Sound — 9
The first album with mike Mangini being a part of the creative process from day 1... I don't know what about you guys, but I was really curious what it would be like to hear dream theater writing as a band again, with a new drummer this time. The new album is filled with monster riffs, and also great melodies, side by side. The guitar fills the mix and delivers a great sound from the heavy to the melodic and gentle moments. Also I have to say that LaBrie's singing on the album is absolutely unbelievable, it's powerful and emotional in a way most singers just can't get across and deliver that kind of emotion to the listener. And let's not forget the drums: (besides the snare sound that isn't liked by many) the drums are very dominant in the mix and mike's interpretation to the drum parts that should be played are very intuitive and strong. He is an amazing drummer and even though the fill is different from Portnoy's drumming it's very cool and powerful. The keyboards on this album weren't as dominant as they usually are but still contributed a lot to the sound of the album and the band in general and there were a lot of bass breaks and moments where the bass has been enhanced and that very cool and something they didn't do in a while.
Lyrics — 10
I have to say that after really listening to the lyrics and reading it I was speechless. The lyrics of John Petrucci is some of the best lyrics they have ever made and the one song John Myung wrote was also very moving and original. It's lines like: "Long before the colors start to bleed, I can see the painting come alive... You look but cannot see. Talk but never speak, You live but cannot breathe, See but don't believe..." Or: "Passion glows within your heart Like a furnace burning bright Until you struggle through the dark You'll never know the joy in life..." And many others that give me chills just hearing them, making the songs even more epic then they are.
Overall Impression — 10
This album is a really good one, every song could be made a single before the release and every song is flawless. The only thing I didn't like was the length and the concept to just sticking to concise song forms that takes the song to the 6 minute mark. I would have loved it if the album was longer... But beside that I think this album is a great one and that it makes perfect sense to do a self-titled in this point of their career. The last one: a dramatic turn of events was the writing of a "safe" album with the regular songs everyone know from dream theater and there was no room for experimenting because they had to prove that they're not different after Portnoy's departure. In this one they did experiment because it was time to go back to the way every album was made: writing live as a band and experimenting with the sound and musical direction of the album. I also think that dream theater hasn't changed that much after Portnoy was gone, because even though he was in many ways the leader of the band his contribution MUSICALLY is only arrangements and style. He didn't actually write and riffs for the band so the sound didn't change that much because the true music writers of the band: John Petrucci and Jordan Ruddess didn't leave so the sound just keeps evolving from album to album like it would have with Portnoy in the band... This album is great and I recommend to everyone to buy a copy and support the band!