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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.31 | 1740 ratings

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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).

natewait | 3/5 |


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