Sound — 10
Well, after waiting anxiously (but quietly) for months for the album release date to arrive. I must say I was surprised as hell to see it in a music store in Australia all but a week later. Well, honestly after the first listen thru the album, I gotta say, after expecting a personal best from the lads (which is still either Scenes' or Six Degrees, personally), I was a touch disappointed but upon two or three more listens, I can say that this is a great album! It's not their best in my eyes, but it's something different; the band does manage to keep their progressive heart (all be it tamed somewhat). They've just headed in a few different directions, and all hardcore fans will appreciate this, no doubt. The intro. To the intro track of the album, 'The Root Of All Evil' (think 'This Dying Soul', Pt. 2, OR 'The Glass Prison', Pt. 3) is one of the best moments on the album for me, just with the eery, spooky keyboard effects and then Portnoy's drums exploding in the distance, gradually resonating into a derivative of one of the intro sections from This Dying Soul repeat four times, and now begins Octavarium, and one of the better tracks off the album, too! (I cannot wait to hear the follow up to 'The Root...' on the next album). Track 2. I'd have to agree with others comments that this track, although there are some nice harmonies and vocals from James Labrie, doesn't really fit, considering the track title prior was 'The Root Of All Evil' myself? I would have loved to hear track three, 'These Walls', one of the best tracks off the album, become track 2. Simply, its of a heavier nature, so IMO it would not only flow on from 'The Root' a bit better, but would also flow into 'The Answer Lies Within' more appropriately, with the nice happy sounds/piano opening. Then again, I'm 19, work in a warehouse, and only recently took up an instrument. I'd probably go with the guys that know what they're doing, too. 'The Answer...' is a nice song,nothing more from me on this one. Anyway, yes,'These Walls' is a solid track. Not so much progressive or technical, it's the most clear-cut track on the CD, o 'insanity' from Petrucci or Rudess, or from anyone really, it's just a well-rounded song that sounds solid. Top stuff. Many have tagged 'I Walk Beside You' as a U2 rip-off/tribute, it's not what we're used to from them. It's something new, maybe a bit of an experiment. Me? Yes, I can picture Bono from U2 singing most of it, but it's a Dream Theater song, perhaps inspired by U2, yes. I like it. It's OK. I wouldn't skip track every time. I'll say that much! Track 5. 'Panic Attack', is classic Dream Theater prog-metal. Awesome bass intro from Myung, and then yeah, everyone jumps in and carnage ensues! First listen through, this was my favourite song. It sounds, musically and lyrically, like someone having a panic attack! Classic Dream Theater, 'balls-to-the-wall' solo's and riffs. One of the few songs where I'd say that Petrucci's 'big' solo beats Rudesses. If you could compare them, I guess the pick of his solo's off the album I'd say. Also the drum track off the album, I might add! Like I said carnage. Next up, 'Never Enough'. Supposedly inspired by the band, 'Muse' (ok, I read that off another review. I don't really know, or care, actually). While, this too may be labelled as a rip-off/tribute, it's just a 'different' Dream Theater song. Actually, I'd say the music without the singing or 'Muse' guitar sound, is actually very interesting, and, in amongst those things, this song houses some awesome Petrucci/Rudess harmony in the mid-section. Actually, the start of this song up until the first verse, for me, sounds very Matrix-esque during the intro riff, I can just picture Neo and Trinity, both weilding dual weapons, leaping from wall to wall, blowing away agents amongst a cloud of bullets, used ammo-cases, and fragments of marble pillar. All at 10% real-life speed. But, yeah, not a bad song. It has it's moments! Don't skip track. 'Sacrificed Sons' follows, a song which explores the "reasons" behind the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. Musically, it is more of a mini-'In The Name Of God', IMO, just not as heavy. It paints various pictures: the news clips that open the track bring back the hysteria and panic first felt as the world watched on, still sounds very evil on the whole. For most of the song you can picture planes flying through buildings (not that you'd want to), and the chorus sounds uplifting, even though the lyrics are otherwise. A well composed piece. Definitely up there with the best on the album. Well, the intro may get a touch boring (3 and a half minutes of airy guitar and keyboard sounds cool, but does drag on a bit), but it gives you plenty of time to prepare yourself (even though you can't really prepare yourself) for the last three parts of the song. It really takes off about half way thru the song, and like every 24 minute song in history (that I know of), it's a journey. With music! Takes a while to get going, but when it does, it reminds you of why you really like Dream Theater. It's different in certain places, but it's still a Dream Theater album.
Lyrics — 8
Lyrics, always written second to the music, (as has always been the DT way) are different in places also, because the sound is different. Lyrics are darker for the most part (as usual), and thats a good thing! Always thought-provoking, and blends well with it's relative place in whatever song it be. Portnoy does excellently to retrace certain parts from 'The Glass Prison' and 'This Dying Soul' in 'The Root...' 'These Walls' is solid. 'I Walk Beside You' is an uplifting, happier (U2) song. The lyrics suit it perfectly. 'Panic Attack' is all about just that. James' voice is still good, but I don't listen to DT for him necessarily, but in this song his voice in every part is spot-on and really suits the music. 'Sacrificed Sons' is cleverly written, however James could probably lay off God a bit more, and pay out the dero's who actually co-ordinated the attacks. People who fly planes into buildings are not listening to God, I can say that much. God doesn't say, "fly planes into buildings, my children!" Not their best ever, IMO, but still a lot of ground covered through-out the songs. Still interesting and makes you think (and wonder how the hell they could write some of it).
Overall Impression — 8
This album, I'd say would be a mix between 'Falling Into Infinity' and the 'Change Of Seasons' album (which I do not possess). Like 'Infinity', it's different and some of it sounds a bit more 'mainstream', but it's still, at the end of the day (and Octavarium, the song), a Dream Theater album. Fav. tracks: 1, 3, 5, 7 and the second half of Octavarium (I do love the flute solo toward the start, reminds me of moments from the computer game 'Diablo', classic). Love all of it, cause it's Dream Theater, but some parts I imagined and hoped for more until next time! Octavarium would be joint with Train of Thought, but thats just me! If I lost it, or had it stolen, I would get it again. It's good stuff! Expect better next time around!