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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover

SYSTEMATIC CHAOS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.31 | 1708 ratings

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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

Petrovsk Mizinski | 3/5 |

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