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Dream Theater Systematic Chaos album cover
3.33 | 1895 ratings | 170 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 1 (9:00) :
- i. Prelude
- ii. Ressurrection
2. Forsaken (5:36)
3. Constant Motion (6:55)
4. The Dark Eternal Night (8:51)
5. Repentance (10:43) :
- viii. Regret
- ix. Restitution
6. Prophets of War (6:01)
7. The Ministry of Lost Souls (14:57)
8. In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 2 (16:38) :
- iii. Heretic
- iv. The Slaughter of the Damned
- v. The Reckoning
- vi. Salvation

Total Time 78:41

Line-up / Musicians

- James LaBrie / lead vocals
- John Petrucci / guitars, backing vocals, co-producer
- Jordan Rudess / keyboards, Continuum
- John Myung / bass
- Mike Portnoy / drums, percussion, co-lead (3,4) & backing vocals, co-producer

- Corey Taylor, Steve Vai, Chris Jericho, David Ellefson, Daniel Gildenlöw, Steve Hogarth, Joe Satriani, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Steven Wilson, Jon Anderson, Neal Morse / spoken word (5)

Releases information

Artwork: Hugh Syme

2xLP Roadrunner Records ‎- 1686-179921 (2007, US)

CD Roadrunner Records - RR 7992-8 (2007, Europe)
CD+DVD Roadrunner Records ‎- 1686-179822 (2007, US) Bonus DVD w/ full album 5.1 Surround mix plus "Chaos in Progress - The Making of Systematic Chaos", a documentary directed by Mike Portnoy

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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DREAM THEATER Systematic Chaos ratings distribution

(1895 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (16%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

DREAM THEATER Systematic Chaos reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by semismart
5 stars Dream Theater is probably the best known and most imitated progressive metal band in the world and if truth be told, they probably pioneered the sub genre and if the didn't pioneer it, they certainly are responsible for bringing the genre to the forefront in the music world. I must have written sixty or seventy reviews of progressive bands and some, maybe a quarter, sound very close to Dream Theater and some of them are very good. I even have a Listmania List on Amazon entitled Know some other bands similar to Dream Theater. In short, they have become the measuring stick for other Progressive metal bands. Or if you want to face reality, Le Brie, Portnoy and company are the kings of Progressive Metal.

So, is Systematic Chaos the best thing Dream Theater ever did. Probably not. After all, they have released around a dozen albums, many of which are classics. But I will say this; Systematic Chaos is probably the best album they have released in this century.

Systematic Chaos

Look for a heavier sound than on their last and least favorite of mine album - Octavarium and surprisingly a hint of .Pink Floyd. Especially in the slower but brilliant fifth track, 'Repentence.'

Overall, Dream Theater after briefly experimenting with new sounds have returned to their roots-a variable speed, sometimes hard driving metal sound that was the backbone of their earlier days. The eight tracks average almost ten minutes a song as the album comes in at just over seventy-eight minutes. Obviously, with Systematic Chaos you get your money's worth.

All in all, this should be a dream come true for Dream Theater fans. Final rating 4.65 stars-BUY IT !

Similar Bands: Dreamscape, DGM, OSI

Review by Melomaniac
4 stars Here I am, against all odds, reviewing the latest from Dream Theater.

Let me put it this way : it's the first DT album in the Rudess era that really sounds like a band working together for the sake of songs. Labrie found his perfect range, he no longer goes into that high registry (you know how on some songs in the past he went so high that we actually had a hard time understanding the words he sung... take these lines from Take the time from Images and Words : "If there's a price to pay, a wasted year, a man must learn to cope ; if his obsession's real, suppresion that he feels must turn to hope...") Now people like you and me understand what he's saying because we read the lyrics, but if we never had the lyrics, I doubt we would have understood anything, and there are countless examples of this throughout DT's recorded output.

There is also a lot less over-the-top musical noodling (over noodling being the main reason why I loathe Scenes from a Memory as much as I do) ; now of course it wouldn't be a DT album if there wasn't any, but I find that on Systematic Chaos, these moments are well integrated in the songs.

Rudess is also more well integrated in the band, and I find his parts more tasteful than ever, he didn't overdo it this time.

Petrucci is also to be commended for his playing on SC ; take In the Presence of Enemies pt.I for example ; after some high speed noodling in the beginning; he goes on with a very nice heartfelt lead in which he stretches his notes, bends them, and plays with FEEL. His solos are also better than ever, as he no longer starts them at full speed and keeps them like that until the end, he builds them up, they are actually saying something this time around other than "Look how fast I can play and how many trillions of notes I can throw in a couple of seconds".

Myung is equal to himself, and I always thought he was the most constant and tasteful player in the band. Also one of the band's best songwriters ; too bad they don't let him write as much these days.

Portnoy is Portnoy, a technical monster as always, only now he infused dosage in his playing, and to good effect.

Another good point about SC is that the poppier songs are good this time around, not like that awful 'I Walk Beside You' from Octavarium, which sounded so much like Coldplay it was... well, sh!tty. Forsaken is a great song, and Prophets of War, though very reminiscent of Muse, is still very good.

The excellent "Repentance" also shows how DT have matured as songwriters, using delicacy and subtleties as they have so rarely done with this much efficiency in the past.

I have to admit that it's the first time in a long, long while that I love all songs found on a DT album. Very diverse, very tasteful.

So yes, it definitely is my favorite Rudess-era DT album, and an album that drew me back to a band I thought were lost, caught in the traps they set for themselves. Not a masterpiece, but if they keep on going in this direction, the next DT album might be one.

Four stars !!!

Review by TRoTZ
2 stars With "Systematic Chaos" Dream Theater just confirmed the obvious: their ideas have reached a state of exhaustion, and even worse, what we would never think of pointing the finger - their technical rock - even that surprisingly started to succumb, together with the band's obvious lack of effort. It seems that, these days, the band assumes people are more interested on their technical covers of classic albums (aka Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", Iron Maiden "The Number of the Beast", Metallica, etc, as if they could actually elevate them) than on their own ideas. Almost every moment of this album seems a dejavu from the past.

"In the Presence of Enemies, Pt.1" relies entirely on a variation of the memorable riff of Images and Word's last tracks. And of course we have the same cheesy ballad we are used to, this time "Forsaken". "Constant Motion" shows a refrain virtually equal to Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence's "The Glass Prison". "The Dark Eternal Night" could be a weaker song taken from Train of Thought, with the same tempo changes tricks and dark riffs, but this time even them are trivial and forgettable. "Repentence" is the most compelling track, one of the few moments which we can find some soul on the music, but it copies literally the memorable riff of Train of Thought's "This Dying Soul" and developed it in a more contemplative, depressive way, in the aesthetics of the same album's "Vacant". "Prophets of War", another Muse-like song, an even weaker effort than Octavarium's "Panic Attack". Cliches, cliches, cliches. Two final songs (along with the auto-plagium "Repentence") save the album from the total disgrace, "The Ministry of Lost Souls" with the only original memorable passage a gifted guitarist like Petrucci has to offer (even though I have the impression I've heard something similar somewhere...) and sparse moments of sensibility, together with the last track, but they bring nothing of new as either.

Even if we ignore the overall senseless lack of passion, there isn't the formidable technical wizardry seen on "Images and Words" or "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence", neither "Train of Though"'s memorable and complex riffs. What impresses more is, while they created a huge musical movement with "Images and Words", and unanimously considered one of the most effective music machines of all times, they reached a point where they even are unable to standout in their own genre. As a band's own member said, this was meant to be "music with balls", a statement that just proves they are not concerned with art anymore, but only in satisfying their easy-going fans.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars

A Trip to "Train of Thought" and "Octavarium"

As far as music style, not much that I expected from Dream Theater way before they released their 9th album "Systematic Chaos". Their musical identity has become obvious especially in combining complex structure with bridges in staccato style played in relatively fast tempo with skillful musicians who really master their individual instrument. Oh yeah, who would dare to challenge John Petrucci in his virtuosity of fast guitar playing? Or John Myung who masters in dancing his fingers on his fretted bass guitar? Or, with Jordan Rudess' great keyboard playing? Last but not least: Mike Portnoy dazzling drumwork? Well, I can say that all of them are top notch musicians with their own identity.

But of course along the way with waiting process of the next album, one thing laid firmly in my head: OK, musically I would not expect fundamental change - but how the songs would sound like? Would that be a really melodious song like "Sacrificed Sons" or energetic songs like "The Root of All Evil" or "Never Enough"? Would that be possible that they would come up with something similar to "Scene From a Memory" - the band's legendary and masterpiece album? I was not quite sure, really. But I intentionally take out my expectation of being like "Scene From a Memory" just to play safe and preparing not being dissatisfied a lot if it turned out differently.

"Excellent!", that was my first reaction the first time I listened to this album especially the opening track "The Presence of Enemies Part 1". Well, in a nut shell, I can get everything that Dream Theater I expect to deliver: complexity, melody and great performance. I sensed varied feelings about the album as I spun the album over and over and it all boiled down into a sort of conclusion that this album represents a marriage of "Train of Thought" album, characterized by heavy guitar riffs and music, and "Octavarium" album, including those influences (in musical styles) of other bands like Pink Floyd and Muse. Why do I say so? It's basically due to the facts that I found similarity of previous two Dream Theater albums.

The Octavarium Part

The Octavarium-like music has basically characterized the style of the overall album. I can mention the following tracks as Octavarium-like: "The Presence of Enemies Part 1 and Part 2", "Forsaken", "Repentance", "Prophets of War", "The Ministry of Lost Souls". Overall, all of them account for 75% of the whole album style. I don't see any similarity with other albums like "Scene From a Memory" or "Six Degree of Inner Turbulence". I would say this part has portion of mellow style as well.

The opening track "The Presence of Enemies - Part 1" is really kicking. It starts beautifully with a combination of bass, drum, guitar with excellent riffs which moves wonderfully into nice opening led by keyboard and then followed by music riffs that remind me to the style of "The Great Debate" (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence). The long opening part of approximately 5 minutes enriches the beauty of this track especially when it shows the guitar and keyboard melodies which are really great! What a great intro part! I enjoy the guitar riffs and LaBrie powerful voice and nice lyrics. I am totally satisfied with this track. [5/5]

"Forsaken" reminds me to "Sacrificed Sons" of "Octavarium album". It starts beautifully with melodic piano solo followed with a blast of music dominated by soft riffs. The music flows naturally. The melody is catchy and very nice. On composition, this song is not as great as "Sacrificed Sons" but it offers excellent melody sung excellently by LaBrie. [4.5/5]

"Repentance" has an introduction of "This Dying Soul" of "Train of Thought" album. The music style reminds me to Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree. It's not a bad track at all and it offers good melody in mellow style with practically no heavy rhythm. There are narration in some segments of the album augmented with keyboard work that sounds like a mellotron - in smoother fashion. The guitar solo by Petrucci does not truly reflect the music of Dream Theater, it's like David Gilmour, I think. The trouble with this song, for me , is at the last 3 minutes where the music is repeated over time until it ends. This is not good at all and very annoying. [3/5]

"Prophets of War" is an excellent track with heavy influence from Muse. Not only Jordan provides keyboard sounds which in a way emulate the music of Muse, but he also gives sufficient nuance to accentuate the music. I like the parts where LaBrie says "Time to make a change!" and also the part where there is narration at the ending part of the song. [4.5/5]

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" is another composition that reminds me to "Octavarium" track especially its opening that comprises light music with string orchestration followed with acoustic guitar fills. LaBrie enters his voice wonderfully and the music flows smoothly in mellow style. The music moves into crescendo to parts with colossal style where the string orchestration at the background helps accentuate the overall textures of the song. Mike Portnoy provides his jaw-dropping drum work especially with his 10" tom sounds. The interlude part in staccato form reminds me to the interlude of "Sacrificed Sons". The riffs produced with this interlude is really killing and is very Dream Theater! [5/5]

"The Presence of Enemies - Part 2" starts off with bass guitar beats followed with guitar and keyboard works in ambient nuance. LaBrie enters his voice powerfully in mellow style. The song moves gradually into higher tone at approx minute 3. It then moves again into higher tone combined with orchestration. Guitar is not played as complex as it used to be in previous albums. The beauty of this song is on backing vocals which sound like growling.Also, I enjoy Jordan Rudes keyboard solo during interlude part of the song followed with Petrucci solo. The interlude reminds me to "The Great Debate" song. [5/5]

The Train of Thought Part

As far as my ears can classify, two songs fall under "Train of Thought" music style: "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night". Key characteristic under this style is: relatively straight forward music with heavy riff produced by guitar and screaming vocal work, all of them are heavily influenced by Metallica. It depends on your musical taste. If you can enjoy something really hard and heavy like most songs in "Train of Thought" album or song like "The Glass Prison" of "Six Degree of Inner Turbulence" then you would be OK with these two songs. These two songs provide great energy to the album as a whole because many songs in this album contain mellow section. I rate these two songs with [4/5] respectively.


With such a long review I explore at above sentences, it's clear that I recommend this album to be owned by each of you - especially those who really love progressive metal album. Well, it's not that all songs are progmet, actually. My overall rating for the whole album is [4.2 / 5] - highly recommended, and don' miss it! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by 1800iareyay
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+

Review by Chicapah
2 stars On Octavarium's "Never Enough" Mike Portnoy wrote "I can only take so much of your ungrateful ways/everything is never enough." Well, dang! Makes me hesitant to write anything less than a glowing review of "Systematic Chaos." But, alas, to my own self (and personal musical opinions) I must be true. Let me say up front that I most certainly appreciate and admire the time and Herculean effort it takes to record an album of original material. It's very hard, intensive work. Tremendously demanding and life-consuming, too. However, art, by its very nature, is always subject to criticism. That's the price you pay for making your product readily available to the masses and official prog reviewers.

I feel like I've gone to a five-star restaurant and one of my favorite chefs has set out a huge eight-course meal for me. Yet no matter how much I yearn to experience pure ecstasy with every bite, nothing tastes spectacular to my palate. I know the highly skilled chef did his utmost in preparing and presenting his creations but I can't fool myself into liking his new dishes just because he has knocked me out with many delectable cuisines in the past. Unfortunately, that's how I feel about this album.

"In the Presence of Enemies - Part I" has an instrumental prelude that starts things off promisingly with both John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess working in tight tandem before introducing the tune's grandiose melody. But then you get to the "Resurrection" portion of the piece and it quickly turns into a contrived metal song molded around juvenile Faustian lyrics penned by JP where the downcast protagonist is told by some up-to-no-good apparition that he can lead him "down the path and back to life/all I ask is that you worship me/I can help you seek revenge and save yourself/give you life for all eternity." Excuse me, but I think I've heard this one before. Petrucci also contributes the words to "Forsaken," a run-of-the-mill rocker that is a throwback to the 80s. I understand that a significant portion of Dream Theater's fan base prefers the metal side of their "progressive metal" mentality but I'm not one of them. Sorry, but this loud number doesn't take me anywhere I haven't been a thousand times before. I also know that lyrics have never been this band's forte but singer James LaBrie can only do so much with insipid lines like "close your eyes/and hold your breath/to the ends of the earth." Say what?

Next is "Constant Motion." I'll admit that I've never owned a Metallica CD but I'm familiar enough with their music to know that this song sounds like they might as well have recorded it themselves, complete with grunts and death growls galore. JP dominates the track, turning in a blisteringly fast and clean guitar solo but what has happened to Rudess? He's gotten lost somewhere way down in the mix, I guess. "The Dark Eternal Night" follows and it's becoming obvious that Petrucci has become obsessed with the underworld. I'm still wondering where Jordan has gone to as I find myself being bombarded with more non-stop, headbanging heavy metal and some kind of demonic, electronically-altered voice telling me that he's "the ultimate god of a rotting creation/sent to unleash this curse." Charming. Things do get interesting during the complex and challenging instrumental section where Rudess actually makes an audible appearance. These superb musicians haven't lost their chops, that's for sure.

Now is a great time for a change of pace and the Porcupine Tree- flavored "Repentance" arrives in the nick of time. Portnoy's continuing ode to substance abuse recovery is one of the few bright spots on the album for me as both Jordan and JP create some excellent ambience underneath James' emotional vocal on the first segment, "Regret." On the second part, "Restitution," the guest speakers' voices are novel for the first minute or so but then they start to drag the momentum down like they did back on "The Great Debate" in 2001. Same thing with the chorus of "ahhs" and big, fat chords that follow in that they drone on far too long and nothing remarkable happens. I can't believe that neither Rudess nor Petrucci couldn't have provided a stirring ride over all that wide open space. It seems obvious that the song desperately needed a spark of some kind.

"Prophets of War" is pretty much a straightforward, anti-war rock tune but the melody line is mundane and instantly forgettable. Some of the octave guitar parts and drum patterns remind me of "My Hero" by the Foo Fighters which, in and of itself, is not a bad thing but I expected more originality from these guys this far into their illustrious career. Rudess' opening symphonic keyboard sounds and JP's ringing acoustic guitar tones gave me hope that "The Ministry of Lost Souls" was going to be the epic that would save the CD but, despite some terrific dynamics, the tune's pomposity overwhelms its potential. I still have to designate it as the best cut on the album, though, mainly because of Jordan's brief but impressive moments and Petrucci and Mike's intense performances. But JP's ongoing devilish lyric content still seems far beneath their professional standards.

"In the Presence of Enemies - Part II (The Heretic and the Dark Master) takes up the last sixteen or so minutes of the proceedings in four phases. "Heretic" has exciting music but the lame words LaBrie has to sing like "my soul is yours/Dark Master I will fight for you" are downright embarrassing. I mean, is James supposed to be an Orc? "The Slaughter of the Damned" is next and here we get some angry, unison crowd shouts and Rudess has disappeared once more. "The Reckoning" provides a welcome break from the inane Hell and damnation recital with some of the better instrumental segments of the whole album. Jordan triumphantly returns from wherever he was hiding and matches Petrucci stride for stride as they race at lightning speed together over Portnoy's thundering drums and John Myung's skillful, too-often overlooked bass runs. "Salvation" ends things with a return to the original theme from 78 minutes earlier. It's been a long journey through some very dark sewers.

When this group released the risky, multi-dimensional "Octavarium" and then the phenomenal triple live CD set, "Score," I thought I was hearing a band that was ready to take that next huge step into unexplored musical realms where they would continue to blend majestic symphonic colorings with complex metal-tinged rock anthems and vocalizations to create even more magic. I was mistaken. Their love of metallic rock and roll is firmly entrenched in their psyches (to the delight of millions of their most loyal fans) and I don't think it's fair to slight them without mercy for returning to their steely comfort zone just because I wanted something more progressive. Hey, you can't have everything. But my sincere hope is that in the future they will take brave chances once again and reach for the stars.

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars I am not a progmetal fan and I only like some parts of the music by Dream Theater, nonetheless, this week I have done my best to get into the new Dream Theater album that causes mixed feelings on Prog Archives. Many years ago a friend recommended Dream Theater to me, he said "have you heard that new USA band that also plays work from Rush?". I didn't need more to get motivated to listen to Dream Theater and soon I was listening to their first album. Then I discovered that prog metal is too heavy for me and listening to this new album I have the same experience: I am blown away by the exciting interplay and awesome talents on guitar and keyboards (lots of sensational soli), the rhythm-section is awesome and Dream Theater delivers many good breaks and shifting moods. But after 20 minutes it starts to sound the same for me, all those scale-acrobatics, that heavy double bass drumming, the fiery sound of the guitar, another similar sounding synthesizer solo and I am not up to the vocals. Good music but to me it sounds too clinical and too predictable.
Review by OpethGuitarist
1 stars A band that seriously needs to spread their wings and branch out into new territories.

Do you ever get that feeling upon hearing a new album that you know exactly what will come next, even though you've never heard the piece of music before,a deja vu type of feeling? This is how I felt about Dream Theater's latest release, Systematic Chaos. There's little to no variety in it from their previous works of the last 10 years. You could swap the names of the albums from any of them and no one could tell the difference if they were not extremely familiar with the band.

As an example, take a track like In the Presence of Enemies, where before having even heard it, I could tell exactly when Petrucci would have a ridiculously out of place solo, how Rudess would follow right after him with another ridiculously out of place keyboard extravaganza, and how there would be a unison after it.

The band has become formulaic pop music in this regard, you can predict the poorly designed metal riffs, the speed of light guitar solos, the keyboard coming over the top which has no place being involved to begin with. The idea of progressive, is that you are presented with music which presents you with challenges. The only real challenge hear is keeping up with the number of notes being played, but an experienced listener can keep track rather easily, so there leaves not much meat left, meat being music. The band has always stated they do what they do and don't care, because they enjoy doing it. That's perfectly fine, because I'll enjoy not listening to a rather formulaic and uninteresting album they've produced yet again.

Review by Prog Leviathan
2 stars Dream Theater at their most derivative, dumbed down, and uncreative; "Systematic Chaos" is a big letdown after the excellant "Octavarium", but still mainains a sliver of the band's exciting potential.

The biggest problem, is the band's very tired formula which is even more by-the-books here than ever before. The songs and playing have zero subtlety, and the entire album is so upfront and banal that it comes across sounding more like a release from their mainstream peers than what we should expect from those who have always strived to break the mold-- at this point the band might just be so in love with itself that stagnancy is the name of the game. The energy created by their technical playing on this release is completely hollow.

Most of the songs come across as reassembled bits from previous works, or worse yet-- as big, dumb, metal riffs lifted from other less reputable artists. More painful, are the few quite moments on the album, which are just mediocre ("Repentance" is the band's worst ballad... seriously). And, yes, even more painful... are Petrucci's embarrassing lyrics, more insipid than ever (although he's not alone: LaBrie has written the same song 3 times in a row now with "Prophets of War"). None of the members deliver anything memorable (except for Portnoy, whose backing vocals are painfully exposed, and for the always excellant Myung, whose fat sound is thankfully more audible), which is really too bad given the band's past excellence.

There are a few redeeming instrumental moments, some of which even manage to generate a little excitement, but by the time the listener hears them they are likely to be to jaded to care.

Coming from someone who genuinely loves this band, I can say that this album is a big let- down; the guys should have spent another year hammering out new ideas before recording. Hopefully tour attendance this time around will clue them into what their fans want (and deserve)... progress!

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 1

Review by Zitro
4 stars My initial reaction when I span this disc: Dream Theater is back!

Quality-wise they are back. I was losing a bit of faith with their latest albums. Train of Thought had minimal effort on songwriting [the album was finished in two weeks] and focused on showing off, with Ruddess using awful keyboard sound selections. Octavarium was too varied for its own good, was not complex enough, and had some plagiarism problems. This album, while its sound stays true to those two uneven albums, the songwriting is better and borrows elements in their earlier albums: complexity and melody. This is probably the first album since Images and Words where the instrumental sections and solos generally compliment the compositions and are not there for the sake of showing off and providing entertainment. Unfortunately, it's not an improvement in every way because the lyrics are usually laughably bad and very embarrasing except a couple of songs.

The album starts with the first part of In The Presence of Enemies which initiates with heavy soloing. I think it starts very awkward and abrupt as it could have used some sort of build up. The heavy instrumental introduction is five minutes long, but after the first or second minute I can get into it regardless of its awkward beginning. It features a beautiful guitar melody and some extremely complicated arrangements. The second half of this opening song features an improved James Labrie, who seems to have finally recovered from his vocal chord rupture a decade ago. Forsaken is a very radio-friendly track with piano-work that reminds of Evanescence, simple yet effective guitar riffs and memorable melodies by Labrie. Why this wasn't the single of the album is beyond me. However, why is Dream Theater singing about vampires?? Constant Change and The Dark Eternal Night are the two heavy "Train of Thought" kind of tracks that are a bit weak on melody. "Constant Change" is the single and sounds like Metallica with keyboards. Vocals are somewhat annoying in the verses but fortunately Petrucci lets go a great solo here. "Dark Eternal Night" has even more embarrassing lyrics about a mummy? The song starts great with a nice trashy riff but the processed vocals screaming "No one DARES TO ... SPEAK of the terrible DANGER!!!". It's just cheesy beyond imagination with only melody in the pre-chorus and chorus which are good if you ignore the lyrics. The instrumental section is just hilarious, what on earth are they doing? It sounds like circus music in odd time signatures. It is still entertaining in the same way an awful B-side movie is.

Fortunately, those two heavy songs are redeemed by the excellent second half of the album.

Repetance is the continuation of the Alcoholic Anonymous suite. this song is surprisingly an extended ballad, and easily my favorite of the AA songs yet. It starts with a familiar guitar line and a processed vocal from what appears to be Steven Wilson himself. The first half is a very melodic and moody composition that is heavily influenced by Porcupine Tree and Opeth's Damnation era due to the guitar sounds, composition and arrangement-style, and the use of the mellotron. One of Petrucci's finest and most melodic solos lead into the second half of the song that has voices from famous musicians and build up into an unexpected coda with "ahhh" vocal harmonies, fat riffs, a growling bass, and eventually more voices. It could have been a bit shorter, but it's still a magnificent and surprisingly stripped down track.

Prophets of War starts electronically in a way that reminds me of Ayreon until a driving and memorable guitar line breaks it into a chorus, which later contain crowd chants and war cries. This song is an attack on the Iraq War, which I agree with the views of Dream Theater once again [Their previous "In the Name of God" was spot on]. This, along with Forsaken, could have been the single as they are both catchy and accessible and Prophets of War even has a rapping section.

The Ministry of Lost Souls is for me the highlight of the album and among Dream Theater's greatest musical achievements. It is a trip back to Scenes from a Memory's best moments. The first section of the song is reminiscent of "The Spirit Carries On" with soaring guitars, Ruddess tasteful playing, and Labrie being at his most emotional. The beginning of the instrumental section is so dramatic that I love it. It quickly turns into heavy metal for a couple of minutes and then James Labrie has a short moment to sing again in a symphonic ballad section and a brilliant guitar line finishes the piece.

In The Presence of Enemies resumes with embarrasing lyrics "Dark Master I will Fight for you", but musically speaking, it is better than the Octavarium epic. This epic has elements of almost all the tracks in the album except for tracks #3,4, contains a long and complex instrumental section that has an excellent mini moog solo that brings back the excellent melody in the beginning of the first part of this epic. The song finishes off in a similar style of Octavarium: symphonic and majestic.

Overall, this is an excellent album by both beginners and fans of Dream Theater. It summarizes everything that is Dream Theater and partially brings them back to their past where their instrumental noodling was not so excessive.

1. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 (B+) 2. Forsaken (B+) 3. Constant Motion (C+) 4. The Dark Eternal Night (C+) 5. Repentance (A-) 6. Prophets of War (B+) 7. The Ministry of Lost Souls (A) 8. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 (B+)

Review by WaywardSon
5 stars After hearing "Constant Motion", I was expecting an album in the same vein as Train of Thought, however I am happy to report that this album is very diverse and has some great new surprises.

Unlike Octavarium, John Petrucci plays lots of solos, from slow emotional solos to downright shredding! The guitar solo on "In the precense of Enemies PT 1" in particular has some really good emotional playing by Petrucci.

John Myung´s bass has (at long last!) been turned up in the mix and is really noticeable on songs like "The dark eternal night"

James LaBrie experiments quite a bit on the most commercial song on the album, "Prophets of war" and there are parts where he does a brilliant Freddie Mercury imitation! The good news is that there are no songs as commercial as "I walk beside you" off Octavarium. On "Foresaken" his voive reminds me of the Images and Words album, he is on top form.

This album needs to be heard on headphones to fully appreciate. There is actually a lot of playing by Rudess (from ragtime piano to guitar soloing on keyboards) After a few listens I realize that Jordan Rudess plays a very strong role on this album.

Mike Portnoy is brilliant as usual, spectacular drumming throughout.

From the slow, almost Floydish "Repentance", to the bombastic "Dark eternal night", Dream Theater covers a lot of musical ground. Some call this "catering for everyone´s tastes" but I call it "musical diversity"

"The Ministry of lost souls" is my favourite track on this album, starting slowly and building up to an instrumental high, which reminds me of Metropolis in many ways.

Without a doubt, their strongest album since Scenes from a memory. Only time will tell which album is actually better.

Review by Menswear
4 stars Back to the future.

Indeed, this new Dream Theater is showing signs of going forward, but the initial buzz fades and soon we realize the wheel hasn't been reinvented. Far from dissing this record, Dream Theater is showing some signs of fatigue and redondance (track 3 and 4 are ressembling strangely) and is clearly picking out stuff out of every album they've made.

Basically, Systematic Chaos is a mish-mash of their prolific career in the land of metallish progressive music. First and foremost, it rocks and rolls and scorches your ears many, many times. A nice and somewhat new feature is the vocals provided by Mike Portnoy, with distorded and scary effects, adding more darkness to an already gloomy record. Yep, DT is meaner than in Octavarium, much meaner.

While Octavarium stated everyday life and such in a contemporary way that made it irresistible, Systematic Chaos is exploring new lyrical ground and heading maybe into a more Nightwishesque pattern. Some will like it, some will not. I frankly feel this kind of fantasy/gothic lyrics are not what DT are doing best and the music is...well...sharing that direction often enough to realize it quickly. Uh oh, exit are the U2 references and the ambient/ electronica keyboards...darn, all the good changes are gone!

Lots of fine instrumental passages are decorating the whole scene, and DT doesn't disappoint here. The oscar goes to Petrucci (once again) with a good mention to some fantastic solos of Rudess. Frankly, everybody seems to enjoy themselves and Labrie's back to his old pattern of 'private parts sqeezing' vocals. And this is too bad for me because I liked the way he sang in Octavarium. Aw man, the good don't last too long and again, Labrie is full front with in voice, like other DT records.

Honestly, DT has good ideas for goths and is surprisingly aggresive in certain moments. I'm not a goth, I'm not into aggresive moments and I dislike the return to the Images and Words/ Awake period.

Not as preppy, classy nor upbeat as Octavarium but still a solid and generous block of concrete.

Review by sleeper
4 stars Dream Theater, love them or hate them, there's no escaping from them. As the self-proclaimed standard bearers of progressive music (they're probably the most commercially successful prog group of the last 15 years, so maybe they're right on that), whenever Dream Theater release a new album, everyone knows about it. But, 18 years on from their debut, When Dream And Day Unite, what do they have left to show us, and after the dreadful Octavarium, can they still provide good music?

Octavarium was a disaster, easily their weakest album, and amongst its several flaws there were three major issues that needed to be sorted here on Systematic Chaos. The first was that John Myungs bass was completely lost in the mix, except fro a few select parts were he took centre stage, which was a massive shame as he's one of the best bass players around and the most consistent performer in Dream Theater. Second was that the band took influences from a very wide range of groups, not just the usual stock of Yes, Pink Floyd and Metallica, but the likes of Muse, U2 and Coldplay, and rather than incorporating these influences into the sound, it ended up more as a cut-and-paste job from all the bands that influence them, the sound of Dream Theater was near none-existent. Lastly, in an attempt to have Jordan Rudess's keyboard work more fully integrated and integral to the music than he had been since Scenes From A Memory, John Petrucci held back heavily on his guitar work to the point were it felt constrained and lackluster. But things have been turned around here, right from the opening bars of In The Presence Of Enemies Pt1 to the closing of Pt2 John Myung's bass comes through clear as day, the U2 and Coldplay influence is gone and the Metallica, Yes, Floyd and (for one song) Muse influence is integrated more fully into the sound and style of Dream Theater successfully, and finally Petrucci's guitar playing has some real bite and feel to it again.

Once again we have a very full CD here, 78 minutes of music, but of the eight songs on here I can honestly say that none of them are actually bad, probably for the first time since Scenes From A Memory, its just that some are far better than others. Forsaken, Constant Motion and Prophets Of War are the "weaker" songs on here, though weak is probably a bad term for them as I still like them, they just don't match up to the quality of In The Presence Of Enemies (Pts 1&2), The Dark Eternal Night, Repentance and The Ministry Of Lost Souls. One thing that the interested should know is that you are most definitely in the wrong place if you want deep and meaningful lyrics. What you have here is mainly fantasy sort of lyrics (without being overtly so, in a power metal kind of way, thankfully) with Repentance and Prophets Of War holding the only "real world relevance" sort of songs. That's not to say that the lyrics are bad, you'll find worse on Train Of Thought and Falling Into Infinity, its just that not everyone is going to like them.

Of the songs themselves, In The Presence Of Enemies, the 25 minute epic split into two parts like Floyds Shine On..., is the stand out of the album for me, and works brilliantly as both opener and closer of the album. The opening half of In The Presence... is the closest thing to an instrumental that this album has with the first 4 and a half minutes of the 9 minute piece being given over to the most interesting and dynamic instrumental that DT have done since The Dance Of Eternity on Scenes From A Memory. Indeed, it may have been better to have made the song in 3 parts, with part 1 split into two separate pieces, the first being the instrumental. Of course the lyrical part is just as good, it just may have been better served separating the two parts. The most important thing this 9 minute opener does is show that all major faults from Octavarium are gone. Myung is audible again, it is most certainly DT playing at being themselves and not someone else, and that Petrucci has opened up a bit more, but has maintained some of that restraint he practiced on Octavarium giving a lot of feel to the sharp bite of his guitar playing. Of the really good songs on here, the next one is The Dark Eternal Night. Yes, it is ridiculously over the top and possibly the most technically demanding song they have ever written, but its just such good fun and, though composed as a technical tour de force, they don't lose sight of the need for melody and create a very enjoyable song, as long as you don't try and take it seriously, because its not meant to be. This is followed by one of the most unique songs that the band has ever written and composed, Repentance. This makes up parts eight and nine of Mike Portnoy's AA series, and possibly the best of the lot, certainly rivalling The Mirror. The uniqueness comes from the fact that this is a very soft and slow song, by their standards, with a real Pink Floyd feel, dominated by clean guitars atmospheric keyboards, this ends up being a very melancholic song, despite recycling the main riff from Train Of Thoughts This Dying Soul (though slowed down and cleaned up a lot) and I think it works better here. This song is also noticeable for a real who's who of prog names (plus a few others) like Daniel Gildenlow, Steven Wilson, Steve Hogarth, Neal Morse and a few others adding voices showing repentance for certain things. The Ministry Of Lost Souls feels close to being a 15 minute ballad, but the music is far more varied, if very definitely emotionally charged, than your average ballad and makes this song one of the best here. It even feels like it wouldn't have been totally out of place on Images & Words or Awake, though its much more highly produced than said albums.

Of The other three songs, though they don't match up to the standards of those already mentioned, they're certainly not filler. As The Dark Eternal Night is one of the most technically demanding songs the band has ever written, Forsaken is one of the least. Its much more of a pop song than any other song on here, but far better than many previous efforts the band have made at this, with an almost Evanescence sort of feel to it, though very definitely Dream Theater. Constant Motion was the song picked to be the single from Systematic Chaos and is the most Metallica like of the songs, but with a very interesting instrumental section in the middle. Constant Motion would have fitted well on Train Of Thought, though would probably have stood out on their as its clearly a bit more restrained than the all out tech-fest of Train Of Thought. Lastly, Prophets Of War is the only James LaBrie written song on here and seems to be following the political subjects initiated in Sacrificed Sons from Octavarium. This time the lyrics don't follow the atrocity of 9/11 but Americas own actions since then. However, rather than just criticize the actions of the Bush administration, as so many others have, he also focuses on the hope for the future and "setting things right", something that more people should look at to be honest. Musically this song has a very strong influence from Muse, just like Never Enough from Octavarium did, but this time it works much better, though it might be taken just a bit too far. The problem with these songs is that they are just not quite as strong compositional as the others on the album, though still quite enjoyable.

Overall this is Dream Theater on top form, all the musicians give what is certainly their best performances since 1999's Scenes From A Memory and LaBrie gives what is definitely his strongest vocal performance for the band yet, he's found how to work his voice and range brilliantly and has completely abandoned the unintelligible wailing that marred his performance on Awake. If you were looking for the band to come up with something completely new then you are going to be disappointed, but they are still the masters of this style of progressive metal and perform it better than any of the similar bands like Vanden Plas and Shadow Gallery. I fully admit that I was worried that Dream Theater may have lost the spark to create truly interesting songs and that the were on the rocky slope to oblivion, but here on Systematic Chaos they come back with a real bang, providing their best album since the classic masterpiece Scenes From A Memory, and a piece of work that I consider to be behind only the aforementioned Scenes... and the classic Images & Words, clearly there's life in the old dog yet. A brilliant album that is only let down by the fact that three of the compositions are clearly slightly weaker than the others and that, though the bass is definitely audible this time, it could still have been a bit more forward in the mix. A very strong 4 stars from me.

Review by Prog-jester
2 stars 2.5

The best way to rate an overhyped album is to look on it through a prism of time. Obsession of first months sapped, and now we can listen to it without this emotional overdose (positive or negative ? choose the one side you like most). The truth is always somewhere in the middle.

OK, it's stupid to expect for a new SFAM or I&W. Times are changing, and DT have new idols now ? MUSE instead of YES and METALLICA instead of RUSH. Floydian notes didn't go anywhere, but they're less noticeable (thanks God they haven't ripped another PF stuff this time). Some songs are great (25 minutes of epic are quite impressive despite some obvious clichés thrown here and there), some are not ("Forsaken", "Repentance" and "Prophets of War"), but it's all so subjective, you know?"Dark Eternal Night" and "Constant Motion" both sound extremely cool (yes, I kept my ears closed to the fact of blatant METALLICA rip- off and still do), and La Brie is better than he had ever been since "Awake"! "The Ministry of Lost Souls" is another good song, with predictable structure (ballad/instrumental vvackery/ballad coda) and earworm-like tune.

The problem is that I didn't like the album. I listen to it from time to time, but it's hardly my fave release (one of the worst from DT, to be fairly honest). It's better than "Octavarium", but it's the same way 'poorly average' in the same time. Not recommended for beginners, not recommended for early DT fans - feel free to pass it by.

Review by kunangkunangku
4 stars Expectations aren't always high for any established band. Chances are fans don't even know what they actually hope for. This is also the case for Dream Theater, who has become undisputed poster boys in its genre, i.e. progressive metal; they just can't get away from such situation. Good thing is, however, Mike Portnoy and the rest of the guys have so far never made their fans, metalheads throughout the world, truly disappointed.

Here, in their ninth studio effort, once again the 20 year old band mercilessly shows how they've been in a level of "we-can-do- anything-we-want", as if they were a master painter who, besides technical capabilities, had been collecting under their belts every colors available and a huge pile of canvas. Fortunately enough, they seem never lack of ideas; ideas flow like a mountain river.

Like in their previous albums, especially since Images and Words (1992) that catapulted them to international success, even onto MTV screen, they still play with adrenalin-pumping technical prowess: highly energized, lightning fast, and Switzerland watches precision. These are typical metal elements. But, at the same time, they also generously incorporate powerful melodies in their musical structures.

We may recognize here that they mix all the best parts of their previous sounds. By listening to it in its entirety, we might come to a point where we can't just say it tends to Train of Thought metal and less progressive, vice versa. Every element shares equally space width and well blended with the music --heavy and soft, restrained and unleashed, and also both technical and emotional.

On top of that, everyone still can get compositions packed with rapidly shifting time signatures, virtuosic solos and unisons, and massive riffs that made the band famous. The album title, albeit contradictio in terminus, says it all --chaotic, yet controlled.

If it has to be mentioned, this album is partly having Train of Thought's dark and heavy elements and partly highlighting Octavarium's grandeur and flair. There's absolutely no single song deserves to be missed. Everything meets even the lowest level of expectation from die hard fans and those who appreciate the music in a reasonable manner alike. And for those who wouldn't mind to dig his or her wallet deeper, the special edition package --with a CD and a bonus DVD --surely would worth the price.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I come at this one from the unique perspective of being somewhat of a DT newbie, without the baggage of past expectations about this band. Sure I've heard them before but I've never been a big DT "fan." So when a friend dropped a copy of Systematic Chaos in my lap I decided it was time to give the band a fair chance and listen to them as if they were a brand new group. And from that perspective, without having to judge this album against their back catalogue..

I like this.

It was certainly helpful to have the bonus DVD to be able to get a real sense of the personalities and the band at work in the studio. After all these years together I see a bunch of guys who still have fun and who admitted that making this album is the most fun they've had in the studio since "Awake." They still play at the top of their game and aren't particularly worried about whether prog purists are going to judge them on the basis of being groundbreaking. Let's face it, most bands break ground relatively early on if they manage to at all, and if they stay together as long as DT many are putting out dreck that isn't anywhere close to the music on this album. Where were the lads in Led Zeppelin this far into their musical careers? Doing stuff like The Firm? Shaken 'n Stirred? Even if Bonzo hadn't died, In Through the Out Door showed they had little magic left. And it isn't just Zep. Based on the history of many progressive and straight rock groups DT aren't doing too badly here. So I'm not judging their ability to break new ground. I was more curious to find out if they were making music that appealed to me as a rock fan.

In the documentary, Rudess delivers a line that would be the perfect title to his future book about the group should he ever write one. As he's working on this keyboard run and having some difficulty with it, he says "we have problems playing slow." It's a funny moment but actually they do just fine playing slow and heartfelt when they want to and it's something I wish they'd do a little more of in the future. I know their fans love the warp speed stuff though and that's fine too, after all, it's their band and their fans are extremely loyal! Portnoy also explained how much better it is for them to write and record together on the spot in the studio as opposed to writing things individually at home and then coming together a year later to record, by which time he says they will have lost the spark and the freshness of the idea. It's much more exciting to work with something they just came up with rather than an idea from a year or two back. Portnoy is hilarious on camera, so brimming with boyish energy that he physically cannot stand still during the interview, he rocks back and forth like someone who has to take a leak really bad.

Getting on with the music of Systematic Chaos, "In the Presence..part 1" begins with a bang and a little bit of flash by all. I really like this opening as it serves notice well of what is coming. Around two minutes Petrucci lays down the first of many heartfelt solos, lots of tasty melody and notes held for the right amount of time, bent just about perfectly and lasting about 2 minutes. Really good so far and then... The vocals kick in around 5 minutes and I'm forced to deal with, kicking and screaming, what had been one of my complaints about DT. Pretty boy Mr. Labrie. But for the most part I think he does a nice job on this album. He still has this somewhat pretentious melodrama about him that bugs me but I can deal with it when I'm enjoying the material, which I do for the most part on this album. This is a very successful opener of heavy prog with even some fusiony moments.

"Forsaken" starts with a heavy groove and some nicely layered guitar alternating with good keyboard. The chorus is awfully sing-songey but even with a moderate cheese factor I still think this is one hell of a well done light-metal (pop-metal ballad?) song that I can enjoy if I check my prog cynicism at the door. It is soaring in its feel and really succeeds with outstanding writing and delivery. It might be the "pop" song on the album but it's not a track I'll be skipping over my any means. Nice.

"Constant Motion" is one that I hated at first but has grown on me some upon many listenings. The only Metallica I can appreciate any more are the Cliff albums and this reminds me of lamer 90s Metallica. It's well played of course but is one of two songs that drag on the overall album, thankfully those two songs are among the shorter ones. Not bad if you dig the Metallica sound but the vocals especially make me cringe.

"The Dark Eternal Night" begins with crushingly heavy bombast and great drumming. This one is also very metal but to me more successful than "Constant Motion." The heavily distorted vocals alternate with clean ones and just foam at the mouth in their fury. About half-way through there are some really funky exchanges between the various players that display their finesse without getting too warp-speed. It's probably pretty easy for long time fans to take songs like this one for granted but for newbies this is some pretty wild stuff! This song reminds me of classic Sabbath. You have the Iomni mega-riff, the playful jamming with tasteful bridges, and the lyrical themes that either Ronnie or Oz would surely love to belt out.

"Repentence" is change of pace for sure. Very brooding, eerie clean guitar and vocals remind me of some Porcupine Tree. A slow pace with acoustic guitars, wonderful keyboards throughout and a beautiful guitar solo ensue. Then they string together a bunch of spoken word sections by famous people on the topic of regret that is a great idea, although they leave a little too much music over the top making the actual words difficult to understand. This is followed by a Floydian like section that is dreamy and nice. It works as a breather before more spoken word returns. This song in itself is a bit of a breather on an otherwise very heavy batch of songs and it's a definite highlight.

"Prophets of War" is the other song that doesn't work so well for me. It seems pretty clichéd to me and the lyrical message seems forced. Definitely one of the weaker moments on the album. Did the Democratic Party write the lyrics for this one or what? I totally support anyone's right to release an anti-war song but at least make it interesting and thought provoking. Thought provoking and clever this is definitely not and I would have dropped it from the album. Maybe they should have consulted with Bright Eyes instead of Kucinich's speechwriter for the lyrics

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" starts with a beautiful melody which very much reminds me of Pain Of Salvation for some reason. Again I like the softer texture the acoustic guitar introduces and the slower pace in places. Labrie is at his best here with some truly gorgeous harmonies behind him and the electric leads are great too when they pop up. The middle section shifts into an extended jam that breaks from the original melodies but is inspired and interesting. The third section is similar to the first but with a bit more majesty and another restrained melodic guitar solo until the fade out. This is a very good track.

"In the Presence..part 2" is the grand finale and it begins appropriately with a very Floyd like opening. Vocals begin about one minute in and the music is very spacey and dreamy with a monster bass part around 2:45. At 3:25 they kick in full throttle and this leads to the "Dark Master" chorus that has apparently set off the cheese detector for many fans, but they actually address some of these lyrical issues in the documentary. If you have a problem with them I suggest listening to their explanation before writing off the whole CD. This track moves like a true epic and rocks very hard while remaining varied and interesting. There is some ensemble playing in the middle/late sections that is as interesting as similar Rush stuff you might compare it to. I love the way it winds down out of this section at 13:15 like a downhill skier after hitting the last jump and then coasting towards the finish line. Then we hear the original melody from part 1 arise from the ashes to wrap the album into a cohesive package. The piece gets more grandiose as it lays down an impressive ending to this fine album.

Recommended for DT fans of course, but also for non-DT fans who are curious. I believe this to be a good introduction to the band as it is accessible, interesting, and offers the video documentary (at least for now it does.) And for the prog metal fans who thrash this album, while I respect your opinion, would you feel the same if you heard this material played well by a new band rather than DT?

Summary: DT may never be my favorite group but any band that can put out a disc like this after roughly 2 decades is doing something right. And doing something Yes, Genesis, and Floyd didn't manage at roughly the same career points with Big Generator, Invisible Touch, and Momentary Lapse. Even with the two missteps noted (Constant Motion and Prophets of War) I can still award this album 4 stars without hesitation. One of the other Prog Reviewers writes of DT new releases: "chances are fans don't even know what they actually hope for." This is a great line and there's plenty of truth to it. DT probably just can't win anymore. Any direction they take will piss off one contingent of fans or another. I guess that's the burden of hanging around for 20 years but I personally believe they can be proud of this album.

Review by lor68
3 stars Although I've listened to a lot of progmetal during the last twenty years (think of a few interesting bands such as Mastermind or Magellan in the recent times for example) substantially I share the same thought as Erik Neuteboom and Joey Kelly: I don't criticize the technical approach of D.T., whose solos are often outstanding, but rather I'm not fond of their way to compose as well as of the music colours They use...their suites, often lacking such an important dynamic mood that I need as a classical composer (the loud but also the soft tones within the same tune, I mean...), begin to annoy me after 20 minutes of solos; moreover Jordan Rudess on keyboards doesn't make me change idea about their music project all along their career...that's a certain sense of tiredness, though the present "S.C." is generally regarded as their best album since "Six Degrees" and their execution is often stunning as well, after all! Nevertheless - in my opinion - They need some fresh new music ideas to make a renewal of their old project or should think of exploring new territories (like in the albums by L.T.E. for instance). Otherwise if They don't try to change route, their music will be cloned by themselves forever as a continual loop and naturally their albums become automatically boring.

At the end - if you're a prog metal fan - you couldn't stay too much far away from "S.C." and you should add an half star at least; otherwise you could look forward hearing something new...I let you decide, as usual!

Review by Muzikman
4 stars The last time I listened to an album repeatedly, I mean twice a day for a stretch of two weeks, began the day I picked up Black Sabbath's 1973 album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. It became a permanent resident on my turntable and drove my parents crazy. History does repeat itself and for many reasons I could not stop listening to Dream Theater's most recent release Systematic Chaos. I have long wondered if they could possibly release an album as good as Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence; now I am elated to discover that they have surpassed that 2002 release for consistency and overall excellence in production, musicianship, lyrics and storytelling - this is their best effort to date!

It may have something to do with the fact that last year offered the band their first vacation in 10 years. They were obviously in dire need of a break, and it probably saved them from self-destruction. Additionally, following their emancipation from Atlantic records and a brief stint with Rhino, they have found a home at Roadrunner Records - a label that I would consider a major indie with a very independent attitude and approach. A band of down-to-earth gents like Dream Theater can finally thrive with a label like this and they deserve to. They returned to the studio, reinvigorated, in 2006 and began recording this dazzling session.

I have never had any doubt about this band's ability to perform with excellence at all positions on stage and in the studio. Incredibly, they feel they have more to prove to themselves and to the world of music, as James LaBrie comments on the 90- minute bonus documentary on the included DVD. LaBrie is the consummate showman and his vocals, as always, are incredibly strong on this release. He reaches deep within himself to bring each character to life on every track, and he makes it all real in your mind's eye. Then when you see him do it all in a live performance you find yourself falling into his overpowering web of influence. He mentions in the documentary that he has not had this much fun since the band recorded their 1994 release Awake; that's a long time to wait to get that euphoric feeling back - doing what you love in the studio.

Each musician is an undisputed star in his own right and respective position within the band, and contributes to Dream Theater's quality and uniqueness. John Petrucci (guitar) has made the Ernie Ball six-string, The MusicMan®, his friend over the years. He becomes one with his guitar on this release and his writing has reached another level as well. Jordan Rudess (keyboards) is phenomenal in setting the tone for the rest of the band to jump in and launch into each track in typically grand style. By letting his versatile, classically trained fingers do all the talking, he draws upon his palette of moods to paint extraordinarily rich atmospheres. Moreover, Mike Portnoy (drums) and John Myung (bass) are arguably the best rhythm section in the universe.

Their positive attitudes shine throughout, even in light of the fact that their music is dark and full of fantasy. The opening track, "In The Presence Of Enemies", sets the stage for the entire album by leading in with a long instrumental break that builds into a mountain of music. then LaBrie's vocals come in - it's vintage Dream Theater.

My favorite track, "Forsaken", is a story about a female vampire who visits an unknowing soul during the night and leads him to believe that she is taking him to paradise. All the while, his lifeblood is being sucked from his body, renewing her life and making him her possession for eternity. Petrucci plays some very heavy and melodic riffs during the run of the song and LaBrie takes you there scene by scene in a passionate and dramatic fashion.

Every track offers an intriguing story with incredible music driving it along, sometimes at hyperspeed then geared down when necessary so you can visit each setting, and become intimate with each character. It all develops inside your head, and with several listens following along with the words, you suddenly find yourself living each role. This is potent stuff - the kind of music that is impossible to forget.

The Special Edition of Systematic Chaos includes a DVD that features this epic recording in awesome 5.1 surround sound. Once you hear it, nothing else will suffice. You also get an inside look at the recording process via a 90 minute documentary hosted by drummer Mike Portnoy - the man is a riot and a total nut, and I loved his commentary and interaction with fellow band mates. Interviews with all the band members except Myung are interspersed between segments of studio footage.

I could go on ad infinitum about this release, but it is time for you to get your own copy. You can be certain of one thing; this album features some of the best progressive metal you will ever hear - bar none. From one corner of the planet to the next, the Dream Theater machine reigns supreme.

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Dream Theater's latest studio offering has all the hallmarks of a great Prog Metal record. In short, everything you have come to expect from a band of their calibre. However on the 24 minute title track at least of their last album, "Octavarium" Dream Theater hinted that they may be moving away from The all out Prog Metal of "Train of Thought". This does not seem to be the case as this album in some ways seems to take a few steps back falling somewhere between 2 in terms of progression. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing but it would have been interesting to hear them follow that vein a little more.

Fortunately "Systematic Chaos" stands up on the strength of the material and is one of their best releases of recent years. The album is bookended by "In the Prescence of Enemies" , Part 1 and 2 which is one of best tracks on offer featuring the kind of impeccable musicianship you expect of Dream Theater. Heaviest moment comes on "The Dark Eternal Night" which has an instrumental mid section that had me hitting the replay button again and again. The closing riff must be the dirtiest Petrucci riff ever and has a great Keyboard solo from Rudess that I initially mistook for a Guitar.

After the bludgeon of "The Dark Eternal Night" following track "Repentance" is well placed and takes things down a notch. And very good it is too.

Weakest track is "Prophets of War" which lesser bands would no doubt be happy to have written, comes across as ordinary in such illustrious company although you've got to admire their cheek for such obvious Queen influenced backing vocals.

So to sum up, if you're looking for Dream Theater to boldly go where they haven't been before then you may be disappointed with Systematic Chaos. However if you're content to hear them play their Prog Metal in much the same vein as before then this is a highly enjoyable release and one of the best albums of 2007.

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars Two of their three last albums before this one were the most progressive they had produced so far : "Six Degrees" and "Octavarium". One being their most heavy-metal and little interesting to my ears "Train Of Thought". So, I wondered which way "Dream Theater" was going to head for "Systematic Chaos". And actually, to satisfy (or disastify) their fans, they will opt for a mix of the genres (but their most heavy side will be scarce, fortunately).

Only two tracks belong to the heavy metal and unintersting stuff : "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night". Best avoided if you can't stand this genre.

"Forsaken" on the contrary is a good pop-rock song. Straight-forward composition; strong but not heavy. It features crystal clear vocals and combines a very melodic chorus with even some light passages. I guess that devoted "DT" fans (which I am not) will not really praise this song. But as far as I'm concerned, I like it.

Some other pieces of music are really nice to listen to. "Repentance" for instance. It sounds almost like a "Porcupine Tree" song. Soft melody, backing voice from the other world, great background choir, spacey mood. This has little to do with "Constant Motion" of course and it is all better for me.

"DT" presents another hard-rock-pop one with "Prophets Of War". I have mentioned already that a song or two from "Octaviarum" were "Muse" oriented ("Panic Attack" and "Never Enough"). When I listen to this song, it is a confirmation of this. Same sort of song structure. Of course, LaBrie does not sound as Bellamy but the music is rather similar. And I like it.

The long "Ministry Of Lost Souls" (almost fifteen minutes) started as a soft rock-ballad; mellow vocals, symphonic backing band and it builds crescendo. This song structure has always pleased me. At half time, the more traditional "DT" gets back with these characteristic bass riffs. A powerful intrumental part will close this good number. Some maestria from Petucci combined with some very pleasant keyboards work. A mix of prog and hard-rock. The final guitar solo is beautiful and emotional. A rather succesfull song. A highlight.

There is of course another epic here. Divided in two which I don't like very much. This song in its texture and spirit is similar to the great "Six Degrees" (over forty minutes) and "Octavarium" (almost twenty four minutes). This is a great number in which you will discover all the aspects of "DT" music (except the heavy side). Symphonic moments, sweet vocals, harder approach as well at times (but not too often), great guitar soli for Petrucci and great synthesizer as well.

I guess that the influence of Rudess is determinant in their evolution since from the moment he has been on board (well on the keyboards I mean) the band has generated its most progressive music ("A Change Of Seasons" excepted).

This is a very good album. If only "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night" would have been cut !

Four stars as such. This is another album that could please a lot of progheads.

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Dream Theater returns in full force!

First off, Id like to make an aside by stating that I find it unfortunate that many bands can grow so large and so hyped that their music often gets looked down upon simply because they are popular. I've always found this the case with Dream Theater, many people frowning on them simply because so many others think they're the best thing since sliced bread. While I fall somewhere closer to the "best thing..." side of the spectrum I often try to listen with a critical mind to the music they're making. On this particular outing I find that Dream Theater has produced one of their best works, and now I'm going to get into the review.

While not quite up to caliber with some of their most popular works (ex: Scenes from a Memory), this is an album that far surpasses some of the bands recent work, making it likely the best thing they've made since "Six Degrees". DT has also steered the ship in a more heavy direction, perhaps provoking the responses they've been getting from the prog community. However, what does not change is the pure musicianship put forward by the members, and the supreme storytelling that we're used to from the band.

Starting with the first part of the book ending track IN THE PRESENCE OF ENEMIES PT 1 opens with some quick guitar and launches strait into the 6 or so minute overture, one that's (much heavier than, but) likely on par with something like Overture 1939 or Six Degrees Overture. The rest of the track slows down, if ever so slightly, as Rudess's keyboard launches into the vocal segment. FORSAKEN is a bit more "poppy", but only in structure, the story of a man who's taken away by a vampiress. Some great vocal work by La Brie here, but definitely not the album's standout. CONSTANT MOTION is the first single off the album, and is a blindly fast track that's great by all means, likely the best choice for a single since 1993's Lie, notable in the track is the stupidly fast guitars and the vocal harmonies between La brie and Portnoy. THE DARK ETERNAL NIGHT is likely the heaviest piece of the album accompanied by some saloon piano randomly thrown into the soloing. An interesting track that's fun to rock out to. REPENTANCE is the next part of DT's "AA" saga, and while this one's slower than the rest in the series, it's still a bit redundant in sound. A good track taken on its own or paired with the others in the series, but for those of us wanting new material only on new albums, you may be a bit let down. Moving on, PROPHETS OF WAR is a short number that targets the Bush Administration. THE MINESTRY OF LOST SOULS is a beautiful song that highlights exactly what DT does best. It starts slow and ends with beautiful soloing that can only be described as excellent. One of DT's finest moments. Finally the album ends as it began with IN THE PRESENCE OF ENEMIES PT 2. Another fine epic by Dream Theater, and the coda is just as good as the beginning. Accompanied by some fine storytelling ("Welcome tired pilgrim/into the circle/we have been waiting. Angels fall, All for you, Heretic") this is easily the epic we would expect after the previous album's fantastic title track.

While the metal in this one definitely is heavier than DT's other albums this is not one to miss. While prog-heads may find that it's a bit too over the top, those of us who got into the prog genre through metal while have a fine taste of nostalgia left in our mouths while still hearing some new material. 4 stars, this one's excellent.

Review by Moatilliatta
2 stars Love them or hate them, you have to face the fact that nobody does it quite like Dream Theater. To say that other prog metal bands are as good as or better than Dream Theater is to say that immitation maple syrup tastes like maple syrup, or better. And it doesn't. While the band has a propensity for speed and mind bogglingly technical passages, the band never sacrifices emotion for technicality. Never. If you think so, you have an unjustified bias and refuse to accept it. And so maybe they have been waering their influences on their sleeves a bit lately. If Dream Theater wants to try something that sounds like Muse, Dream Theater can try out something that sounds like Muse. They are forward thinking guys, who appreciate what newer bands are doing. So what if they want to have a little fun and try out a new sound for a song? It still sounds like the same band, and it's not copying the other band at all. Get over it, guys. Dream Theater writes and plays in a way that no other band can match. Look at the fine details. The transitions, the harmonies, the arrangements, the fusion of styles, the memorability of the melodies, the way the band has connected their whole discography musically and lyrically, etc, all come together to shape a career that no other band has been able to compete with. The band has had virtually no radio play for over a decade and they still manage to book Radio City Music Hall. You can go to Guitar Center and ask anyone there about Dream Theater, and there's a good chance that they're familiar with them. Why is that? It's because the band can play, and they do, but they also write songs that are easy to get into for even those who don't understand progressive music or music theory. They can connect with fans just as well as U2 can, and they do it with a heavy mix of intricacy and passion. When you watch the group play, you can see how into it they are. They aren't just playing because they can and it sounds good; they are playing because they love to do it. They put their souls into the music. They have such character on and off the stage. They are true musicians. If you don't like them, fine, but don't ever say that they just masturbate with their instruments, and don't ever say that they don't do what they do very well.

Now, let's look at Systematic Chaos, the band's 9th studio release. Granted, the band has not evolved much over the past few years, but they are trying new styles for fun. We have another attempt at DT Muse, and to a much greater success, with "Prophets of War," and some Beatles influence in the proggy masterwork "The Ministry of the Lost Souls.'' Thrashy metal gets a lot of attention on "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night," and while some of it sounds a bit mainstream, there are enough quirks and what not to keep things interesting. "Repentance," the fourth chapter in the AA series is a dark, atmospheric tune. "Forsaken" is perfect single material and the DT we know and love is all over the epic "In the Presence of Enemies," with a fresh sound of course.

If you're not into DT, this won't change your mind. Only you can change your mind. If you're into DT, this is another excellent release, with a few weak spots. Sometimes it seems like the band is just coasting, but they always end up throwing something in there to keep your interest. And they are on the top of their game with the longer tracks especially.

Review by progrules
5 stars I purposely waited for quite some time before reviewing this latest by DT because I wanted to give a justified judgement about it instead of making a hasty conclusion after one or two listenings.

I have to say I was a bit anxious about this one because Octavarium was an album I had ambivalent feelings about. There was the supersong, two nice ones and the rest questionable. This could mean DT was declining a bit but that was to be awaited with their next release. I think it's safe to say they recovered, at least that's my opinion of course. I think DT has managed to make an album without any poor or even lesser songs. In this case I could have done the review after a few listenings because my opinion hasn't changed after a couple of months. I will give ratings for each song:

1. In the presence of enemies pt.1. Great opener, somewhat mysterious sounding track. 4.25 stars.

2. Forsaken. Could have been on Octavarium but better than those tracks. 3.75 stars.

3. Constant motion. More or less the same. Another accessable one. 3.75 stars.

4. Dark eternal night. My personal favourite. Great heavy track very suitable for live gigs. 5 stars.

5. Repentance. Starts off like a balad, then getting rougher. Very nice. 4.25 stars.

6. Prophets of war. Mediocre track. Not really impressive. 3.5 stars.

7. Ministry of lost souls. One of the best, great epical track. 4.75 stars.

8. My second favourite coming close after Dark eternal night. Even (much) better than previous or pt.1. 5 stars.

So I think we can say this is more than a decent album, I think this is worth the qualification masterpiece. And we all know what that means. This is one of DT's very best and I'm happy to say they are still up for the job, hopefully for many years to come. Final note: I like the yells they do in some of the songs. It's a new element and I think it works very nicely.

Review by maani
4 stars I will probably be burned as a heretic, but I like this album ALOT more than Octavarium, and as much as almost anything they have done except Scenes. Rather than do a song-by-song analysis, I will simply make some general comments.

I find the writing on most of the album as good as or better than most DT albums. Forsaken, Constant Motion, The Dark Eternal Night and Repentance stand out here, though all of it is recognizably DT; indeed Forsaken and CM have joined my favorite DT tracks of all time. There is also a cohesiveness about the writing (both lyrical and musical) that matches almost anything they have done except Scenes. / The jams here are also highly laudable DT, particularly In the Presence Part I (superb!), The Dark Eternal Night (ditto!) and the end of In the Presence Part II. The boys are in fine technical fettle here, doing what they do best. / The lyrics are also among the best, most compelling they have written, and just esoteric enough to keep the "faith" theme therein interesting. I also feel that Labrie's voice is better here - clearer, more confident and expressive - than I have heard him in some time.

Yet perhaps the thing I like best about this album is something that some other reviewers complained about; the "nods" to various other groups. Because this album, more than most other DT albums, does indeed contain nods to (as opposed to simple "influence" by, which is ever-present) everyone from Black Sabbath to Rush, from ELP to Metallica. Whether it is "fritched" growling vocals or death metal chord structures, melodic nods or rhythmic lifts (there is a particularly deft and direct lift from the end of Karn Evil 9 toward the end of the final jam in In the Presence Part II), it is these "homages" that I think add to the brilliance of this album, since, after all, Dream Theater HAS been influenced by all those groups in various ways. And yet the "nods" to these groups are done without interfering with the either the thematic nature of the album or the inimitable DT style.

Unlike most other DT albums, this one truly grew on me: I kinda liked it the first time; liked it better the second; and now, after the third complete and careful listening, have come to the feelings and conclusions above. While there is much to love and admire about many other DT albums, Systematic Chaos can comfortably take its place in their pantheon - a place of some honor and respect.


Review by ProgBagel
3 stars Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos 3.0 stars

This album is a step in the right direction after Octavarium.they tried experimenting a bit on this one. This album has some great tracks but almost just as many bad ones. bringing me to think that this is in the middle at 3 stars. This album features another epic that is divided into two parts, which would be considered the highlight of the album, and it isn't too shabby.

'In the Presence of Enemies, Pt: 1' is one of the best DT tracks in a while.better then anything on the previous effort and up there with some 'Train of Thought' tracks. For a change the guitar and keyboards aren't over-demanding. There is even a bit of atmosphere added which is very new for Rudess.including some odd scales and chords. Finally, we also get an extremely slow and moving guitar solo from Petrucci., which feels like ages since we heard one of those. This song is over before you even know it, a masterpiece of prog.

'Forsaken' is a decent track. Again Rudess creates a good intro that is reminiscent of Moore's piano work. The vocal work is also pretty unique. The entire song structure is something you would find in standard metal.but overall it's not that bad of a track.

'Constant Motion' is just a piece of trash. It's the single off the album and has a video so watch it yourself and cringe. It's really just a bad version of a Megadeth/Metallica song. With an extremely annoying verse, just terrible vocal work from a LaBrie and Portnoy duo, I find myself loathing this track. Petrucci and Rudess fall into their solo traps once again on this track. Completely emotionless.not fitting into the music at all.

'The Dark Eternal Night' has become one of my favorite DT tracks. This is their angriest work by far. I find it funny how they really emphasized the diminished chord.showing that they decided to do something different and get praised for it by all those DT fanboys. The chorus to the song is one of the best they have ever done. The song does have some flaws in it. Once again we get the meaningless guitar solo and keyboard solo that are the most out-of-place solos I have ever heard in music. These solos just seem to be thrown in and have sadly become a trend in their music. We are also treated to a big Rush rip-off in the song too. Even with all these flaws, I consider this one of my favorite DT tracks.really cool track.

'Repentance' is nothing special. Once again we are brought into the song with a 'This Dying Soul' riff. The verse of kind of cool and it features a bunch of singers.far too many to name. This song is somehow drawn out to 10 minutes and can make the listener fall asleep. It's not heavy like the others that follow the DT suite but they can't go crazy for 40 minutes.still, this could have been done much better. Also, using the voice samples is becoming very cliché nowadays.

'Prophets of War' is just another Muse plagiarism. The chorus was ok at first but then you realize it is nothing special. The chanting also added really nothing to the this an idea to use for a DVD? Just what hell happened here? Bleh.

'The Ministry of Lost Souls' is a hunk of [&*!#]. No wonder it was written during the Octavarium tour. I see that album is still plaguing their new music. This in my opinion is one of the worst Dream Theater tracks ever released. The song is at least 7 minutes too long. James Labrie nearly puts you to sleep with his boring vocal work that is in the verse, which honestly lasts for 7 minutes! People make such a big deal about the instrumental and how it makes the song. Tell me, did you not listen to anything off of 'Train of Thought' or the build up in 'Octavarium'? It is nothing new or special at all. The guitar solo and keyboard solo. read above please.

'In The Presence of Enemies: Pt. 2' is the only good track we've had for a while here. It's a much lesser version of the first part.but pretty good nonetheless. The intro is very quiet.and the buildup to the chorus is pretty cool. The chorus is pretty cool.except for the extremely cheesy 'Dark Master' line.I don't know what the hell they were thinking. This closes out the album pretty well though.decent song.

Basically this album contained 2 greats, 3 decent ones, 1 bad one and 2 trashy ones. Thus, I'll just give it three stars. If you are a fan of the band.then you should get it, you'll get the tracks that are good and be satisfied with those. If you aren't a fan, then stay for away, you will not get your money's worth.

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I was given this album as a Christmas present by my other half. Seen as most of the DT albums I own were a disappointment to say the least, I would never have bought it of my own accord, as I declined getting hold of its predecessor, "Octavarium". In spite of repeated attempts to get into the band, my opinion of them has really never changed - lots of talent, technical chops galore, but ultimately poor songwriting skills. Though the various members of DT play as if their life depended on them, the results never really gel - and their latest effort is no exception.

However, to be perfectly fair, I have found "Systematic Chaos" somewhat easier to approach than the other albums I own, with the sole exception of "Images and Words" (the only DT album I can actually listen to with some pleasure). True, my mind still sort of blacks out halfway through the record, but in some way I have found most of the tracks manage to hold my attention long enough to distinguish one from the other. As most other DT offerings, SC is definitely too long, with two-thirds of the compositions lasting between 8 and 16 minutes - the band have yet to learn that less can be more.

Another rather serious flaw of the album has to do with those songs which are sharply reminiscent of other bands' work. I don't want to use the word rip-off, but this is what came to my mind when I first heard "Constant Motion", which sounds like vintage Metallica with keyboards - while "Repentance" reminds the listener of Porcupine Tree, and "Prophets of War" of Muse. On the other hand, "Forsaken", with its big chorus, is the token ballad which graces every DT album - rather pleasant to listen to, even if LaBrie's voice (still the band's weakest point) doesn't do it any favours. With "The Dark Eternal Night", the band return instead to heavy metal territory, complete with John Petrucci's heavily fantasy-flavoured (and to me quite cheesy) lyrics.

The same rather embarrassing lyrics grace the two-part epic that bookends the album, "In the Presence of Enemies", whose instrumental parts are as a whole the best thing on SC. In particular, the "Prelude" kick-starts things with pyrotechnic energy and Petrucci's trademark manic noodling, which makes the band's sound immediately recognisable. The other epic of the album, "The Ministry of Lost Souls", is another typical DT track which throws in anything but the kitchen sink, but ends up being ultimately forgettable for all its length. In any case, I am quite sure a different vocalist would improve DT's overall impact immensely, since to these ears the instrumental tracks are almost always the most impressive, in spite of the distinct whiff of self-indulgence that all too often permeates them.

Definitely listenable, at times even somehow enjoyable, "Systematic Chaos" is far from essential, unless you happen to be a die-hard fan of the band, and think they can do no wrong. Not really cohesive nor innovative, it is however a reasonably solid effort from an outfit that, for better or for worse, have almost single-handedly created a genre.

Review by JLocke
2 stars Now, Dream Theater was the second prog metal band I discovered (Tool being the first), and luckely the first song I ever heard from them was possibly their best ever: ''Learning to Live''. They impressed me so much that I have made it a point to collect every Dream Theater CD I come across. So naturally, when SYSTEMATIC was released, I went straight to my local Wal-Mart and picked up the second-to-last Special edition available there, which featured the making of DVD and all of those features.

Well, on first listen, it all sounded great. I especially liked ''In The Presence of Enemies'', but upon second, third and fourth listen, nothing on the album seemed all that special to me. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the only really good song on the album is the epic ''In The Presence of Enemies'', which if you include both parts clocks in at nearly thirty minutes. So, half an hour of genuinely great music is enough reason to hold on to this album if you've already bought it, but if you were considering picking up and haven't yet, I would honestly suggest that you spend your money on something better (A Tool record, for example). Nothing really isn't here that we haven't heard before from these guys.

Dream Theater is one of the only bands who blatantly recycles already existing material and actually gets away with it without too much outcry from the prog elitists out there, which stumps me quite a bit. Now that isn't to say that I dislike them, in fact I am quite fond of them, but if you were to ask me how many truly great albums Dream Theater has recorded, I could probably count the amount on half of one hand. That is also not so sway you from picking up other Dream Theater material, as there is some truly great work in there, but on this album, it feels like they're weakest attempt yet, with all-too-obvious influences. The ones I noticed right off the bat were: Yes, Pink Floyd, Slayer, Metalllica, and even some Opeth. While having influences is fine, I prefer it if a band can more or less keep their influences buried amoungst all of the originality that the bast itself can dish out. In the past Dream Theater has accomplished this; here they haven't.

This is more or less the same things we have already heard from these guys. Also, to me it is the most straightforward metal album they have made since TRAIN OF THOUGHT, and I personally don't dig that stuff. I want progressive metal, not thrash metal (Which is what a good deal of this album is made up of). Hell, you can practically hear James Hetfield dying and rolling over into his grave as LaBrie sings on 'the ''Constant Motion'' track. People will defend it. People HAVE defended it, but all in all, this isn't worth a person's time or money unless they are such a die-hard Dream Theater fan that they feel like they have to own every single blessed effort this band releases. Anyone else should really find a more deserving album to spend fifteen bucks on. This is a pass as far as I am concerned.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another two years, another Dream Theater studio release...

Granted that Octavarium was a bit of a letdown for me I still had high expectations on the new release. Although once the first single Constant Motion hit the streets I lowered them drastically! Eventually I still bought the album and the verdict is --- satisfactory. Instrumentally Dream Theater has all the right chops but composition-wise we all know that these guys can do much better that this.

The first part of the album is good considering that neither In the Presence Of Enemies Pt. 1 nor Forsaken pull off anything exceptional. After that the quality drops four compositions and we're at an all-time low once Prophets Of War hit the speakers, but after the three previous tracks this miss isn't all that surprising. Even the instrumental chops suffer tremendously from these completely uninspired performances that are only here to fill out the album with the obligatory 75+ minutes worth of material.

So how can I possibility award this album 3-star rating after all this criticism you might ask? Let's just say that the band completely redeems themselves with the last two performances. The Ministry Of Lost Souls and In the Presence Of Enemies Pt. 2 are easily among Dream Theater's best material ever since Train Of Thought (which I happen to enjoy). John Petrucci is the one responsible for the outlines of these two tracks and he shows once again that he can right some really marvelous compositions if he just puts his mind to it.

Systematic Chaos is definitely full on chaotic moments and some of them could have remained studio outtakes since there is almost 50 minutes of great material here that is being ruined by the remaining filler. Still the longer compositions are among the best Dream Theater have produced. Hopefully it's a sign of the things to come!

***** star songs: The Ministry Of Lost Souls (14:57) In the Presence Of Enemies Pt. 2 (16:38)

**** star songs: In the Presence Of Enemies Pt. 1 (9:00) Forsaken (5:35)

*** star songs: Constant Motion (6:55) The Dark Eternal Night (8:53) Repentance (10:43)

** star songs: Prophets Of War (6:00)

Total Rating: 3,91

Review by CCVP
4 stars Systematic Chaos indeed: when innovation makes old fans confused, brings annoying new fanboys/girls and create a great return album for the most representative progressive metal band

Systematic Chaos, here is a particularly strange album for Dream Theater: this is the album where James LaBrie's voice finally goes back to the tracks after being thirteen years with his vocal cords injured (he got a food issue back in 94, when he vomited and f*cked up his voice; thank God it was after the Awake recording, as far as i know), is the album where Mike Portnoy sings the most (maybe he should put down the drum sticks and think about becoming a singer like Phil Collins, or maybe not!), is the album where finally Jordan Rudess looks like a freaking magician (seriously, he does) and is the album where music playing becomes impossible for normal people (like every Dream Theater album, he he he he he).

Anyway, this is the album where they finally come back to their old form, but with a twist. The past two albums (Train of Thought and Octavarium) were kind if strange: Train of Thought was an attempt made by Dream Theater to make some kind of progressive metalcore music or some other kind of heavy progressive metal mixed somehow with metalcore; it was not a failure or anything, but it was not like anything Dream Theater ever made, not even on its heavy side, something very unusual but still lacking the magic that made Dream Theater famous for. Octavarium symbolized several steps back as far as heaviness, viciousness, angriness, etc, mattered but represented another solid step forward for progressiveness. OK, the album have a certain resemblance with another artists, but that don't rob the merit from these kids from New York: Octavarium rocked despite all that people say about it. Systematic Chaos stayed somewhere between Train of Thought, Octavarium and somewhere else, since it has all prog elements from Octavarium added with some pretty decent metal.

That mix, with a bit of some very good merchandising, made Systematic Chaos attract both sides of the force: headbagers / metalheads and proggers / progheads, making this album to be the best selling album of Dream Theater's so far, staying on 32nd place on the billboard top 100 selling albums on its best position, against 64th place on the billboard top 100 selling albums for Images and Words. Like this album or not this achievement is definitely some kind of mixed bag of feelings, because this is definitely not their best work and it is attracting a lot of some kind of fan that Dream Theater never had, the seasoned fan, the guy that listens what is fashionable at the moment and then forgets it, unlike the traditional die-hard-faithful fan of the band (you know, the guy that go to 5 consecutive Dream Theater shows).

About the songs, musicianship and other features there are some thing i would like to state:

Well, musically this is the usual Dream theater album:lots of solos from everywhere (except from LaBrie, for obvious reasons), specially guitar and keyboard solos, the two main soloist instruments of the band. Rudess here continue with his special way of playing, debuted in Dream Theater in Metropolis part 2: sometimes he is just simply following Petrucci, other times he is building the harmony, creating a full band feeling and other times he is just simply shredding the keyboards.

Here we can also notice the return of some of brilliance lost in LaBrie's voice for such long time, remembering Images and Words and Awake (Vocally ONLY!)

Songs here are also very balanced, following Octavarium's main structure: Bombastic progressive metal opening, ballad, decent riffed metal songs, great prog metal song, progressive rock song, great song and amazing ending, not exactly following this order in between. One thing that i am definitely sure that could improve here is the song order: putting together In the Presence of Our Enemies part 1 and 2, creating a 25 minute super epic like Octavarium or Change of Seasons would make the album sound much better, no doubt about it.

Grade and final Thoughts

Well, this latest output by Dream Theater is not exactly a masterpiece or anything, but it is not a piece of crap! This is definitely a decent album of a GREAT progressive metal band that shows no sings of slowing down: forever evolving, developing and surprising us. Because of the balance (GREAT songs, kinda good songs and good songs) and the playing i have come to the conclusion that this album right here is worthy on nothing less than 4 stars.

Lets just hope that those guys just stop touring early and deliver us another masterpiece like the ones they made in the past, we need them!

Review by russellk
2 stars DREAM THEATER albums are becoming increasingly unnecessary for many prog listeners. 'Systematic Chaos' is a hybrid of 'Train of Thought' and 'Octavarium', with extended workouts wrapped around memorable riffs and tunes, all packaged in that technically proficient manner so familiar to fans. Objectively, there's much to appreciate on a DT disc. So why the enormously variable ratings and reviews?

More than any other band, DREAM THEATER polarise opinion. I've been threatened by people objecting to my opinion of the band's music - how could it be anything other than a masterpiece? - and read one-star reviews suggesting they are little short of appalling. I can't help feeling the truth is likely to be found somewhere between these extremes.

So it is, I think, with this album. There are genuine moments of brilliance here. The album's intro is technically proficient, yes, but also dramatic. Just a shame they made the decision to separate it from the bulk of the song, as it feels orphaned. 'Forsaken' is rather childish in its subject matter - not because it deals with fantasy, but because of how it deals with the subject - but this should not obscure a good tune. 'Constant Motion' is a serious misstep, DT trying to sound like another popular band. 'The Dark Eternal Night' is potential brilliance stretched too thin (and those vocals! shudder) ... and so it goes. 'Prophets of War' and 'Ministry of Lost Souls' were born prematurely, and could have done with far longer gestations.

In my opinion their new material ought to be taken on extended tours to have the rough edges knocked off. Their albums would benefit from more discipline in the cutting room and in song selection. Here's the non-fan's likely experience: moments of wonder separated by moments of cringing embarrassment. Unfortunately here there are too many embarrassing moments. Neither essential nor poor, this album rates between two and three stars. One of those records that never sounds as good in the CD player as you remember ...

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a welcome return to form compared to the somewhat weak Octavarium ( weak compared to other Dream Theater releases, but better than most other progressive metal releases). Systematic Chaos is the ninth studio album from Dream Theater. I had almost given up on them after Octavarium but with more focus on power and memorable melodies Systematic Chaos is a great album. I never thought I was gonna say that again about a Dream Theater album but it´s one of the great things about them isn´t it ? You never know exactly what to expect.

The music is still unmistakably Dream Theater. Lots of instrumental runs and challenging tempo and time signature changes makes this an exciting listen. What I emphasise the most though is that the vocal melodies are strong and memorable which is something I think has been sadly missing on the last couple of releases from Dream Theater. I can see from many of the previous reviews of Systematic Chaos that people don´t seem to think that Dream Theater has evolved since Octavarium, but who cares when the music is so enjoyable ?

The album consists of eight songs and they are all excellent examples of how Dream Theater sound when they are inspired. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 starts the album with a typical instrumental Dream Theater part before the vocals come in. It´s a great song. Other songs worth mentioning is the beautiful melodic Forsaken and the energetic Constant Motion which has to be my favorite song here. Lots of cool heavy metal riffs in this one. Repentence is a semi-ballad song that evolves into a pretty symphonic beast. The Ministry of Lost Souls starts out with some pretty pop orientated vocals and I thought that this was gonna be a long song, but soon there are lots of challenging instrumental parts that makes that song exciting. In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 is the last song on the album and with it´s 16+ minutes also the longest. It´s a very dark song and very challenging. The Dark Eternal Night and Prophets of War are also great songs.

The musicianship is outstanding but it goes without saying really when it comes to Dream Theater. I even enjoy most of the sounds Jordan Rudess uses on Systematic Chaos which has been a problem on the last couple of albums. The melodic vocal lines seem to suit James Labrie well, as his potential is much more evident here than it was on Octavarium.

The production is good even though I still believe Portnoy and Petrucci should let others produce and mix Dream Theater´s albums. As others have said before me drums and guitars are a bit too high in the mix while it´s hard to hear the bass sometimes. The keyboards are mixed fine IMO and so are the vocals.

I´m so happy that Dream Theater have found their melodic tendencies again. I have been missing them for quite a while now. The melody lines will never be as brilliant as they were on Images & Words and Awake but less is acceptable too. I´ll rate Systematic Chaos 4 stars because I feel that the Dream Theater I like is back. They did seem a bit tired on Octavarium and came out sounding like one of the thousands of Dream Theater clone bands out there. It was almost as if they were imitating themselves which was such a shame. I can only conclude that you should never write of a quality band like Dream Theater even though they make a couple of weak albums once in a while.

Review by Petrovsk Mizinski
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

Review by LiquidEternity
2 stars This album is not worthless or terrible, but if you look at the history of Dream Theater, it is both predictable and unfortunate.

There's not even anything particularly wrong with this album. The songs are all entertaining. The guitars go fast like their supposed to. The keyboards are still some of the wildest since Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The drums do their complicated thing, complete with fast fills and wild cymbals. The vocals are as strong as ever, really. The bass even gets heard in a couple of songs. So what's wrong with this release? Why two stars? The answer is in not what the album does but what the album does not do. First off, there really is nothing new here from Dream Theater, aside from one weird song and a new interest in power metal sorts of lyrics about vampires and Satan (or maybe by power metal I meant death metal--I get those two confused all the time). The progressive riffs are the same sort of thing. The vocal melodies for the most part fairly stock and standard. The shredding is pretty uninteresting. Don't get me wrong, the band try some new things here, but most of the album's running length is dedicated to Dream Theater playing Dream Theater sorts of music, something that shouldn't bother me, but in light of their 90s output, they've proved they are not a band who plays the same thing all the time. But Systematic Chaos ends up feeling stagnant and mechanical.

It opens with the first part of the epic In the Presence of Enemies. This first part is neat, starting off with an overture of sorts. Unfortunately, the song, while interesting, is not very inspiring or inspired. It moves off into Forsaken, a song in the vein of Evanescence that is cool the first couple times but does not hold up to repeated listening. Constant Motion is the classic Dream Theater track, with an intro built around shifting time signatures. It drops into metal mode and flies forward like As I Am or Lie. The instrumental portion in the middle doesn't quite fit, but it isn't as jarring as Dream Theater fans have gotten used to. This song ended up on Rock Band, and I must say, that has actually increased my appreciation of it: seeing how it all fits together. I imagine, though, that that would be the effect of almost any Dream Theater song there. Track four was my initial favorite, The Dark Eternal Night, the heaviest song on this album. Unfortunately, the instrumental break, while neat, does not fit very well, and it gets old on repeated listenings. The outro, however, is a very nice bit of crunchy guitar and Jordan Rudess noodling away.

Just as you're about to write this album off as a completely standard Dream Theater release, however, Repentance moves in. The direct sequel to The Root of All Evil, one expects another heavy and noodle-fraught song. Instead, we get an atmospheric and moody song that sounds more mature than anything Dream Theater has written since Falling into Infinity. The clean guitars sound wonderful, and the haunting voices in the ending really make this the best song on the album, maybe one of the best they've released in the 21st century. After this comes what sounds like a ballad at first, The Ministry of Lost Souls. The first seven or so minutes are splendid, very emotional and very well composed. However, it suddenly turns to a random and jarring instrumental portion for the second half of the song, and it suffers mightily because of it. A tender guitar solo returns the song to form at the end, but it's not enough and the damage has been done. The last track, the second half of the main epic, starts very promisingly. Atmosphere and menace build up to a wonderfully catchy and well-written chorus about the Dark Master. The energy levels stay high once they hit high, and this song runs very well. However, another jarring instrumental section that kills the flow of the song moves in, and we are left wondering why the band still wants to repeat Train of Thought.

Hey, if you like Dream Theater, you'll probably enjoy this one. What it all comes down to, though, is that Dream Theater has done much better and progressive metal as a genre has many greater things to offer. Start elsewhere with Dream Theater, or look at other main prog metal acts.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Systematic Chaos' - Dream Theater (7.5/10)

After two or three enjoyed listens of 'Systematic Chaos,' I started to tire of it's corniness. It really started to get on my nerves, and before long, I was starting to hate it. 'The Dark Eternal Night' especially. Lyrics like 'Dark master of sin, I will fight for you' exemplified the reason why I was so dissapointed by the album. Being one of my favourite bands, I would logically have very high expectations for the album when I bought it. Having a great resentment for the cheesiness of it all, I shelved the album and spent my time on other albums...

About a year passed, and finally I decided to give 'Systematic Chaos' another try. I was amazed by how much I enjoyed it. Granted, there were still parts of it (such as 'The Dark Eternal Night,' which I still don't like) that I found annoying, but musically speaking, the majority of the material was very good! While it's definately not one of the best Dream Theater has done, it's a worthy album by any standard, and has some absolutely outstanding songs that will stand the test of time as being some of Dream Theater's best.

'In The Presence Of Enemies' is a song (divided into two parts) that takes up about half an hour of play time. While I wouldn't count it as another 'Change Of Seasons,' it's still a great epic, and the fact that it's divided into two parts works really well to bring the album together. Having an epic split into two parts for once is refreshing, relieving the listener of the chore of having to sit through such an extended duration composition. The first half is absolutely stellar, and while the second half is very good, parts of it scream 'cheesiness.' I'm sorry, but blatantly singing about 'serving and dying for a dark master' doesn't work as well as I'm sure they hoped it would.

'Forsaken' and 'Constant Motion' (the two singles off of the album) have two very contrasting moods to them. 'Forsaken' is a pretty straightforward gothic metal song, but it is very well written. The latter single is much more chaotic, and what you would typically expect from the band; complete with plenty of blistering guitar and keyboard solos...

The other great song on here is 'The Ministry Of Lost Souls.' With a song structure that's reminiscent of 'Sacrificed Sons' off of 2005's 'Octavarium,' this 14 minute song tells a very moving story of a man who saves a woman from drowning, but the woman kills herself, feeling empty without the presence of her saviour. This is a song I love to hear, because it shows that Dream Theater can still write a damn good song without having to rely on their technical abilities. Warm guitars, and perfectly mournful vocals followed by a blistering dose of instrumental make 'The Ministry Of Lost Souls' an instant classic in Dream Theater's repetoire.

The song I obviously have the biggest problem with is 'The Dark Eternal Night,' the distorted vocals are really stupid and amelodic, and the music is noisy. The instrumental section though is suprisingly good and progressive. Disregarding all of the vocal and conventional 'songwriting' parts, the song is actually not that bad. But as it is, it is a blemish on an otherwise excellent album. With no offense to Mr. Mike Portnoy (he really is a fantastic drummer,) but someone should tell him to stop singing and ruining otherwise good music!

'Repetence' is 'Systematic Chaos' addition to the suite about alcoholism that Mike Portnoy has been fronting for years now. Without a doubt the most mellow track on the album, it takes a bit too long to get where it's meant to go, but there are some beautiful melodic lines in it, and the repetition makes it an almost hypnotic segment of the album. 'Prophets of War' is another pretty straightforward song that sounds like it was plucked out of a Muse songbook. For recent Dream Theater lyrics however, there is alot of intelligence here, and the song is a profound commentary on the current war in the Middle-East.

While this album isn't quite as good as I hoped it would be (with a few tweaks here and there; it could have been a really excellent piece of work), it's definately a step in the right direction. One can only hope that Dream Theater's 2009 release will surpass this album, and the world will be gifted with an album that brings the band back to their peak of glory...

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Here it is! Dream Theater's heaviest album by a long shot. As a social experiment (and sheer boredom) I checked out the ratings, from those who bothered to write a review that is, and we have the following stats:

32 reviewers gave it 5 stars - they thought it a masterpiece.

45 reviewers gave it 4 stars - Yes, it deserves at least 3-4 for ingenuity and musicianship.

31 reviewers gave it 3 stars - a fair assessment.

29 reviewers gave it 2 stars - a bit harsh.

7 reviewers gave it 1 star - they hated it!

so, whats that prove? Mixed feelings as always but not as many as the album after this which has developed into a love hate relationship.

I decided it deserved 3 stars but only just due to a few shining moments.

Very dark, and very progressive with some of the best material from the band such as In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 and 2, and Constant Motion. All brilliantly played and sung by the band at the peak of their powers. Check out the incredible growl vocals on the The Dark Eternal Night - as band members mused on the doco We are beginning to sound like Biohazard - Indeed.

Devin Townsend meets Metallica in places. Repentance is simply wonderful with a contemplative reflective lyrical content and lots of guest artists speaking their regrets and asking forgiveness.

It is a great album, not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but simply solid DT with heaps of brilliant lead breaks and masterfully played keyboards throughout.

There is not much else to say except it does not disappoint and has some awesome tracks.

Grab the special edition as the doco is terrific and offers a real insight to this amazing prog metal band.

I think the doco is actually better than the whole album. it will continue to dazzle and infuriate listeners for years to come I guess. Give it a chance, as there are some excellent tracks on this CD.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars As usual Mike Portnoy and John Pertucci are the producers while Paul Northfield engineered and mixed it. This record "sounds" amazing ! And while i'm not thrilled that it's almost 80 minutes long, these guys delivered in a big way on this album. For me the song "Forsaken" and the first half of "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" are really the only parts i'd eliminate. And check out the "who's who" of vocalists on the track "Repentence". Oh and I hope you guys like ants.

"In The Presence Of Enemies Part 1" has this killer intro followed by some fantastic bass and drums with synths. I'm thinking LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT here. It then settles with some nice guitar leads. Kicks back in before 5 minutes and vocals (for the first time) follow. Just a really good opening track. "Forsaken" as i've already mentioned is one i'm not a fan of. It's ok but it's too bland with the focus on the vocals. The best part is when the piano intro is blown to pieces by a heavy soundscape.Thankyou ! Haha. "Constant Motion" opens with the grinding guitar work of Pertucci as Portnoy pounds it out. Nice. Riffs follow. This is great ! The vocals are aggressive bringing METALLICA to mind. A real headbanger. Huge bass from Myung before 4 minutes then Pertucci takes over. A kick ass tune.

"The Dark Eternal Light" opens with guitar that has a really bad attitude. Love the sounds of the drums here. Even the vocals have attitude when they arrive after a minute.The tempo picks up after 3 minutes then we get this thunderous attack a minute later that comes and goes. Dark and heavy after 7 1/2 minutes. Nice. "Repentence" has vocal guests speaking such as Steven Wilson, Steve Vai, Neal Morse, Jon Anderson, Joe Satriani, Mikael Akerfeldt, Daniel Gildenlow, Steve Hogarth and others. This one is dark and atmospheric to open. I wish they'd do more of this style of music. Steven Wilson comes in vocally before 1 1/2 minutes and I wish he could continue. LaBrie follows though in a reserved manner. Mellotron 3 minutes in ! A tasteful guitar solo before 5 minutes. Then we get all these spoken words as the music continues.This might be my favourite track over "The Dark Eternal Night".

Next up is "Prophets Of War" and it speeds up a minute in and the guitar sounds incredible here. I like the way the vocals sort of "shout out" on and off beginning at 3 minutes as the guitar grinds away. Good song. "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" has this epic intro before LaBrie takes over. Thankfully it changes around 7 1/2 minutes as it kicks into gear. What an instrumental display the rest of the way. Relaxing guitar 13 minutes in to the end. "In The Presence Of Enemies Part 2" opens with some atmosphere as vocals come in slowly. It gets heavier after 2 1/2 minutes then kicks into a higher gear. Great sound 6 1/2 minutes in. Nice and heavy 9 1/2 minutes in with some ripping guitar.

I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things they've brought to the table on this one. Overall a very good release.

Review by J-Man
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.

Review by The Crow
3 stars A curious and distinctive Dream Theater album!

"Systematic Chaos" is a different efforth by this band, although it's clearly related with the other band's works... They tried to sound different, adding new textures to their sound, and with renewed energy. Taking some of the best ideas of the failed "Train of Thought", and mixing them with the love for the melody of "Octavairum", they managed to make a very well balanced album, althouhg it's under the best Dream Theater moments.

The sound of the album is very homogene, being every track coherent with the rest of the work... Maybe the most surprising elements are the "growls" we can hear in some songs. They add a new strenght to the band's music, and although some people find them annoying speaking about Dream Theater, I think they are a good idea. In Constant Motion they work very well.

The pity is that because the coherence and the homogeneous compositions this album has, it loses a bit interest at its final part, where it starts to sound a bit repetitive, despite the great efforth of the band in the last two tracks, where they make an impressive performance... But it's not enough, because this last songs are under the quality of the beginning of the album in term of composition.

Instrumentally, the band shines as usual... Maybe Mike Portonoy is a bit under his possibilities here, I bit less spectacular than other Dream Theater's albums. James LaBrie's voice has lost strength over the years, and his interpretation is clearly under albums like "Awake" or "Scenes from a Memory". The rest of the band does a great job, neverhteless... Specially John Petrucci, who is, in my opinion, the best Dream Theater's musician, and the most brilliant in "Systematic Chaos". He is the protagonist here, like he was in "Traing of Thought" with his furious riffing and dizzy solos.

Bes songs: Forsaken (a very melodic track, with a great Petrucci's riffing...), Constant Motion (a heavy, Metallica influenced theme...) , The Dark Eternal Night (another riff oriented track, and a risky Dream Theater's attempt of trying new things... I love the chorus, and the crazy instrumental interlude) and Prophets of War (a remarkable song, although is very Muse influenced, and it remembers me to the flawed "Octavarium"... Best LaBried's singing of the album)

Conclusion: almost as heavy as "Train of Thought", but surparssing it in quality and variety, "Systematic Chaos" is a good Dream Theater album, with some excellent ideas, but also with some forgettable moments... Just like "Octavarium". Nevertheless, I think that "Systematic Chaos" is better than this previous release, thanks to two or three excellent tracks, and the coherence of the compositions in comparision with the disperse ideas of their eighth release. So if you want a good progressive metal album, then give "Systematic Chaos" a listening... Although there are a lot better progressive metal albums out there. And some of them, have ironically the Dream Theater's name on the cover.

My rating: ***1/2

Review by TheGazzardian
2 stars I picked up this CD at a local record store because it was on at 2/25. Certainly, I would not have started my journey through Dream Theaters discography here for any other reason. There are so many great bands to explore, that I have been made aware of through Prog Archives, that I typically am able to start at a high point and see what there is about a band to love, before digging into the lesser loved content. For Dream Theater, this would have been doubly wise for me, for the concept of 'Progressive Metal' did not seem particularly appealing to me.

My experience with metal is pretty limited, with the odd album by Nightwish, Rhapsody/Luca Turilli, Black Sabbath/Ozzy, and Devin Townsend entering my collection over the years, all of which I enjoyed to some extent. I had heard song by other metal bands, but while there were plenty of catchy and fun songs, there wasn't a lot to distinguish them.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself thinking the same of this album! The opening track seemed to be full of unimaginative guitar and bland keyboards, and the chorus of the second track, Forsaken, just grated on my nerves. I listened to the album close to a dozen times to get a feel for it, and yet very little made much of an impact on me until Repentance, which seemed like a good idea that somehow just didn't work with me. Following that is Prophets of War, which is actually a very catchy song and great to listen to, although nothing earth shattering. I seem to recall enjoying Ministry of Lost Souls, but nothing about it comes to mind, so it was enjoyable but not memorable. The album ends with a continuation of the opening track, which I remember about as well as the opening track.

In the end, I can't see why anyone would pick this album over the myriad of excellent albums out there, including (reputedly) many more by this band, unless they were already a fan of this band (or it was on sale). If I didn't know that Dream Theater is said to have released many other excellent albums prior to this one, I probably would end my journey through their discography here. Yet if you were already a fan of this music, it sounds like very able, if not very inspired, prog/metal music, so fans of the band will probably enjoy this album to some extent, thus ranking it a two star album.

Review by jampa17
4 stars Well, It took me a lot of time to have the right things to say about this album... but after all the controversies it cause on it's realase date and that year I think the opinions are less intense and more accurate, hope mine is as well...

Checking most of the reviews, it's very evident that most of the "new" fans -those converted since Train of Thought- are very pleased with the album and most of the "old" fans hated it. Well, I think is not as good as those say and not that bad as the other...

The Goods: It's a very ecclectic album which points at a more wide range of styles so you can hear some "Evanescence kind of" song, a more Queen kind of song, more "Metallica under esteriods" rffing and even death metal growling which helps to be more wide and explore more. For me it's OK because DT and progressive rock is about change and evolve and DT has proved once again that they can leave behind their "Rush mets Queensryche" old sound and experiment with good results in a more post-prog and heavy prog elements.

They have not lost their quality as musicians, you will find great soloing, long songs with great instrumental passages, and excelent work by Petrucci, which is the most prominent musician on DT, who never dissapoints in non of their albums... Labrie made a great job on this one, I know there are a lot of haters of his style, but he shows that he's becoming better with age, more controled and focus but with the same strength and capabilities. The production is quite OK and the overall sound is at the top. Both parts of In the Presence of Enemies, The Dark Eternal Night and Prophets of War are the highlights but there are different stuff for most people.

The Bads: The Keyboard sounds sometimes sound too much forced to fit with the music. Not always, but sometimes it's evident that Rudess lacks from creativity and solved whatever part making a fast solo with a very sofisticated synth rather than developed an original piece of work like Kevin Moore did -sorry the comparisson, but I have to make it- and many times prefer to double the guitar riff than making a original key part...

Another bad thing, and I think the most evident is the bad lyrics we have here. I always consider DT as a band who thought well the themes and never miss the point talking about fantastic stupid things... but when you hear something about beasts unleashed, vampires, and devils and angels battles -even if they were talking metaphoricly- it's kind of sad. Those songs have a few interesting lines but at the end, I could not care less about this fantastic creatures and feel a lot uninterested on the themes. I think that the lyrics are complement of the music and feel sad to not enjoy the music because the lyrics were so useful... but there are still some good lyrics like Repentance which is mellow and touching, PoW which is interesting theme and Constant Motion, which is an aproximation to Portnoy state of mind... so, less points by these...

And the other bad thing is Portnoy singing, each time we get more and more lead vocals from Portnoy and I'm starting to hate it really... Labrie is a capable singer and he's great so leave him sing the parts... Portnoy and Petrucci have an excelent texture of voices to make chorus, just like in Metropolis Pt_2 so, please, stop doing lead vocals...!!!

At the end, I think that maybe is their most weak album from this century, but is above any other prog metal band out there. If you come with an open mind and ready to hear a lot of soloing and most of the widest metal music you can possibly hear, you will be satisfy. Don't put too much atention to the lyrics and enjoy... but if you don't know Dream Theater yet, please go and start with Metropolis Pt-2 or Awake... 4 stars because I consider it an Excellent addition... not their best -by far- but it's great still...

Review by The Quiet One
2 stars Systematic Heaviness

Dream Theater's 2007 release, Systematic Chaos, offers a mix between Octavarium's orchestral arrangements and uninspired tendency and Train of Thought's technical and heavy style. The result is decent up to a certain degree; few songs from here are noteworthy for the Prog Metal fan, while the others are either throwaways or plain heavy.

I'll begin with the throwaways, the first one being the straight-forward metal tune called Forsaken, it recalls today's modern metal acts such as Evanescence: a boring metal riff, useless piano and an annoying chorus. Then there's Prophets of War which recalls Muse just like Never Enough from Octavarium did, with a very poor composition and musicianship.

As for the more ''brutal'' tracks, Constant Motion recalls Train of Thought with the Metallica-esque vocals and heavy riffs, however just like some tracks from Train of Thought, this song also has some technical show-off which gives the song a bit of diversity, however unlike some of Train of Thought's heavy tunes, Constant Motion isn't a pleasant metal affair. Then there's The Dark Eternal Night which is one of Dream Theater's heaviest songs, with a blasting technical metal riff allthrough which is very hard to digest, while in the middle of the song it seems that Dream Theater wanted to show their technical ability once again like they did with The Dance of Eternity, plain boring complexity.

When it comes to the noteworthy songs from Systematic Chaos, the 25 minute Prog Metal piece entitled In the Presence of Enemies satisfies your Prog Metal needs perfectly, something that Octavarium didn't manage to do. While not as grandiose and as well-thought as A Change of Seasons, this big piece right here shows that Dream Theater are still able to compose quality and original Prog Metal material with the necessary twists and turns to make this sound like 'Dream Theater'.

Repentance is another great tune, belonging to the AA Suite, this one is the quietest and probably the best one from the suite. While it does resemble a bit of the moody style of Porcupine Tree, this is still a very good tranquil song, something that Dream Theater isn't known of doing well.

The song I haven't mentioned yet is The Ministry of Lost Souls and that's because it's not really a throwaway track nor a very heavy tune, but I still don't get much out of it. The first half resembles the symphonic and up- lifting style of the epic, Octavarium, rather uninteresting, while the second half reminds me of the aimless complexity that some songs from Metropolis Part 2 presented.

Overall, the album is similar to Octavarium in consistency, with only one song really being exceptional Prog Metal, while in style you can compare it more with Train of Thought's dark themes and heaviness. A slight improvement over Octavarium in Prog Metal terms, but Dream Theater still is far from being the highly original and thoughtful Prog Metal band they used to be. Once again, Rudess-era fans should get this, though Moore/Sherinian-era fans could pass this easily if it weren't for the killer 25 minute, In the Presence of Enemies which I highly recommend to any Prog Metal fan.

2 stars.

Review by Flucktrot
3 stars I still think Dream Theater is far from a spent force, and this album has sections that reinforce it. However, DT also are sticking to their roots in at least one regard--the cheese factor, which is in full force in the Enemies suite.

The Enemies suite is fairly solid music, and even great in some sections, such as Petrucci's solo mid-way through part one. However, it's too hit-and-miss, and along with the cheesy and anything-but-subtle lyrics and concept, it's just too difficult for me to take seriously on most occasions.

Fortunately, this album has two definite highlights: Repentance and the Ministry of Lost Souls. The band gets is right with Ministry, building things up through a nice verse-chorus set up and a beautiful guitar solo before hitting the heavy prog stuff. I just like the heavy prog creativity when there's better stuff sandwiching it, although some may prefer the band just picks one or the other per song. Ministry also has a quite nice ending, with Petrucci-led outtro that has a very nice up-tempo feel.

I haven't gotten into much of the AA suite, but Repentance is one of those songs that just really resonates with me in a powerful way, so I thought I'd share. It's very moody--probably Opeth Damnation style--features haunting lyrics and delivery from LaBrie, followed by an achingly beautiful guitar solo from Petrucci. The second half features band members and others offering their regrets, and that's when things really start to hit me. We all have times in our lives where we look back and regret our selfish behavior, wondering how so many small things could leave such a large hole within us. It's very powerful, almost cathartic. As the harmony swells, and Myung adds more fuzz to the bass, this feeling of remorse continues to grow, until the final line delivers the message of song, which is that we need to feel regret, but cannot be consumed by it: "the past is the past...the best we can do is live with it".

Subtle, poignant, and powerful--words that I don't often use to describe DT's music. They may have channeled something deeper and universal here, or it may just be a personal bias on my part, but for a guy who doesn't get moved by much, Repentance does it every time.

Review by lazland
3 stars I should start this review by stating that I started my serious musical journey by listening to what we called heavy rock/metal prior to commencing my prog journey. Bands such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Rainbow, amongst others, were my staple diet from quite an early age until I was introduced to the joys of symphonic prog. Hell, my first gig was Motorhead in 1978.

So, I think that I have quite a good pedigree in listening to, and enjoying, metal. It's just that, for many years now, I have listened to far more prog and folk.

However, given the fuss that was made regarding this band's breakup, I decided to give this a spin, a CD I brought when it came out on a whim, as much as anything else.

I played it quite a few times, enjoyed it a bit, and then put it away. So, what do I think upon revisiting?

Well, the first thing to say is that this is a technically very accomplished album. The playing throughout is excellent. LaBrie makes for an excellent heavy vocalist, and the rhythm section is awesome, with, of course, Portnoy at its heart.

But, do you know what my problem is with this? Simply that this could have come from any number of technically accomplished metal bands in the 1980's such as Maiden, Priest, Saxon, and the rest. I just see very few hints of what I regard as progressive rock in here. Maybe that's very unfair, but there it is. It is a metal album, albeit a very enjoyable one with some very well played difficult time signatures. However, a concept does not a prog album make.

My favourite track on this is Repentence, simply because it is the most melodic, and, dare I say it, thoughtful track on the entire work. However, again, all great metal bands of days gone past have included ballads or slower tracks in amongst the chaos. Again, this track does not a prog album make. A fantastic piece of music, though.

My comments will probably be seen as a little bit controversial by some, but they are not meant to be. This is a very solid album, and it will probably stay at the top of my pile for a while, and I might even start getting a few other works by a band who court more controversy than most on this site.

Even taking my reflections into account, the fact is that Dream Theater are an important band on this site, and my rating should reflect that fact.

I award this three stars, and I must state to newcomers to the site that this is meant to reflect the fact it is a GOOD album, and very much worthy of purchase. To me, however, it is not an essential part of any prog rock collection.

Review by Andy Webb
4 stars Forsaken

After the mixed release of Octavarium in 2007, Dream Theater returned with yet another mixed review release, this one to a lesser degree of positiveness. The album is the product of the band's signing with Roadrunner Records, and as many have seen with Opeth, Porcupine Tree, and even Nightwish, the label tries to popularize every band they sign, understandably. However, this album has a lesser degree of melodic structure and a much (much) heavier, darker, more "pop metal" feeling while still retaining the band's signature progressiveness. The massive 26 minute giant In the Presence of Enemies is musically fantastic while part ii has some of the cheesier lyrics on the album. Lyrically is really where this album falls. Whilst trying to be an intense metal band, they fell back on your standard doomy "metuhl" type lyrics, and they fail miserably in the process (cue Dark Eternal Night). Overall, the album is a pretty big pitfall that Dream Theater fell into, but it still retains some really great moments musically, and retains an average 3.5 star rating. 4- stars.

Review by JJLehto
3 stars "Systematic Chaos" seems to be one of the least popular DT albums, and I understand why. It's more metal oriented, like "Train of Thought", which appears to be an automatic turn off to many fans. However, unlike "Train of Thought", this album is a bit commercial sounding, which of course is a turn of to fans of prog rock and metal in general. I'll admit, I used to be in that latter camp, but many years later I've re-listened and "Systematic Chaos" is a pretty decent album.

I feel a bit foolish taking the "accessible" pill, because it sometimes comes across like this is pop rock, which is quite obviously not true. There are certainly accessible, (or modern, as Portnoy tried to sugar coat) moments but this is actually a very heavy, technical album for DT.

Maybe it's a tad less progressive than standard DT, but it's still prog and really it becomes an issue of splitting hairs... So if you are one who gets caught on the "less progressive" thing, or demand your DT be more melodic in nature, well don't even bother with this one.

"In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1" is the first part of a 25 minute song that book ends the album. It starts off, awesome. Real awesome: a heavy, progressive intro, intense drumming, lots of bass and keyboard and a frantic climax. After your mind is blown it moves to a slower, melodic section. The first 5 minutes are a killer intro. The song then alternates between a heavy wall of chords and spidery riff. The bass is pretty prominent, finally!, and there's a good dose of keyboard. Maybe the wall of chords is "accessible" but damn, call me a metal head: I like it! At least in small doses like this. Song can get a bit stale, but it's real solid and a great opener. Lots of intensity and technicality.

"Forsaken" is sadly quite bland, and I really don't like it.

"Constant Motion" is back to riff based prof metal, and damn are there some great riffs. The song is packed with them, and some are quite groovy. A real progressive song, again loaded with great melodies, riffs and technicality. Again, the bass is nice and audible, which still floors me since you can never hear Myung. Good song, and the few accessible sections don't hang around too long.

"The Dark Eternal Night" now this one is a trip. Some major off tempo grooving and thrashing right off the start. Unfortunately they use those distorted "evil" sounding vocals at times which kind of bug me. Still, gotta love that groove. There's a lengthy middle section that is insane and all over the place, it's awesome. A tornado of music. This kicks into a flat out thrash metal part, and it's pretty intense. That's what I'm talking about...some DT that kicks your ass! This song rocks.

"Repentance" gives us a break, and a pretty nice one. The next part in the twelve step suite, this a pretty mellow, spacey song. Dare I say, Pink Floyd esque? Well why not? Portnoy said so, really it's a pretty accurate description. It's a nice song, real drifty, somber but not too bleak. Featured are several spoken word contributions from some big names, apologizing or repenting to people they have wronged.

"Prophets of War" is a straightforward and riffy, mid tempo song. It's not bad but kind of drags on. A not too aggressively anti Iraq war song, complete with fan group cries. Alright but a little boring.

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" is a long, slower and melodic song. Well, it starts that way, picks up a bit at times and really kicks into high gear in the middle. Then follows some DT w**kery with many guitar and key solos. A bit DT by the numbers, but it's not a bad song. The slower parts can be nice but also drag at times. Nice ending, overall not too shabby.

The album ends with "In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 2" because every prog band needs an album with Pink Floyd style book ends. It picks where the opener left off, and slowly builds to peaks and valleys, before reaching the shreddery. Another DT song that is fine, I'd say even good, but leaves me a bit cold. Can't knock it though, has everything you'd expect and is well done. I'm sure some will knock the cheese factor, but as usual I say just take that cheese and make a pizza with it. This is prog metal.

So after some listens, this turned out to be a pleasantly surprising album. Not spectacular, but pretty good. If you can get over the "accessible" and "more metal" hurdles you should find it a fine album. Heavy, (very heavy) technical, progressive and intense. It has all you want, and done very well, including lots of bass! "The Dark Eternal Night" is killer, as is "Repentance" just in a different way. Stand out tracks in my book.

Three and a Half Stars.

BUMP Three Stars

Review by jamesbaldwin
4 stars "Systematic Chaos" is the first record I have listened by Dream Theater. The first song (9 minutes, "In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1", divided in two movements, vote 7,5) begins with long digressions heavy metal and then, after about two and a half minutes, it let a glimpse of a beautiful melody, then a variation and finally, fortunately, the real song has beginning with the singing of LaBrie, whose voice has the merit not to be screamed, as often happens in heavy metal, but to seek the nuances even sweeter and more delicate. The potential of the melody of this song is immense, but is dispersed in the instrumental digressions, which take over the central melody. The song ends after almost a minute of fading. The much shorter "Forsaken" (5 and a half minutes, vote 8+), with a keyboard phrasing (Jordan Rudess) then doubled by the electric guitar riff, is excellent. Even in this case the melody is beautiful, but this time you can taste it properly, thanks to the fact that the song is more structured on the central theme, which reaches the climax in the refrain. With this great piece the DTs find the right balance between class song and easy-to-listen commercial song.

The third and fourth songs turn towards the more aggressive metal, with gothic / dark / death metal colors. The ringrous choruses of "Constant Motion"(7 minutes, vote 6.5) are not suited to LaBrie's voice, which loses much of its charm, and re-emerges in the melodic part of a song actually driven by the frenetic pace of Portony and Petrucci, engaged here in an instrumental tour de force. The following track ("The Dark Eternal Night", 9 minutes) exasperates even more the repetition of these infernal rhythms, and adds an instrumental progrock part with continuous changes of rhythm and phrasing to the guitar, and then return to the singing part, resulting in frankly excessive (vote 5,5). The impression, at this point of the record, is that the DTs express in 9 minutes what would be more effective to express in 4 minutes. The fifth song ("Repentance") is a relaxed ballad, the only one on the album, which continues until 4 and a half minutes with a mild rhythm ("Regret" movement) , then becomes epic with the guitar solo, followed by a Pink Floyd style choir and a long recitative ("Restitution" movement), which intends to focus on the lyrics (vote 7,5). The song is atmospheric, suggestive, lulling, but on the whole it is again extraordinarily verbose considering the musical material available.

The last three songs on the record are the best part of the album. The sixth ("Prophets of War", 6 minutes, vote 8+), returns to present a good melody sung in a wonderful way by LaBrie, seasoned with the power of the group, which emanates an enthralling (almost electronic) musi. But it is with the seventh song ("The Ministry of Lost Souls, vote 8,5), a tour de force of 15 minutes (practically the time of a suite, if it were not, on the contrary, a song strophe-refrain dilated to no end) that the group reaches the highest point of the LP . The melody is beautiful, LaBrie's singing is precise, without overdoing it, without being screamed, and the power of the melody combined with the huge technical rate of the musicians creates a song of great pathos that ... could end after 7-8 minutes and instead he climbs into a totally insignificant instrumental piece, an end in itself, which has the result of dilating it a lot, and then making LaBrie's singing come back to resume the initial, wonderful melody. Anyway, masterpiece. Thus we arrive at the final suite, a condensed album ("In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2"16 and a half minutes; divided in 4 movements, vote 8) that sums up all the merits and defects of this album. The merits are above all the beautiful epic melodies, played with rare precision and power; the defects are the aggressive, dark parts, and the instrumental digressions, which make the pieces longer than the duration reasonable , making it difficult to listen to what is musically very inspired.

Listening to this Lp, about ten years ago, I had the idea that Dream Theater were a group with enormous potential, a great talent for epic and powerful melodies and a great technical rate, but that tended to overdo it, looking strongly of lengthening the pieces with useless instrumental contortions, thus ruining a large part of their potential. I then went backwards, listening to their first records, which confirmed their potential, and shown what heights it can achieve when expressed in a more balanced way.

Medium quality of the songs: 7,5. Vote album: 8+. Rating: Four stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars As a prog metal group who put a lot of stock in both the "prog" and the "metal" part of that term, Dream Theater have had a tendency over the years to follow up more progressive-leaning releases with harder-edged affairs. The band seem to spend much of their career walking a tightrope - why, they even included one on the cover of a later album! - and so once they've pushed hard in one direction, they tend to correct in the other direction rather than going too far in any one trajectory.

On Octavarium they pulled out an orchestra, something which prog bands had been doing as far back as 1967 (if you are willing to accept the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed as a proto-prog release); thus, Systematic Chaos finds them trimming back to just the core band members. No guest instrumentalists are present at all: every note played is played by the band members, and every word is sung by just James LaBrie himself. The sole concession is that a large cast of friends of the band show up to provide spoken word contributions to Repentance, this album's episode of the multi-album Twelve-Step Suite by Mike Portnoy: as the title implies, it's a song about making amends for past mistakes, so a great number of musicians from the prog or metal world show up to record little apologies, regrets, and admissions of fault.

So much for the talking: what about the music? Though generally heavier than Octavarium, it feels like the band here are trying to show off just how diverse a sound they can deliver with just the five of them. Take The Dark Eternal Night, which has moments ranging from a Dream Theater approximation of nu-metal to a sort of prog- metal-jazz-fusion hybrid. Some aspects of Repentance feel like a nod to Porcupine Tree, which makes the presence of Steven Wilson on the track (he's providing one of the apologies) particularly apt.

Meanwhile, Prophets of War finds Dream Theater inspired once again by Muse, as they were on Octavarium, though I'm absolutely fine with that because as far as I am concerned by this point Dream Theater were doing that sort of very feverish sound better than Muse were. That said, I actually find it a weaker track - it's a little too much like a rehash of Never Enough from Octavarium - and one suspects the band aren't too keen on it either, since so far as I can tell it hasn't exactly been a live staple. (A quick check of suggests that they didn't even touch it live until 2009, and then dropped it from the set in 2010 and haven't picked it up since.)

Still, rounded off by two epics - The Ministry of Lost Souls and the second half of In the Presence of Enemies - the album comes to a pretty solid close, and whilst I don't think it's as consistent as Octavarium by some measure, it's still a very good release which finds Dream Theater going from strength to strength.

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Report this review (#823849) | Posted by zeqexes | Wednesday, September 19, 2012 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Systematic Chaos is often regarded as Dream Theater's low point. While I can't disagree with this, I do believe there is still a lot of merit to this album. The unfortunate thing about this album is that, like Train of Thought, much of its prog has been stripped for a more metal sound. But more than ... (read more)

Report this review (#771381) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Dream Theater's Systematic Chaos is a good CD. I like it a lot but the problem is two songs that are just horrible (Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night). I just skip those songs though and then bask in these great, rich progressive metal songs. But yes those two bad songs bring this CD do ... (read more)

Report this review (#746925) | Posted by stefano | Monday, April 30, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars My first experience with Dream Theater. While I have listened to their other albums, this one has a special place in my heart. Yes it is not perfect, but it was the album that really got me starting to listen to Dream Theater. I've noticed by many of the reviews here that it is mostly consider ... (read more)

Report this review (#585858) | Posted by thesleeper72 | Saturday, December 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars quite a difficult thing for me to review Systematic Chaos...mainly because it has one of my favourite DT songs: "In The Presence Of Enemies" (Pt.1 + Pt.2) and also the one that I probably hate most: "The Dark Eternal Night"... to start with the good stuff, "In The Presence..." gets off to a roa ... (read more)

Report this review (#537731) | Posted by sv_godspeed | Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars It pains me to write a somewhat negative review of an album that belongs to my favorite band, but it's something that I have to do. No, Systematic Chaos is not necessarily "bad", but it's definitely not "good", either. I'd put it somewhere in between, and I'm about to explain why! Basically, "Sys ... (read more)

Report this review (#476629) | Posted by TheMasterMofo | Tuesday, July 5, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars After a very smooth and calm record called "Octavarium" Dream Theater tried out something new again on this new record. They were looking for a more technical approach, sounded very modern and also diversified on this album and concetrated more on a heavier approach than the stuff they had just done ... (read more)

Report this review (#379071) | Posted by kluseba | Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "Systematic Chaos " is an album that is far from bad.On the contrary, it is great.And well as most of the work of Dream Theater deserves 5 ​​stars. They did not even dissapoint.Even the "death metal" vocals existing in "The Dark Eternal Night" estressam.Do me start to finish, this alb ... (read more)

Report this review (#319888) | Posted by voliveira | Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I personally do not agree with the ratings of systematic: it appears to be not as good as the Black Clouds and Silver Linings. This is not a masterpiece of DT's discography, but I think it's a good spot. The songs: 1) In the presence of enemies pt1: very good work. The prog vein is still there ... (read more)

Report this review (#304926) | Posted by chinaski000 | Sunday, October 17, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Systematic Chaos is a album that has been judged, in my opinion, very unfairly. Seen as a sign of Dream Theater on their way out by many, Systematic Chaos, is, to be fair, quite a disjointed and often meandering album. And while it is often very self-indulgent, I believe some of the songs are Dre ... (read more)

Report this review (#289090) | Posted by Nathaniel607 | Sunday, July 4, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars another masterpiece by Dream Theater. its Dream Theater of course. there's at least something that any Dream Theater fan would love. its Dream Theater. a band that's awesome on guitars, drums, vocals, bass, and definitely the keyboards/the continuums. i've been a fan of Dream Theater since Jun ... (read more)

Report this review (#289012) | Posted by DiehardTheRushFan | Saturday, July 3, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Hmm, i had mixed reactions when i first heard this album not bad but still not a masterpiece. This is the bands first release for RoadRunner records, and to be honest i cudda guessed that they were gonna try and make them more appealing to a more metal auidence, its quite a heavy album with more ... (read more)

Report this review (#284262) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Sunday, May 30, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars After being somewhat disappointed in Octavarium I still had hopes that Dream Theater would bounce back and produce more quality material, if not masterpieces like Images and Words then at least the enjoyable-but-flawed kind of albums like Train of Thought. I wasn't counting days to the release o ... (read more)

Report this review (#284036) | Posted by Pekka | Saturday, May 29, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Just given this a spin this weekend, time to review I thought as I took off the headphones. Hm , In the Presence of enemies - a two parter, each part the book=end tracks of this mightily impressive CD! Soup PERB, what can you say about the EPIC, it takes you by the spheroids right from the sta ... (read more)

Report this review (#273546) | Posted by M27Barney | Monday, March 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A loathed album by many Many people cannot stand this release. However, I found this album to be a very fun and constantly entertaining ride. I don't really see why people dislike this album so much. A description of the music: This is a very diverse album with many styles. It is bookended ... (read more)

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5 stars There is one perfect word to define this magnum opus built by Dream Theater: EPIC. From the first note to the grand finale this is an album that contains everything you could expect it from the kings of progressive metal. The title track on Octavarium was magnificent but the album had some more e ... (read more)

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1 stars Trite and Cheesy Garbage but also Pretty Good. Now ask yourself, how is that possible? At this point in the game, Dream Theater have become experts in creating unbalanced albums, which range from beautiful and inspired(Count of Tuscany) to cheesy and immature(Portnoy Singing in General). ... (read more)

Report this review (#255142) | Posted by Phoenix87x | Wednesday, December 9, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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