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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.31 | 1752 ratings

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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+

1800iareyay | 4/5 |


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