|Review: Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos|
Label: Roadrunner Records
Year released: 2007
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: June 13, 2007
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
Rated 3.42/5 (68.42%) (38 Votes)
Dream Theater's approach to song writing has been obscure of late. I'm not complaining; strangely enough I think DT are one of the only bands on the planet that have the constant ability to churn out decent records, no matter what path they decide to take before making it. And since it has been speculated that DT have taken their influence this time from fellow label mates Trivium – yes, DT have joined media zombies Roadrunner, for shame – I was expecting this to cause a right pong. But fortunately DT are a band that, unlike so many, decide not to upgrade their old car with a new spoiler and a fast engine; they decide to pick up a new one altogether and let it take them on the exact same journey they've traveled millions of times before.
Truthfully, album number nine, "Systematic Chaos" sounds nothing like bloody Trivium. The only thing remotely similar is the often overwhelming compulsion to slip into Metallica mode and dish out some menacing, in your face thrash, but apart from that, this still sounds like Dream Theater, just decidedly heavier, and a little more contemporary. That's not to say this isn't thrilling, complex, over-most-people's heads- prog metal. On the contrary, "Systematic Chaos" - as you may have figured from the name - is some of the most technically perverse material they have ever recorded, with both sets of "In The Presence of Enemies" being a refreshing return to the fast, riffy, almost neo-classical shred fest we experienced long ago on "Erotomania" from 1994's progressive metal masterpiece "Awake". But, as they do, this is a lot more showing off than anything, and as a result, quite a lot of this album's ambitions are desultory and aimless. It's still enjoyable however, and with that added aggression, its consequence is ultimately crushing. With every album they do always being different, it is obvious "Systematic Chaos" doesn't sound like any before – certainly nothing like "Images and Words" – but at least it doesn't sound like "Train of Thought", mainly due to the absolutely shocking production, which is possibly the best they've ever had; making John Petrucci's guitars sound perfect in tone, and complimented by Jordan Rudess' keys during those tricky harmonized runs, everything slots perfectly into place. Now DT's heavy attributes sound convincing. Frankly, I preferred the somber, synth-drenched approach of 2005's "Octavarium", which "Systematic Chaos" is in no way a progression from, but this is 2007, and if DT stayed in one place too long people like me wouldn't still be buying their records.
Strangely, the lyrics this time are extremely lazy; sticking to a fantasy theme mostly – apart from a couple of tracks that detail Mike Portnoy's musical diary of drunken confession that have followed "The Glass Prison" since "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence", and James LaBrie's vocals are primarily stuck in his lower register, just dying to break out. But sadly never do. The vocal lines are much simpler this time too, making tracks like "The Dark Eternal Night", "Forsaken" and the unfolding "Prophets of War" incredibly memorable. It's just all a bit too hurried this time.
So Dream Theater's latest stroke of genius may not be as intelligent as Pain of Salvation's new album or as melodic as DGM's, but it is still a sturdy continuation of the history they themselves pioneered.
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