Sound — 6
Now I must attest, when I first heard this album I was absolutely floored by it. I thought it was the coolest cat in the street, the heaviest rock in the Andes. But then a strange thing happened: I listened to it again and felt a little underwhelmed. Then I listened it to it again and felt even more underwhelmed. Thus is the problem of Dream Theater's new album: It appears strong and progressive on the outside, but once you look a little deeper it feels fickle and run of the mill. The album opens on a strong point with the suitably creepy piano introduction for A Nightmare To Remember. This leads into a very heavy section that at first sounds great, but is very derivative of anything modern in metal. This then goes into a Metallica riff (I know Portnoy said that Petrucci wrote the riff before he heard Metallica's "That Was Just Your Life" but I'm not sold) which has all the typical metal and Dream Theater trappings. And this brings me to the major problem that I have with this album. It is "typical Dream Theater" there is nothing particularly innovative or evolutionary, just more of what we have heard of them before and as such it just comes across as uninspired and lazy. Sure there are million notes per second shred sections and amazing instrumental wizadry (well not with Portnoy or Myung who seem to have taken a rest in practicing on this album), but it just comes across as tepid, unexciting and repetitive.
Lyrics — 6
This is a hard one for me to judge as two polar opposites are present. On one end of the polarity you have LaBrie whom is singing better than he ever has before. Gone is the whininess that has plagued his vocals for about a decade now, and in its place is a fearsome vowel of confidence and strength. But then we have the other end of the polarity: the lyrics. Every set of lyrics on this album written by Petrucci (which is all except The Shattered Fortress and The Best of Times) are some of the cheesiest, most ill fitting lyrics that I have ever heard this side of Shadow Gallery. Sure in some songs they are not so bad that they detract from the music, see A Nightmare To Remember, but in some songs the lyrics suck so insanely hard that it is almost impossible to give the music any credit. An example of this would be a pre chorus section in The Count of Tuscany where I must say that it is impossible to shout the lines, "Let me introduce my brother, A *something* gentlement, historian, Distinguished accent, sucking on his pipe, making me uptight, no accident." I laughed insanely hard when I first heard these lines. And this brings me to my initial conundrum we have a great vocal performance from Labrie marred by the actual words being spewed from his mouth, so which one do I choose to rate? I think I may go for an average...
Overall Impression — 6
Despite all the bad things I have said about this album it is still Dream Theater, and as such is better than most of the music being released today. Dream Theater have stuck by their guns through their career, but it is beginning to turn to a fault as they are becoming predictable. And to be honest if you have heard all their other albums you don't really need to hear this one, as it is just more of the same. And not done as well as their earlier material.