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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
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.

J-Man | 3/5 |


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