on 14 June 2007
Having bought this with a slightly sceptical mind after the disappointing Octavarium, I was blown away! The last few DT albums have divided the fans' opinions - some loved the heaviness of Train of Thought, while others liked the slightly smoother sound on Octavarium. BUT - DT are a prog band after all, so it would disappointing if all albums sounded the same.
With that in mind, I think the guys have outdone themselves with this record - combining the best elements of their previous albums into something which is heavy, ballsy (as MP wanted it to be!) and ROCKIN' yet also intricate and proggy with real thought behind the song structures and themes. The lighter moments on the record are more atmospheric and involving, rather than just sounding weak in the context of the others.
As always, the individual performances are absolutely outstanding. Every solo on this record is well placed, appropriate and adds something to the song, rather than just being a showcase for their talents. It's easy not to noticed the genius in the guys' playing as everything fits so well. But genius it is!
I won't go into a breakdown of the songs - others have done that. But for me, both parts of In The Presence Of Enemies stand out. This is what Dream Theater is about! Powerful songs with a mixture of complex musical themes that combine together to form a balls-out, rockin' blast of a record! These guys continue to be top of bill for me. AWESOME!
on 8 June 2007
So, Dream Theater in 2007; no line-up changes for over 8 years, new record label with enough marketing gusto to get the band over to a whole new set of fans, and another new album; their 4th in a very creatively proficient decade for the band. So where is Dream Theater musically in 2007? The answer seems to be 'bridging the gap', in their reliable progtastic fashion.
Some of the band's fans seem to have made a habit of finding a perceived fatal flaw with each of Dream Theater's albums these days. For instance, 2003's 'Train Of Thought' was 'too heavy' whilst 2005's 'Ocvatarium' wasnt 'heavy enough'. 'Systematic Chaos', the band's first album on Roadrunner Records, finds the band presenting a healthy balance between their heavy, light and traditional musical sides, and could ultimately prove to be a Dream Theater album that might just manage to please almost everyone.
Because there is a great level of variety on this record, make no mistake. Take two of the album's centre pieces; 'The Dark Eternal Night' lumbers about with such a menacing and brutal edge, and could almost be considered the heaviest song of this band's career. It's also here that drummer and main band spokesperson Mike Portnoy shows off his ever impressive skills with some great fast double bass breaks, and guitarist John Petrucci, shows again why he's one of the best electric guitarists alive by pulling of an enviously brilliant solo, one of many on the album. The song that follows, 'Repentance', is a quiet, moody and reflective number, part 4 in Portnoy's AA series, and features some of the bands friends talking about past failures as its outro. The song could also be another Dream Theater milestone, being the quietest song the band have written, and not only does it prove to be a good folly to the brutality it preceeded, it's another great example of the variety of songs this band can write.
Of course, it doesnt stop there. The more traditionally prog-influenced 'Prophets Of War' and following song 'The Ministry Of Lost Souls' are evidence of the bands 'classical progressive' roots. Also 'Constant Motion' almost feels like an outtake from Metallica's '...And Justice For All', with its metallic speed and poise.
What's also interesting with 'Systematic Chaos' is its release on a slightly more 'hip' record label. Roadrunner know how to market bands that stick out, and with Dream Theater continuing to faithfully develop musically at the same time as sounding current, hopefully a younger crop of fans will be turned onto the band.
As a whole, 'Systematic Chaos' finds Dream Theater reliably continuing along a most satisfying career path. Whilst it doesnt quite scale the creative heights of 'Scenes From A Memory', or the two discs of 'Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence', it never had to. So here we are, with another great album to add to the DT back catalogue, and perhaps, thanks to a new home, a re-energising of a band celebrating its 20th anniversary, but still shockingly not short of ideas.
on 7 June 2007
Like many of the reviewers so far, I have been a DT fan for many (10 + years). I guess we each look for something different from them. To me Train of Thought ( which I was honoured to be at THE first gig on the world tour to promote) was the last GREAT DT album. It followed a wave of peerless releases starting with Awake ( still my favourite for the diversity, confidence, melodies and musicianship).
I have only managed 3/4 listens so far so temper my views with that.
The songs aren't great on the whole - there is a feel of a formula about some of the longer ones - almost like the guys said " We are DT so we better add another 5 minutes of noodling and time changes" without thinking about where the song or melody is going. We know they can be self indulgent ( I wish I had 10% of JP's ability) but sometimes less is more.
The highlights for me,so far, are Forsaken ( a great DT song - great vocal performance as well) and Repentance.Weakest is Prophets of War - very poor lyrics - on the whole just below the , admittedly very high, standards DT have set for themselves over the years.
I am , and remain a massive DT fan. I can't wait to see them tour to support the album.I hope that Octavarium and now SC don't indicate that the bands creativity is on the wane. I must emphasise, putting this into perspective that it's good and I will listen my ears off over the next few weeks but TOT, 6DOIT, SFOAM grabbed you right away, no escaping the magnitude of them as classics - this doesn't seem to make it into the same bracket.
Don't shoot me - I'm just a fan with an opinion.
on 19 November 2007
First of all I'd like to apologise for the length of this review, but after having read a LOT of bad reviews without any real explanation of what's wrong with the album, I thought I'd give a song by song review. There are a few that are weak, BUT, however, due to a few VERY good songs, this album is quickly becoming one of my favourites.
1. (In the Presence of Enemies Part 1) The album opens very strongly - the first minute or so sounding VERY 'Rush'-esque. I don't mind this, although I'm aware some others may find this worrying. Very impressive song, with some quite interesting out-of-time sections and interesting time-sigs, with a very impressive unison-solo outro. 5/5
2. (Forsaken) First weak point. The song in itself isn't actually TOO bad, but it does sound remarkably like Evanescence, and not just for a short section (i.e. the first song sounding like Rush for about 1 minute). I actually find the lyrics and vocals a tad weak as well - the solo and outro aren't all that bad though, they give a bit of life back to the song. 3.5/5
3. (Constant Motion) Very good song. This song has a truely amazing (IMO anyway) solo section. It really blew me away. At first it took me a while to get into the song (due to Metallica similarities in the 1st verse), but it's actually in time become one of my favourites. 4.5/5
4. (The Dark Eternal Night) I find this song to be an oddness. I love the solo section, and I'm even starting to like the verse/chorus. But it's so heavy, it's hard to believe the verse/chorus is DT at all (especially the vocals, which are NOTHING like anything Labrie has ever sung before). I DO like this one, but other than the very cool instrumental section, I'm not entirely sure why. 4/5
5. (Repentance - another AA suite song) Hmmm. Some have said this is a complete borefest that goes nowhere. If I had written this review when I first got the album, I'd have agreed - but after time, I found it interesting to have a bit of a break from the heavier/faster stuff that proceeds it. Not an amazing song; a nice change of pace though. Definitely prefer it to 'Forsaken' anyway. 4/5
6. (Prophets of War) This is another weak point for me. I loved 'Never Enough' (from Octavarium) despite it being very 'Muse'-ish - mainly because of the blow-away unison solo towards the end. This, whilst also being very 'Muse'-ish, has no solo/interesting riffs, the chants become quite agrivating at points, and for some reason Portnoy decided to do some high screams during one of the verses. Confusing. The really odd thing is, after having said that - I'm listening to it now and singing along, and I'm not bored at all. Go figure *shrugs*. 3/5
7. (The Ministry of Lost Souls) Probably my favourite from the album. VERY cool acoustic guitar section after the dramatic intro - and again another amazing unison solo later on. The only down side for me were the lyrics, but after having found out what they mean from the DVD documentary, even THEY have grown on me. Some have said it's the typical ballad entry - but whilst it obviously IS a ballad - I dont think there's anything typical about it. 5/5
8. (In the Presence of Enemies Part 2) At first listen I found nothing interesting about this part of the 25 minute song. After a few listens though, it's managed to hook me at a few places, and I actually like it quite a lot now. Having said that, the lyrics are WIERD and I dont think I'll ever be able to completely come to terms with them. If they're gonna write a song about someone fighting against the good/bad sides of his conscience, then why make it sound like he's a Satan worshipper? Clueless. Still, lyrics having been explained - it's not anywhere near as bad as I thought originally, and as part of the whole song I do like it a lot now. Oh by the way, a VERY interesting end to the song (yet another amazing unison-solo included, very similar to the one in part 1 though) provides a very cool ending to the album. 4.5/5
All in all, this album has 3 of my all-time DT favourites on it, and a few others that are definitely worth listening to from time to time - no different to When Dream & Day Unite, Images and Words, Awake, Falling Into Infinity & Train of Thought to me.
I find a lot of people tend to say bad things about WHOLE DT albums (Train of Thought, Octavarium, Systematic Chaos in particular) but I've managed to find at least 2 songs on each and every album that I absolutely love (quite often finding 3 or 4 in fact). This album is no different. 4 stars well earned I say.
on 2 June 2007
Got hold of a copy of this a couple of days ago and as usual first impression was good but is it great?
As usual with DT there are so many aspects to this CD that it takes time to appreciate but it grew on me really quickly.
There is a great mix of melodic, slow tracks with real emotion and tracks that are heavy, some quite complex but always progresive
This CD brings together much of what has been done by DT over their career and blends it with influences such as Floyd, Genesis, Pantera, Metallica...just listen and you hear the nods to all the great artists!
Overall it continues to grow on me and unfold itself with the levels of meaning and musical ability, quite how they produce such fantastic music again and again is in itself pretty amazing.
No hesitation in the 5 star rating and compared to much that is produced at the moment DT should get a 6th star!
Alright gloves off for this review.....we could go for the blow by blow account for each song...(1) slow build epic (2) nice bouncy one big chorus(3)Hetfield on steroids (4)21st Century Schizoid Dream- crimsonesque glory (5)Sigmund Freud meets nagging bass-line (6)Stately paced grower (7)Epic part deux. There that's that finished. Now the eternal question - where does this stand in the pantheon of DT albums? The answer simply is that this is a great album on its own terms. The naysayers will have you endlessly comparing albums with those that have gone before (nay nay and thrice nay they shout). But such navel gazing serves no-one and only cause cynicism to creep in. Time often plays tricks and many albums only reveal their secrets slowly after years of play. DT "fans" like other obsessives will trash new and lionise old continually. Dream Theater play within a genre of music which straddles at least two defined camps Prog and metal - never completely comfortable in either but testing the boundaries both lyrically and musically. Personally I like the themes developed over several albums ...of ...mental health..... addiction.....ego.... redemption. But for some metalheads anything that strays away from Dungeon & Dragons is dangerous territory. Certainly DT deserve wider attention and seem to be gaining ground again with Roadrunner. As for the mixed reviews ...well I think that some folk should get out more ...wake up and smell the coffee. This album is Great with a capital G. Quality with a capital KW. So buy with confidence ...Good price too. Should be 7 out of 5.
I commend this CD to the house.
on 20 September 2010
For me, this is my strongest DT album yet (I have Octavarium, Images and Words and Awake), and there is never a dull moment, whether in the distorted riffs of the Dark Eternal Night of in the peaceful melodies of Repentance.
In the Presence of Enemies Pt 1 - 9.5/10 Brilliant opener, love the 5 minute instrumental
Forsaken - 10/10 A slightly more commercial sound, but sticks to its DT vibe
Constant Motion - 8.5/10 - Fast, and with a great solo
The Dark Eternal Night 9/10 - Heaviest song on the album, distorted riffing and vocals and a brilliant solo section
Repentance - 8/10 Much more peaceful than anything else, but is a little bit too long for its effect to last completely without boring you
Prophets of War - 10/10 Great song, catchy riffs and a strong message behind it
Ministry of Lost Souls - 10/10 My favourate song on the album. Very progressive and emotional
In the Presence of Enemies Pt 2 - 10/10 Epic song. Enough said
on 6 June 2007
Never one to do things by halves or to repeat themselves, Dream Theater have returned with a new album, and it is a Monster.
The album is a delight, that will appeal to Metal Heads and Prog Heads alike. It is book ended by Part 1 and Part 2 of In the presence of enemies. If the DSOTM era of Pink Floyd wrre still making records, this is the sort of thing they would be doing. It is simply jaw dropping.
For the metal heads, there are the riff - tastic Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night. But even the quiter songs such as Forsaken are full of playing that will delight any guitarist, bassist, key boardist or drummer. James LaBrie on vocals continues to get better and better, so the whole thing is a complete package.
With Systematic Chaos, Dream theater have released an album that demands attention.
on 12 September 2012
This was my introduction to Dream Theater, previous to this album I'd heard the name but not the music. On my first listen I can honestly say I wasn't all that impressed by it. Yes, there was some insanely impressive musicianship - the band are superbly tight and can weave in and out of musical styles and time signatures with ease. There are more musical ideas in some of these songs than a lot of artists put into a whole album (or career!). But like I said I wasn't immediately awed by it. As I listened to the intro and opening riffs of In The Presence Of Enemies (Part 1) it reminded me a bit of Ozric Tentacles (Become The Other era) with a similar feeling to the guitar and textured synth sound intertwining over the tightly locked bass and drums. The album finishes with part 2 which is just a continuation of the themes laid out in this one.
After a few plays of this album I found James LaBrie's vocals to be the weakest link. I'm not saying he's a bad singer, his vocal range is fantastic. But on this particular album he seems overshadowed by the music and I didn't feel a lot of emotion coming through. Before any die-hard Dream Theater fans shoot me down, I've developed a much deeper appreciation of his vocals on other albums, not only for his range but also for his presence. This is just a Systematic Chaos thing for me.
In Constant Motion and Dark Eternal Night you have two of the albums fastest and heaviest tracks. On the former you have a combination of vocals that sound similar to James Hetfield on the verses and a Faith No More Real Thing era Mike Patton on the chorus (not a bad thing by any means). Dark Eternal Night is a lot heavier and the vocals occasionally dip into extreme growling.
Prophets of War is also an up tempo song but this time it's got more of an electronica drum machine style rhythm to it and it reminds me of some of the stuff Muse has done.
Two of the more gentler tracks are Forsaken and Ministry of Lost Souls. Forsaken does have a pretty mean guitar riff in there but it's definitely more restrained compared with some of the other tracks. The latter is what you could probably class as a metal power ballad and LaBrie's vocals probably shine the most on this track with it's soaring choruses.
It's quite difficult to describe the musical journeys of each of these songs as they all seem to defy the standard verse-chorus-middle eight-solo rinse and repeat that most bands follow. All the songs go on some pretty wild tangents and back at the drop of a hat with some very extended jams and solo's from every instrument and it never fails to impress me just how much mastery all of the band have over their instruments. John Petrucci has got to be one of the most versatile and proficient musicians on the planet, ditto for Mike Portnoy. And Jordan Rudess can throw all manner of sound both over and within the music with hi. What I can hear of John Myung is very good - it might just be me but the bass seems to be buried in the mix on this album (and on some other Dream Theater releases). It's not a problem I have with any other bands so I wonder if any other listeners feel the same?
As I said at the beginning my first impressions were not that great. I thought the production just seemed a little too sterile for my ears, and the vocals too plain. However, the album has definitely grown on me and in a short space of time Dream Theater have gone from being just a name to one of my favourite bands. The sheer diversity of musical styles on each and every song is almost as amazing as how they can tie it all together without sounding like a random mess. This isn't my favourite Dream Theater Album, but it's pretty darn good and will always have a special place in my collection as my introduction to one of the finest bands around.
If you like bands to push the envelope when it comes to musical style and complexity the Dream Theater is your band.
on 18 August 2011
I don't normally write reviews, but in this case I thought I should make the effort.
Being a huge fan of rock music of most types, particularly Rush, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Opeth, Black Sabath and Motorhead to name but a few, I thought that I should give this band a try. I have always overlooked them throughout my music life, so I took the plunge and bought this album. The only track on the album that I had heard was Dark eternal night on Youtube and loved it.
From the first few opening minutes I knew I was going to enjoy this album.......
In the presence of enemies - part 1 is simply stunning with superb guitar work from Petrucci. It takes you on a winding journey and even if there were no lyrics you would feel the story unwind before your ears. I don't know about anyone else, but I feel a combination of influences in their music from the simply brilliant Rush, Iron Maiden and Pink Floyd through to even the likes of Metallica and even hints of Muse on Prophets of war. What I particularly love about this album is the constant tempo changes and music styles, which keeps your mind busy. I never got bored, so much so that I have played it again and again and again, much to the delight of my wife. It's been in the car and back to the music room and so on.
Hard to pick favourite tracks on an album that has no faults, but I would possibly say that track 1, track 2, track 4, track 6 and track 7 would be the best of the album. That does not take away the quality of the other tracks, it just takes my choice of tracks to the next level. Ministry of lost souls is simply mind blowing to listen to in the music room and the bass comming out of my Proac Response 3.8's is just crushing. Love the track!!!
I have no idea why it has taken me so long to purchase my first DT album, but I am glad that I did and I know die hard fans are going to tell me that earlier albums are far better, as I would state to anyone who has bought any recent Rush albums.
This album is definately a MASTERPIECE in my opinion and it deserves a huge 5 stars and that is what I have given it! Anyone who is contemplating the purchase of it SHOULD!!!