Sound — 9
Well, as anything from Dream Theater is bound to be, the sound is great! Good, intelligent production (things like the whole album progressing in minor keys in the scale of F) make it an interesting listen! It's a major step away from their previous effort, Train of Thought, which delved (perhaps a little overexcessively at times) into a more straightforward metal sound than their traditional prog elements.This album is nicely varied; here is a rundown of each of the songs. 01. The Root Of All Evil - The third part in Pornoy's A. A recovery programme is still quite a heavy affair but not as intense as the first two installments (Glass Prison, This Dying Soul) which is actually a perfect fit as it shows the recovery beginning to take shape and by ending on a delicate piano riff reminiscent of the themes presented originally on guitar, it shows a great progression in Portnoy's recovery. The opening drum fill is the same rhythm as the end of This Dying Soul and lyrically and musically there are references to the first two parts of the series. Not as many intensely amazing solos here and Portnoy's drumming could've been more inventive but maybe that's all the song called for. 02. The Answer Lies Within - the structure of this album is similar to their 1992 epic-Images And Words, in that the album opens with a heavy number before slowing down for the ballad that is the 2nd number. The Answer Lies Within is nice, maybe slightly corny, but it works. However, I can see Portnoy falling asleep behind his kit on this one! 03. These Walls - a solid upbeat song with a great keyboard riff by keyboard whizzkid Jordan Rudess. Maybe not the most origianl in terms of chord progressions etc. But it works wonderfully nevertheless. Nice time variations too with intricately technical drumming by Portnoy.If they had the backing of bands like Linkin Park and all the rubbish mainstream rock/metal out there, this could've easily been a number 1 hit on rock charts. Awesome guitar solo too by Petrucci, simple, but completely effective! 04. I Walk Beside You - the song, lyrics and practically everything about this piece is completely corny and mainstream-sounding, which is exactly why I think it's a fantastic addition to the album! Why should Dream Theater always try to please their fans by churning out intense songs all the time-this song proves they can do the simple ones effectively too. It won't be welcomed by most but to me I don't think it hinders the album at all. 05. Panic Attack - all the hardcore metal fans are going: thank God! When they hear this one after the poppy previous number.It's Dream Theater once again at their most intense, starting with a great bass riff by Myung and then becoming a crunchy, speedy, progmetal song that only Dream Theater could pull off so effectively. Big time solos here, cool strange timing, and great singing by Labrie. 06. Never Enough - and so Portnoy finally makes an official lashing out at his fan base lyrically; whether this is sensible or not is yet to be determined, but that doesn't stop this being a very interesting song in vein of Muse. Great guitar-keyboard harmony solo (apparently the guitar solo is done on one string-crazy). It's not the best off the album, slightly cocky by Portnoy but hey, he can be. 07. Sacrificed Sons - Dream Theater's 9/11 contribution is a very good one; it's long, deep and intense. Labrie lyrical ability ain't the best and it shows; but it doesn't really hinder the song. Great drum solo towards the end by Mike; another good DT song. 08. Octavarium - I wanted to get to this one. Three simple words describe it: epic, epic, epic. It is just amazing from start to finish and reminds me why Dream Theater are the most creative, innovative and amazing band around today. Starts with a Pink Floyd-ish approach with whining synths, and pads all over the show, a great build up to the massive opening at 3:30 mins. Then the orchestra takes over and the mellowness continues for a good 8 minutes or so. The song starts building up with interesting Lyrics by Portnoy encompassing all his influences (including DT's very own opposite Nightmare Cinema) into one big shmoogle of words that all interlock cleverly. Then, it's solo time and man it's good. They all go crazy as we know Dream Theater can, even managing to throw in a Jingle Bells theme in along the way! Weird as heck timing, and great musicianship as normal. Then the final build up, made even more amazing by the background inclusion of each song off the album behing the main song, finally explodes with Labrie screaming his lungs out before the orchestra explodes again and the song comes to an epic closing-ending where it began.
Lyrics — 8
The title track's lyrics are mindblowing, intelligent and meaningful but the rest of the tracks kinda lack that depth. Petrucci, who is usually really introspective and deep in thought, seems a bit shallow here "I walk beside you, wherever you are, whatever it takes, no matter how far" is that really him? Oh, well. Not his best but still not bad at all. Portnoy is good on tracks 1 and 8 but on Never Enough, though very good, is a bit cocky. Labrie should not write cos he ain't deep enough to but hey, he makes a better effort than most mainstream crap out there so I'll let it slide.
Overall Impression — 9
Another great DT album, not as intense as some of their previous works, and solos aren't as virtuistic as they have been but that's not to say they aren't there. This album, at the end of the day, is really all about the epic title track and that's good enough for me. Very clever production make it a great purchase too! Worth every penny!