Sound — 8
It's probably safe to say that this is the most mainstream Dream Theater album to date. The band states that the album was manipulated by the record label to have a more mainstream sound. They still maintain the progressive metal sound, but a few of the songs have kind of a radio-oriented edge to them. I still like this album, even if it is pretty much their least heavy album. DT still flexes their muscles on songs like "New Millennium", "Burning My Soul" and "Just Let Me Breathe", but also slow down for songs like "Hollow Years" and "Anna Lee". But, since the album has a mainstream sound to it, and is more hard-rock than metal, I would have to give this an 8.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are fairly intelligible, and all three songs written by drummer Mike Portnoy deal with the record label's control over this album. Funny how it turns out that those three are among the heaviest on this album. It seems like Mike Portnoy always writes the lyrics that go with really aggressive songs. John Petrucci wrote the lyrics to five of the songs on this album, James LaBrie wrote one, and John Myung wrote one also. Desmond Child also helped John Petrucci with the lyrics to "You Not Me". James LaBrie's voice sounds pretty good on this album, and he sings through a megaphone at times on "Just Let Me Breathe".
01. New Millennium - this is one of my favorites from this album. It's eight minutes and twenty seconds long. John Petrucci uses a seven-string guitar for this song, and John Myung weilds his Chapman Stick. I believe this song is about the record label trying to control the band.
02. You Not Me - easily the most radio friendly song on the album, both in sound and in length (4:58). It's right up there with "Hollow Years". It's got a cool guitar solo, though.
03. Peruvian Skies - another one of my favorites from this album. Starts off fairly mellow, and then slams into some riffs and then an incredible solo. One of the riffs at the end is somewhat reminiscent of "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.
04. Hollow Years - another radio-targeted song. Pretty much an acoustic song throughout it's 5:53 length. Dream Theater extended this song to nine and a half minutes on their Live at Budokan DVD. Listen to that version instead of this version.
05. Burning My Soul - great heavy song, this shows that DT was still alive and kicking ass when this album was made. Again, this is about the record label and music industry trying to impose ideas on DT. There isn't really a guitar solo, but there is a keyboard solo, which really showcases Derek Sherinian. I gotta give him credit, he's a great keyboardist. Segues into "Hell's Kitchen".
06. Hell's Kitchen - this is a great DT instrumental, with pretty much JP's best guitar solo on the album. It's fairly short for one of their intrumentals, clocking in at around 4:19. Segues into "Lines in the Sand".
07. Lines In The Sand - this song is twelve minutes long. It features Doug Pinnick of King's X sharing vocals with James LaBrie, which I think is really cool. The guitar solo is great here, and this is one of the best songs on the album.
08. Take Away My Pain - this song is about the death of John Petrucci's father. The guitar solo is uplifting; it sounds like JP poured his heart and soul into every last note of that it.
09. Just Let Me Breathe - yet another song about that damned music industry! Listen to the lyrics, this one conveys the band's anger most prominently. This is another seven-string guitar song.
10. Anna Lee - fairly mellow song, great slide solo. This song discusses pedophilia and child sexual abuse.
11. Trial Of Tears - a total classic, another one of my favorites from the album. It's actually not a very hard-hitting song, but it's amazing nonetheless. The guitar solo is very well done. Bassist John Myung wrote the lyrics.
Overall Impression — 9
This album is in the middle range of DT albums. There are many memorable songs, but not all of the songs are memorable, such as on an album like Scenes From a Memory. It's hard to say what the most impressive songs are, most of them are really good. I don't really know why so many people dislike this album. The only reason I could think of is that it sounds a little mainstream on a few songs. If it were stolen or lost, I would buy it again. This is still a good effort by the band, and if you like them, buy it!