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Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos

How does Dream Theater celebrate their recent signing to Roadrunner Records (who seem to be scooping up everyone these days)? By releasing a killer record, Systematic Chaos, that combines elements of Train of Thought, Awake, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Metropolis II: Scenes From a Memory, and the progressive fusion of Liquid Tension Experiment. Sound good? You betcha!

After the solid but somewhat reserved Octavarium, the New York prog-metal legends went back to the drawing board and took the heaviness of some of the recent material and mixed in the complexity & melodies from earlier in their career. The end result here is quite stunning, as Systematic Chaos offers up 8 tracks, each one a gem, and each one quite different from the others. "In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 1" kicks off in wild progressive fusion splendor, going on for close to 5 minutes of wild Liquid Tension-type bombast before James LaBrie even comes in for his first vocal appearance. From then on it's prog-metal majesty, with LaBrie's catchy vocals leading the way over plenty of intricate interplay from the whole band. The next track "Forsaken" is a memorable rocker with killer riffs from John Petrucci, symphonic keyboards from Jordan Rudess, and LaBrie's addicting vocal melodies. This one is real crunchy, bringing to mind the tunes from Train of Thought, and Petrucci's tone is quite menacing throughout. Speaking of Train of Thought, "Constant Motion" could have easily come off that album, or even Awake, as it features massive riffs and inspired drum work from Mike Portnoy. Check out John Myung's rumbling bass grooves boiling under the surface, and LaBrie is especially snarling here, with both Portnoy & Petrucci adding angry backing vocals, giving this one a very modern metal feel. The Metallica comparisons are also sure to happen after people check this one out, but regardless, it's a kick ass track.

Things don't let down from there, as "Dark Eternal Night" absolutely crushes out of the gate with complex drum patterns from Portnoy and wild, churning riffs from Petrucci & Myung. LaBrie, Petrucci, and Portnoy employ some vocal effects on this one, giving the backing vocals an almost "death metal" or "80's thrash" like sound. Overall, this is one of the heaviest songs this band has ever done, and there's plenty of complex interplay from the band. A complete change of pace happens on "Repentance", a 10-minute dreamy prog number that mixes elements of Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, and Damnation era Opeth, featuring guest vocals from Steven Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt, Jon Anderson, David Ellefson, Daniel Gildenlow, Steve Hogarth, Chris Jericho, Neal Morse, Corey Taylor, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai, a virtual "who's who" of prog & metal. With Rudess' soothing Mellotron, Myung's intricate bass grooves, and Petrcucci's silky guitar chords, LaBrie and the guest singers float about the mix for a truly intoxicating brew, making for one of the most surprising and most "old school" prog songs on the CD. The LaBrie penned "Prophets of War" takes things back to aggressive prog-metal status, with some catchy melodies and searing guitar riffs, sure to get the listener singing along and pumping the fists in the air. Rudess also throws in some nifty synth textures on this one as well.

The last two tracks are the huge epics on the CD. "Ministry of Lost Souls" is a symphonic & orchestral number that is a highlight here for Rudess and LaBrie, as the band goes for atmosphere and intricate passages over crunch. It's part ballad, part epic prog song, and it works. The last piece is "In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 2", a dark and deadly prog-metal opus, with LaBrie delivering some delightful and varied vocals, and the whole band gets to contribute some stellar instrumental parts, especially Petrucci and Rudess, who do some insane unison soloing together.

The majority of the lyrics on the CD were written by John Petrucci, so you can expect some pretty diverse yet dark & personal stuff here that you'll want to read over a few times to really let it all soak in. While Octavarium had some pretty upbeat and commercial material on it, don't expect anything similar on Systematic Chaos. This is dark, heavy, and extremely progressive stuff here that is sure to send the rabid Dream Theater fans into fits of delight, and bring even more legions of listeners into the fold. With Roadrunner behind them, the time could be right for world domination. Regardless, the end result is another killer release from a band that can seemingly do no wrong.


Track Listing
1. In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 1
2. Forsaken
3. Constant Motion
4. Dark Eternal Night
5. Repentance
6. Prophets of War
7. Ministry of Lost Souls
8. In the Presence of Enemies, Pt. 2

Added: August 7th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Dream Theater Website
Hits: 9085
Language: english

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Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-08-07 07:09:12
My Score:

Special Edition-Enhanced 5.1 Surround Sound CD/ DVD

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.

Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-07-19 08:52:20
My Score:

After the release of their 20th Anniversary CD & DVD The Score, Dream Theater would shock many music fans by signing on to Roadrunner Records, a label who has been giving a home to some seriously cool new acts as well as several legends. Those of us who have enjoyed the music that Dream Theater is so adept at bringing to life would wonder how their ninth studio album would come out when it was done and when you place Systematic Chaos on the player you quickly find out your answer. Right off the bat they hit you with a masterpiece of Progressive Metal instrumentalism that calls to mind the bands influences and learning from their past – it's a mix of Fusion and Prog styling that really comes to life and draws you right into the album from the get go. There are parts of this track that reminded me a little of Progressive Rock giants Emerson, Lake and Palmer and perhaps this is based on the manner in which Jordan Rudess presents one of the keyboard passages. It just reminded me a little of the vibe that was laid down on the classic "Karn Evil 9". It's almost five minutes before we even hear a note from singer James LaBrie but when he makes his grand entrance we find him to be as passionate as ever. Systematic Chaos is presented on one CD as opposed to the band giving you a couple of disks of music and while there is a chance that the long time follower will take offense to that they should also be aware that no sacrifices have been made in the songs epic nature. There are a couple of shorter numbers such as "Forsaken", and this will be a crowd favorite since its one of those songs that actually prompts you to sing along with them - LaBrie sounds incredible here as well and this could become the bands first single off the album if such a thing is even sought. When we get to "Constant Motion" we find DT doing their best Metallica for the most part albeit with far better musicianship than them. It's a mix of standard heavy DT but with the Hetfield vocals coming in every now and again and I am not sure I liked them doing this. The song is ok and might impress the fans who want the heavier side from the band as opposed to grandiose displays of technical ability. Portnoy joins in at times with some vocals as well and seems to be getting better at such contributions. As I listened I began to think of this new album as a slight mix of that which we enjoyed on Train Of Thought and Octavarium. I would also have to say that this is the heaviest that Dream Theater has been in many years and this could bring a new level of fans to their corner.

"The Dark Eternal Night" is a heavy one and there is a vocal trick done during it that almost comes off as a Black Metal band and I admit that this was VERY different to find DT sticking into their sound. The song progresses at times like Primus with that off time groove that they love to do and as a tune it works and is a true head banger. I'm not sure I want to see this brand of vocals in their stuff again but I applaud Portnoy for giving them a go. The tune "Repentance" is a slower piece that has a ton of Pink Floyd essence to it and while I loved the feel and flow of this track I admit that the voices towards the end were getting a little annoying to listen to. Perhaps I need to focus on what is actually being said the next time around to see if I get it. Portnoy penned the lyrics for this one and has also done so around other tracks on the album with the larger remainder being done by Petrucci, who has written five tunes out of the eight on the recordings. The lyrics are notably darker than much of what the band has presented in the past and this is a good thing as it shows their diversity all the more. The musicianship all over the album is what stands out the highest and it is here where DT becomes hard to review based on how unpredictable they remain and in how they always toss in that which you are not expecting them to do. Without over examining the players I will leave it as the following comments - John Petrucci is one of the best in Prog-Metal as far as guitar goes while Mike Portnoy is continually breaking ground on the drums and inspiring players everywhere with his accomplishments. Jordan Rudess has been a star ever since he joined the band and while many still find the Moore and Sherinian years to their appeal, I feel that Rudess has grown with them and helped the band as a whole grow in new musical directions more than his predecessors ever hoped to. I liked those players myself but something about Rudess always amazes me. John Myung continues to hold the whole thing together and remain quiet and firm as he does so. The recording closes out in typical Dream Theater fashion with a grandiose, multi-layered song that runs just under seventeen minutes. With "In The Presence Of Enemies – Part II" we find the band throwing in everything but the kitchen sink and delivering many different avenues of Progressive Metal treats. It's a song that needs to be focused on when it plays because there is just so much going on that it is almost a requirement that you do so. I found this to be one of the best and most imposing tracks on the album. The Special Edition of Systematic Chaos comes with a bonus DVD that features a 90 minute documentary about the making of the album. On the DVD we find the band in the studio during the recording and rehearsal process as well as talking candidly about it from the control room. We primarily hear from Portnoy who seems to be the master of ceremonies on the segment, but Rudess, Petrucci and LaBrie also give us their two cents about the albums creation. Oddly enough we never hear from John Myung on this film and perhaps he simply does not feel it necessary for him to say anything with the others speaking volumes. Lyrics are included on the booklet and that's great since it is such deeply brooding stuff for the most part. The SE actually has four more pages than the standard version and some different photos and comes to you in a richly illustrated sleeve around the CD case. The sleeve depicts a traffic light and the most notable color is the green which symbolizes "Go". I took this as a hint for the fans so let's all "Go" with Dream Theater on this new adventure. Here's to the next twenty years, you have a very clear winner with this one.


Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
Posted by Hugh Dark, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-06-25 08:28:59
My Score:

"Gods of prog" Dream Theater are back with their ninth full-length studio recording. While I am not as universally favorable to this release as my respected colleagues; the mean amount of minutes enjoyed, do work in favor of Systematic Chaos. The best way for me to review this is with a brief song-by-song commentary. So here it goes…

1. In The Presence of Enemies (Part 1) - Epic and unpredictable song structure that is memorable in every way; this song has every element that has built and made this band great. This song is incredible!

2. Forsaken- Probably the most radio friendly track on the entire cd. The piano in the beginning recalls the beauty of "Wait for Sleep" and the rest of the song has a purposeful and powerful stride. Dream Theater can be very effective without having to wow you and this is proof of that. You'll remember this one.

3. Constant Motion- This is the song that is being played quite a bit on digital radio stations. This is like the Trivium interpretation of Metallica, just much heavier. It is not a bad song by any means, but the band really does not need to imitate anyone at this point in their career. The instrumental part just after the 4:00 minute mark is definitely more in kind with who they really are and preserves the song from being a total parody. Unlike the first two songs, this is too much of a conscious effort.

4. The Dark and Eternal Night- Oh god! No Mudvayne interpretations please! I can hardly listen to Myung play that bass line. Any imitations at this point have become a cliché. The backing vocals outstay their welcome here and I can not take this song seriously. The instrumental section at 3:35 is harmonically incredible and like the last song, saves it from being a total loss. In fact, it almost makes me forget the first 3 minutes. Love that ragtime piano B.T.W.!

5. Repentance- This is like a combination of Tool, Pink Floyd and to a lesser extent, Damnation era Opeth. Labrie lays down a real winner of a vocal track here. I hate to sound hypocritical, but the influences work very well. I mean, I will take any of those three bands over Trivium and Mudvayne! It could be debated that this song probably could have used a couple of minutes of editing at 10:43, but it's a score irrespective of that argument. A very kick ass song to drive to with those backing vocals (excellent here) helping you to literally "lift off."

6. Prophets of War- Oh Christ, this sounds like a morose throw-away from the Xanadu soundtrack! What an awful attempt at a message. I am really surprised that they did not spell the song title "Profits" with as much over-thinking going on here. Sorry, it just does not make it through without sounding melodramatic and again, over thought. The Dr. X background vocals doesn't help it either. To me it is like woven together clichés.

7. The Ministry of Lost Souls- I love the dramatic, but I prefer an understated beauty in ballads and this crosses that threshold. This is a perfect example of where James Labrie can be a little much. However, it is not that bad and others will certainly enjoy this primordial testimonial. Also, this one is a little overcooked at almost 15 minutes. The whole lyrical and musical theme and concept does not support that kind of investment I.M.O.

8. In The Presence of Enemies (Part II) - This song "is" a good example of a longitudinal time investment. Those classic elements are back as found in Part 1. I must say… The bass guitar in the beginning is certainly lifted *coughs* from Pink Floyd's "Sheep"; found in its entirety on their seminal recording Animals. (Nice grab guys, but not as good.)This song is only mildly blemished by the "Dark Master" refrain. It's a little too "comic book" in my opinion. Had they commandeered King Diamond, I believe it may have worked. Seriously, Labrie is about as evil as the tooth fairy!



» Reader Comments:

Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
Posted by Sam on 2008-04-14 08:54:32
My Score:

I disliked this record.

This whole album seems to be an attempt to get on Headbangers Ball (which actually worked), but it actually sounds like the band sold out.



The introduction to the album is very good, I'll give them that.

Forsaken is probably the whiniest song of all progressive metal history.

Constant Motion seems ok, but not DTs style.

The dark eteral Night sounded really good, then they started singing. It sounded like a wannabe death metal band. Horrible.

Repentance was a good song, with an awesome solo, but then the other 5 minutes of the song is just "UHHHH" with different pitches. What the hecK?

Prophets of War sounds like a queenrÿche rip off.

The ministry of lost souls: stupid.

The ending to the album is pretty good, but they are sounding like something that THEY ARE NOT.

They tried to change, but it wasn't good enough. I have been a fan for a while now, but this album makes me regret devoting my time to them. This just sucks.

Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
Posted by Guitarist_4123 on 2007-07-17 17:06:21
My Score:

When I first listened to the first few tracks of Systematic Chaos, being a Train of Thought fan, I felt the songs were too aggressive and that Dream Theater were forgetting that they're more about melody than aggresssion. It only took me 2 days to listen to all the tracks a few times before I realized that the album was actually nothing but pure DT music with with some extra distortion just to sweeten things up. Now I cant stop listening to it.

In the Presence of Enemies 1 - The first 20 seconds is probably one of the most powerful intro's ive ever heard in my life. The rest of the music is amazingly brilliant and full of melody with not a single note out of place. J.P wrote some sweet solos on this one.

Forsaken - This song is slightly less complex than the rest of the songs, but still managed to become a truly powerful hit.

Constant Motion - My second favorite track after In the Presence of Enemies 1/2. Constant motion has such a unique melody yet sounds so familiar to the ear that anyone would immediately fall in love with the main riff. The guitar solo (which I still cant play) in this song fits perfectly by all means and LaBrie just keeps getting better throughout the song.

Dark Eternal Night - I really like the lyrics and the way they are sung in this song. The guitar solo here was honestly full of skill and all, but did not fit the song in anyway. I was really disappointed in Rudess for how he was simply playing random licks at the end of the song. He sounds so much better on the previous albums than in this one.

Repentance - A very unique style once again and sounds pretty catchy

Prophets of War - Catchy lyrics, powerful music, good solos.

The Ministry of Lost Souls - Finally a song where Rudess' talent is really seen. I really love the orchestral melody in this prog rock song.

In the Presence of Enemies 2- The guitar solos here is all im going to comment about because of how brilliantly they fit the song. This song had such an awesome ending with Rudess leading the outro backed up by Petrucci.

Overall, this album was amazing and I reccomend that you really do buy it.

Petrucci - awesome guitar work, a brilliant player and lyrics-writer.

Labrie - again, excellent vocals which take up 40% of why this album is one of the best ive heard.

MYung - his bass tracks are now more noticeable and catchier than some other previous albums he did, atleast better than the bass on train of thought.

Rudess - he could've been better, especially on dark eternal night. He is probably my favorite guy from dream theater because of how I am always touched when I see him playing heavy awesome riffs yet while still looking at his music score. I just love it when people remember the real theory behind the music rather than simply jamming pointlessly.

Buy this album.

Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
Posted by dyne k on 2007-07-16 05:27:49
My Score:

one mentioned that the dark master parts from DTs -"in the presence of enemies" seemed a little comical. Fair enough, as the song is actually based on the comic book/manga "Priest"
This song is getting tons of attention because DT's songs get used many times for anime fans background videos ala youtube. Definately one of their best songs to date.
thanks

Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
Posted by Karl Jones on 2007-06-18 14:49:56
My Score:

This is an absolute masterclass of how to write, play and produce this type of prog/rock/metal. I think this is DTs tenth album, and they still sound as fresh as ever.There are influences that DT allow to creep in, in order to keep the overall sound evolving (such as the Muse influences on "Prophets of War"), but they never sell out as other bands have done in order to ride a "whats fashionable wave". As with most DT albums, the more you listen, the more you get out of it. But the sheer genius of DT is that there are threads of music/lyrics that run through their earlier albums, that are elaborated on such as on"Repentance"(which picks up from "This Dying Soul" from Train of Thought etc...At the moment, Systematic Chaos would be number 2 in my dream Theater top 10 albums behind Images and Words....Also, the first edition contains a DVD with a ninety minute "making of" documentary, and a 5.1 mix of the full album..Best album this year.

Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2007-06-02 20:18:23
My Score:

I wanted to say several things about this gem but Pete Pardo said them all!
I only want to give my congratulations to the production team of John and Mike in a truly materclass on how to produce an album like this.But, really, every member of the band shines in here.Buy it!




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