|Review: Dream Theater - Train of Thought|
|Train of Thought|
Label: Elektra Records
Year released: 2003
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: May 14, 2009
Reviewed by: Christopher Foley
for:Train of Thought
Rated 4/5 (80%) (41 Votes)
Subject to much controversy amongst both the metal scene and Dream Theater's fans, Train of Thought is often seen as the bastard-child of the DT discography. In some ways that statement bears true as this is their most visceral and heavy affair, vastly different to any release in their discography. Leading me nicely into why this album is both maligned and revered the world over. Due to its much heavier sound than previous releases, use of more conventional vocal lines and the largely offending "rap" moment press and fan-boys alike spat Nu-Metal accusations left right and centre. The true fans as well as the more open-minded of us praised this for both its artistic merit, and the bold step into new horizons. However from a marketing stand-point the controversy surrounding this release would result in a quality PR plan, driving Dream Theater's music into the masses of Disturbed T-shirt-spiked hair-nail varnish wearing-posers (Trust me I witnessed it first hand). Which ultimately gained them a host of fans – of course in turn this dissuaded the posers from the tripe dominating their MP3 players, turning them onto real metal acts.
Initially I was scared away the middle era Dream Theater albums, due to conflicting reviews, cries of selling out and that common assumption that these guys hide behind lengthy instrumentals, and virtuoso musicianship to cover up the fact they no longer bear any song-writing credibility. Now I'll be the first to admit that throughout the years these guys have made some rough choices, the odd bad approach has been taken, and of course some things just don't gel. However it's the plain and simple fact that these guys take those kinds of risks with each and every release in pursuit of diversity and creativity. The Dream Theater back catalogue is a formidable collection of tracks tailored to appease any audience they may face.
As previously stated Train of Thought is Dream Theater's most metal release to date, a release that in my eyes worked a treat. From the ominous intro to "As I Am" we're treated once again to a darker sound from these guys, John Petrucci's guitar tone is sublime, complementing the down-tuning of his guitar – never becoming too sludgy. Probably the most accessible track these guys recorded since "Pull Me Under", "As I Am" quickly became a fan favorite –especially amongst the more metal-inclined fans. Next up is the biggest offender with the naysayers, a continuation of Mike Portnoy's alcoholics anonymous suite, the sublime "This Dying Soul" raging through the speakers with stupendous guitar solos and Portnoy's ever identifiable drum-work. Obviously it's not until further into the track where we see what had fans spitting their tea over their computer screens, the much maligned "rap" part. Honestly it's really not that bad; if you can let Daniel Gildenlöw get with staccato vocals I'm sure you can forgive LaBrie. Another point worth noting is the nods to the first part of the suite "The Glass Prison" where you can hear some of the riffs (something that would continue through consecutive releases). A personal highpoint of the release is the stunning "Honor Thy Father" certainly one of their finer cuts to date – an unforgiving romp with superior arrangement.
"Vacant" serves up a short ballad - just how they should be, quick and painless. Leading into the final part of the album, the lengthy instrumental "Stream Of Consciousness" which despite its enormous length still proves an entertaining listen and album closer "In The Name of God" - a damn cool track, displaying the finer vocal work and arrangements on Train of Thought. The biggest issue I have with this release is that it's lacking in the keyboards department, something I've always deemed a high point in my Dream Theater listening. However the moody piano work is very suitable, helping to further the dark soundscape across the release. Strictly speaking I find it hard to see much wrong with Train of Thought. The Nu Metal accusations reek of bullshit, this is 100% metal albeit with a slight modern twist to it. I commend DT for this release, an essential release in a back catalogue full of essential releases. Dream Theater never fails to please – just some albums please more than others. Train of Thought is a very good release that should be embraced without allegations and expectations.
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