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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.31 | 1709 ratings

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Una Laguna
2 stars One of my friends described Systematic Chaos as a set of Octavarium out-takes and Train of Thought E-Sides. I will agree with him that this is one of Dream Theater's weakest albums. I will disagree that it's as bad as that.

Dream Theater are a great band, a really great band. But sometimes I find their instrumental sections tend to be weak. Looking back to the previous album, Octavarium, the title track was in my opinion fantastic, until the instrumental section two-thirds of the way through. It didn't flow, it was rather generic and dull. It was one of the rare occasions where I agree with the critics who say Dream Theater are all technical with no soul.

Much of SC is dominated by these unspectacular instrumental sections. In the Presence of Enemies starts and finishes off strongly, and occasionally has a good moment in the middle but is largely forgettable, bland, dull instrumentalling. That's a large portion of 25 minutes, just under a third of the whole album, which I've just dismissed.

The Ministry of Lost Souls is without a doubt the highlight of the album, with an incredible amount of emotion... in parts. It also suffers from this dull instrumental section syndrome. It's 15 minutes and about 5 minutes of that is soulless guitar and keyboard noodling. What that leaves us with is about 10 minutes of what starts off as very good music. The riff is brilliantly emotional, the lyrics are deep and has everything that makes Dream Theater great. But... if you discard that instrumental section, then you realise just how monotonous the track is. It loses points for the same reason Dire Straits' Money for Nothing loses points: great riff, just not enough variety.

Repentance is another good track, but again, it drags on a bit. I'm thinking maybe Dream Theater were a bit reluctant to leave any of the spoken word samples out. It's another solid, emotional song, but suffers for the same reason The Ministry of Lost Souls does.

That leaves us with four tracks. 27 minutes of material (in case you hadn't realised, Dream Theater don't really do short songs). Constant Motion is overall a forgettable track. Nothing really grabs me about the song. The Dark Eternal Night is rather cheesy, but a bit of fun, though it suffers from the unspectacular instrumental section problem.

This leads us to Forsaken and Prophets of War. Neither of them are particularly stunning tracks and would rank as the weakest tracks if placed on stronger Dream Theater albums. But here they fare better. Forsaken is nice, with its sudden changes between melodic piano and grunty guitars. Prophets of War is one of Dream Theater's more political songs, more guitar-driven but roughly on a par with Forsaken.

So overall, not a bad album, but by Dream Theater's standards not a great album. The good outweighs the bad, but too often do the band get lost in instrumental sections or riffs which don't go anywhere. Dream Theater were never about getting anywhere in a hurry, but usually make the journey interesting.

If you're after some good prog metal, then get some of the band's earlier works (SFAM, Awake, I&W). This is good in places, but I'd only resort to this if I had got bored of most other Dream Theater. I was originally intending to give this 3 stars, but really, when you consider the alternative albums you could listen to instead of this, 2 stars seems more appropriate.

Una Laguna | 2/5 |


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