enemies - Part I", and it's a mixture of new and old, sophisticated and simple, stylish and typical: even from it's first guitar notes, the technique comes forth showing the world that Dream Theater have become once again masters of their instruments. The modern riffs continue only to be interrupted by a melancholic and long guitar riff. It consists of two parts, the one just presented being the first. The second one is a normal metal song that uses motives from the first part.[9/10] The next song is entitled "Forsaken" which is a typical track with a nice solo at the middle.[7/10] "Constant Motion" is under constant motion: it's a pure metal song marked by hard groove metal guitars and synthesized keys. It also features Mike Portnoy on backup vocals adding some hardcore growls to the sound. It's kind of a symbol of "Systematic Chaos" in the way that it manages de reflect the toxicity (from a bad point of view) of the tracks that hasn't been noticed on any other Dream Theater record. [8/10]. "The Dark Eternal Night" is another mixture of new and old in which this dichotomy is more obvious: generally featuring a nu-metal guitar and rhythm, it's climax is similar to the duet solos from "Scenes from a Memory":jazz, classical rock, heavy metal form a bombastic moment on the album. [8/10] The only true ballad of "Systematic Chaos" is "Repentance". Although it is generally known that soft rock and ballad have been, as well, some of Dream Theater's strong points, this one seems to have had it's feeling erased. I'm afraid that, besides some nice psychedelic moments, the only notable aspect is the remarkable list of invited artists from the progressive world and not only. Corey Taylor appears on this track as well, appearance that is, in my opinion, a commercial decision. (I like Slipknot, but still, this is a Dream Theater album). [5/10] The following track, "Prophets of War" doesn't innovate the record's sound in any way: jus the same synthetic keys and modern riffs. This track is a good evidence, however, of LaBrie's failing voice. [7/10] "The Ministry of Lost Souls" is a very long song but without a content worthy of it's length. It is generally a simple ballad with some rough parts at the end. I guess the vocals are the strong point here, but the problem is that the main singer is James LaBrie. [6/10] Finally we reach the end with "In the Presence of My Enemies, Part II". This one is complex, indeed, it features a susceptible atmosphere, a lot of technical parts and a recurrence of motives from all the other songs. [9/10] In conclusion, the album is a good piece of music and definitely worthy of the place next to masterpieces such as "Scenes from a Memory" and "Awake". The production is good, no doubt about it. The songs are somewhat divers and their sequence creates euphony. Final impression: 8/10 (9+7+8+8+5+7+6+9+8)/9=7.44
Report this review (#154262)
Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
ProgBagel
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos 3.0 stars

This album is a step in the right direction after Octavarium.they tried experimenting a bit on this one. This album has some great tracks but almost just as many bad ones. bringing me to think that this is in the middle at 3 stars. This album features another epic that is divided into two parts, which would be considered the highlight of the album, and it isn't too shabby.

'In the Presence of Enemies, Pt: 1' is one of the best DT tracks in a while.better then anything on the previous effort and up there with some 'Train of Thought' tracks. For a change the guitar and keyboards aren't over-demanding. There is even a bit of atmosphere added which is very new for Rudess.including some odd scales and chords. Finally, we also get an extremely slow and moving guitar solo from Petrucci., which feels like ages since we heard one of those. This song is over before you even know it, a masterpiece of prog.

'Forsaken' is a decent track. Again Rudess creates a good intro that is reminiscent of Moore's piano work. The vocal work is also pretty unique. The entire song structure is something you would find in standard metal.but overall it's not that bad of a track.

'Constant Motion' is just a piece of trash. It's the single off the album and has a video so watch it yourself and cringe. It's really just a bad version of a Megadeth/Metallica song. With an extremely annoying verse, just terrible vocal work from a LaBrie and Portnoy duo, I find myself loathing this track. Petrucci and Rudess fall into their solo traps once again on this track. Completely emotionless.not fitting into the music at all.

'The Dark Eternal Night' has become one of my favorite DT tracks. This is their angriest work by far. I find it funny how they really emphasized the diminished chord.showing that they decided to do something different and get praised for it by all those DT fanboys. The chorus to the song is one of the best they have ever done. The song does have some flaws in it. Once again we get the meaningless guitar solo and keyboard solo that are the most out-of-place solos I have ever heard in music. These solos just seem to be thrown in and have sadly become a trend in their music. We are also treated to a big Rush rip-off in the song too. Even with all these flaws, I consider this one of my favorite DT tracks.really cool track.

'Repentance' is nothing special. Once again we are brought into the song with a 'This Dying Soul' riff. The verse of kind of cool and it features a bunch of singers.far too many to name. This song is somehow drawn out to 10 minutes and can make the listener fall asleep. It's not heavy like the others that follow the DT suite but they can't go crazy for 40 minutes.still, this could have been done much better. Also, using the voice samples is becoming very cliché nowadays.

'Prophets of War' is just another Muse plagiarism. The chorus was ok at first but then you realize it is nothing special. The chanting also added really nothing to the music.is this an idea to use for a DVD? Just what hell happened here? Bleh.

'The Ministry of Lost Souls' is a hunk of [&*!#]. No wonder it was written during the Octavarium tour. I see that album is still plaguing their new music. This in my opinion is one of the worst Dream Theater tracks ever released. The song is at least 7 minutes too long. James Labrie nearly puts you to sleep with his boring vocal work that is in the verse, which honestly lasts for 7 minutes! People make such a big deal about the instrumental and how it makes the song. Tell me, did you not listen to anything off of 'Train of Thought' or the build up in 'Octavarium'? It is nothing new or special at all. The guitar solo and keyboard solo. read above please.

'In The Presence of Enemies: Pt. 2' is the only good track we've had for a while here. It's a much lesser version of the first part.but pretty good nonetheless. The intro is very quiet.and the buildup to the chorus is pretty cool. The chorus is pretty cool.except for the extremely cheesy 'Dark Master' line.I don't know what the hell they were thinking. This closes out the album pretty well though.decent song.

Basically this album contained 2 greats, 3 decent ones, 1 bad one and 2 trashy ones. Thus, I'll just give it three stars. If you are a fan of the band.then you should get it, you'll get the tracks that are good and be satisfied with those. If you aren't a fan, then stay for away, you will not get your money's worth.

Report this review (#155092)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one of those Dream Theater albums that makes me love and hate the band at the same time. I prefer their more "metal" albums like Train of Thought, Awake and to some extent Falling into Infinity, and this album starts out strong. The first 4 tracks are solid, featuring driving guitar riffs backed by a strong rhythm section. LaBrie's voice is clear and distinct, without that annoying breathing inflection he always seems to feel the need to do on the last syllables of each verse. It reminds me of a whiny drama queen at the prom, who just found out that they weren't being taken by a limo to the show. ("Johny, I thought we were going by limiooooooooo "). Maybe it's because they brought him in during the recording of the songs, and not just handing him a lyric sheet at the end. I also thing there was more attempt at providing him with some timely backing vocals, with some nice interplay between him and Portney.I don't know, maybe in the past, since he was surrounded by some other excellent musicians, he felt the need to turn his voice into some sort of "instrument" as well.

Petrucci seems to also have taken control on this album, driving the songs, and telling the other members to follow his lead. Although Rudess gets his licks in, he plays more of a supporting role by adding texture to the songs. In albums past, I thought that Petrucci was allowing too much space to Rudess, and the songs seemed to lose focus as they made sure everyone got enough "solo" time on each song. I realize that prog is free form in nature, but that doesn't mean you have to do it on every song on every album you produce. I like Rudess, I think he can be brilliant at times, and I think he adds a wonderful touch to this album, but I don't think you can have 2 "maestros" via for space on every song. Then, with the beginning of "Repentance", things just seem to slide downward. Sound bites, over dubs and the like can be interesting, funny, poignant, when done in the right measure. This song misses by a mile. Way too much. It's almost like they got lazy or something. The song also starts the album down the path of endless melodramatic songs, based on political issues and views. I don't have any issues with artists expressing their opinions on any topics. It's up to the listener to decide if they like it or not. A well crafted song can bring awareness to the rest of the world about a particular issue. This is a good thing. However, you can go overboard, or arrive late to the party, and that would be my complaint about these songs at this point of time. They would have been more appropriate if they were on a album released right, soon after the start of the war. Knocking the war now is a no brainer.

The album finishes with the song "In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2". Listening to some interviews by Portney, he said this song was split in two because of it's length, and where to put it on the album (in the beginning or end). The got it right on Pt 1, on Pt 2, ehh (done in my best Jerry Sienfield voice). They seem to be trying too hard to create an "epic" song, complete with pseudo medieval like phrases. It didn't work. I will say the second have of PT 2 saved the song from being completely a bust, but I don't think it's enough to save the whole song.

Overall, I like this album, despite some of my criticisms. I like the direction the band is taking. This would be a worthwhile addition to your collection. Of course, that's assuming that you even care about my opinion. :)

Report this review (#155923)
Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Since 1992, I've highly anticipated each DT album. In some cases it was pure genius (SCENES, AWAKE), in others there were brilliant tracks among average ones (SIX DEGREES, TOT, OCTAVARIUM), and then there was the one big disappointment, INFINITY. Although there were some decent tracks on it, the general sound sucked. Not metal enough, too open, too few songs that stuck in your head.

Then there was SYSTEMATIC CHAOS. Although there are definitely sparks of what made DT big (CONSTANT MOTION is an exception in the positive sense), in general it is a horrible disappointment. I cannot for the life of me understand what many fans are so happy about. The elongated tracks lack coherence and catchiness, sport dismally childish lyrics, and mostly seem to be a collection of pyrotechnics, simply lacking good song material. I also find myself wishing they'd record an album with Russell Allen or Jorn Lande, as James is starting to annoy me with the ever-recurring vocal bends and melody lines. When I think about it, DT has been on the slide ever since SCENES, and I am starting to wonder if they are over the hill, and the crown will soon be claimed by Symphony X, Threshold or Mind's Eye. I even went to their concert in Rotterdam, October 2007, and found myself being completely bored because they played new tracks almost exclusively. Thank god for Symphony X's short but brilliant opening act. One can only hope that its follow up will be just as brilliant as the next album after their other glitch, INFINITY. The experience here is similar to Metallica following up AND JUSTICE FOR ALL with the BLACK ALBUM. Those of you who appreciated Metallica's first four albums will know what I'm talking about. Nothing lasts forever I'm afraid.

2 stars out of respect for their previous work.

Report this review (#158599)
Posted Monday, January 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I was given this album as a Christmas present by my other half. Seen as most of the DT albums I own were a disappointment to say the least, I would never have bought it of my own accord, as I declined getting hold of its predecessor, "Octavarium". In spite of repeated attempts to get into the band, my opinion of them has really never changed - lots of talent, technical chops galore, but ultimately poor songwriting skills. Though the various members of DT play as if their life depended on them, the results never really gel - and their latest effort is no exception.

However, to be perfectly fair, I have found "Systematic Chaos" somewhat easier to approach than the other albums I own, with the sole exception of "Images and Words" (the only DT album I can actually listen to with some pleasure). True, my mind still sort of blacks out halfway through the record, but in some way I have found most of the tracks manage to hold my attention long enough to distinguish one from the other. As most other DT offerings, SC is definitely too long, with two-thirds of the compositions lasting between 8 and 16 minutes - the band have yet to learn that less can be more.

Another rather serious flaw of the album has to do with those songs which are sharply reminiscent of other bands' work. I don't want to use the word rip-off, but this is what came to my mind when I first heard "Constant Motion", which sounds like vintage Metallica with keyboards - while "Repentance" reminds the listener of Porcupine Tree, and "Prophets of War" of Muse. On the other hand, "Forsaken", with its big chorus, is the token ballad which graces every DT album - rather pleasant to listen to, even if LaBrie's voice (still the band's weakest point) doesn't do it any favours. With "The Dark Eternal Night", the band return instead to heavy metal territory, complete with John Petrucci's heavily fantasy-flavoured (and to me quite cheesy) lyrics.

The same rather embarrassing lyrics grace the two-part epic that bookends the album, "In the Presence of Enemies", whose instrumental parts are as a whole the best thing on SC. In particular, the "Prelude" kick-starts things with pyrotechnic energy and Petrucci's trademark manic noodling, which makes the band's sound immediately recognisable. The other epic of the album, "The Ministry of Lost Souls", is another typical DT track which throws in anything but the kitchen sink, but ends up being ultimately forgettable for all its length. In any case, I am quite sure a different vocalist would improve DT's overall impact immensely, since to these ears the instrumental tracks are almost always the most impressive, in spite of the distinct whiff of self-indulgence that all too often permeates them.

Definitely listenable, at times even somehow enjoyable, "Systematic Chaos" is far from essential, unless you happen to be a die-hard fan of the band, and think they can do no wrong. Not really cohesive nor innovative, it is however a reasonably solid effort from an outfit that, for better or for worse, have almost single-handedly created a genre.

Report this review (#160234)
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
JLocke
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Now, Dream Theater was the second prog metal band I discovered (Tool being the first), and luckely the first song I ever heard from them was possibly their best ever: ''Learning to Live''. They impressed me so much that I have made it a point to collect every Dream Theater CD I come across. So naturally, when SYSTEMATIC was released, I went straight to my local Wal-Mart and picked up the second-to-last Special edition available there, which featured the making of DVD and all of those features.

Well, on first listen, it all sounded great. I especially liked ''In The Presence of Enemies'', but upon second, third and fourth listen, nothing on the album seemed all that special to me. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the only really good song on the album is the epic ''In The Presence of Enemies'', which if you include both parts clocks in at nearly thirty minutes. So, half an hour of genuinely great music is enough reason to hold on to this album if you've already bought it, but if you were considering picking up and haven't yet, I would honestly suggest that you spend your money on something better (A Tool record, for example). Nothing really isn't here that we haven't heard before from these guys.

Dream Theater is one of the only bands who blatantly recycles already existing material and actually gets away with it without too much outcry from the prog elitists out there, which stumps me quite a bit. Now that isn't to say that I dislike them, in fact I am quite fond of them, but if you were to ask me how many truly great albums Dream Theater has recorded, I could probably count the amount on half of one hand. That is also not so sway you from picking up other Dream Theater material, as there is some truly great work in there, but on this album, it feels like they're weakest attempt yet, with all-too-obvious influences. The ones I noticed right off the bat were: Yes, Pink Floyd, Slayer, Metalllica, and even some Opeth. While having influences is fine, I prefer it if a band can more or less keep their influences buried amoungst all of the originality that the bast itself can dish out. In the past Dream Theater has accomplished this; here they haven't.

This is more or less the same things we have already heard from these guys. Also, to me it is the most straightforward metal album they have made since TRAIN OF THOUGHT, and I personally don't dig that stuff. I want progressive metal, not thrash metal (Which is what a good deal of this album is made up of). Hell, you can practically hear James Hetfield dying and rolling over into his grave as LaBrie sings on 'the ''Constant Motion'' track. People will defend it. People HAVE defended it, but all in all, this isn't worth a person's time or money unless they are such a die-hard Dream Theater fan that they feel like they have to own every single blessed effort this band releases. Anyone else should really find a more deserving album to spend fifteen bucks on. This is a pass as far as I am concerned.

Report this review (#160990)
Posted Tuesday, February 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Another two years, another Dream Theater studio release...

Granted that Octavarium was a bit of a letdown for me I still had high expectations on the new release. Although once the first single Constant Motion hit the streets I lowered them drastically! Eventually I still bought the album and the verdict is --- satisfactory. Instrumentally Dream Theater has all the right chops but composition-wise we all know that these guys can do much better that this.

The first part of the album is good considering that neither In the Presence Of Enemies Pt. 1 nor Forsaken pull off anything exceptional. After that the quality drops four compositions and we're at an all-time low once Prophets Of War hit the speakers, but after the three previous tracks this miss isn't all that surprising. Even the instrumental chops suffer tremendously from these completely uninspired performances that are only here to fill out the album with the obligatory 75+ minutes worth of material.

So how can I possibility award this album 3-star rating after all this criticism you might ask? Let's just say that the band completely redeems themselves with the last two performances. The Ministry Of Lost Souls and In the Presence Of Enemies Pt. 2 are easily among Dream Theater's best material ever since Train Of Thought (which I happen to enjoy). John Petrucci is the one responsible for the outlines of these two tracks and he shows once again that he can right some really marvelous compositions if he just puts his mind to it.

Systematic Chaos is definitely full on chaotic moments and some of them could have remained studio outtakes since there is almost 50 minutes of great material here that is being ruined by the remaining filler. Still the longer compositions are among the best Dream Theater have produced. Hopefully it's a sign of the things to come!

***** star songs: The Ministry Of Lost Souls (14:57) In the Presence Of Enemies Pt. 2 (16:38)

**** star songs: In the Presence Of Enemies Pt. 1 (9:00) Forsaken (5:35)

*** star songs: Constant Motion (6:55) The Dark Eternal Night (8:53) Repentance (10:43)

** star songs: Prophets Of War (6:00)

Total Rating: 3,91

Report this review (#161689)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars He has risen up out of the blackness Chaos!

Inarguably one of the most popular progressive bands out there today, Dream Theater have had a generally positive history, albeit rather inconsistent. At this point in their career, the band had a few paths to take. Either they could attempt to reinvent themselves in a way that would broaden their general appeal to increase their fanbase, they could give in to prog fans clamoring for another epic the likes of Metropolis, or they can do whatever they feel like. On Systematic Chaos, they do a little of each and the result reflects their overall career, pretty good although a bit inconsistent. Dream Theater fans are still able to grasp on to hopes that DT will return to its former glory. That is because this album contains two of the bands best-crafted epics of their career, In the Presence of Enemies and The Ministry of Lost Souls. Of course it is typical prog metal fare, but Dream Theater has always been the masters of such. These tracks both contain the grandeur that had so attracted me to the band, I was really impressed upon hearing them. It's no secret that the members of Dream Theater are basically virtuosos, and here each member finds his place to shine. No let downs here, just solid progressive metal that continues to impress in its gargantuan talent and its power in the music.

However, this album doesn't draw solely from when the band's creativity is steered towards progressing the progressive music. Whether it be label pressure or internal decisions or just a shift in taste, it is apparent that Dream Theater are going beyond solely progressive metal to the dangerous territory of.... general metal (shrieks!). This is evidenced by the first half of the album, excluding the aforementioned In the Presence of Enemies. Forsaken is pleasant with its soaring chorus, but it sounds a bit too much like any metal band's epic song with the sweeping melody and the metallic crunch. Constant Motion is where it starts to go downhill. This song is far too generic; an obvious single for a band that hasn't released one in six years. The riff is borderline irritating and it doesn't get much better from there in that song. Next comes The Dark Eternal Night which should be looked at the same way that B-Horror movies should be looked at as a comedy. I truly hope it was a farce. The lyrical content was astoundingly juvenile and...well...for lack of a better term, stupid. The over-metalized riff is the spice of this recipe for disaster. But the icing on the cake is none other than the oh-so-cheesy backing vocals... or rather backing grunts. This song has grown on me because it's just so funny.

The remaining two songs are pleasant. Sure, they are not the most original songs, but one could do far far worse. I fear I may have characterized this album too harshly. It is a good album, deeply flawed, but still enjoyable. There may be a few tracks worth skipping, but the rest is Dream Theater doing what they do best, making music that is heavy, creative, driven, and overall, impressive.

Report this review (#162077)
Posted Monday, February 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can only find two reasons why this is not a masterpiece: "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night".

After reading many reviews on this album, I come to think many people have been swayed away from Dream Theater's progressive move from album to album. Perhaps it's the fact that I came into Dream Theater with 'Scenes' and did not hear 'Images and Words' and 'Awake' until after hearing this album that I was not exposed to their past performances and could listen to this album with more of a fresh start. This is a very different sound from their early albums, but a logical transition from Octavarium. That being said this album is just beautiful (to me at least). It has everything you need for a heavy metal progressive album (even though this is not my favorite genera). But on to the review!

"In the Presence of Enemies" is an instant masterpiece. Split into two parts opining and closing the album. It has great build ups, great climaxes, and amazing resolution. Although the story is some what simplistic, it fits perfectly in the album. They guitar and keyboard symmetry held together by the stand alone drums creates a perfect sound. The only draw back to the song is, although massive as they are, it still feels as though they stopped it short somewhere. Perhaps it's my own personal preference, but when they find a good flow of sound, let it go and progress, but instead they stop and move onto another wave. But there are other songs to take care of this fix for me.

After this behemoth of music, we move into 'Forsaken', a story of a vampires and her unsuspected victim. It reminds me of the opining of Tubular Bells, at least with the beginning piano solo. This is a pretty good song, nothing spectacular, but good enough not to skip. The next two songs however...

I don't know what they where thinking..well, I kind of do since I picked up the deluxe edition with DVD where they explained they wanted this album to have 'balls'. Well these two songs definitely have it, and it's not my cup of tea. The vocals on these two tracks are very hard on the ears and, although I love me some good head banging metal, I just can't stand 'screaming' or painful sounding vocals. There are some amazing parts in these two songs, as there are in most Dream Theater songs, but as good as they are, I can't sit though the screaming and pain.

'Repentance' is a beautiful song. This picks up the progressive build up sound that 'Enemies' lack at points. This is one of those rare soft metal songs that works. It continues this mellow feel all the way through, creating an incredible relaxing song. The spoken word aspect to the song is pure and perfict, since a lot of my hero's of music are in it (Steve Hagarth and Jon Anderson to name a few).

'Profits of War' is the token political song that Dream Theater has made a habit of doing. Its not a bad song, and like 'Forsaken' not bad enough to skip it while listening to the album as a whole. I love the keyboards in the song, that's enough to keep my ear interested.

The last song of the review is my favorite song on the album: "The Ministry of Lost Souls". This song reminds me of Genesis's "Cinema Show" (Let me explain) by being a love story at heart. I love the story..even though it is slightly emo (yes.I went there). Musically, it reminds me of a heavy metal version of "And you and I" by Yes. Don't ask me how; its just has that 'feel'. It has a perfect balance between the mellow atmosphere from 'Repentance' and the hard rock sound from 'Enemies'. I love that it lets the sound go at the end and it seems as though the soul is slowly drifting off.

To rap everything up: "In the Presence of Enemies" "Ministry of Lost Souls" and "Repentance" are all complete masterpieces. "Profits of War" and "Forsaken" are good, but not essential, they both have their moments. Finally, as noted twice before, "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night" would have done better being off this album, they are just ear bleeders and I skip them each and every time.

4 stars.

Report this review (#163013)
Posted Saturday, March 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars i love DT, but im going to be brutally honest!

the playing on this album is just cold and mechanical, its make you feel that this album was made in two hours, and for financial purposes. and its really boring and unoriginal, its make you feel like you all ready heard it before. and the rip offs didn't exactly help ether, for example the song Prophets of War is a muse rip off. right now i listing to Octavarium's insane keyboard intro by Jordan Rudess, but in this album i cant find even one good keyboard part, yes there are some solos, but i didnt really liked them.

ok, so its simple..

if you a fan of DT, and you like they old albums such as A Change of Seasons and Awake, you probably will throw this album to trash, or use it to play Frisbee with the dog(like i did)...

but if you didn't liked the old DT, and you prefer a heavier and more simple music, well you probably will like this one.

Report this review (#164739)
Posted Sunday, March 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The following review represents a personal and unique point of view from its writer.

As always, Dream Theater generates enough expectation each time that they release a new album, everything is absolutely normal until this point, but with this Systematic Chaos, the band couldn't get a good result from their well known formula and in a very modest way I'm going to explain why. First of all, the songs are unnecessarily long, I really don't understand this, they don't have to repeat the same the type of song again and again (I'm talking about the long ones), for example, in the presence of enemies (both parts) is too bored for the same reason, there's no a good solo (from Mr. Petrucci or Mr. Rudess), the structures are so repetitive, in general terms and like I said before unnecessarily long. Another thing that it doesn't please me is the particular fact that I have found some parts too similar in relation to other progressive metal bands' typical structures (for example, in some parts on constant motion, DT it sounds like ZERO HOUR, really!), already on Octavarium, Dream Theater had incorporated some influences or ways to make music (different from their previous ideas) on songs like I walk beside you (is a very U2 composition) or never enough (remembering the brit-rock band MUSE, don't they do it?) but now, on Systematic Chaos they sound like a copy from others or actually is now DT a systematic making music machine?, hehehe... paradoxical, right?.

Dream Theater has shown us many times in the past that they're the Kings of progressive metal; however this should be the best excuse to try to reinvent their style without being a band with a completely different sound or leaving their music speech! Because, personally I want to listen again the old good melodies from other years (wow... that really good times from "images and words", awake, "falling into infinity" or even scenes from a memory).

Finally, I think this is not a bad record, but the effort this time it wasn't enough. I give it a final score of 6.5/7 from 10 in my personal scale!.

By: Epsilon.

Report this review (#164976)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Dream Theater has lost their train of thought (ducks for cover).

The one thing I love about The Mars Volta is they go into every album thinking, what have we done and how do we capture the feel of it without making the same music? which is the one thing Dream Theater forgot to do on this album. Ever since Six Degrees, I've noticed a dropping off with the progressive motivations (with the exception of Octavarium- the song, not the album), and Systematic Chaos seems to be the epitome of this trend. This album popped out very smoothly and that was because Dream Theater has been captured by their own groove. They're basically doing what they've been doing for 20 years now- it was progressive then, it's safe now.

By now, Dream Theater seems obsessed with the Progressive Metal notion- the idea that Progressive Metal is a genre and that, now that they've established it and made it what it is, they have to stay within its limits. While Images & Words was an inventive and new interpretation of the metal genre, every song on Systematic Chaos can be traced back to the influence of one of their own previous works.

In the Presence of Enemies- Octavarium, but without the interesting opening and a heavier feel. Forsaken- These Walls, Panic Attack & Never Enough, but to be honest it sounds more like the symphonic power metal that they largely inspired. Constant Motion- Under a Glass Moon but it seems more hollow and less inventive, plus the solo is just shredding. The Dark Eternal Night- Fatal Tragedy, only with distorted vocals. Repentance- Space Dye-Vest with a guitar opening instead of piano. Prophets of War- Parts of Awake. Ministry of Lost Souls- Wait for Sleep, whatever else you want.

The point of it is, their sound and songwriting style haven't changed in that past five years, and it's just not progressive anymore. I'm still gonna see them during Progressive Nation and I'm still gonna enjoy the hell out of that show, but I'm not gonna look for anything that really inspires me to shift the paradigm.

Report this review (#165268)
Posted Friday, March 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Hi, I would really just like to comment on the previous review of this CD and say I could not AGREE more. i was stunned at how much this album was 'Dreamtheater by numbers'. It was the first time I truly thought that the band were going through the motions and not trying to break some ground. I did not like 'Train of thought' and I thought 'octavarium' was just OK, but I did give the band a WHOLE lot of respect for attempting something new and progressing. With this album it simply did NOT happen. They truly (for the first time in their career) played it 'safe'.

YES, it does have some strong songs; 'Repentance', 'ministry of lost souls' for example, but they even don't save it sounding like a mish mash of whats come before. I have made it very vocally apparent on other forums how bad I think their mixing is; simply put: if you leave the mixing to the guitarist and drummer, what do you end up with?? I have always preferred their live albums for this reason, there is simply less room to screw up in that department.

I must say, I DO like Dreamtheater and that 'Six degrees..' is one of my all time favorite albums, but this one just sounds hopelessly uninspired.

The lyrics are also SO bad it is embarrassing, who wrote this stuff? A 12 year old Mercyful fate fan??

OK, Dreamtheater:- as usual 10/10 for playing ability but 3/10 for originality on YOUR part and 0/10 for the lyrics.

Am looking forward to the next one, lets try something that pushes you and the fans again!

Report this review (#165271)
Posted Saturday, March 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars I hate to give Dream Theater a 1, but it has to be done. If you have listened to all of their stuff like I have this reaches none of their previous standards. This album was released to please the fans and give them what they want, and I think this mentality happened with Dream Theater when they signed with Roadrunner Records, a label that endorses Slipknot...Anyways all the songs on here sound manufactured and uninspired and without much second thought compared to a masterpiece like Scenes From a Memory Metropolis Part 2. Now let's think about this, when Scenes From a Memory Metropolis Part 2 came out it was a do or die for Dream Theater, if that album failed, they as a band failed and Dream Theater would've probably been over. But they had this in mind so they all took the best of their musical ability to create a masterpiece. As I listened to this album I found musical passages of little interest. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 sounds what people would want a Dream Theater song to be and it is; it did its job and there's nothing really special about it. Forsaken is actually decent, but isn't really that progressive, but leans more to the mainstream as a ballad. Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal sound tight!!! but that's exactly what they want to do.. Gather fans with that tough metal sound that doesn't really belong on this progressive website. Not to mention Dream Theater doesn't even do thrash metal that well especially with Labrie's unfitting vocals which he has managed to somewhat improve on. Repentance sadly shows that DT has run out of gas and had to take material from albums past Train of Thought, this song is more solid compared to other ones, but the fact that they had to use material from a past album is kind of daunting on where Dream Theater is headed. Prophets of War almost wants to sound like Muse with Labrie's eccentric input, your going to have to give this one a listen for yourself. The best song on this album is The Ministry of Lost Souls, it's original and actually sounds like a bit of effort was put into it. Only if the rest of the album wasn't so focused on being heavy and held in quality equivalence to this song. Pt. 2 to the beginning is the ending and tolls off the iron bells of what Dream Theater is supposed to sound like with Labrie singing about A dark master that shows how heavy the band is...hah... If your a metalhead you may like the technical aspect of it as everything from DT is TEChnical...if your into prog which is the purpose of this site, by all means STAY AWAY and give Awake or SFAMemory a listen first. i find this album Degressive.
Report this review (#165738)
Posted Saturday, April 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars The ninth installment of Dream Theater's discography ranks alongside Falling Into Infinity and When Dream and Day Unite in my mind. Fair enough with WDADU as the band were still experimenting, but 20 years on and it feels as though the band has gone 20 years back.

A couple of cool songs, Forsaken has to be the outstanding track. Constant Motion is alright, Prophets of War is fair enough with a good riff.

Too bad the rest is poor. I can understand what Repentence tries to do but remains boring. The Ministry of Lost Souls is hilariously dull, Dark Eternal Night & In The Prescence of Enemies, though great live, trudge along and grow tired in the studio.

All over, a couple of good songs (mainly the pop ones) but nothing great.

Report this review (#165748)
Posted Saturday, April 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Systematic boredom.

There's much wrong with this album. First of all, the title. Don't put the word chaos in a title when the content is as un-chaotic as can be. For the latest of true systematic chaos I may send you to The Bedlam in Goliath by The Mars Volta.

Though the album reviewed here sounds mostly like Octavarium it can't compete with its predecessor. Obviously the formula doesn't work twice. In my opinion the music on Systematic Chaos has become stale, if not decadent. For instance, the track Repentance noodles on for almost 11 minutes, without building up any tension, just going nowhere. The same goes all in all for The Ministry of Lost Souls, but make this 15 minutes (the instrumental passage is ok). Even the stuff that worked at the beginning (In the Presence of Enemies Part 1, Forsaken, Prophets of War) loses more and more credit with every spin I give it. Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night sound like remnants of the Train of Thought sessions, and since I don't like that album you know what I think of those two tracks. But the thing that's vexing me most is In the Presence of Enemies Part 2. The ideas in part 1 were the only really satisfying ones on the whole album - and they probably knew it. And so they keep repeating them for another bloody 16 minutes! Draining them of every little power and inventiveness. This last track (together with Repentance and The Ministry of Lost Souls) exemplifies beyond doubt how uncreative the band has become.

Train of Thought was a let down, but it was fueled by anger, at least. With Systematic Chaos the band relies on subtlety covering up their artistic frustration and resignation. Take a good long vacation of about 5 years, guys. Then you might come up again with something fantastic.

Since the album is certainly a worthwhile listen to the ones who are new to the band and don't know the back catalogue, I'll rate it 3 stars: good, tired, and non-essential.

Favourite Track: In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1

Report this review (#170498)
Posted Saturday, May 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Systematic Chaos indeed: when innovation makes old fans confused, brings annoying new fanboys/girls and create a great return album for the most representative progressive metal band

Systematic Chaos, here is a particularly strange album for Dream Theater: this is the album where James LaBrie's voice finally goes back to the tracks after being thirteen years with his vocal cords injured (he got a food issue back in 94, when he vomited and f*cked up his voice; thank God it was after the Awake recording, as far as i know), is the album where Mike Portnoy sings the most (maybe he should put down the drum sticks and think about becoming a singer like Phil Collins, or maybe not!), is the album where finally Jordan Rudess looks like a freaking magician (seriously, he does) and is the album where music playing becomes impossible for normal people (like every Dream Theater album, he he he he he).

Anyway, this is the album where they finally come back to their old form, but with a twist. The past two albums (Train of Thought and Octavarium) were kind if strange: Train of Thought was an attempt made by Dream Theater to make some kind of progressive metalcore music or some other kind of heavy progressive metal mixed somehow with metalcore; it was not a failure or anything, but it was not like anything Dream Theater ever made, not even on its heavy side, something very unusual but still lacking the magic that made Dream Theater famous for. Octavarium symbolized several steps back as far as heaviness, viciousness, angriness, etc, mattered but represented another solid step forward for progressiveness. OK, the album have a certain resemblance with another artists, but that don't rob the merit from these kids from New York: Octavarium rocked despite all that people say about it. Systematic Chaos stayed somewhere between Train of Thought, Octavarium and somewhere else, since it has all prog elements from Octavarium added with some pretty decent metal.

That mix, with a bit of some very good merchandising, made Systematic Chaos attract both sides of the force: headbagers / metalheads and proggers / progheads, making this album to be the best selling album of Dream Theater's so far, staying on 32nd place on the billboard top 100 selling albums on its best position, against 64th place on the billboard top 100 selling albums for Images and Words. Like this album or not this achievement is definitely some kind of mixed bag of feelings, because this is definitely not their best work and it is attracting a lot of some kind of fan that Dream Theater never had, the seasoned fan, the guy that listens what is fashionable at the moment and then forgets it, unlike the traditional die-hard-faithful fan of the band (you know, the guy that go to 5 consecutive Dream Theater shows).

About the songs, musicianship and other features there are some thing i would like to state:

Well, musically this is the usual Dream theater album:lots of solos from everywhere (except from LaBrie, for obvious reasons), specially guitar and keyboard solos, the two main soloist instruments of the band. Rudess here continue with his special way of playing, debuted in Dream Theater in Metropolis part 2: sometimes he is just simply following Petrucci, other times he is building the harmony, creating a full band feeling and other times he is just simply shredding the keyboards.

Here we can also notice the return of some of brilliance lost in LaBrie's voice for such long time, remembering Images and Words and Awake (Vocally ONLY!)

Songs here are also very balanced, following Octavarium's main structure: Bombastic progressive metal opening, ballad, decent riffed metal songs, great prog metal song, progressive rock song, great song and amazing ending, not exactly following this order in between. One thing that i am definitely sure that could improve here is the song order: putting together In the Presence of Our Enemies part 1 and 2, creating a 25 minute super epic like Octavarium or Change of Seasons would make the album sound much better, no doubt about it.

Grade and final Thoughts

Well, this latest output by Dream Theater is not exactly a masterpiece or anything, but it is not a piece of crap! This is definitely a decent album of a GREAT progressive metal band that shows no sings of slowing down: forever evolving, developing and surprising us. Because of the balance (GREAT songs, kinda good songs and good songs) and the playing i have come to the conclusion that this album right here is worthy on nothing less than 4 stars.

Lets just hope that those guys just stop touring early and deliver us another masterpiece like the ones they made in the past, we need them!

Report this review (#172431)
Posted Wednesday, May 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars With ''Systematic Chaos'', Dream Theater did certainly not reinvent the wheels on which they once drove through high-quality passages and innovation. In fact, I think it is time for a tyre change, because the old ones are already worn out, even this competent band drags itself into a moor. Maybe this words are a bit harsh, but express what I want to say the best. A pioneer band of their genre ran out of ideas, creativity, and sloppy compositions are the result. You get the feeling you heard it all before. The few good ideas, the beautiful melodies, the inspired moments all seem to flow in unncecessary instrumental chaos, which is anything else but a pleasant listen for me. Either Dream Theater decided to go safe for this, or they ran out of ideas. Nothing really new, yet it is time for some moving in the Theater.

When I heard the interview on this album, I first became sceptic. ''The most fun recording sessions since Awake'' - they were so much fun Kevin Moore left. ''This album has.. balls'' - again more metal? On this record, there IS more metal than on previous ''Octavarium'', especially the preview songs ''Constant Motion'' and ''The Dark Eternal Night'' show Dream Theater going heavier than ever before. That means Petrucci shreds and plays heavy riffs, Rudess is in the background, and you can hear Myung's bass (as often mentioned, that is actually rare), LaBrie does the moves like on ''Awake'', and Portnoy adds some hammering on his drum kit. This is not bad at all, yet there songs lack originality. The attempt to reach it with the piano solo in ''The Dark Eternal Night'' seems so out of place. Also, so much remembers me of the old days of Metallica. Not bad, but heard more than enough.

The long track ''In the Presence of Enemies'' was, for some obscure reason, divided with one part at the beginning, the other in the end. To judge it as one track is not easy, because it consists of many different sections. Sounds good so far, yet I find myself thinking that most is a recital of other songs. I had moments like ''isn't this from The Glass Prison? Oh, Fatal Tragedy!'' It's like they placed the bricks of the previous albums in a different order. LaBrie however adds some more emotional moments to the mechanical formula.

With ''Forsaken'', we have a perfect ''make a video to it''-track. Less complex, more single oriented, catchy melodies. Nice at first, after some listens I felt like skipping.

''Repentance'' continues the AA suite of Portnoy. On opposite to the previous parts, here we have nearly psychedelic guitars, which carry the song over some calm vocals and spoken words-samples. It would have made a very good song, if it was not too long. To hear the same 5 notes in some variations repeated for 10 minutes I find really annoying. Enough material for 5 minutes, but over this time, it becomes repetitive. However, I like this new direction. If the band finds out how to use the element right, I see a promising future.

''Prophets of War'' and ''The Ministry of Lost Souls'' suffer the afore mentioned problem of promising melodies flowing into something more or less pointless. While ''Prophets of War'' at the same time lacks originality, ''The Ministry of Lost Souls'' has the most beautiful melody of the album in its first part. Why does a song as emotional as this have to turn into some fast and chaotic playing?

As a sum-up, the instrumental playing is as high-quality as always. for me, often it becomes too much a show-off than a song. Demonstrations of virtuosity do not really have to be in every second of a song for me. Also, some of Rudess' keyboard sounds seem too synthetic and do not fit the music. It is not my taste, how this synth brass (I guess) is used in every song, sometimes disturbing even. LaBrie seems to have lost some abilities, as he does not make an effort to hit the high notes, I suppose this range-problem is due to his age. Call this album usual and sometimes lacking in innovation and originality, this is it for me. You clearly do not miss a lot if you avoid buying this.

However, I recommend you to read some other reviews, to gain a clear view of the music. Behind all felt criticism, add the words 'in my opinion', as some people are nealry euphoric, other extremly disapoointed. The best really is to listen to some samples to decide in which category you belong. For me, only collectors and true fans should spend their money on it. That all, make it two stars: for collectros/fans only.

Report this review (#172772)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars DREAM THEATER albums are becoming increasingly unnecessary for many prog listeners. 'Systematic Chaos' is a hybrid of 'Train of Thought' and 'Octavarium', with extended workouts wrapped around memorable riffs and tunes, all packaged in that technically proficient manner so familiar to fans. Objectively, there's much to appreciate on a DT disc. So why the enormously variable ratings and reviews?

More than any other band, DREAM THEATER polarise opinion. I've been threatened by people objecting to my opinion of the band's music - how could it be anything other than a masterpiece? - and read one-star reviews suggesting they are little short of appalling. I can't help feeling the truth is likely to be found somewhere between these extremes.

So it is, I think, with this album. There are genuine moments of brilliance here. The album's intro is technically proficient, yes, but also dramatic. Just a shame they made the decision to separate it from the bulk of the song, as it feels orphaned. 'Forsaken' is rather childish in its subject matter - not because it deals with fantasy, but because of how it deals with the subject - but this should not obscure a good tune. 'Constant Motion' is a serious misstep, DT trying to sound like another popular band. 'The Dark Eternal Night' is potential brilliance stretched too thin (and those vocals! shudder) ... and so it goes. 'Prophets of War' and 'Ministry of Lost Souls' were born prematurely, and could have done with far longer gestations.

In my opinion their new material ought to be taken on extended tours to have the rough edges knocked off. Their albums would benefit from more discipline in the cutting room and in song selection. Here's the non-fan's likely experience: moments of wonder separated by moments of cringing embarrassment. Unfortunately here there are too many embarrassing moments. Neither essential nor poor, this album rates between two and three stars. One of those records that never sounds as good in the CD player as you remember ...

Report this review (#172979)
Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a welcome return to form compared to the somewhat weak Octavarium ( weak compared to other Dream Theater releases, but better than most other progressive metal releases). Systematic Chaos is the ninth studio album from Dream Theater. I had almost given up on them after Octavarium but with more focus on power and memorable melodies Systematic Chaos is a great album. I never thought I was gonna say that again about a Dream Theater album but it´s one of the great things about them isn´t it ? You never know exactly what to expect.

The music is still unmistakably Dream Theater. Lots of instrumental runs and challenging tempo and time signature changes makes this an exciting listen. What I emphasise the most though is that the vocal melodies are strong and memorable which is something I think has been sadly missing on the last couple of releases from Dream Theater. I can see from many of the previous reviews of Systematic Chaos that people don´t seem to think that Dream Theater has evolved since Octavarium, but who cares when the music is so enjoyable ?

The album consists of eight songs and they are all excellent examples of how Dream Theater sound when they are inspired. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 starts the album with a typical instrumental Dream Theater part before the vocals come in. It´s a great song. Other songs worth mentioning is the beautiful melodic Forsaken and the energetic Constant Motion which has to be my favorite song here. Lots of cool heavy metal riffs in this one. Repentence is a semi-ballad song that evolves into a pretty symphonic beast. The Ministry of Lost Souls starts out with some pretty pop orientated vocals and I thought that this was gonna be a long song, but soon there are lots of challenging instrumental parts that makes that song exciting. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 is the last song on the album and with it´s 16+ minutes also the longest. It´s a very dark song and very challenging. The Dark Eternal Night and Prophets of War are also great songs.

The musicianship is outstanding but it goes without saying really when it comes to Dream Theater. I even enjoy most of the sounds Jordan Rudess uses on Systematic Chaos which has been a problem on the last couple of albums. The melodic vocal lines seem to suit James Labrie well, as his potential is much more evident here than it was on Octavarium.

The production is good even though I still believe Portnoy and Petrucci should let others produce and mix Dream Theater´s albums. As others have said before me drums and guitars are a bit too high in the mix while it´s hard to hear the bass sometimes. The keyboards are mixed fine IMO and so are the vocals.

I´m so happy that Dream Theater have found their melodic tendencies again. I have been missing them for quite a while now. The melody lines will never be as brilliant as they were on Images & Words and Awake but less is acceptable too. I´ll rate Systematic Chaos 4 stars because I feel that the Dream Theater I like is back. They did seem a bit tired on Octavarium and came out sounding like one of the thousands of Dream Theater clone bands out there. It was almost as if they were imitating themselves which was such a shame. I can only conclude that you should never write of a quality band like Dream Theater even though they make a couple of weak albums once in a while.

Report this review (#173014)
Posted Wednesday, June 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Honestly, I thought this might have been a turning point for Dream Theater, everything they've put out since Six Degrees has been pure trash! I guess I was wrong, let's review.

In The Presence Of Enemies Pt 1, sounded like a robot when I first heard it. I thought they were going to continue with the continuation theme, but they didn't. Totally ruined my mood for the song. Everything except the short break halfway through the song, is robotic, heartless, emotionless junk. The unisons are something out of a Steve Vai record. No emotion. (7/10)

Forsaken isn't any better, at least it has some emotion. Too bad it's not that good of a song. Just a trashing of crap. (6/10)

Constant Motion, now that's more like it! The gears start to be put in motion and the ball starts rolling! This song is the Dream Theater I remember! Not all metal or all soft wannabe prog, but a perfect combination of both. The middle section instrumental still boggles my mind to this day, total genius. This is a Dream Theater song. (9/10)

The Dark Eternal Night, other than some less than enthiusiastic ragtime solos from Rudess, this song blows. (2/10)

Repentance, here's a song. My absolute favorite out of all the Alcholics Anonymous songs. Taking a few cues from Opeth here, this song is a real treat. The singing is really great here and its a real pleasure to listen to this song. I love it! (9/10)

Prophets Of War...It sucks for those 50 Dream Theater fans who got a chance to sing on this song, BECAUSE IT'S AWFUL. It sounds like another Muse rip off. Ultimately horrible, lyrically stupid. James Labrie needs to stop writing songs. (0/10)

The Ministry Of Lost Souls, replace Souls with Songs and you basically have it. It's an original sounding piece, but it ultimately goes absolutely nowhere. There's only a short instrumental, after ten minutes of the same song, drilling into your mind like an annoyingr rap song. It's boring. (5/10)

In The Presence Of Enemies PT 2, wow. At least this one doesn't stab my ears like the first one. It's after listening to this that I realise this: John Petrucci's solos are flavorless and bland. There is nothing at all special about his solos anymore. He has no more creativity, it's gone. He sounds like Steve Vai now. Overall, better than the firts part, with a bit more emotion, mainly because of James Labrie's intense vocalizing. (7/10)

The star of this album in my opinion, is James Labrie. Vocally, this is his best album. He's at his peak right now, I just wish some of the songs he was singing to were actually good. The loser here is repetitive writing and overall lack of feeling. Three stars, only because Labrie's singing is really good.

Report this review (#173759)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars An interesting album, but not their best.

This album, unfortunately, falls prey to one of Dream Theater's greatest weaknesses: songwriting. They do not disappoint in terms of musical ability; Dream Theater is a collective of some of the best musicians under the sun. But what they do lack is compositions with a true meaning. Over-the-top technicality and corny themes do not make a good band. What use is technicality when you can't use it to express musical themes effectively? This makes Systematic Chaos' compositional value nothing more than a collection of useless, thrown-together riffs and arpeggios worthy of a metalhead's ears, but not the ears of a developed proghead.

Another trait I dislike about Dream Theater is their use of indirect plagiarism. Instead of blending elements of various influencers, the way modern prog artists such as Porcupine Tree and Riverside create their work, they "cut and paste" elements of other bands, resulting in an album that ends up feeling like bits & scraps of other artists, hastily glued together with the musical abilities of Portnoy and the rest of the band. On this particular album, this is present in a few compositions, notably Constant Motion (Metallica) & Prophets Of War (Queen). Dream Theater must take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in future recordings.

The track that saves this album from a 2-star rating is Repentance, which encompasses parts VIII-IX of the Alcoholics Anonymous suite. Taking a cue from Porcupine Tree, as well as Opeth's softer moments, Dream Theater manages to weave a tapestry of melancholic melodies with no out-of-place technicality present. A track worthy of your listen.

In conclusion, those who enjoy old-school Dream Theater and more sophisticated modern prog need not apply. I recommend the highly superior Awake and Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory records.

Report this review (#173765)
Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Average...

Systematic Chaos, released in 2007, is Dream Theater's latest material. It shows Dream Theater stagnates. The great spirit of the first albums has been gone and only virtuosic musicians are left. Of course, there is John Petrucci, one of the best guitar players in the world, but the songs lack vagaries. The best songs are In the Presence of Enemies part 1 and 2, The Dark eternal night. For sure, this album is better than the most Prog Metal album these days but Dream Theater did better records than this one.

Report this review (#175859)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Petrovsk Mizinski
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After what I thought was a very weak album in Octavarium, my hopes for Dream Theater to release a new album that would be good were looking pretty slim. I'm odd (some would say) in that I found ToT to actually be a really enthralling album and that level of excitement I felt was not really present in Octavarium. It was an album that really just made me want to just put it aside and listen to other bands more. Systematic Chaos is fortunately an improvement upon Octavarium and I certainly feel it's better than Falling Into Infinity as well.

The album opener In The Presence Of Enemies Part 1 sounds unmistakably Dream Theater, so I felt it was definitely off to a good start. The first 5 minutes of the song, which is more than half the length of the song, is instrumental, with a dizzying array of odd time signature riffs and some fantastic soloing from both keyboard maestro Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci, and fortunately the soloing here is already more interesting than many of the admittedly bland solos that popped up in Octavarium. James La Brie's vocals kick in, and now the whole band is in full swing. A very inspiring start to the album, and a song that left a good impression on me the first time I heard it.

Unfortunately the album doesn't continue on a linear path of good songs. Constant Motion, although it's become an over used expression and will only become a more over used one over time, really does sound far too reminiscent of an 80s Metallica song, although it isn't quite in the style of what Metallica would write, so it's not exactly plagiarism either. There is nothing wrong with the music in the song as such, but the problem for me was it just does not come across as anything particularly interesting and fresh. Even the first time I heard it, I just remember thinking to myself how bland it sounded. Sure enough, pretty wicked guitar solo from Petrucci, but there is nothing of great interest in this track and it makes me feel that would not want to make me want listen to it again and again on anything more than perhaps once every month or so Forsaken doesn't fair any better, in fact probably worse. It's a song that at first left a good taste in my mouth, but that taste went rather moldy after repeated listening. It's almost a pop/metal kind of song really, and those that have described it as bordering on nu metal are not far off the mark at all. Just nothing about it really appeals to me much, bland musically, bland lyrics, it gets the thumbs down from me.

Now for The Dark Eternal Night (TDEN). The lyrics are absolutely laughable, at least as cheesy as a lot of Power Metal lyrics you might have read in your lifetime. If you've actually bothered to watch Chaos In Progress, the film made about the making of SC, then you'll be aware even John Petrucci finds the subject matter of TDEN to be humorous, as he couldn't keep a straight face while talking about it. So if we approach the lyrics from this angle, if they designed to make us giggle a little or give a smile of humor each time we heard it, for me it certainly succeeded in this regard. As for the music of the song itself, damn awesome are the words if I had to describe it in two words. Killer riffage from the seven string guitar, again proving Petrucci's might on not only lead guitar but also metal rhythm duties, but of course there are many killer solos from Petrucci too. All in all, it was a song that I didn't expect from Dream Theater, and it did manage to sound fresh and exciting, so nothing less than a pleasant surprise and just a damn excellent song.

The next song, Repentance is the 4th song in the Alcoholic Anonymous Suite, representing the 8th and 9th steps of the Twelve Steps. This song is unlike the previous AA songs, not heavy at all, and much moodier. It references some melodies from This Dying Soul, but yet, the song retains it's own individuality. It's such a moody song, and somehow very intense too. The spoken apologies from various guest artists is a very nice too. Fantastic performance from the whole band, with John Myung contributing some very interesting bass lines too, which is nice. A superb song, and nice to have two excellent songs consecutively.

Prophets Of War just reminds me way too much of Muse, and I just don't think it's much of a great song either. It just sounds kind of bland and unoriginal really.

The last two songs are great, and it's good to know the album finishes on a good note. The Ministry of Lost Souls is for the most part of it's first 7 and a half minutes, quite melodic and not particularly heavy, but once we get to about 7:27, I really begin to feel a lot more tension building within the song, which I think was a good approach, because it stops the song from feeling like it goes too long and just keeps everything moving along at a good pace. After the intense instrumental section of crazy riffs and solos from our dynamic soloing pair of Rudess and Petrucci, the song comes back somewhat to where it started in feeling. Not a bad note here, great job.

The album closer is also the longest, In The Presence Of Enemies Part 2. INPOE is in fact a single composition and is intended to be played live Part 1 followed immediately by Part 2, but on the album broken up into two tracks, and it works well here. Heavy, melodic, dynamic, it's all there, and the song gives me a variety of moods and feelings, which is only a good thing. I really like the crowd chanting part, and as La Brie's vocals that follow immediately after. It's something which is really effective and sticks in your mind.

All around, a fairly solid effort, with more than half the songs being very well composed, and of course well played. This album didn't top the best prog metal albums that came out in 2006, nor anything up to it's release in June 2007 and nor did the album have a completely consistent song quality. And unfortunately, the album as a whole doesn't come off as being so inspiring I would want to listen to it on a frequent basis. For what it is, I think it deserves 2.8/5

Report this review (#175963)
Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Train of Thought and Octavarium were very different albums. Train of Thought is the heavier record the band has ever released. Almost every song on that CD is heavy and fast, as the band adopted a more metallic sound, showing some nu-metal influences too (check out Honor Thy Father or This Dying Soul). This record divided their fanbase and also attracted other type of fans.With Octavarium, Dream Theater tried to create a softer record; while the heaviness is still there (Panic Attack), the other songs are more rock influenced than metal influenced (big examples of that are The Answer Lies Within and I Walk Beside You, this last one sounding like a very commercial and extremely pop-ish tune). This record pleased the sector of their fanbase that loved their progressive rock side and pissed off the one that loved their metal side.

With this, I also conclude that Dream Theater is a band that is very concerned about the critics it receives; if you look to their catalog you'll see that, for example, after the critics they received for making Falling into Infinity, a radio-friendly album, they released an ultra-progressive, over-the-top, super pompous concept album (Metropolis Pt.2 Scenes From a Memory, an album that I have already reviewed too)... After releasing the heavy Train of Thought and thanks to all the critics they received because of the new sound they've adopted, the band changed (yet again!) their direction, releasing the soft (and extremely inconsistent, as I've already said) Octavarium.

With Systematic Chaos, Dream Theater tried to please all their fanbase and to avoid all that type of critics. As a result, this record is the union of all the different sides of the band: the soft one (The Ministry of Lost Souls, Repentance), the heavy one (The Dark Eternal Night, Constant Motion) and even the commercial one (Forsaken). But did this mix of characteristics result in a good album? In my opinion, yes. Systematic Chaos is more focused than ToT and one million times better and more solid than its predecessor, the inconsistent Octavarium. Just listen to the first part of In the Presence of Enemies. The first keyboard riff, the excellent drumming, the emotional guitar solo, the breakdown, the vocals: excellent! This song blows away everything the band has ever done on their last two albums (hey, everything but Octavarium's title track, which is one of the best Theater songs, if not the best).

This tune also reveals that Jordan Rudess is back. On ToT and Octavarium, the sound of his keyboard was buried in the mix and barely noticeable. The production of Systematic Chaos is the best Dream Theater has ever had as all the instruments sound great (err... well, actually, I still can't hear Myung). That is one of the reasons why this album is so good; in fact, nowadays, the production is one of the most important components of the record. Anyways, the keyboard shines a lot on this piece.

However, this record isn't flawless and you will painfully notice that, about 10 minutes into it. Yes, the lyrics absolutely suck. Dream Theater never were a proficient band, lyrics-wise. They are very well known for their amazing playing talents, but the lyrics aren't one of their strong points. Anyways, on Systematic Chaos they absolutely bite the dust with them. I mean, I don't know what they were thinking, as they talk about vampires and samurais and monsters. Sure that many metal bands out there write songs about that kind of subjects, but, sometimes, they blend perfectly well with the music (check out King Diamond, with the huge amount of concept albums, based on that kind of things). Hell, the lyrics of this record would even sound great in a power metal band but, hey, Dream Theater is a progressive band, they HAVE to choose something better to write about! Meh, nevermind, let's move on...

Well, the drumming... Mike Portnoy really shines on this record. In ToT he showed his more aggressive side, on Octavarium he made the worst performance of his career (mainly because he took a simpler approach, which is a bad thing by my books) and on this record he returns to his old style, delivering some complex and creative patterns. The fills on In the Presence of the Enemies are amazing and on Constant Motion, during the guitar solo, he plays a very, very interesting pattern, that becomes faster and faster (in fact, that pattern is very reminiscent of the one he played on the breakdown of Awake's Erotomania). Just go to his myspace page and listen to the isolated drum track of Constant Motion and tell me that he isn't one of the best drummers of his generation. A pretty good performance.

Anyways, after the decent Forsaken, the most commercial songs of the album, there are two very good tracks: Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night. Both are aggressive songs, reminiscent of the Train of Thought period, and where John Petrucci delivers a fine performance.

In fact, he knows how to compose a crushing guitar riff and a mellow one (if you want a crushing one listen to The Dark Eternal Night, and if you want a mellow one search for Repentance)and he proves it yet again on Systematic Chaos. After the shred-fest of Train of Thought and the mediocrity of Octavarium, he delivers again some good solos (a fine example is the one on the first part of ITPOE, which is, as I've already said, very emotional and heartfelt). His playing can be very technical at times (no one can deny that!), but still tasteful and interesting. As you can see, guitar-wise this piece is also pretty good.

The next tune is Repentance, which manages to be another highlight, sinces its not very much in "Dream Theater vein"; in fact, this songs wouldn't sound out of place on a Opeth record , from the main riff to the soft drumming a la Martin Lopez. The piano lines are beautiful and James LaBrie sounds amazing, singing emotionally and proving that he still is a very good vocalist. After the bluesy guitar solo (it reminds a lot of the one on Opeth's Windowpane), we have a strange section, where many people start to talk about regret (wait, people talking about regret... I have already heard a similar section on Train of Thought's Honor Thy Father; it's incredible how this album shares a lot of similarities with others). However, it actually sounds nice. After a melodic choir, the song ends. Solid tune.

Before concluding, another reference to a particular song, this time the closer, In the Presence of Enemies pt.2, which shares MANY similitudes with other past songs of the band. One fill, that is repeated throughout it, which consists of Mike Portnoy hitting the snare, accompanied with a strange keyboard line, is the exact same fill repeated many times on Octavarium. The other big similar thing is on the last part of the song, when there is a keyboard riff played alone. On the last two Dream Theater epics (Octavarium and In the Name of God) they also used that idea. But ok, at least they are ripping off some ideas from THEIR own albums, so it isn't so bad. In fact, this rip-offs mark presence in almost every Dream Theater record.

So, James LaBrie is undoubtedly the man of the album; he is in a fantastic shape. I personally love his vocal performance on the soft parts, but he also sounds great on the heavier ones. The monster of the drums a.k.a. Mike Portnoy is as great as he ever was, but I'm beginning to hate his excessive authority and leadership within the band. If you have the DVD that accompanies this record, you got to see how he is always giving his opinions to the other band members, trying them to accept all his ideas and all. That's a pretty annoying attitude and the fact that he absolutely dominates the music video of Constant Motion doesn't help either (just watch it... 90% of the times, the cameras show him drumming - he may be quite good, but the other musicians also belong to the band, this is not a solo project!). He also penned many of the gorgeous (the irony!) lyrics, which proves that he is far from a flawless lyricist too. So, Mike, better stick to the drums and forget about the rest, huh? John Petrucci delivers, as I've already said, a solid performance, and doesn't destroy the songs with lengthy solos (like on Train of Thought) nor with the absence of them. Rudess doesn't solo so frequently too (which is a good, good thing) and about Myung... well, forget about him, because you won't hear the bass at all.

Concluding, this record is very, very good. Dream Theater definitely returned and there aren't so many bands out there that after twenty years of work still can deliver good CDs like this. Forget Prophets of War and the lyrics and here you get a very consistent record, full of good ideas and thirty times better than the last two Dream Theater albums. Systematic Chaos is also a very varied record; sure the songs are all progressive, but the existence of many heavy and soft sections make the album much more varied and less boring. Not a masterpiece, though, but a very enjoyable album.

Best Moments of the CD: -the beginning and solo of ITPOE. -the breakdown on Constant Motion. -the ending of the record, when you think Portnoy will destroy his cymbals to mark the end of Systematic Chaos... You get a surprise.

Absolutely recommended, in fact this is the most solid and consistent album of the band. It doesn't contain the best songs the band ever penned though, but as a whole it sounds great. Good work Dream Theater, let's see if your next record will top this (I hope so, at least!).

Report this review (#176666)
Posted Sunday, July 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This was my introduction to Dream Theater. Man what a disc. Right off the bat, the band sends a barrage of notes at you, and it amazed me. It sounded exactly how I expected Dream Theater should sound. Unfortunately, that might have been why this CD went stale so soon. Maybe it was the constant playing of the CD in the car. Maybe it was me and the heavy metal guys in the band room listening to it every lunch period at school. The bottom line is, it did get kind of old.

Overall, the album is damn good music. It just could be better. Let me say a few words about each song.

In The Presence of enemies is a fantastic song. I love the timbre of the guitar and the keyboard right from the start. I think the Prelude section is just fantastic, and the band really does seem to play together to make a masterful composition. Even though it may be DT wankery, all of it has a definite direction. The vocal sections are fantastic too. The only directionless part seems to be the reckoning, but even that is fantastic. The final section Salvation wraps up all the themes of the piece quite nicely.

Forsaken, on the other hand, got old very quickly. It just sounded like Evanescence and James Labrie. Even with the time changes, it's just basic ballad/pop rock. I found it boring.

Constant Motion is one that I don't really get the kind of criticism. Sure, this one got old too, but I don't understand why people think this is Metallica-esque. The intro has an interesting time sig combo of 5/8, 7/8 and 15/16, something Metallica couldn't accomplish. However, this song got quite boring.

The Dark Eternal Night is what I think Knots by Gentle Giant would sound like if it was prog metal. Even by prog standards, this song is quite experimental. However, I feel that Knots is a better song (although there's a short little piano jingle at 4:30 that is wonderful).

Repentance is one that I don't go along the crowd with. I think it's rather boring, and while most people associate it with the atmospherics of Pink Floyd, I don't think the atmospheres on this song get even close. However, the AA suite probably did need some down time.

Prophets of War is somewhat interesting. It's better than my friends consider it, though it does get rather old fast. Nothing much to note here, except it's possibly the simplest DT song made.

The Ministry of Lost Souls comes back to save the album from failure. this song has a great chord progression and an interesting flow into the vocals at the beginning. Once the mid-song instrumental section starts up, it changes from a ballad to a tight metal fest. There are no odd rhythms, and the soloing only goes a bit over the top, but the Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci twin lead is sick. The outro is also fantastic. I love Petrucci's way of taking the theme and variating it a bit during the last minute or two.

There you have it. Just so you know, the bad songs aren't as bad as I made them seem. It's just that they're not masterful work, like some other DT stuff. It's good ear candy once in a while, and heavy metalers I know from experience like this record. Cool stuff.

Report this review (#179874)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This album is not worthless or terrible, but if you look at the history of Dream Theater, it is both predictable and unfortunate.

There's not even anything particularly wrong with this album. The songs are all entertaining. The guitars go fast like their supposed to. The keyboards are still some of the wildest since Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The drums do their complicated thing, complete with fast fills and wild cymbals. The vocals are as strong as ever, really. The bass even gets heard in a couple of songs. So what's wrong with this release? Why two stars? The answer is in not what the album does but what the album does not do. First off, there really is nothing new here from Dream Theater, aside from one weird song and a new interest in power metal sorts of lyrics about vampires and Satan (or maybe by power metal I meant death metal--I get those two confused all the time). The progressive riffs are the same sort of thing. The vocal melodies for the most part fairly stock and standard. The shredding is pretty uninteresting. Don't get me wrong, the band try some new things here, but most of the album's running length is dedicated to Dream Theater playing Dream Theater sorts of music, something that shouldn't bother me, but in light of their 90s output, they've proved they are not a band who plays the same thing all the time. But Systematic Chaos ends up feeling stagnant and mechanical.

It opens with the first part of the epic In the Presence of Enemies. This first part is neat, starting off with an overture of sorts. Unfortunately, the song, while interesting, is not very inspiring or inspired. It moves off into Forsaken, a song in the vein of Evanescence that is cool the first couple times but does not hold up to repeated listening. Constant Motion is the classic Dream Theater track, with an intro built around shifting time signatures. It drops into metal mode and flies forward like As I Am or Lie. The instrumental portion in the middle doesn't quite fit, but it isn't as jarring as Dream Theater fans have gotten used to. This song ended up on Rock Band, and I must say, that has actually increased my appreciation of it: seeing how it all fits together. I imagine, though, that that would be the effect of almost any Dream Theater song there. Track four was my initial favorite, The Dark Eternal Night, the heaviest song on this album. Unfortunately, the instrumental break, while neat, does not fit very well, and it gets old on repeated listenings. The outro, however, is a very nice bit of crunchy guitar and Jordan Rudess noodling away.

Just as you're about to write this album off as a completely standard Dream Theater release, however, Repentance moves in. The direct sequel to The Root of All Evil, one expects another heavy and noodle-fraught song. Instead, we get an atmospheric and moody song that sounds more mature than anything Dream Theater has written since Falling into Infinity. The clean guitars sound wonderful, and the haunting voices in the ending really make this the best song on the album, maybe one of the best they've released in the 21st century. After this comes what sounds like a ballad at first, The Ministry of Lost Souls. The first seven or so minutes are splendid, very emotional and very well composed. However, it suddenly turns to a random and jarring instrumental portion for the second half of the song, and it suffers mightily because of it. A tender guitar solo returns the song to form at the end, but it's not enough and the damage has been done. The last track, the second half of the main epic, starts very promisingly. Atmosphere and menace build up to a wonderfully catchy and well-written chorus about the Dark Master. The energy levels stay high once they hit high, and this song runs very well. However, another jarring instrumental section that kills the flow of the song moves in, and we are left wondering why the band still wants to repeat Train of Thought.

Hey, if you like Dream Theater, you'll probably enjoy this one. What it all comes down to, though, is that Dream Theater has done much better and progressive metal as a genre has many greater things to offer. Start elsewhere with Dream Theater, or look at other main prog metal acts.

Report this review (#185286)
Posted Saturday, October 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yea, four stars, I know...maybe a bit much, but I have my reasons.

Dream Theater is one of those bands is pretty easy to hate. About 75% of the time, they come off as unbelievably pretentious, repetitive, and boring. At the same time, when they get it right with an album, they really get it right. Images and Words revolutionized prog metal. Awake was a great example of what the band could do technically, and the song writing was pretty decent too. Metropolis Pt2 is, in my mind, their finest hour. It showed just how much creative energy the band still had and what their true potential could be.

On to Systematic Chaos. The album follows two tremendous flops, Octivarium, an album with a sum total of two good songs, and Train of Thought, the blandest, most CHUGGAH CHUGGAH CHUG album Dream Theater has ever released. Systematic Chaos really was Dream Theater's last chance to prove that they were still capable of making a solid album. The album starts with one of the finest songs Dream Theater has written in the last eight years, In The Presence of Enemies: Pt1. Complex, emotional, and largely instrumental, it starts the album in style. The moment that occurs around 4:10 is remarkable, but unfortunately, some questionable lyrics follow. It really is a matter of taste, I like fantasy themes in my lyrics, if you don't I doubt this will be your cup of tea.

The next three tracks are.....awful. They seem to come from some desire to sound like Metallica or a generic Nu-Metal band. The lyrics are horrendous, no thread runs through the tracks, and they really feature about a minute and a half of content spread out over fifteen minutes of a Petrucci and Portony wank fest. Then, when all seems to be lost, Repentance kicks in. This is the next section of the AA suite, and, in my humble opinion, the best so far. The lyrics are very personal and the band slows down enough to add a really somber tone to the whole thing.

Prophets of War......I think I'm going to skip that one, it basically screams Muse, its hard to even think of it as a DT song. The Ministry of Lost Souls is a pretty neat track. A fair bit of emotion, especially from La Brie. Solid playing from all the musicians, good composition.

In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 is the best song on the album. Once again, if you don't like vivid fantasy lyrics, go somewhere else. You won't like this one. There are some nice transitions between sections in the song, the instrumentation is top notch, the composition is solid, the plot is decent, and the lyrics are somewhere between satiric and powerful. There are a lot of glorious moments in the song; its really worth hearing.

So, why did I give this four stars? If you only consider tracks 1, 5, 7, and 8, the album is fantastic, a true return to form. That right there is fifty minutes of music, every bit of which is worthy of several listens for even the most casual fan. If they had chopped it down to this, I might even consider five stars, but all the filler sound-a-like tracks keep me from really praising this effort. Their inclusion is unfortunate and nonsensical. Oh well, what can you do. Hopefully DT will trim the fat for their next release.

Report this review (#188704)
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars Before I get started, I should mention that Dream Theater are a band very near and dear to me, as they were the first progressive metal band I discovered, and through them I learned of many of my current favourites. Indeed, Awake, Images and Words, and When Dream and Day Unite still get regular spins in my stereo, and I consider all three of them to be masterpieces. This is precisely what has made watching their continued descent into mediocrity so very difficult. Declining lyrical quality, meaningless solo trading, and all too obvious plagiarism of their 'influences' have all plagued the band over their last few releases. With Systematic Chaos, I had hoped they would be able to buck this disturbing slide, but unfortunately, things have only gotten worse.

The album begins in promising fashion with an interesting, off-kilter riff that seems to herald greater things to come, but less than halfway through the first track, the band shifts into a refrain that is far too reminiscent of the style of British rock band Muse. After facing such heavy criticism for their blatant copying of the same band on their last album, I was shocked they would pull the same trick again, but this is only the tip of the iceberg - the clear Opeth influence on "Repentance," the obvious Metallica stylings of "Constant Motion" and the second instance of Muse copying on the album, "Prophets of War," all attest to the notion that the band must be rather pressed for new material. Even the lyrics show signs of plagiarism - "In the Presence of Enemies" is based almost verbatim off a Korean graphic novel, but there are no signs of homage to this - it took the fans' constant mentioning of the topic for lyricist John Petrucci to even acknowledge the influence of said novel. Combine this with ever-weakening song structures that are more intent on showcasing the technical abilities of the band members than on any cohesive musical themes, and you have all the makings of a very poor effort. 1.5 stars, rounded down because this is a band capable of so much more.

Report this review (#198483)
Posted Sunday, January 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Four Stars. This is a good album. Not an extreme landmark masterpiece like Images & Words, but still a good album.

The album has a much more aggressive, and modern feel, the album cover and artwork really does make you think of the same mood as the music does. It does retain its progressiveness. But rather, it goes into a more mainstream progressive metal mood like most of their later albums since Train of Thought. The acceptance is Octavarium. Usually Dream Theater is effective at combining heavy metal AND progressive rock, as well as playing them both separately, and the mood in their earlier albums was usually a progressive rock band who's just playing it harder and heavier than usual. But in these later albums, it's more of a mainstream progressive metal feel, still really good of course. There's the greatest song on the album, In the Presence of Enemies: The Heretic and the Dark Master, which is 25 minutes long split into 2 tracks that bookend the album. This song sets the mood for most of the other songs. And it is extremely epic and wonderful, not such a surreal prog rock epic like Octavarium, but it's more heavy metal with a progressive mentality. Metal played progressively. John Petrucci wrote lyrics featuring interesting stories including a man who's visited by a vampiress at night (Forsaken), a Lovecraftian gothic horror story about a creature sent to unleash an ancient pharoah's curse (Dark Eternal Night), A woman who mourns over her lover's death after he saves her from drowning, and a man who sells his soul to a dark master upon his death in order to return and destroy the soldiers of a fallen angel (In the Presence of Enemies). The other lyrics by Portnoy are about OCD and personal problems with alcoholism, and James LaBrie writes about politics, about war. In this, Mike Portnoy continues the long epic album-long song called the Alcoholics Anonymous Suite, which is the Glass Prison, This Dying Soul, The Root of All Evil, and Repentance, as well as an upcoming sequel and ending.

This is overall, a good album, but not their best, I've heard far better. Lyrically, it's amazing though, especially John Petrucci's lyrics. For purely prog fans who like Dream Theater for that, they won't really care for it as it's too metal. But for Metal fans who enjoy some prog, and progressive metal fans, this is a very great album. Go ahead and buy it. :)

Report this review (#198576)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here it is folks, an with music that fits the name: Systematic Chaos. I'll just skip the obvious and get on with it. There's bound to be loads of discussion about this one, since many fans will clearly see it as proof of the prog end of the band, others will see it as proof that the band has more to come and others will start listening to Dream Theater because of this album; so let's just rate it:

In the Presence of Enemies part I The album kicks off nicely, with a proggressive track that builds up until a smooth soothing part in the middle with some very nice work by Petrucci. It's a cool track once the vocals get in, and overall it's a fine piece of music that most fans will like. (5/5)

Forsaken I just love this one, a short song with a very strong structure and amazing solo section. The singing is great and the choruses catchy. A cool metal single. (4/5)

Constant Motion This is the first track were people are going to be fighting. It's a very metallica-like song, heavy and pretty plain through out. Still the band members just exceed themselves in this one, playing very technicall riffs and with a solo section that just prooves that Petrucci and Rudess get better and better, technically, with every album. (4/5)

The Dark Eternal Night This one is a weird one. It's heavy, aggressive and crazy. For me, it doesn't fit in with the style of the album, but then again, they've go us fans used to expecting the un-expected. The instrumental section is amazing, with band coordination like no other and laying some jazzy tunes every now and then, still it's the heaviest track in the entire album. The riff at the end just rocks, impossible not to headbang. (4/5)

Repentance The ballad and a jewel on the album. Another one of Portnoy's AA saga, and a breathtaker in it too, it's a more Pink Floydish kinda tune with a beautiful guitar solo. (5/5)

Prophets of War Maybe a little let down for many fans, let me correct that, most fans. It's one of the bands "Muse" influenced song and its catchy, and everyone will be singing it live, but its mediocre for DT standards. (3/5)

The Ministry of Lost Souls The tip of the iceberg. No words, no review, just beautifull, powerfull and amazing. (5/5)

In the Presence of Enemies part II The album ends retaking the epic, it seems now that every DT album has one, and it doesnt let down. Its heavy, progressive...its pure prog metal I guess, leading up to a grand ending. The song is full of twists and turns and I swear I recognize many of the melodies played in it. Anyways, it's the end of it and after it you'll probably hear the entire album again. (5/5)

Overall: 4 stars (4.37)

Report this review (#200600)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I remember having high hopes for this album upon release. The album charted on billboard higher than most of their albums, and was hyped up to be a big record to some degree commercially. I saw the interesting album cover and thought to myself, maybe Dream Theater will have a hit record here. This of course was not the case.

I get what Dream Theater was trying to do with this record, but I just don't think it works and nor will it in the future. Dream Theater attempted to make a commercial record and also satisfy their progressive fans at the same time. The result is a record that is exactly what it aims to do, however the problem is that it sounds like it (if that makes sense). This is the best way to sum up the issue with this album.

Upon listening to this record you will hear at times the Dream Theater we are all familiar with, and at others you will hear the most straight forward mindless metal music. These two opposite ends of the spectrum cross so often on this record that you will not really know what to think. Some of Dream Theater's most progressive moments are on this record, and yet it will return to straight ahead rhythms and horrible lyrics (not really that uncommon on a Dream Theater record), and blocky melodies. I really wanted to like this record, but every time you reach a great section it is ruined by the contrast of mindless straight ahead metal and progressive complications.

I love progressive music because of it's seamlessness and fluidity. This record has some great moments, but are overshadowed by the lack of the two qualities mentioned above. I know that some here did not care for TOT, but that record was a seamless experience and I feel since that record they have not moved forward. Here's to hope that Dream Theater can become influential again and give up the idea that they can be commercial, and still be Dream Theater.

Report this review (#201415)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Systematic Chaos. It's an album that has somewhat divided views, depending on what type of Dream Theater fan you ask. I was introduced to Dream Theater through a friend mine who was only really interested in the metal side of the band (he owned Awake, Six Degrees, Train Of Thought and Systematic Chaos), the first set of songs I heard from this album, namely the Dark Eternal Night and In The Presence Of Enemies Part 1. After I acquired the whole album I listened too it non-stop; looking back now, after listening to the rest of their discography and finding myself liking their older material more, I laugh at this album and my worshiping of it. It's not that it's a bad album, not by a long shot, it's just Dream Theater seem to be only taking baby steps now instead of trying big new ideas like they did in the past. Regardless of what other fans think, I still find myself playing this album and admiring their song-writing ability...or maybe it's just the nostalgic factor of listening to it that keeps me coming back.

Through a song-by-song review, hopefully you as the reader will get a clearer understanding of what I see in this album. I'll also try to be open-minded as possible while reviewing them:

1. In The Presence Of Enemies Pt. 1: A strong opener, though not one of their best. The majestic nature of this part is what I love and is what made me come back for more, however this about as majestic as the album gets sadly (though the reprise of this main theme in Pt. 2 is also a winner). A good part of this song is showmanship a.k.a non-stop shredding on Petrucci and Rudess' parts. Many fans feel this is a downside, but I enjoy regardless, however some might be turned off by it. Probably the best song on the album. 9.5/10

2. Forsaken: Eh, it's alright a more concise song is hard to find on the album, there seems to be a focus on the lyrics on this song with the music taking a sort of backing role, maybe it's the story it tells. I wouldn't willingly go out and listen to this song anymore, repeated plays early on has worn it thin sadly. 7/10

3. Constant Motion: This is a pretty damn cool song, even more cooler to learn on guitar. The main riff is great with the rest of the music even better (except Rudess' solo, which seem to be getting more and more cliche every album sadly), the instrumental break is really something, and Petrucci's solo is one of his most technical though not necessarily his most interesting. The metallica-like vocals I could do without as it's not really James' strong point, but it doesn't really bother me or detracts from the song. 8.5/10

4. The Dark Eternal Night: This song has got energy alright, and I loved it so much at first, but it's not that much of a orgasmic listen anymore, it's dropped down to just being a good song. The distorted vocals surprisingly suit the song, yet I wish they hadn't been included regardless. Petrucci's shredding is in the front line here, really carrying the song, though I wish he'd tone it down somewhat. This could have been a better song, but it sadly suffers from some self-indulgence that needs to be kept in check by the band. 7/10

5. Repentance: After the heavy nature of the previous songs, it's good to see the band taking a different path, even though it is somewhat long and drawn out (though the use of quotes is really good). Petrucci's solo in here is brilliant, probably the best on the album and La Brie's vocals are damn good too. If it was say only about 6:00-7:00 it would have been a really great song but it suffers from that length sadly. 7.5/10

6. Prophets Of War: More Muse influences/theft can be seen in this song (the previous being Never Enough from Octavarium). It's interesting but is overall a boring song, not bad, just boring. Though if i listened to it it more I probably would have a different opinion on it. Give it a few listens through, see if you like, but I can't promise you anything. 6/10

7. The Ministry Of Lost Souls: This is a pretty good song, an epic with varying moods and some interesting lyrics, less fantastical than Petrucci's other lyrics on the album. Many fans consider the heavy instrumental section in the middle of the song to draw away from the rest of the song's mood, but I disagree: If the song was soft and slow through all 15 minutes of it, I think it would become a tough listen; at least with the instrumental section it ups the pace and keeps you on alert. Once again, it's one of the songs that the individual needs to make his own opinion on, don't take someone's word as the objective truth. 8/10

8. In The Presence Of Enemies Pt. 2: Part 2 of this 25 minute epic isn't as good as the first, it's musically quite different, offering a slow buildup which works well the first few times but sadly get's more boring each time you listen to it. Many fans seem to not like the instrumental section of this song (The Reckoning), I somewhat agree, it's full of the same self-indulgence that ruined The Dark Eternal Night, but it keeps building the pace up to the point where the main theme from Part 1 is reprised (in fantastic glory I might add) by Rudess' moog leads. Lyrics are so-so, Part 1's are better, but everyone's different, especially with lyrics. I still enjoy it, just not nearly as much as Part 1. 7.5/10

As you can see, the album is very much up and down, but DO NOT let that deter, and try not take anything you hear about this album as the objective truth, LISTEN to the album first and than form an opinion of it. There is nothing wrong with trying out an album than getting rid of it if you don't like it (if you don't want to waste money though, borrow it from a friend or preview it on youtube or download it first). Dream Theater's future is still big, as long as A. They don't play too many of these songs in future tours, B. They tone down on the shredding and self-indulgence somewhat and C. Go back to some of their prog influences more so than their metal influences. Overall I still enjoy this album and I like to think of it as the Modern Dream Theater.

7.5-8/10 which roughly equates to 4 star rating.

Report this review (#202038)
Posted Sunday, February 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was a Little optmist and hopefully with this Last Work From DT,Having present that their last work was nothing spectacular for me,But i think that this album is slighty better.It seems that is Now and obligation of DT to make albums each two Years,and as a result from it,Their sound is the Same and without creativity.If i listen SC without have been listening their previus albums i will Be very Happy,But knowing all their previus works this is the same and common.what needs Dt to create A Good album?Since SDOIT from 2002 there is no more good releases.let's wait for their next album..Dt needs to refresh their common sound..By The way,Good work.

(--Jack--)

Report this review (#203760)
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Systematic Chaos' - Dream Theater (7.5/10)

After two or three enjoyed listens of 'Systematic Chaos,' I started to tire of it's corniness. It really started to get on my nerves, and before long, I was starting to hate it. 'The Dark Eternal Night' especially. Lyrics like 'Dark master of sin, I will fight for you' exemplified the reason why I was so dissapointed by the album. Being one of my favourite bands, I would logically have very high expectations for the album when I bought it. Having a great resentment for the cheesiness of it all, I shelved the album and spent my time on other albums...

About a year passed, and finally I decided to give 'Systematic Chaos' another try. I was amazed by how much I enjoyed it. Granted, there were still parts of it (such as 'The Dark Eternal Night,' which I still don't like) that I found annoying, but musically speaking, the majority of the material was very good! While it's definately not one of the best Dream Theater has done, it's a worthy album by any standard, and has some absolutely outstanding songs that will stand the test of time as being some of Dream Theater's best.

'In The Presence Of Enemies' is a song (divided into two parts) that takes up about half an hour of play time. While I wouldn't count it as another 'Change Of Seasons,' it's still a great epic, and the fact that it's divided into two parts works really well to bring the album together. Having an epic split into two parts for once is refreshing, relieving the listener of the chore of having to sit through such an extended duration composition. The first half is absolutely stellar, and while the second half is very good, parts of it scream 'cheesiness.' I'm sorry, but blatantly singing about 'serving and dying for a dark master' doesn't work as well as I'm sure they hoped it would.

'Forsaken' and 'Constant Motion' (the two singles off of the album) have two very contrasting moods to them. 'Forsaken' is a pretty straightforward gothic metal song, but it is very well written. The latter single is much more chaotic, and what you would typically expect from the band; complete with plenty of blistering guitar and keyboard solos...

The other great song on here is 'The Ministry Of Lost Souls.' With a song structure that's reminiscent of 'Sacrificed Sons' off of 2005's 'Octavarium,' this 14 minute song tells a very moving story of a man who saves a woman from drowning, but the woman kills herself, feeling empty without the presence of her saviour. This is a song I love to hear, because it shows that Dream Theater can still write a damn good song without having to rely on their technical abilities. Warm guitars, and perfectly mournful vocals followed by a blistering dose of instrumental make 'The Ministry Of Lost Souls' an instant classic in Dream Theater's repetoire.

The song I obviously have the biggest problem with is 'The Dark Eternal Night,' the distorted vocals are really stupid and amelodic, and the music is noisy. The instrumental section though is suprisingly good and progressive. Disregarding all of the vocal and conventional 'songwriting' parts, the song is actually not that bad. But as it is, it is a blemish on an otherwise excellent album. With no offense to Mr. Mike Portnoy (he really is a fantastic drummer,) but someone should tell him to stop singing and ruining otherwise good music!

'Repetence' is 'Systematic Chaos' addition to the suite about alcoholism that Mike Portnoy has been fronting for years now. Without a doubt the most mellow track on the album, it takes a bit too long to get where it's meant to go, but there are some beautiful melodic lines in it, and the repetition makes it an almost hypnotic segment of the album. 'Prophets of War' is another pretty straightforward song that sounds like it was plucked out of a Muse songbook. For recent Dream Theater lyrics however, there is alot of intelligence here, and the song is a profound commentary on the current war in the Middle-East.

While this album isn't quite as good as I hoped it would be (with a few tweaks here and there; it could have been a really excellent piece of work), it's definately a step in the right direction. One can only hope that Dream Theater's 2009 release will surpass this album, and the world will be gifted with an album that brings the band back to their peak of glory...

Report this review (#205554)
Posted Thursday, March 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars One of my friends described Systematic Chaos as a set of Octavarium out-takes and Train of Thought E-Sides. I will agree with him that this is one of Dream Theater's weakest albums. I will disagree that it's as bad as that.

Dream Theater are a great band, a really great band. But sometimes I find their instrumental sections tend to be weak. Looking back to the previous album, Octavarium, the title track was in my opinion fantastic, until the instrumental section two-thirds of the way through. It didn't flow, it was rather generic and dull. It was one of the rare occasions where I agree with the critics who say Dream Theater are all technical with no soul.

Much of SC is dominated by these unspectacular instrumental sections. In the Presence of Enemies starts and finishes off strongly, and occasionally has a good moment in the middle but is largely forgettable, bland, dull instrumentalling. That's a large portion of 25 minutes, just under a third of the whole album, which I've just dismissed.

The Ministry of Lost Souls is without a doubt the highlight of the album, with an incredible amount of emotion... in parts. It also suffers from this dull instrumental section syndrome. It's 15 minutes and about 5 minutes of that is soulless guitar and keyboard noodling. What that leaves us with is about 10 minutes of what starts off as very good music. The riff is brilliantly emotional, the lyrics are deep and has everything that makes Dream Theater great. But... if you discard that instrumental section, then you realise just how monotonous the track is. It loses points for the same reason Dire Straits' Money for Nothing loses points: great riff, just not enough variety.

Repentance is another good track, but again, it drags on a bit. I'm thinking maybe Dream Theater were a bit reluctant to leave any of the spoken word samples out. It's another solid, emotional song, but suffers for the same reason The Ministry of Lost Souls does.

That leaves us with four tracks. 27 minutes of material (in case you hadn't realised, Dream Theater don't really do short songs). Constant Motion is overall a forgettable track. Nothing really grabs me about the song. The Dark Eternal Night is rather cheesy, but a bit of fun, though it suffers from the unspectacular instrumental section problem.

This leads us to Forsaken and Prophets of War. Neither of them are particularly stunning tracks and would rank as the weakest tracks if placed on stronger Dream Theater albums. But here they fare better. Forsaken is nice, with its sudden changes between melodic piano and grunty guitars. Prophets of War is one of Dream Theater's more political songs, more guitar-driven but roughly on a par with Forsaken.

So overall, not a bad album, but by Dream Theater's standards not a great album. The good outweighs the bad, but too often do the band get lost in instrumental sections or riffs which don't go anywhere. Dream Theater were never about getting anywhere in a hurry, but usually make the journey interesting.

If you're after some good prog metal, then get some of the band's earlier works (SFAM, Awake, I&W). This is good in places, but I'd only resort to this if I had got bored of most other Dream Theater. I was originally intending to give this 3 stars, but really, when you consider the alternative albums you could listen to instead of this, 2 stars seems more appropriate.

Report this review (#205604)
Posted Friday, March 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Here it is! Dream Theater's heaviest album by a long shot. As a social experiment (and sheer boredom) I checked out the ratings, from those who bothered to write a review that is, and we have the following stats:

32 reviewers gave it 5 stars - they thought it a masterpiece.

45 reviewers gave it 4 stars - Yes, it deserves at least 3-4 for ingenuity and musicianship.

31 reviewers gave it 3 stars - a fair assessment.

29 reviewers gave it 2 stars - a bit harsh.

7 reviewers gave it 1 star - they hated it!

so, whats that prove? Mixed feelings as always but not as many as the album after this which has developed into a love hate relationship.

I decided it deserved 3 stars but only just due to a few shining moments.

Very dark, and very progressive with some of the best material from the band such as In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 and 2, and Constant Motion. All brilliantly played and sung by the band at the peak of their powers. Check out the incredible growl vocals on the The Dark Eternal Night - as band members mused on the doco We are beginning to sound like Biohazard - Indeed.

Devin Townsend meets Metallica in places. Repentance is simply wonderful with a contemplative reflective lyrical content and lots of guest artists speaking their regrets and asking forgiveness.

It is a great album, not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but simply solid DT with heaps of brilliant lead breaks and masterfully played keyboards throughout.

There is not much else to say except it does not disappoint and has some awesome tracks.

Grab the special edition as the doco is terrific and offers a real insight to this amazing prog metal band.

I think the doco is actually better than the whole album. it will continue to dazzle and infuriate listeners for years to come I guess. Give it a chance, as there are some excellent tracks on this CD.

Report this review (#206771)
Posted Thursday, March 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars As usual Mike Portnoy and John Pertucci are the producers while Paul Northfield engineered and mixed it. This record "sounds" amazing ! And while i'm not thrilled that it's almost 80 minutes long, these guys delivered in a big way on this album. For me the song "Forsaken" and the first half of "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" are really the only parts i'd eliminate. And check out the "who's who" of vocalists on the track "Repentence". Oh and I hope you guys like ants.

"In The Presence Of Enemies Part 1" has this killer intro followed by some fantastic bass and drums with synths. I'm thinking LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT here. It then settles with some nice guitar leads. Kicks back in before 5 minutes and vocals (for the first time) follow. Just a really good opening track. "Forsaken" as i've already mentioned is one i'm not a fan of. It's ok but it's too bland with the focus on the vocals. The best part is when the piano intro is blown to pieces by a heavy soundscape.Thankyou ! Haha. "Constant Motion" opens with the grinding guitar work of Pertucci as Portnoy pounds it out. Nice. Riffs follow. This is great ! The vocals are aggressive bringing METALLICA to mind. A real headbanger. Huge bass from Myung before 4 minutes then Pertucci takes over. A kick ass tune.

"The Dark Eternal Light" opens with guitar that has a really bad attitude. Love the sounds of the drums here. Even the vocals have attitude when they arrive after a minute.The tempo picks up after 3 minutes then we get this thunderous attack a minute later that comes and goes. Dark and heavy after 7 1/2 minutes. Nice. "Repentence" has vocal guests speaking such as Steven Wilson, Steve Vai, Neal Morse, Jon Anderson, Joe Satriani, Mikael Akerfeldt, Daniel Gildenlow, Steve Hogarth and others. This one is dark and atmospheric to open. I wish they'd do more of this style of music. Steven Wilson comes in vocally before 1 1/2 minutes and I wish he could continue. LaBrie follows though in a reserved manner. Mellotron 3 minutes in ! A tasteful guitar solo before 5 minutes. Then we get all these spoken words as the music continues.This might be my favourite track over "The Dark Eternal Night".

Next up is "Prophets Of War" and it speeds up a minute in and the guitar sounds incredible here. I like the way the vocals sort of "shout out" on and off beginning at 3 minutes as the guitar grinds away. Good song. "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" has this epic intro before LaBrie takes over. Thankfully it changes around 7 1/2 minutes as it kicks into gear. What an instrumental display the rest of the way. Relaxing guitar 13 minutes in to the end. "In The Presence Of Enemies Part 2" opens with some atmosphere as vocals come in slowly. It gets heavier after 2 1/2 minutes then kicks into a higher gear. Great sound 6 1/2 minutes in. Nice and heavy 9 1/2 minutes in with some ripping guitar.

I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things they've brought to the table on this one. Overall a very good release.

Report this review (#217960)
Posted Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars So this is Dream Theater's 9th effort, and I have a very mixed opinion about this one. It ranks up there with some of the greatest progressive music ever at times, but a couple songs are actually boring. If you're an early Dream Theater fan, you'll notice that (for the most part), it is less melodic, and occasionally less progressive, and is much more technical. It features incredibly fast scales, shredding guitars (and keyboards for that matter), intense drumming, and blistering guitar riffs. While ultimately progressive metal, at many times it hints towards technical metal.

My favorite songs are (coincidentally), all of the ones over 10 minutes. Some of these songs rank up there as some of the best prog metal of all time. The (relatively small) problem is the shorter songs. However, while I like the shorter songs, I find myself skipping them far too often. They are not bad songs, but lack the excellence of some other DT songs. Keep in mind, I have NOTHING against short songs. If you read my review of Octavarium (which I gave 5 stars), I love songs like "The Answer Lies Within" or "I Walk Beside You". The problem isn't that they aren't progressive either, because ALL of them are clearly more progressive than the last two songs I mentioned. The songwriting kind of took a step backwards for me.

Like most reviews, I will now do a song-by-song review of the album.

"In The Presence of Enemies Part 1" This song starts out heavy and full of intense (and awesome) metal riffs. It is very, very complex and proves my point about the more technical metal move on this album (though it's certainly not a problem here). Then with a perfectly executed guitar solo, it introduces the emotional themes to the song. The four minute prelude is a very promising opening to the album. When LaBrie begins singing it's pure greatness. This part of the book end epic is incredible and is a great moment in prog-metal.

"Forsaken" Unfortunately, the greatness of the opener somewhat falls with the presence of this song following it. This is a decent song that sounds like very modern metal, without the progressive touch of Dream Theater. This song is pretty repetitive, and I usually find myself skipping it, but it is not an awful song.

"Constant Motion" This song is very much like Metallica, has heavy riffs, and is combined with a nice chorus. I like the jam session, and is the best of the shorter songs on this album.

"The Dark Eternal Night" This song is very heavy, and has deep distorted vocals for part of it. This song's main riff is guitar-driven and is kind of like thrash metal at times. The chorus is very good, and I love the instrumental part of the song.

"Repentance" Ah, we have here the fourth part of Mike Portnoy's Alcoholics Anonymous Suite. The first three parts are very heavy, and actually considered some of Dream Theater's most heavy work. This section, is much softer, and uses one of the riffs introduced in This Dying Soul in a much softer way. This sounds very much to some of Opeth's softer music, that of Damnation, or the acoustic parts on other albums. As a matter of fact, Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth talks in the section in the second half of the song that includes many guest voices (Neal Morse, Jon Anderson, Joe Satriani, Daniel Gildenlow, Steven Wilson, and many others). This is a great song with a superb arrangement.

"Prophets of War" A very Muse-sounding song gone wrong. I find myself skipping this song all the time, and I actually find the song annoying and repetitive. That settles that...

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" This 15-minute epic starts out with a similar arrangement to Repentance. It features an emotional chorus, and just keeps building until the heavy middle section. It progresses very well, and is a highlight of the album.

"In The Presence of Enemies Part 2" This is a continuation of the opener, and completely nails everything. It has very eerie chords at the beginning with superb singing from LaBrie. It progresses into something very heavy and dark. Once it gets into "The Slaughter of the Damned" section, it's just pure madness and it's INCREDIBLE!! The Reckoning section is a jam session from he masters in this field. It features grinding scales and insanely complex solos from Petrucci and Rudess. It then (somehow emotionally) goes back into the opening scale, and it's jaw-dropping. It then features a synth solo using some of the themes, and has an orchestra as well. LaBrie sings to his highest potential in the ending "Salvation" section. This ends the album incredibly.

In case you can't tell by now, I have very mixed feelings about this album. It has moments of pure excellence, in addition to moments of decency. Overall, nothing is bad, and there is far more excellent music than decent music. They even out to make an above average 9th album for Dream Theater, warranting a 3.5/5 star review.

3 stars.

Report this review (#220452)
Posted Tuesday, June 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dream Theater is one of my all-time favorite bands, so it is hard for me to say anything negative about them. Even when they are at their worst I still consider them to be great. That being said, I have to conclude that Systematic Chaos is one of my least favorite albums by them, and I just can't really pinpoint why. It just doesn't grab me like most of their other albums do. I was really excited about it and loved it when I first recieved it, but the excitement wore off quickly and now I don't usually have much desire to put it in the CD player. Maybe the problem is that there doesn't really seem to be much originality on display here. I don't really hear anything on this record that I haven't heard before on a Dream Theater record. However, that being said, there are several gems on this album that I think stand up nicely in Dream Theater's catalog.

Take for example the opener and closer of the album, "In The Presence of Enemies". This is one of my favorite Dream Theater songs because it has everything I've come to love the band for. The opening section is brilliant, the whole band sounds incredible and are all playing at the top of their game. It is a magical moment to me when James LaBrie's voice comes in, he has rarely sounded better. The song is split up so that part 2 is the album's closer, and it is an incredible grand finale. It starts slowly, but builds up magnificently to a typical instrumental solo tradeoff between John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess. The climax at the end where James sings the final line of the album is awesome. This is one of my favorite songs.

I quite like the second track, "Forsaken" because it is catchy and has an awesome guitar riff that I never get tired of. Usually I'm not a big fan of the Dream Theater "singles" but this song catches my attention and I don't really mind it at all. "Constant Motion" is perhaps my least favorite Dream Theater song. There really isn't anything unique or progressive about it, it is just a straightforward metal song. The problem could be that I perhaps played this song one too many times on Rock Band, but it is almost a chore for me to have to sit through and listen to it. It is a song that Metallica could have just as easily come up with. "The Dark Eternal Night" is not much better and seems to be heavy just for the sake of being heavy. I'm not a big fan of Dream Theater when they are trying to be too metal, I need some progressive and melodic elements in there! I do like the wacky instrumental section at the end where Jordan is allowed to shine with his crazy ragtime keyboard style.

"Repentence" is good within the bigger 12-step saga epic, but is rather boring on its own. When combined with The Glass Prison, This Dying Soul, The Root of All Evil, and The Shattered Fortress, it is a great breather and is actually a quite refreshing song. In this album though, I feel it perhaps goes on too long and I get tired of it after a while. "Prophets of War" sounds like Dream Theater trying to be Muse, and unfortunately I'm not a huge Muse fan, so I don't really like this song either. "The Ministry of Lost Souls" is a tough song for me because I want to like it, but I do find myself bored of it after awhile. The guitar melody that goes throughout the whole piece is great, but I feel it repeats too much and makes the song feel repetitive. I love the crazy instrumental section, but I'm not sure if it fits in the context of this song. I like both sections, but I don't know if it really fits together well.

So, I'm left confused about my opinion on this album. If you asked me a month after it came out, I probably would have debated between giving it four and five stars. After sitting with it for 2 years, I'm now debating between two and three stars. I think the problem with this album is that Dream Theater is not being original enough and are showing their influences too much (Metallica, Muse, etc.). But, I do think In the Presence of Enemies is a fantastic Dream Theater song, and I do like Forsaken and Ministry of Lost Souls (and Repentence in the context of its bigger epic). So, I conclude that this is a good album, but not an essential Dream Theater album since there are many far superior (take the excellent Black Clouds and Silver Linings for example).

Report this review (#225682)
Posted Friday, July 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A curious and distinctive Dream Theater album!

"Systematic Chaos" is a different efforth by this band, although it's clearly related with the other band's works... They tried to sound different, adding new textures to their sound, and with renewed energy. Taking some of the best ideas of the failed "Train of Thought", and mixing them with the love for the melody of "Octavairum", they managed to make a very well balanced album, althouhg it's under the best Dream Theater moments.

The sound of the album is very homogene, being every track coherent with the rest of the work... Maybe the most surprising elements are the "growls" we can hear in some songs. They add a new strenght to the band's music, and although some people find them annoying speaking about Dream Theater, I think they are a good idea. In Constant Motion they work very well.

The pity is that because the coherence and the homogeneous compositions this album has, it loses a bit interest at its final part, where it starts to sound a bit repetitive, despite the great efforth of the band in the last two tracks, where they make an impressive performance... But it's not enough, because this last songs are under the quality of the beginning of the album in term of composition.

Instrumentally, the band shines as usual... Maybe Mike Portonoy is a bit under his possibilities here, I bit less spectacular than other Dream Theater's albums. James LaBrie's voice has lost strength over the years, and his interpretation is clearly under albums like "Awake" or "Scenes from a Memory". The rest of the band does a great job, neverhteless... Specially John Petrucci, who is, in my opinion, the best Dream Theater's musician, and the most brilliant in "Systematic Chaos". He is the protagonist here, like he was in "Traing of Thought" with his furious riffing and dizzy solos.

Bes songs: Forsaken (a very melodic track, with a great Petrucci's riffing...), Constant Motion (a heavy, Metallica influenced theme...) , The Dark Eternal Night (another riff oriented track, and a risky Dream Theater's attempt of trying new things... I love the chorus, and the crazy instrumental interlude) and Prophets of War (a remarkable song, although is very Muse influenced, and it remembers me to the flawed "Octavarium"... Best LaBried's singing of the album)

Conclusion: almost as heavy as "Train of Thought", but surparssing it in quality and variety, "Systematic Chaos" is a good Dream Theater album, with some excellent ideas, but also with some forgettable moments... Just like "Octavarium". Nevertheless, I think that "Systematic Chaos" is better than this previous release, thanks to two or three excellent tracks, and the coherence of the compositions in comparision with the disperse ideas of their eighth release. So if you want a good progressive metal album, then give "Systematic Chaos" a listening... Although there are a lot better progressive metal albums out there. And some of them, have ironically the Dream Theater's name on the cover.

My rating: ***1/2

Report this review (#227685)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Well, the album name is certainly apt when it comes to describing the band. Much of their work consists of well-structured songs that allow for a good amount of frantic and fluid instrumental interplay. When it comes to Systematic Chaos, Dream Theater's ninth album, both those aspects of the band seem less inspiring.

"In The Presence Of Enemies: Part 1" starts off with quite a bit of promise, but after a few minutes, I start to lose patience with where the Prelude is heading. Resurrection finally rolls around and breathes new life into the song. The first few minutes alone help make this one of the finer moments of the album.

"Forsaken" is an OK song. A bit more stripped down than most songs on the album, which is a good thing. However, there is nothing about it that I feel strongly about in either a positive or a negative way.

The next two tracks, "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night", basically sum up why two years after purchasing this album I rarely get the urge to listen to it. When the band joined Roadrunner, what I feared most appeared to be happening: they attempt to become more "metal". I am a big fan of the metal genre, and many of my favorite Dream Theater moments are when the band explores dark and heavier parts of their sound (much of Awake, for instance), but these songs miss the mark horribly. The main riffs during the verses of both songs seems like throwaway metal riffs, and the rhythmic vocal deliveries bring out a side of Labrie's vocals that I don't really care for. I'm not a fan of Portnoy's backing vocals on these songs at all, especially with that awful distorted vocal on "The Dark Eternal Night".

"Repentance", a song that I gave little attention when I first bought Systematic Chaos, is actually now what I would call the strongest track on the album. A rather beautiful, somber song with some touching lead guitar playing by John Petrucci. The track ends with some spoken word confessions by an assortment of musicians (many of whom feature on Prog Archives) to contribute to the AA theme of the Portnoy-penned lyrics.

"Prophets of War" reminds me of some techno/metal hybrid bands (sort of like Rammstein) from a musical standpoint. The lyrics are fairly standard for a more political song. Like "Forsaken", it is more of a bare bones song. When I first read the song title, I expected the song to be one of the heavier songs on the album. Overall, I can't say I'm a fan of this track.

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" has some of the best vocals on the album, but much like the previous track, it seems kind of sappy. The instrumental section seems to do little but stretch out the length of the song. The fault is not on the musician's execution, it's just that I literally just listened to that portion of the song five minutes from when I'm typing this sentence and can't think of any part that I can clearly remember.

The album closes with the second half of "In The Presence of Enemies". Naturally, it share a lot thematically with Part 1, but it lacks the power of the first part. I've yet to listen to both parts back-to-back, but I already get the impression that I wouldn't be getting another "A Change Of Seasons".

I'll be honest, while I'm giving Systematic Chaos a 2-star rating, the album barely made that grade for me. I've been following this band for seven years, and am familiar with all of their studio work. They are capable of so much more than this. If I didn't own the special edition of this album, I do not know whether or not I would still have it in my collection.

Report this review (#229638)
Posted Sunday, August 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
TheGazzardian
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I picked up this CD at a local record store because it was on at 2/25. Certainly, I would not have started my journey through Dream Theaters discography here for any other reason. There are so many great bands to explore, that I have been made aware of through Prog Archives, that I typically am able to start at a high point and see what there is about a band to love, before digging into the lesser loved content. For Dream Theater, this would have been doubly wise for me, for the concept of 'Progressive Metal' did not seem particularly appealing to me.

My experience with metal is pretty limited, with the odd album by Nightwish, Rhapsody/Luca Turilli, Black Sabbath/Ozzy, and Devin Townsend entering my collection over the years, all of which I enjoyed to some extent. I had heard song by other metal bands, but while there were plenty of catchy and fun songs, there wasn't a lot to distinguish them.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself thinking the same of this album! The opening track seemed to be full of unimaginative guitar and bland keyboards, and the chorus of the second track, Forsaken, just grated on my nerves. I listened to the album close to a dozen times to get a feel for it, and yet very little made much of an impact on me until Repentance, which seemed like a good idea that somehow just didn't work with me. Following that is Prophets of War, which is actually a very catchy song and great to listen to, although nothing earth shattering. I seem to recall enjoying Ministry of Lost Souls, but nothing about it comes to mind, so it was enjoyable but not memorable. The album ends with a continuation of the opening track, which I remember about as well as the opening track.

In the end, I can't see why anyone would pick this album over the myriad of excellent albums out there, including (reputedly) many more by this band, unless they were already a fan of this band (or it was on sale). If I didn't know that Dream Theater is said to have released many other excellent albums prior to this one, I probably would end my journey through their discography here. Yet if you were already a fan of this music, it sounds like very able, if not very inspired, prog/metal music, so fans of the band will probably enjoy this album to some extent, thus ranking it a two star album.

Report this review (#238492)
Posted Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos

Where has all the magic gone? It was probably lost after the Train of Thought album. This is Dream Theaters worst album to date. They tried to be dark and that failed them. There once was a time when Dream Theater was metal but, they did not act metal, Like with SFAM. Now they in a way have sold out to todays metal scene. They are still Progressive, they didn't become a pop band like Genesis did but, they sold out to the idea of being metal and dark. "Forsaken" is somewhat like Dream theaters attempt to be a goth band. The song kinda fails with cheesy lyrics. "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night" are both Metallica influenced songs (not that, thats bad or anything) its just the lyrics are terrible. The Dark Eternal Night has Mike Portnoy trying to sound like a death metal vocalist, Which is bad. "Repentance" is a ballad that is part of the 12 step suit. Its seems like an Opeth ballad to me. "Prophets of War" is kinda a fun track to listen to but, its very political and got out dated before the album was released. "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" Is a song i like a lot. Its probably my favorite song on the album. "In The Presence Of Enemies" is a 25 minute epic. Its good but no where near as good as "Change of Seasons" or "Octavarium". Over all the band are better instrumentalists then ever, its just there creative spark left them while writing this album.

Report this review (#250093)
Posted Thursday, November 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
jampa17
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Well, It took me a lot of time to have the right things to say about this album... but after all the controversies it cause on it's realase date and that year I think the opinions are less intense and more accurate, hope mine is as well...

Checking most of the reviews, it's very evident that most of the "new" fans -those converted since Train of Thought- are very pleased with the album and most of the "old" fans hated it. Well, I think is not as good as those say and not that bad as the other...

The Goods: It's a very ecclectic album which points at a more wide range of styles so you can hear some "Evanescence kind of" song, a more Queen kind of song, more "Metallica under esteriods" rffing and even death metal growling which helps to be more wide and explore more. For me it's OK because DT and progressive rock is about change and evolve and DT has proved once again that they can leave behind their "Rush mets Queensryche" old sound and experiment with good results in a more post-prog and heavy prog elements.

They have not lost their quality as musicians, you will find great soloing, long songs with great instrumental passages, and excelent work by Petrucci, which is the most prominent musician on DT, who never dissapoints in non of their albums... Labrie made a great job on this one, I know there are a lot of haters of his style, but he shows that he's becoming better with age, more controled and focus but with the same strength and capabilities. The production is quite OK and the overall sound is at the top. Both parts of In the Presence of Enemies, The Dark Eternal Night and Prophets of War are the highlights but there are different stuff for most people.

The Bads: The Keyboard sounds sometimes sound too much forced to fit with the music. Not always, but sometimes it's evident that Rudess lacks from creativity and solved whatever part making a fast solo with a very sofisticated synth rather than developed an original piece of work like Kevin Moore did -sorry the comparisson, but I have to make it- and many times prefer to double the guitar riff than making a original key part...

Another bad thing, and I think the most evident is the bad lyrics we have here. I always consider DT as a band who thought well the themes and never miss the point talking about fantastic stupid things... but when you hear something about beasts unleashed, vampires, and devils and angels battles -even if they were talking metaphoricly- it's kind of sad. Those songs have a few interesting lines but at the end, I could not care less about this fantastic creatures and feel a lot uninterested on the themes. I think that the lyrics are complement of the music and feel sad to not enjoy the music because the lyrics were so useful... but there are still some good lyrics like Repentance which is mellow and touching, PoW which is interesting theme and Constant Motion, which is an aproximation to Portnoy state of mind... so, less points by these...

And the other bad thing is Portnoy singing, each time we get more and more lead vocals from Portnoy and I'm starting to hate it really... Labrie is a capable singer and he's great so leave him sing the parts... Portnoy and Petrucci have an excelent texture of voices to make chorus, just like in Metropolis Pt_2 so, please, stop doing lead vocals...!!!

At the end, I think that maybe is their most weak album from this century, but is above any other prog metal band out there. If you come with an open mind and ready to hear a lot of soloing and most of the widest metal music you can possibly hear, you will be satisfy. Don't put too much atention to the lyrics and enjoy... but if you don't know Dream Theater yet, please go and start with Metropolis Pt-2 or Awake... 4 stars because I consider it an Excellent addition... not their best -by far- but it's great still...

Report this review (#252661)
Posted Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars Trite and Cheesy Garbage but also Pretty Good.

Now ask yourself, how is that possible?

At this point in the game, Dream Theater have become experts in creating unbalanced albums, which range from beautiful and inspired(Count of Tuscany) to cheesy and immature(Portnoy Singing in General).

Systematic Chaos has moments of brilliance as well as moments of utter embarrassment(Dark Master?)

Track 1 (In the Presence of Enemies Part 1) -This track is a strong opening. Well paced, intricate and balanced well.

Track 2 ( Forsaken) - Really good hook and fairly addictive chorus. This song I have grown to like very much.

Track 3 (Constant Motion) - Designed to be a single. Fails in many ways. This track isn't horrible, but leaves a lot to be desired.

Track 4 (Dark Eternal Night) - Pretty good. Again cheesy lyrics, but a good song non the less.

Track 5 (Repentence) - The first Dream Theater track I ever skipped, and that says a lot. This crap is self-serving garbage and the first song of the "Alcoholic Suite" which truly sucks. Its long winded, boring and uninteresting. I skip right past it every time.

Track 6 (Prophets of War) - Absolutely boring, and generic. And the worst part is this is now the LIVE song at live concerts. Yeah let's get the crowd involved with the the Follow the Bouncing ball chanting. I was yawning through this song both live and on the CD.

Track 7 (The Ministry of Lost Souls) -Dumb title, dumb lyrics, but still a song I enjoy and have grown to like over time.

Track 8 (In the Prescence of Enimies part 2) - Hey look, Dream Theater is trying to be like Yes again. Really part 2? The two parts don't even connect well when listened to back to back. Dark Master? (What a Joke, and probably the cheesiest lyric they've ever written). Parts of this song are interesting, but it drags way too much. Dark Master? Really? So this beast of an album clocks in at almost 80 minutes. That would be fine if there wasn't so much filler. Repentance and Prophets of War are un-listenable, and most of the first part of In the presence of enemies Part 2 is just plain boring. The lyrics of this album are unforgivable. They are what a 5 year old would write, Dark Master, My Soul is your's. Pathetic. Its cheesy and they know it. So these are pretty much the most ridiculous lyrics you could put in an album, and that's where the 1 star comes from. Also, me having to skip two full tracks earns them that 1 star as well.

- In the end, Dream Theater have made an album, which I don't know what to do with. With every album up to and including Ocatavarium, I could just put it on and let it go. Yeah Ocatavarium was underwhelming, but at least I could make it from the beginning all the way to the end. Now I'm reaching into my pocket fumbling to skip tracks, and that's infuriating. Both Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds and Silver Linings, I have to skip over tracks. I seriously hope this trend of imbalance ends soon.

Report this review (#255142)
Posted Wednesday, December 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars There is one perfect word to define this magnum opus built by Dream Theater: EPIC. From the first note to the grand finale this is an album that contains everything you could expect it from the kings of progressive metal. The title track on Octavarium was magnificent but the album had some more experimental songs that didn't work. Ironically in Systematic Chaos Dream Theater put their things in order. In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 1 & 2 are a monumental song where all the band (specially Petrucci in his more well written, executed and melodic solos from Scenes from a Memory) take the audience to another level in a constant orgasmic "in crescendo" with a fantasy & fantastic lyrics. Forsaken begins with a beautiful piano and follows with one of the most brilliants riffs that I've listened in this century. It's a kind of a ballad, but with strange and gothic touch with such a tremendous guitar. Constant Motion is classic Metallica heavy-trash metal perfect for open live shows, better than As I Am with Portnoy singing more and better (in his own way) everyday. The Dark and Eternal Night it's similar to The Dance of Eternity, but longer and heavier. The main riff it's a kind of a crazy brain dance and collides against a catchy and epic chorus who reminds me Land of Confusion (Genesis). Repentance it's the IV part of the saga that begun with The Glass Prison (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence), This Dying Soul (Train of Thought) and The Root of All Evil (Octavarium). It's a song inspired by the more mellow songs from bands like Opeth and Porcupine Tree and the magnificent Petrucci solo seems a homage to David Gilmour. The final is interesting too 'cause it's a long speech made by Jon Anderson, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Steven Wilson and many others. Prophets of War is a new proof for the Portnoy and Petrucci passion for Muse. The best part are the shouts recorded by the fans (very cool). Finally The Ministry of Lost Souls are the more classic Dream Theater song with and excellent Jordan work with the piano. After Scenes from a Memory and Images and Words this is their best work.
Report this review (#259197)
Posted Monday, January 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars A loathed album by many

Many people cannot stand this release. However, I found this album to be a very fun and constantly entertaining ride. I don't really see why people dislike this album so much.

A description of the music: This is a very diverse album with many styles. It is bookended by parts one and two of the 25:38 epic "In The Presence Of Enemies." The album kicks off with a fast paced keyboard section followed by many time signature and musical style changes from the first part of "In The Presence Of Enemies." LaBrie also comes in sounding great. "Forsaken" is a track that seems to be pop mixed with metal. "Constant Motion" shows thrash influences and has a great solo. "The Dark Eternal Night" draws influence from metal band Pantera and contains the infamous Portnoy growls. "Repentance" is the ballad of the AA suite and contains Floydian influence and a great solo along with a voice section with many famous musicians including Jon Anderson, Steven Wilson, Daniel Gildenlow, and more. "Prophets Of War" is another poppish track which has a nice chorus and is an enjoyable listen. "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" is an amazing 15 minute ballad with amazing vocals and a heavy instrumental section that comes in at such a perfect time. If you like Sacrificed Sons from the Octavarium album, this is sort of a much improved version of it. Part two of "In The Presence Of Enemies" is very different from the first and is very dark and contains many musical changes. It is an amazing track.

PROS:

Petrucci: With the exception of "The Dark Eternal Night," Petrucci shows some more maturity in his solos in this album. Instead of doing mindless shredding throughout an entire solo, his solos contain more emotion. In "Constant Motion," he takes the time to build up before he starts shredding like a maniac. In the ending solo of the first part of "In The Presence Of Enemies," he does shred throughout the whole solo but does it effectively as it works as a very effective outro to the track.

LaBrie: In this album, LaBrie has found his sound. He sounds very different here than ever before, but sings with a ton of power. His melodic vocals on "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" are breathtaking.

Chemistry: In this album, unlike most of the band's previous releases, the entire band works together as a whole instead of seeming sometimes like just seperate musicians doing their own things. It is a relief to hear that they work together this amazing here.

Diversity: As explained above, this album is very diverse. Heavier DT fans will like "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night." Softer ones will enjoy "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" and "Repentance." Fans of the Octavarium album will probably enjoy "Forsaken" and "Prophets Of War." The epic "In The Presence Of Enemies" contains a blend of styles that should appeal to a very large majority of fans.

CONS:

Lyrics: Here is the reason some loathe this album. The lyrics can be embarassingly cheesy at moments. Especially in "In The Presence Of Enemies" and "The Dark Eternal Night." But I like to see it as them having fun with this album.

Song ratings: In The Presence Of Enemies Part 1: 10/10 Forsaken: 7/10 Constant Motion: 10/10 The Dark Eternal Night: 5/10 Repentance: 10/10 Prophets Of War: 8/10 The Ministry Of Lost Souls: 10.5/10 In The Presence Of Enemies: 10.5/10

Recommended for: People whom don't depend too much on lyrics. People looking for an album that provides multiple ways of entertainment. People who like all sides of Dream Theater.

My rating: 5 stars. If lyrics aren't a gigantic part of your enjoyability of music, than this will probably be a masterpiece for you. If lyrics are huge for you, you may want to think about this one for a bit. However, if you look past some of the cheese, this album is just mindblowing.

Report this review (#261282)
Posted Sunday, January 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Systematic Heaviness

Dream Theater's 2007 release, Systematic Chaos, offers a mix between Octavarium's orchestral arrangements and uninspired tendency and Train of Thought's technical and heavy style. The result is decent up to a certain degree; few songs from here are noteworthy for the Prog Metal fan, while the others are either throwaways or plain heavy.

I'll begin with the throwaways, the first one being the straight-forward metal tune called Forsaken, it recalls today's modern metal acts such as Evanescence: a boring metal riff, useless piano and an annoying chorus. Then there's Prophets of War which recalls Muse just like Never Enough from Octavarium did, with a very poor composition and musicianship.

As for the more ''brutal'' tracks, Constant Motion recalls Train of Thought with the Metallica-esque vocals and heavy riffs, however just like some tracks from Train of Thought, this song also has some technical show-off which gives the song a bit of diversity, however unlike some of Train of Thought's heavy tunes, Constant Motion isn't a pleasant metal affair. Then there's The Dark Eternal Night which is one of Dream Theater's heaviest songs, with a blasting technical metal riff allthrough which is very hard to digest, while in the middle of the song it seems that Dream Theater wanted to show their technical ability once again like they did with The Dance of Eternity, plain boring complexity.

When it comes to the noteworthy songs from Systematic Chaos, the 25 minute Prog Metal piece entitled In the Presence of Enemies satisfies your Prog Metal needs perfectly, something that Octavarium didn't manage to do. While not as grandiose and as well-thought as A Change of Seasons, this big piece right here shows that Dream Theater are still able to compose quality and original Prog Metal material with the necessary twists and turns to make this sound like 'Dream Theater'.

Repentance is another great tune, belonging to the AA Suite, this one is the quietest and probably the best one from the suite. While it does resemble a bit of the moody style of Porcupine Tree, this is still a very good tranquil song, something that Dream Theater isn't known of doing well.

The song I haven't mentioned yet is The Ministry of Lost Souls and that's because it's not really a throwaway track nor a very heavy tune, but I still don't get much out of it. The first half resembles the symphonic and up- lifting style of the epic, Octavarium, rather uninteresting, while the second half reminds me of the aimless complexity that some songs from Metropolis Part 2 presented.

Overall, the album is similar to Octavarium in consistency, with only one song really being exceptional Prog Metal, while in style you can compare it more with Train of Thought's dark themes and heaviness. A slight improvement over Octavarium in Prog Metal terms, but Dream Theater still is far from being the highly original and thoughtful Prog Metal band they used to be. Once again, Rudess-era fans should get this, though Moore/Sherinian-era fans could pass this easily if it weren't for the killer 25 minute, In the Presence of Enemies which I highly recommend to any Prog Metal fan.

2 stars.

Report this review (#273215)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Just given this a spin this weekend, time to review I thought as I took off the headphones. Hm , In the Presence of enemies - a two parter, each part the book=end tracks of this mightily impressive CD! Soup PERB, what can you say about the EPIC, it takes you by the spheroids right from the start and part one just wets the appetite, oart two showcases one of the best chorus riffs EVER and at 25:38 (parts 1 and 2 combined) it's a proper prog epic. Maximum musicianship, time changes it just has the LOT. What about the sandwiched tracks ?? Constant Motion is also top-notch and has one of the best Petrucci solos...another top effort.. Forsaken, the dark eternal night, prophets of war - are all solid efforts and in no way stop this CD being a 5 star jobby. The ministry of lost souls is also brilliant and almost 15 minutes long!! The last track Repentance is the weakest in my opinion, but it's not filler either. All in all a VERY good CD and a MUST for any prog metal addict - just buy it for the satanic opus. FIVE STARS
Report this review (#273546)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars After being somewhat disappointed in Octavarium I still had hopes that Dream Theater would bounce back and produce more quality material, if not masterpieces like Images and Words then at least the enjoyable-but-flawed kind of albums like Train of Thought. I wasn't counting days to the release of the album but happened to walk into a record store the morning this was released, so I got it and put it into my cd player right away. Oh those days before the Ipod took the last bit of uncomfort out of my on-the-road music listening. My first thought when putting the album on was "haven't I heard this riff on an In Flames album?"

After that thought went by I remember I listened to the album with at least some pleasure, but repeated listens over the years have shown me that while most of these songs have solid, enjoyable parts here and there, the songs as a whole fall flat at some point, the highlight parts being too few and far between. Constant Motion is the one exception with its good riffs and a brilliant hyperactive instrumental section. Forsaken comes pretty close, I particularly enjoy the way James LaBrie delivers some of the lines. The ultra heavy metal caricature of The Dark Eternal Night and the Muse-like Prophets of War are my least favourite tracks of the album, no good parts to remember on those. No member here gives a particularly good performance, some fine moments here and there like the LaBrie ones on Forsaken, but more often I find myself annoyed by some overused Mike Portnoy trademark fills or Jordan Rudess noodlings.

Lyrics haven't always been their forte, really, but on this album they hit a new bottom particularly with the fantasy fluff of In the Presence of the Enemies. This impression isn't helped one bit by the fact that I've succesfully misheard the word "Heretic" in the part 2 as "hairy dick" every single time.

Despite my absolute disappointment in this one I still occasionally give it a spin to see if that something would click with me. I'm about to give up as nothing seems to happen. One star for the sole great song Constant Motion and a half one for the fine tidbits in the other songs. Luckily they'd step up on the next one.

Report this review (#284036)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hmm, i had mixed reactions when i first heard this album not bad but still not a masterpiece. This is the bands first release for RoadRunner records, and to be honest i cudda guessed that they were gonna try and make them more appealing to a more metal auidence, its quite a heavy album with more focus on the guitars than before and it also seems like they spent a good bit less time on the songwriting as well. Now dont get me wrong there are some great songs on this album (the opening and closing tracks and THE MINISTRY OF LOST SOULS easily being the 3 best songs on the album) the rest are good, but only in small portions, they can get quite annoying at times, in my honest opinion the weakest album the band have released, still far from terrible though as those 3 songs make up for a lot of it, the song REPENTANCE isnt to bad as well, a mellow track about Portnoys addictions with a cool end section where DT got all their friends from different bands to play a spoken word role in the track;

In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 - 10/10 Forsaken - 7/10 Constant Motion - 7/10 The Dark Eternal Night - 7/10 Repentance - 8/10 Prophets of War - 7/10 The Ministry of Lost Souls - 9/10 In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 - 10/10

My Conclusion? has our metal gods really ran out of ideas? not really there are still some great ideas on this release, the songwriting isnt that strong though, still worth the buy.

Report this review (#284262)
Posted Sunday, May 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I still think Dream Theater is far from a spent force, and this album has sections that reinforce it. However, DT also are sticking to their roots in at least one regard--the cheese factor, which is in full force in the Enemies suite.

The Enemies suite is fairly solid music, and even great in some sections, such as Petrucci's solo mid-way through part one. However, it's too hit-and-miss, and along with the cheesy and anything-but-subtle lyrics and concept, it's just too difficult for me to take seriously on most occasions.

Fortunately, this album has two definite highlights: Repentance and the Ministry of Lost Souls. The band gets is right with Ministry, building things up through a nice verse-chorus set up and a beautiful guitar solo before hitting the heavy prog stuff. I just like the heavy prog creativity when there's better stuff sandwiching it, although some may prefer the band just picks one or the other per song. Ministry also has a quite nice ending, with Petrucci-led outtro that has a very nice up-tempo feel.

I haven't gotten into much of the AA suite, but Repentance is one of those songs that just really resonates with me in a powerful way, so I thought I'd share. It's very moody--probably Opeth Damnation style--features haunting lyrics and delivery from LaBrie, followed by an achingly beautiful guitar solo from Petrucci. The second half features band members and others offering their regrets, and that's when things really start to hit me. We all have times in our lives where we look back and regret our selfish behavior, wondering how so many small things could leave such a large hole within us. It's very powerful, almost cathartic. As the harmony swells, and Myung adds more fuzz to the bass, this feeling of remorse continues to grow, until the final line delivers the message of song, which is that we need to feel regret, but cannot be consumed by it: "the past is the past...the best we can do is live with it".

Subtle, poignant, and powerful--words that I don't often use to describe DT's music. They may have channeled something deeper and universal here, or it may just be a personal bias on my part, but for a guy who doesn't get moved by much, Repentance does it every time.

Report this review (#285847)
Posted Thursday, June 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars another masterpiece by Dream Theater. its Dream Theater of course. there's at least something that any Dream Theater fan would love. its Dream Theater. a band that's awesome on guitars, drums, vocals, bass, and definitely the keyboards/the continuums. i've been a fan of Dream Theater since June 2009. i heard the Systematic Chaos album around June 2009. it was before the release of Black Clouds & Silver Linings. i heard the Systematic Chaos album and i got into all of the 8 tracks. i've been a Dream Theater fan for so long. i have 3 studio albums by Dream Theater and they are Octavarium, Systematic Chaos, and Black Clouds & Silver Linings. what i have t00 say is i would buy a Dream Theater album no matter wat the critics say.
Report this review (#289012)
Posted Saturday, July 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Systematic Chaos is a album that has been judged, in my opinion, very unfairly. Seen as a sign of Dream Theater on their way out by many, Systematic Chaos, is, to be fair, quite a disjointed and often meandering album. And while it is often very self-indulgent, I believe some of the songs are Dream Theaters best, whereas others are very medicore.

The album starts with a bang; In the Presence of Enemies - Part I, a brilliant track with driving, widing guitar passages; licks accompinied by Portnoy's unique and progressive drumming. As usual with Dream Theater, the bass never really gets any time - it is always in the background, one of my few complaints about an entire band.

Anyways, the songs starts with an amazing instrumental section, then segues via an acoustic piano accompined guitar solo into the song proper, a catchy and epic masterpiece. In the Presence of Enemies - Part I is one of my favourite Dream Theater pieces and definitely one of my favourites on this album - the soaring guitar, the interesting lyrics and of course Ruddess's fantastic keyboard skills are all abound in this piece. A great start. Unfortunatly, it goes downhill from here...

Forsaken is a strange anomaly in Dream Theaters catalog. Firsly, it's only five and a half minutes long. It's also quite cheesy musically and lyrically. It starts with a 7/8 piano riff, but quickly moves into 4/4 and just goes into basic riffs for the rest of the song. The melody is quite good, and the guitar work between lyrical phrases is often nice, but overall, this song is uninteresting.

This is a big problem with this album. It's a problem which continues in the next track. Constant motion suffers from the same simplicity and uninterestingness as Forsaken.

The Dark Eternal Night. This track has attracted a lot of hate from fans for obvious reasons. Yet... I do enjoy this track. Sure, the "MEHTUL" verses are quite silly, and the lyrics are just plain stupid, but the guitar work and drumming in my opinion save this track. The guitar is a weaving appregiated pattern, very extreme, and it only gets better at the Instrumental/Solo. An acoustic guitar shreds a interesting pattern as telltale Time Signature changes signal the beggining of an amazing solo. Petrucci just lets it loose here. Did I mention the wonderful piano interjections from Ruddess? Well, they're wonderful. It ends with a long fade out over a great synth solo... good ending.

Repentance is the second to last part in the twelve-step-suite, dealing with Portnoy's battle with alcoholism are something. Anyways, this track and The Ministry of Lost Souls both suffer from similar problems; they both seem like similar endeavours. They both have meandiring acoustic sections, but Repentance is saved by it's great vocal melody and The Ministry of Lost Souls by it's instrumental. Repentance seems to drag on, due to a spoken word section in which musicians and other colleagues/friends of Portnoy spout seemingly random phrases over a riff.

Prophets of War is a slightly interesting track, if boring. The vocal melody is extremely nice, but it gets quite oldquite fast and the song only really has 3 or 4 different sections; I see it as a weak track.

On to the centerpiece of the album; In The Presence of Enemies - Part II. A best at 16:39, it is simply a great song. With an amazingly overbearing vocal role, with absolutely astounding lyrics and great sections, the song is just great mooment after great moment. From the starting acoustic piano and bass section through the many verses, choruses (chori?) and instrumental passages through to the building, melodramatic ending to the album, the song is onsistently great.

The production quality with Systematic Chaos is very good, with all the tracks sounding extremely clear and sharp; it is not an issue with this album at all.

In conclusion, although a lot of the pieces are weak, the album is, in this reviewer's humble opinion, worth a purchase, if only on the merit of the epic In The Presence of Enemies .

3.5 Stars.

Report this review (#289090)
Posted Sunday, July 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I personally do not agree with the ratings of systematic: it appears to be not as good as the Black Clouds and Silver Linings. This is not a masterpiece of DT's discography, but I think it's a good spot. The songs: 1) In the presence of enemies pt1: very good work. The prog vein is still there. This song is very well-constructed, its structure is very linear and clear.. and it's good to me. Petrucci's work on guitars is high-leveled and the solos are very cute. Unisons with keyboards are simply amazing. That's not the best long-track in DT history but still it is a very good prog song. 2)Forsaken this is the most commercial song on the album, but in my opinion,an album without some hooks cannot be a good album. Good arrangements here. Less proggy than the previous track but there's still something interesting in. 3) Constant Motion: Prog comes back here. Very good to play along to, but not the kind of song which will remain in your cd player too long 4) Dark eternal night: this is very difficult to review. The first part is never really gone into my head. I dont like that kind of singing from LaBrie, cause it's ok to experiment but you have to go where you CAN go. The instrumental part starts KILLING! That's 100% prog and it's definitely SICK! it loses itself somewhere along the way, but there are some good ideas. 5)Repentance: fill-in song. Too long to keep interest in. Seems like it's been put there to fill the minutes left blank. Dont like it. 6)Prophets of war: Very Muse-influenced song but still a good work. That's the less prog spot on the album, but not as bad to listen as the previous one. There's some good crescendos in. 7) The ministry of lost souls: This song thrills me I have to admit that. Very good gtr arpeggios and a nice leading voice melody. The instrumental is kinda proggy. Good work as usual. 8) In the presence of enemies pt2: very good follower to the 1st part. the arrangements are even better than the first part. The instrumental sections are very articulated and good sounding. 100% prog! the coming backs of the initial themes work very well.

This album is very well producted and arranged. Like the most of DTs albums. They quite never go under a certain (good) level because of their experience. LaBrie has improved his singing issues, Rudess confirms his position of very brilliant improviser and arranger of the kbds parts. He also uses very good sounds. Petrucci has become cleaner and cleaner and keeps writing excellent gtr parts. Portnoy is a brilliant producer and awesome drummer. This album is not a follower of Images and words, but it's quite at the same level of Six Degrees, sure.

Report this review (#304926)
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I should start this review by stating that I started my serious musical journey by listening to what we called heavy rock/metal prior to commencing my prog journey. Bands such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Rainbow, amongst others, were my staple diet from quite an early age until I was introduced to the joys of symphonic prog. Hell, my first gig was Motorhead in 1978.

So, I think that I have quite a good pedigree in listening to, and enjoying, metal. It's just that, for many years now, I have listened to far more prog and folk.

However, given the fuss that was made regarding this band's breakup, I decided to give this a spin, a CD I brought when it came out on a whim, as much as anything else.

I played it quite a few times, enjoyed it a bit, and then put it away. So, what do I think upon revisiting?

Well, the first thing to say is that this is a technically very accomplished album. The playing throughout is excellent. LaBrie makes for an excellent heavy vocalist, and the rhythm section is awesome, with, of course, Portnoy at its heart.

But, do you know what my problem is with this? Simply that this could have come from any number of technically accomplished metal bands in the 1980's such as Maiden, Priest, Saxon, and the rest. I just see very few hints of what I regard as progressive rock in here. Maybe that's very unfair, but there it is. It is a metal album, albeit a very enjoyable one with some very well played difficult time signatures. However, a concept does not a prog album make.

My favourite track on this is Repentence, simply because it is the most melodic, and, dare I say it, thoughtful track on the entire work. However, again, all great metal bands of days gone past have included ballads or slower tracks in amongst the chaos. Again, this track does not a prog album make. A fantastic piece of music, though.

My comments will probably be seen as a little bit controversial by some, but they are not meant to be. This is a very solid album, and it will probably stay at the top of my pile for a while, and I might even start getting a few other works by a band who court more controversy than most on this site.

Even taking my reflections into account, the fact is that Dream Theater are an important band on this site, and my rating should reflect that fact.

I award this three stars, and I must state to newcomers to the site that this is meant to reflect the fact it is a GOOD album, and very much worthy of purchase. To me, however, it is not an essential part of any prog rock collection.

Report this review (#308911)
Posted Monday, November 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Systematic Chaos " is an album that is far from bad.On the contrary, it is great.And well as most of the work of Dream Theater deserves 5 ​​stars.

They did not even dissapoint.Even the "death metal" vocals existing in "The Dark Eternal Night" estressam.Do me start to finish, this album just gives me reasons why I value it at 5 stars.And only point here is low "Forsaken", which tends to be annoying, but tracks like the epic "In the Presence of enemies", the aforementioned "The Dark Eternal Night" or "Repentance"(which is quite different from their sisters of other music albums speak about the plight of alcoholics anonymous Portnoy) are great and deserve to be heard.

5 stars: In the presence of enemies (pts.1 and 2), Constant Motion, The dark eternal night, Repentance, Prophets of war, The ministry of lost souls

3 star: Forsaken

Average: 4.75

5 stars

Report this review (#319888)
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin
4 stars Forsaken

After the mixed release of Octavarium in 2007, Dream Theater returned with yet another mixed review release, this one to a lesser degree of positiveness. The album is the product of the band's signing with Roadrunner Records, and as many have seen with Opeth, Porcupine Tree, and even Nightwish, the label tries to popularize every band they sign, understandably. However, this album has a lesser degree of melodic structure and a much (much) heavier, darker, more "pop metal" feeling while still retaining the band's signature progressiveness. The massive 26 minute giant In the Presence of Enemies is musically fantastic while part ii has some of the cheesier lyrics on the album. Lyrically is really where this album falls. Whilst trying to be an intense metal band, they fell back on your standard doomy "metuhl" type lyrics, and they fail miserably in the process (cue Dark Eternal Night). Overall, the album is a pretty big pitfall that Dream Theater fell into, but it still retains some really great moments musically, and retains an average 3.5 star rating. 4- stars.

Report this review (#357592)
Posted Sunday, December 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars After a very smooth and calm record called "Octavarium" Dream Theater tried out something new again on this new record. They were looking for a more technical approach, sounded very modern and also diversified on this album and concetrated more on a heavier approach than the stuff they had just done before.

The epic "In The Presence Of Enemies" that is separated in two parts for no obvious reason at all shows us a typical, very technical but not very outstanding or fresh epic track that has its moments, especially concerning the introduction and the solo parts of the second part. But many times, the same vocal lines and main riffs come back and are only interrupted by smooth ballad passages and a few strange sound effects so that this song becomes very difficult and sometimes boring to listen to within more than twenty-five minutes. This song is finally one of the less convincing epic Dream Theater tracks.

Now, what can we find between the two parts of this overlong average epic song? We can find teh usual ballad and commercial track with "Forsaken" that has a little gothic touch and a catchy chorus but nothing outstanding and ha sto go down as a quite weak track. "Constant Motion" sounds like a more technical rip off of a Metallica song. Dream Theater goes Thrash Metal but not in an original way like on some parts of "Train Of Thought". This song feels misplaced and even though it is a catchy and energizing track this just doesn't fit to the band's style and Metallica have also done some better songs like these back in the late eighties. So this is another song below average.

"The Dark Eternal Night" is a very modern and technical song with weird vocal sound effects, a rather epic chorus and some very simple lyrics and harsh riffs. This song shows us a completely new side of Dream Theater's universe and doesn't copy any band or any style and that's why this song is at least outstanding. Personally, I like the style of this song even if it is a very particular one. It is definitively the highlight of this record for me even though traditional fans might have some problems with this experience.

But then comes "Repentance" where Dream Theater would like to sound like Opeth. This song is just too long, too boring and without the glimpse of a doubt the weakest part of the famous twelve-step suite. The idea of mumbling voices of different well known artists in the ending of the song to create a strange sound collage is original but executed in a rather bad way as this passage gets very long and annoying. After a Metallica and an Opeth rip off comes now a Muse rip off. Some parts of the previous album "Octavarium" had already been influenced by this band but this track seems to be entirely copied from the promising English prog rock band that also gained commercial success. But Dream Theater are not Muse and even though they almost sound like the original and create an appreciable song without a doubt the song has the mood of an unoriginal copy and doesn't have exactly the same kind of magic Muse are used to put in their songs and that's why "Prophets Of War" ultimately fails. "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" is finally a rather traditional Dream Theater song and has surely some musically interesting parts but it is way too long with a length of almost fifteen minutes and seems somehow endless to me.

To conclude, this album is Dream Theater's most unoriginal one. It is somewhat a homage to their different influences. It is a very modern record where the band shows its technical skills but forgets to create something unique they were always used to create on all their records. And that's why this album is probably the band's weakest one. This record has the mood of a compilation album without an own soul and that's why it ultimately fails. This is a chaos without any rationally appreciable system.

Originally published on www.metal-archives.com on January 23rd of the year 2011.

Report this review (#379071)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Nice bread, shame about the filling...

Having not learnt their lesson from Train of Thought, Dream Theater had another crack at sum brvtal hevy mettulz.

The Good: In the Presence of Enemies is an outstanding composition and the decision to split it up and bookend the album was a good one (it's the only reason I listen to the rest of the tracks!)

The Bad: I quite liked Constant Motion but have since discovered that it doesn't hold much replay value. The album's other single, Forsaken, is just cringeworthy and sounds like an Evanescence B-side. For one of my friends this was the first Dream Theater song he had heard and based on that I definitely don't blame him for not wanting to explore the band any further. Which brings us to The Dark Eternal Night. What even is this?! Sure is has a killer riff and an awesome instrumental breakdown, but the vocals? It sounds like Mike Portnoy is stuck in an air-con ventilation shaft.

Next on the cutting table is Repentance. I actually like this track as it's a little bit different and brings a welcome break from the (attempted) armageddon surrounding it. It's also my second favourite in the Twelve-step Suite, but the spoken section is a far too drawn out and can get boring after repeated listens. Prophets of War is just awful and marked the final nail in the coffin (for now) of the sociopolitical series of songs from preceding releases. The only good thing to come from it was the James LaBrie Arabic remix (ref. YouTube). Which finally brings us on to The Ministry of Lost Souls. Its a great name for a song, and I really like the mid-section, however there is too much nonsense either side to make its worth listening to.

The Verdict: Their worst studio release to date.

Report this review (#438904)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars It pains me to write a somewhat negative review of an album that belongs to my favorite band, but it's something that I have to do. No, Systematic Chaos is not necessarily "bad", but it's definitely not "good", either. I'd put it somewhere in between, and I'm about to explain why!

Basically, "Systematic Chaos" is an album with a few high points and a few low points. Generally speaking, Dream Theater albums feature a few high points and a few REALLY high points. That's not the case here... I've never before considered anything that Dream Theater has done to be pure album filler, but this album breaks that trend for me. It saddens me because there are several standout tracks on this album, but it honestly would have been a much better 45 or 50 minute album than it is as an 80 minute album.

Before I look at each song and discuss the merits and lack thereof, I would like to caution people against some of the sillier comments about this album. When I read people say that Dream Theater is dead, that they've lost it, that this album is generic, etc. I see that as a gross exaggeration. What we have here is a band who is pretty much THE standard when it comes to great progressive metal. Because they've raised the bar so high in the past, anything short of perfection is viewed as a disaster by many overreacting listeners. If another band had released this album, I doubt you'd see anywhere near the number of comments like I mentioned above. No, this isn't a great album, but it's certainly worth listening to.

1. In The Presence of Enemies Pt.1 - 3/5 Do you have "A Dramatic Turn of Events" on standby? Go to "Breaking All Illusions" and listen at the 6:11 mark through the 6:!4 mark. OK, now start this song. Do you hear what I hear? I absolutely hate to point it out, but for all of the misplaced boo-hooing about DT recycling riffs (95% of these complaints are 100% wrong), but the first time I listened to ADTOE, I had to grab this album when I heard that section in "Breaking All Illusions" because I thought it sounded the same. It doesn't sound the same, not quite, but it's really really close.

Anyway, on to the song! This is a song that I think would have been a much better song if it was 2-3 minutes shorter. This opening riff continues for about 45 seconds before it changes into a new more aggressive riff that eventually adds in some harmonizing before Jordan Rudess does some slow, cool-sounding keyboard stuff. At the 1:42 mark Petrucci shreds in the vein of the famous composition, Flight of the Bumblebee, before that opening riff around the 2:05 mark slows down into a relaxed, bass and drum track with Petrucci playing a nice melodic solo on top. John Myung's basswork here is particularly enjoyable. Petrucci eventually plays a melody that you'll hear later on in Pt. 2. The only complaint I have here is that this instrumental section goes on much longer than it should... At the 4:05 mark you think it has ended and the singing is about to start, but then the next section is set up by over another minute of build up. This is nothing new for Dream Theater - they do this all the time - but this time it feels to me like it's too much. DT could have cut a minute out of this intro, still hit all of the important parts, and made the song better.

Anyway, the first verse is pretty cool, with major-key guitars playing as Labrie sings about promises that sound a little too good to be true. There is a ton of harmonizing with the instruments in this verses and in between. The refrains nicely lead into the choruses, which promise you everything you could ever want, as long as you do what you're told and worship the person speaking for the rest of your life. The section beginning with "servants of the fallen..." around 7:30 sounds fairly dramatic and you know that something is wrong here, you just don't know what yet. At around 8:10 we get some more quick, harmonized shredding guitar and keyboard which serves as an outro for Pt. 1 of this song.

Fairly good song, but it's too long. Sometimes less can be more.

2. Forsaken - 3/5 This is not a bad song. It's kind of catchy, but a bit too trendy for my tastes. It begins with an almost goth-rock sort of piano riff before the melodic guitars come crashing in. The verse is really dramatic and soft and the guitars again crash in, leading into the chorus which is backed up by some nice keyboards in the background as well as harmonized vocals.

The main guitar line is melodic and pleasant. The second verse, however, has some issues; the lyrics seem VERY forced...

"I waited painfully for not to fall again Trying to silence the fear within me Out of the night and mist I felt a stinging kiss And saw a crimson sting on her lips"

Yeah. Look at that first line. If that's not forced, I don't know what is. A lot of people rip on DT for "simple lyrics", but I'm actually usually a fan of their lyrics. As an English teacher, I feel like if I can enjoy most of DT's lyrics, a lot of the people whining about them being so simple must be fairly pretentious and full of themselves. Anyway, with that nit-picking aside, all I really wanted to do with that line is show an example of a legitimate lyrical problem.

The song is enjoyable, but it's not very proggy. It's almost pop-rock in a way... A lot of people have compared it to Evanescence, a comparison that I disagree with, but I can certainly see comparing it to some of these extremely generic "Melodic Metal" bands out there.

The guitar solo is pretty good, but nothing out of the ordinary for Petrucci.

3. Constant Motion - 3/5 Have you ever wanted Metallica to add a keyboardist and play in odd time signatures? That is what Dream Theater must have been going for with this song because that's exactly what it sounds like. This is thrash metal done prog style! The verse is straight thrash before giving way to a refrain that sounds more Dream Theateresque, but it quickly shoots back to the thrash before moving into the chorus, which is again fairly typical Dream Theater other than the "Forever more!..." shouting at the end.

The second verse is actually kind of cool to me. The trash chugging is replaced by the start - stop - start - stop riffage underneath some yelled vocal tradeoffs by Labrie and Portnoy. It's sort of lame at times, but overall it can be fun if you ignore a few grunts or yells.

After the second chorus things get quiet and John Myung plays a bassline by himself (Figures) before Petrucci sneaks in with a palm-muted lead line. Then Portnoy jumps in and Petrucci begins to solo. At first he plays slow, but he begins picking up speed and intensity, eventually culminating into one of the fastest set of notes Petrucci has ever recorded to date. He almost plays TOO fast here... It seems like the mic struggled to keep up with all of the notes flying at it. From there, Petrucci plays a thrash riff from earlier while Rudess does a keyboard solo. Now, Rudess is immensely talented, but a keyboard solo really just doesn't fit with this kind of music. I think he should have opted not to do one here at all. The song wraps up with a final chorus.

This song is fairly straight forward... I absolutely love the solo and I enjoy this song from time to time, but sometimes it's too much.

4. The Dark Eternal Night - 5/5 Speaking of too much, holy [&*!#]!! Sorry, I really don't curse often, but it's necessary here. This song begins with such a crunching, demolishing riff, so deep, dark, and angry. No, FURIOUS! The drums' kick is turned up so if you listen to this in your car it will constantly kick you in the face. After 1:15 of GRRRRRR riffage, Labrie and Portnoy begin to growl in unison with their voices distorted. Labrie then sings cleanly over some distressed guitar work on the background before leading into the chorus, which is a metal anthem ending with the phrase, "Drawn to the beckoning light of the Dark Eternal Night". Now we're going to ignore the logical problem that arises by one being drawn to a dark eternal night via the beckoning light. I'm not sure how it's dark or night if it ensnares people with its light, but whatever. Damn, it's such a bad ass moment that everything is OK anyway.

This song is already unparalleled in Dream Theater history. It really is. And now that we're 3:30 into it, we can actually get to the good part.

This instrumental section starts with the guitars playing some very creepy, heavy, dark [&*!#]. The drums feel like they're slightly off-time but they're like that on purpose and it creates a disconnect between the guitars and drums that will blow your mind. Then, out of nowhere Jordan Rudess plays some old timey saloon piano before IT'S METAL TIME AGAIN!! Then, the next thing you know we have a little jazz-fusion interlude of - NO, IT'S METAL TIME! This instrumental section is so great that I can't really do it justice with words, but I would like to recommend that if you haven't done so before, go to Youtube and look up "Dark Nintendo Night". It'll be really funny and bad ass at the same time.

Anyway, at around 5:50 things speed up as Petrucci plays a blazing guitar riff and the drums are bumbling along with it. And then... F*CK THE WORLD! Petrucci shreds with such fury that probably at least several million small mammals had to have died. Small mammals, of course, are good for the hands. Another Youtube allusion for you, there.

So you think that after this, nothing more mind-blowing could happen, but after one final chorus, Petrucci rips open your soul with the hatred of a slow, rage-inducing headbanging heavy metal jam. This riff is amazing. And there's the end of the song.

Sorry for all of the cursing... That song gets me pumped. It literally makes me angry, but somehow I like it.

5. Repentance - 2/5. I don't really like this song... It starts with a really slow, mellow riff that you can tell comes straight from other AA Suite songs. After 1:15 or so of this, Labrie begins singing by making an allusion to a previous DT song, "The Mirror". The bass, for the most part, drives the music here, and the focus is on Labrie's vocals. This sounds like something that Opeth would write rather than something out of DT's catalogue. The changes from verse to refrain to chorus are noticeable, but everything has the same exact feel and vibe until around 2:55 when Jordan Rudess comes in with some keyboard synths in the background, but that's quickly quelled as the next verse begins.

Finally, around 4:40 we get some action! Petrucci starts with a Pink Floydesque solo that really hits the mark. The only detraction here is that Petrucci plays several solos that use similar phrasing to this one on both Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds and Silver Linings. Other than that, it's a great solo.

Then, at 5:45 we go back to the opening riff, only now many famous musicians that are friends with Mike Portnoy begin to say things... Pieces of advice, apologies, quotes, all kinds of stuff. This continues for around a minute and a half before a minute of singing "Aaaaahhhhhh aaaaahhhh" over one of the main chord progressions. Oh, did I say a minute? I meant about four minutes. And at some point (9:20) the famous musician sayings pop back in as well.

While I think it's cool that Portnoy brought in so many people to talk about alcoholism or apologize for things it has done to their friends or families or whatever, they're pretty much all unintellgible because they seem to mutter everything that they say. Maybe it's because I have the bass turned up pretty far on my computer's surround sound audio system and in my car? Either way, I feel like at least four minutes could have been cut out of this song, and because it has more or less the same feel throughout the entire song, it winds up dragging on and on. I pretty much always skip this song when I listen to this album.

6. Prophets of War - 2/5 Back to back 2/5's! It's not often that you'll see this in a Dream Theater CD. This song is supposed to be an anthem to rise up against oppression and unnecessary war. It's a noble goal, but it's so much successfully done with "Outcry" on ADTOE. The verses of this song are... I honestly don't know how to put this any better, so I'll just say this...: They have a Systematic Chaos sound. That's the only way I know how to explain it. If you're familiar with this album, you'll probably understand what I mean. There's just something about the mixing, the harmonies, the phrasing, and everything that just sounds... Systematic Chaosy. Bits and pieces of this are throughout the album, but they're usually saved by other elements. In this song, they're just... Not.

The chorus, "TIME! FOR! CHANGE!" is kind of catchy, and it's really awesome that DT let actual fans line up outside a studio in New York to come in and shout this themselves. When I heard about that, I considered immediately flying to New York from Georgia, but I wound up not doing so...

This song is just missing something. There's nothing really wrong with it, it just doesn't work for me. Maybe for you it'll be different!

7. Ministry of Lost Souls - 4/5 This song starts with power chords and a keyboard melody that seems to say, "This is going to be an epic song. Please enjoy". DT manages not to let this drag out too long like they've done with several other sections on this album already. This gives way to a really creepy, eerie clean guitar part. It manages to be creepy but beautiful at the same time. At 1:30 James Labrie starts to lament about lost souls trapped inside a lake. This entire song is basically about someone who died saving a drowning girl's life as he watches the girl get all depressed and guilty over him dying just to save her.

The content of this song is actually fairly profound, when you think about it. Earlier I dissed a DT lyric line as forced, so it's only fair now to point out lyrics that I think are actually very good. It's a fairly common piece of human nature to feel guilty when someone suffers at your expense. Even if they're doing it out of love for you, you still feel like you're wrong for accepting it. It's like when your grandmother who is on a very tight, fixed income gives you $20 for your birthday. You're grateful that she loves you enough to do it, but you really don't want to accept it because you know it's hurting her to do it.

Anyway, this guy keeps cautioning the girl not to "turn (her) back on paradise" as she seemingly prepares to commit suicide to "rid her of her pain".

At around 7:10 the guitar leads start to heat up and the drums drive way into a faster guitar riff. The builds momentum gradually and efficiently before Jordan Rudess gives us a quick crazy crash of keyboard shredding. The riff then changes over into a new riff as we get a section of stereotypical Dream Theater instrumental filler. Rudess then does one of his patented keyboard shredding solos, followed by Petrucci, who plays an at times bluesy piece of shredding. Eventually we get some niced harmonized shredding with Petrucci and Rudess before heading back into the main chorus line, this time the melody supplied by John Petrucci's guitar rather than the vocals. This has a really nice feel to it.

Then, everything drops out except for acoustic piano as Labrie sings softly. He sings about how this time when the guy reached out his hand to the girl, it wound up reaching all the way to Heaven... Essentially alerting the listener that the girl is apparently now dead. At least that's what I'd guess.

As a completely useless anecdote, I took the "Goodbyyyyyeeeee" part of this song, clipped it, and made it the file my computer plays when I empty my recycling bin. I felt like files I don't need should at least get a pleasant goodbye when I destroy them for good! Why did you need to know that? You really didn't. Hmm...

The song ends with a nice Petrucci solo. It's a fairly generic solo based around some of the phrasing that you've heard throughout the album so far, so nothing that really stands out.

8. In The Presence Of Enemies Pt. 2 - 5/5 The intro to this song is is very quiet with one droning note being played while Jordan Rudess plays a few delicate, echoing notes on piano. Labrie then begins to sing, the same music in the background. He's welcoming a "Dark pilgrim" into "the circle". The lyrical content here makes me think of a coven or cult of some sort welcoming in either someone new to the cult or perhaps a prophet that they've worshiped. I'm aware that there's a movie called "In the Presence of Mine Enemies", but since I haven't seen it, I can't really comment on whether or not the lyrics follow the plot or whether or not they even have anything to do with it.

Anyway, just short of 4:00 in the first chorus forces its way into your mind as Labrie growls, "Dark master within, I will fight for you!" It sounds like we've got some brainwashing going on up in here, nawmean? Some of the lines like, "Angels fall, all for you. Heretic." makes me wonder if this could be a song following the Biblical story of Satan, who took 1/3 of the Angels from Heaven as he thought that he could fight against God and defeat him. It's certainly possible!

Anyway, this song, obviously, has a very dark atmosphere. It's exceptionally well-done. It'd be easy to drop the ball with a song like this, especially with how long it is, but it never seems to drag, at least not to me. It's crazy because at 16:00 long, this song seems shorter than "Repentance".

The section of the song entitled "Slaughter of the Damned" is pretty intense. There is some growling from Labrie, some shouts in the background, and some very aggressive guitar work in the background. The lines "Sin, caught in a moment of weakness/ Committed the greatest of all/ Sold Half of my soul/ And now it's too late for you" reinforces the possibility of Biblical allusion and it's during this part of the song that the "Dark Master" who was promised servitude near the beginning of the song is finally starting to lose his hold.

The 8:50 point marks what feels like a really epic point of the song. Labrie sings of the "servants of the fallen fight to pave their way for their savior's calling on this wicked day". If you allow it, the imagery can be really powerful. I imagine some sort of huge, bloody battle, a group of servants fighting viciously against the odds, possibly misguided, possibly not.

Around 10 minutes in, a great instrumental section begins, full of odd but fun play between Petrucci and Rudess with plenty of time signature and tempo changes. This, of course, leads into John Petrucci shredding for a bit, which, OF COURSE, is followed by Jordan Rudess doing the same.

Everything here is wrapped up with the intense harmonized shredding found in the opening section of ITPOE Part 1 before going into a grandiose set of power chords behind a strong continuum lead by Jordan Rudess. John Myung then starts playing a pretty cool bassline as the keyboards come back in.

TO end the song, the main character declares that his soul is now his own and that he doesn't fight for the Dark Master anymore, but at the same time he talks about how someone is watching over him. Is that someone benevolent or malevolent? Who knows...

The song ends musically with a unique twist.

This album creates mixed feelings for me... There are some really good songs, but there are some pretty boring and uninteresting songs, too. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this review, if Dream Theater had cut out around 25 or 30 minutes from this album, it would have been a much better album from start to finish, at least for me. Still, don't miss out on the high points just because you don't want to deal with the low points. There are a few songs on this album that you simply don't need to ignore anymore, any longer.

Report this review (#476629)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars quite a difficult thing for me to review Systematic Chaos...mainly because it has one of my favourite DT songs: "In The Presence Of Enemies" (Pt.1 + Pt.2) and also the one that I probably hate most: "The Dark Eternal Night"...

to start with the good stuff, "In The Presence..." gets off to a roaring start with the instrumental intro commencing with a drum roll of sorts and is a great way to start the album. also a good way to recommence after the ending the "continuum" with Octavarium. never mind the cheesy lyrics (which James somehow maanges to make mythical and mysterious like they were supposed to be), the instrumental parts and vocal melodies are a killer combinations.

with a couple of good, but not special, songs "Forsaken" and "Constant Motion" done with, we come to the terrible piece of work and maybe DT's worst song "The Dark Eternal Night". for almost 9 minutes, they ramble on riff after riff, not managing to thrown in a single memorable bit. that, for a band of DT's calibre, is something quite unusual. they had some poor songs on "Falling Into Infinity" but nothing comes close to this...

thankfully, we are lifted out of our confused misery with the moody and mellow Repentance. the voices go on a little too long in the end but its quite a good song with an ambient atmosphere. then, we get "Prophets Of War" which is on par with the previous 2 good, but not special, songs and "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" which i think is great except that i sometimes find it hard to identify which song is playing at places in the middle. i guess thats a risk you'll have to take if you, like me, love "epic" pieces...

and, to round of the roller-coaster ride, we have Pt.2 which is the 3rd song over 10 minutes on the album and it doesnt dissappoint one bit. this is one of those songs that is so well constructed that it feels like its much shorter since its got your attention all the time...

dream on!

Report this review (#537731)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars My first experience with Dream Theater. While I have listened to their other albums, this one has a special place in my heart. Yes it is not perfect, but it was the album that really got me starting to listen to Dream Theater. I've noticed by many of the reviews here that it is mostly considered a "mediocre" album. It is not quite as complex and thought provoking, but still a very enjoyable listen.

The main attraction of the album is the 25 minute epic, In the Presence of Enemies, which is divided into two tracks, one at the beginning and one at the end of the album. While incredibly cheesy on the lyrics side, the musical side makes up for it. It starts off with a fantastic instrumental which has Petrucci's guitar and Rudess' keyboards duel with one another. The middle part slows down and the lyrics start. The first part ends with wind blowing and continues into a haunting quiet section which leads to a more rock-filled section and ends with a revised version of the opening instrumental. Portnoy described this song as "Dream Theater summed up into one song." I could not agree more.

The song, Forsaken, clocking in at five and a half minutes, is short for a DT song. Yes, it is cheesy, but it shows that DT is actually capable of writing short good songs. The next song, Constant Motion, sounds a lot like Metallica. James LaBrie at a few times sounds exactly like James Hetfield. The Dark Eternal Night, which sounds like a Train of Thought reject, is redeemed through an excellent Jordan Rudess keyboard solo in the middle of the song.

Repentance, which takes a break from the cheesy apocalyptic style of the rest of the album and presents to us a very soothing Floydian style song. This track is the fourth in Portnoy's Alcohol Anonymous Suite. My only complaint with the song is the spoken lasts a little too long. The next song is the much deservedly dislikes Prophets of War. It has a very Muse- inspred sound, which is not surprising as Portnoy is a huge fan of Muse. The song's strange middle section and its sociopolitical lyrics turn this into a drag song. I can listen to one- hundered cheesy songs before I can listen to a sociopolitical song. It doesn't matter which side it's on.

The "final" song on the album, The Ministry of Lost Souls, is a fantastic song with many gothic overtones to it. It starts of with a powerful symphonic sound which leads into an acoustic melody. LaBrie's vocals delivers a powerful vocal performance. Unlike most of the album, the lyrics of this song are actually serious, focusing on a woman who is upset that the life of the man who saved her was lost and the spirit of the man is trying to get her to come with him to paradise. A great song and one of DT's best.

Yes, this album is not as great as Images and Words, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, or the recently released A Dramatic Turn of Events, but it is still an enjoyable listen. In the Presence of Enemies, Repentance, and The Ministry of Lost Souls remain some of DT's best. A great listen if you don't mind cheesy lyrics (which don't bother me).

Report this review (#585858)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dream Theater's Systematic Chaos is a good CD. I like it a lot but the problem is two songs that are just horrible (Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night). I just skip those songs though and then bask in these great, rich progressive metal songs. But yes those two bad songs bring this CD down.

I feel that in particular In the Presence of Enemies part 1 and 2 are totally amazing. Critics say that Dream Theater has changed on its newest CDs (like Black Clouds and Silver Linings) and they have a point. But there are all-star songs here on this release.

Forsaken is a really good song. Minstry of Lost Souls is really good too.We have complex song structures that are heavy also.

People often say that ever since Kevin Moore left the band that the song writing quality went down. I partly agree with this. Moore was the best song writer of the group. But Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci do a good job writing lyrics, for the most part. Sometimes the lyrics are a bit goofy though I admit (I am thinking of the roughly told story told over the course of Systematic Chaos). But I think that for most progessive rock fans the main interest is the music and then much farther down the line they care about the song lyrics. For example, while I love Opeth's music, the song lyrics sometimes remind me of the poetry I wrote in my seventh grade English class.

Overall, in my opinion this is a good CD. If you are looking for a great Dream Theater CD check out Scenes from a Memory.

Report this review (#746925)
Posted Monday, April 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#755477)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars Systematic Chaos is often regarded as Dream Theater's low point. While I can't disagree with this, I do believe there is still a lot of merit to this album. The unfortunate thing about this album is that, like Train of Thought, much of its prog has been stripped for a more metal sound. But more than that, Dream Theater is beginning to become dominated by Portnoy's cheesy attempts at death metal vocals. Much of the album is overly technical and it's obvious they have lost what made them so great in the images & Words era.

The album begins with part one of 'In The Presence of Enemies,' which begins with an extended instrumental lasting four minutes (which includes a nice Petrucci solo) before vocals come in. I don't really have a problem with this song, but it's hardly the best they've done.

'Forsaken' is another Dream Theater pop song. The song is pretty basic and the chorus isn't really that great.

'Constant Motion' is a good song which is ruined by the absolutely horrible vocals. It sounds like the Glass Prison in a lot of places, but at least that song was decent vocally. The instrumentation IS strong in this song though, especially the breakdown and solo in the middle where Portnoy is phenomenal.

'Dark Eternal Night' suffers from the same problem as Constant Motion. Instrumentally the song is awesome; Jordan's keys mix so well with the guitar and the riffs are really nice. But the vocals are overly cheesy and do nothing to help the song.

'Repentance' is Portnoy's fourth song in the 12-step suite. It has a Pink Floyd vibe but I think the song is overdone and a bit too long. I do praise Dream Theater for playing with this kind of sound, considering what the rest of the album sounds like.

'Prophets of War' is another one of those pop/Muse-like songs I hate so much. The vocals and overall structure of the song are disappointing. Prophets of War is a clever title, but it falls short as a song.

'The Ministry of Lost Souls is an interesting song.' On one hand you have this great slower paced melody, and then a fantastic instrumental section at seven minutes in. But the two aren't appropriate for each other. Add to the fact that the slower section takes over four minutes to develop. The ending melody played on guitar is amazing though, and it gives me chills every time I hear it.

The album ends on a decent note with In the 'Presence of Enemies Part 2.' Again, the instrumental work in this song is great, but the vocals are over the top cheesy this time.

I think it's pretty obvious what I think about this album at this point. Vocally it is terrible. There are some good instrumental ideas here though, I just think they were laid out poorly and were ruined by the excessive technicality and cheesiness. Also, the album is very derivative of their earlier stuff, especially Octavarium and Train of Thought, which are both great albums in their own right.

4/10

Report this review (#771381)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dream Theater's ninth album, entitled Systematic Chaos, was released in 2007 and was their first on their new label (at the time), Roadrunner Records. This album marks a little bit of a shift in sound from the poppish, rocking sound of Octavarium and employs more of a gothic, accessible metal edge. Fans of Dream Theater (myself included) judged that this occurred because of the new label, not because Roadrunner forced them to write in a particular style, but because the band possibly felt pressured to write a more metal and accessible album. Either way, the music on Systematic Chaos doesn't suffer too much, apart from a few tracks. However, the lyrics do suffer quite a lot.

In the Presence of Enemies Part 1 opens up the album with some heavy riffing and strange time signatures (which is a given, seeing as we're talking about Dream Theater). This is one of DT's most loved epics (when combined with Part 2), and that's not without reason. This is a fantastic album opener, and gives a good taste of what the rest of the album is going to sound like.

Forsaken is the main single of the album, with a memorable, heavy riff, and a melodic catchy chorus. This track was quite successful on the new label as a single, especially when Dream Theater hadn't released a single for about 7 or 8 years. The silly lyrics of this song bring it down though (although lyrics have never been the strong point for DT, perhaps they could have written something a bit more intelligent than a story about a vampire kissing a man and infecting him).

Constant Motion is one of the weak moments of the album. It has quite a melodic chorus but doesn't really bring anything new to the table that Forsaken didn't. The breakdown is quite enjoyable though, and the drums are a highlight of this track. Again, the lyrics are weak.

As if we haven't had enough of the bad lyrics, track 4 starts (The Dark Eternal Night), and we get such lyrics practically shouted at us:

I am the last Born of the blood of the pharaohs The ultimate god of a rotting creation Sent to unleash this curse

What is that? Anyway, lyrics aside, this song has quite a strong riff. The track turns into instrumental mayhem before ending with the listener probably feeling a little unsatisfied with the first half of the album.

The second half is better though. Track 5, Repentance, is one of the most intriguing songs that DT have made, and certainly one of the best on Systematic Chaos. This is part 4 of Mike Portnoy's 12 Step Suite. A riff that we've heard before in This Dying Soul is played softly and repetitively, and the whole song builds from there. We have appearances from musicians such as Steven Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt, Neal Morse and many more, expressing their regret for past deeds in their life. The atmosphere in the song is quite special, and makes it one of the strongest moments on Systematic Chaos.

I don't really have much to say about Prophets of War, apart from saying that it doesn't continue the quality that we got from Repentance. This is a perfect example of a filler track that could have easily been left off the album. However, the lyrics (written by James LaBrie) are some of the best on the album.

The Ministry of Lost Souls, the 15 minute epic, starts with a gothic sounding, catchy ostinato played on the keyboard. The lyrics on this track are again very weak, probably the worst on the album. However, this is probably the most musically strong song on the album, apart from In the Presence of Enemies. The solos on this song, although quite predictable, are actually quite enjoyable.

Part 2 of In the Presence of Enemies begins, starting with the same sound that Part 1 ended with. The first section, Heretic, is again one of the strong points on the album, with a memorable, melancholic but angry sounding melody. This segues into the next section, which features fast, aggressive singing and instrumental work. The song ends on a very good note, with a new melody being introduced that works very well as an album closer (just like Razor's Edge on Octavarium did).

Overall, this album is fairly good. It's worthy of buying, especially for the last two tracks. The lyrics are dreadful though. 3/5

Report this review (#823849)
Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I don't understand the relative disdain that my fellow reviewers on PA show for Systematic Chaos. It has the lowest overall rating of Dream Theater's first 10 releases. For me, Systematic Chaos is one of DT's finest releases and deserves four stars. I would rather listen to Systematic Chaos than Metropolis 2, to pick one for comparison. Systematic Chaos isn't apparently a concept album, unlike M2. Maybe that makes Systematic Chaos less "prog". Being progressive in the surface meaning sense of that word isn't the ultimate goal in life. I think the songwriting on Systematic Chaos is generally much better.

The present album has, for me, a lot of DT's most attractive and memorable songs. My personal favorites are "Forsaken" through "Repentance", but I love almost all of it. If it is Mike Portnoy singing "The Dark Eternal Night", I think he does a fine job. No, Portnoy can't sing like LaBrie. However, that's why you hire a lead singer. Systematic Chaos has some of LaBrie's finest work; I don't know if there's a DT album where he performs better. My primary complaint with Systematic Chaos is that "The Ministry of Lost Souls" and "In the Presence Pt. 2" are too long back-to-back. Together they make up almost half of the album. It's just too much epicness at once for my tastes. However, that's a minor issue for me. Systematic Chaos is better than some of DT's better-regarded releases IMHO, and fully deserves four stars.

Report this review (#1203804)
Posted Thursday, July 3, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was nervous to hear Dream Theater's 2007 release 'Systematic Chaos' when it first came out. Having recently signed with Roadrunner Records, one of the most famous and well-known metal labels in the world, I expected the band to water down their sound in order to appeal to the more mainstream audience that the label would market them to.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Everything Dream Theater fans love about the band is still here. The complex song structures, intricate musical passages and over-the-top performances remain as they always have. But there is one thing in particular that this album has in abundance, and I can only really describe it as "focus". Possibly due to the fact that they now have a big time record company backing them (which is support they felt they never truly got with past labels), but the guys really go all-out to appeal to a whole new metal audience, whilst trying to remain as loyal to their prog fans as the fans have to them.

Being a heavier and darker album in terms of tone, feeling and musical content, it should come as no surprise that 'Systematic Chaos' is a very guitar-driven release, in particular with songs like 'Constant Motion' and 'The Dark Eternal Night'. That's not to say that Keyboard player Jordan Rudess is neglected, as he still shines in the Evanescence-sounding 'Forsaken', and with one song being 15 minutes and one being 17 minutes in duration, you know there will be plenty of progressive madness to keep die-hard fans happy.

Also featured is 'In the Presence of Enemies', spread into two parts that open and close the album respectively, part one has some very tasty vocal melodies, while part two has some of the greatest guitar riffing ever, with John Petrucci totally owning it in this song and putting most modern metal bands to shame. Then there's 'Repentance', the fourth part in Mike Portnoy's "12 Steps" suite, based on Alcoholics Anonymous and it's 12-steps to recovery program. It's one of the more interesting chapters of the suite due to its softer, more sombre tone, and the various confessions from guest musicians adds depth to the serious nature of the lyrics.

And for the more dedicated fans; the special edition release comes with a cool bonus DVD with over an hour of studio footage, documenting the making of this album! I love stuff like this, as it's a great chance to see not only how the finished product was made, but also an opportunity to delve into the personalities of the band members.

'Systematic Chaos' won't please the fans who were put off by Dream Theater's heavier direction built upon over the previous few albums, but for the most part they've done a fantastic job in adapting their style for a broader metal audience, and since they've only gone on to bigger and better things since then (an impressive feat so far into their careers) I'd say it was a success!

Report this review (#1781108)
Posted Monday, September 11, 2017 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#2116708)
Posted Wednesday, January 9, 2019 | Review Permalink

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