Sound — 9
The sound of this album is amazing. There are several familiar riffs which got several complaints, I personally enjoy hearing the riffs revised and changed around a bit. It's like a continuation of the other songs. So if you like hearing good riffs revised, you'll love The Shattered Fortress. A Nightmare to Remember is probably my least favorite song on the album, a great song, but it just wasn't as good as the rest. If you enjoyed Train of Thought you'll probably love it. It's very heavy and aggressive, sure to bring out the headbanger in you. Mike Portnoy shows off his double bass skills in this song but there are also some very slow and melodic parts in the song as well as very proggy parts, so it should be pleasing to most fans. This track is 16 minutes and 10 seconds. A Rite of Passage is one of my favorite songs on the album, I love the guitar solo. The song starts off with a nice quiet bass intro and then explodes in your face and gets quite aggressive. The Chorus is very catchy, James LaBrie's vocal melody is great. I love listening to it and often catch myself singing it(not as well as James does I'm afraid). The guitar solo reminds me of Constant Motion's solo at the begining but then it really takes off, this solo is gonna be a monster to learn. It definitely shows off Petrucci's skills as a shredder. The ending is the best part in my oppinion, Petrucci smacks is whammy bar to make this aggressive fluttering sound, he used the same technique in Under a Glass Moon and Animate-Inanimate and probably more songs that I can't think of right now. Rudess also gets to show off with an equally cool solo, he shows a few technoy effects, and a super mario brothersish sounding lick. This track is 8 minutes and 36 seconds. Wither is a very slow melodic song, quite mainstream sounding and surprisingly short. Rudess shows us that he can play without going full blast, his parts are very melodic and beautiful and Petrucci's guitar parts compliment them perfectly. Portnoy as usual creates a drum part that fits perfectly, fortunately he's not a drummer that feels he has to show off 24/7. James LaBrie really shines in this song, his vocals are amazing. The guitar solo sounds like it was very much influenced by Zakk Wylde. Tons of distortion and tons of wah, it might hit the ears a little hard at first, but give a closer listen and you'll hear how well it fits in. Quite a depressing song. This track is 5 minutes and 25 seconds. And now the song that got bashed on, The Shattered Fortress. The song truely lives up to its name, it sounds like a fortress being shattered by a wrecking ball(and I mean that in a good way!). This seems to be the end of the series that The Glass Prison started. There are riffs from This Dying Soul, The Glass Prison, The Root of All Evil, and Repentance. There might be more that I forgot about but I think that's it. Rudess shows a crazy solo in this one, it just has to be heard and Petrucci will not disappoint. If you're a longtime fan, you probably know pretty much what this song will sound like. This track is 12 minutes and 49 seconds. Dream Theater gets a little tricky with The Best of Times. It starts out extremely sad and depressing, long time DT fans will recognize the acoustic solo from Hollow Years. You'll be quite surprised to hear a very upbeat guitar lick comming in and then a very happy and upbeat verse appear out of nowhere. It really lets you into Portnoy's head and shows you how he feels and felt. Very well written all around. This track is 13 minutes and 9 seconds. The Count of Tuscany is my absolute favorite on this album. It's the longest song and every musician is great on this song, everything is well balanced. The chorus is one of my favorites by Dream Theater, it's very catchy and you'll want to start singing right after you hear it. James LaBrie adds the perfect amount of emotion to this song, the way he sings the chorus really adds the effect of desperation and fear of losing your life. The song focuses more on lyrics than crazy blazing fast solos while there are still crazy passages in the song which is why I say that this song is very well balanced. This track is 19 minutes and 16 seconds. Now, about the actual sounds of the instruments and the voices. John Petrucci's guitar sounds are great, the best I've ever heard from him. There's just enough bass and plenty of distortion. I'm not sure what the settings are exactly but I'm definitely going to do some research on that and use them. He also uses the wah more than usual, very Zakk Wylde influenced I think. John Myung is unfortunately not really featured on the album as much as everyone else, but his bass sound is perfect as far as I can tell. Maybe I just have a terrible musical ear as far as this goes, but his bass sounds about the same as usual. Mike Portnoy has found the perfect drum sound. Cymbals can be heard perfectly, bass drums are nice and deep and the snare is perfect. Toms are sounding great as well. Jordan Rudess's sounds are impossible to review, too many of them. So, moving on... James LaBrie's vocals are great. His clean vocals are perfect and his rhaspy growlish vocals are perfect as well, everything is used in just the right spots. He adds the perfect aggression or mellowness to all songs. No other singer would fit in these songs.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics on this album were great. A Nightmare to Remember is about a car crash, most people can relate to that and it brings you back to whatever night it was that it happened. The lyrics captured that scenario very well. A Rite of Passage's lyrics are about the Free Masons, can't talk too much about those, don't want to get in trouble with those guys. Withered has very sad and melencholy lyrics, if you like to listen to a sad song to make you feel better, this will be perfect for you. The Shattered Fortress is a continuation of Mike Portnoy's fight against alcoholism which was started by The Glass Prison. Reading the lyrics you can really see where he stands in his fight and how strongly he feels about it. The Best of Times has some very good lyrics as well. They say that the best lyrics come from the heart; they're right. The song is about his times as a child with his father who recently passed away this year. It goes from his childhood relationship with his dad to present day. It will bring a tear to your eye if you're the emotional type. Very heartfelt lyrics, my sympathies to the Portnoy family. The Count of Tuscany is about, well, the Count of Tuscany! It's supposedly a true story about John Petrucci's visit to Tuscany where he met a Count that freightened him and put him in some situation where Petrucci thought he would die. The lyrics really take you there and make you feel like you're a part of the story.
Overall Impression — 10
In my oppinion, this is one of their best CDs. Everything sounds great. I only have a few minor complaints. 1. The solo to A Nightmare to Remember didn't start off as well as I would have liked but it still fits in well and sounds great 2. The packaging on the special eddition isn't great, the CDs are very difficult to get out but I would still reccomend the special eddition to any DT fan. 3. I wish they had included the DVD with the special eddition and taken out one of the other extra disks, they're great and the instrumental disk is good for figuring out the songs but the DVD would have been better. That's all I have for complaints, the CD is still great and I definitely reccomend it to anyone who's a fan of progressive music.