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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover

SYSTEMATIC CHAOS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.31 | 1752 ratings

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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

Gatot | 4/5 |

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