Systematic Chaos review by Dream Theater

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  • Released: Jun 5, 2007
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.1 (443 votes)
Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
11

Sound — 9
When searching for a word to describe the latest Dream Theater album Systematic Chaos, wow comes to mind. From the first track, which is over 16 minutes, the veteran band successfully proves why they are among the top players in progressive metal. The CD marks the band's first release on Roadrunner Records, and the label should be more than satisfied about it's acquisition. Although the length songs might try the patience of some listeners out there, dedicated Dream Theater fans will be in absolute heaven from start to finish.

The title Systematic Chaos does seem to sum up the material heard on the latest CD, with the first track In The Presence Of Enemies - Part I embodying it. That particular song starts ominously and slowly, complete with wind-like sound effects, an echoing synth line, and a simple bass line. Vocalist James LaBrie enters with a similarly mellow vocal delivery, but not for long. It builds and builds, until you get to phenomenal solos from guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess a little more than halfway through. Arrangement-wise, it's a learning experience to hear how the musicians transition so easily from tempo to tempo, all the while playing lightening-speed solos.

What's always respectable about Dream Theater is how they don't need to show off their speed 100 percent of the time. The song Constant Motion is not necessarily a ballad, but it's definitely a slower tempo than other tracks. The more subtle approach allows LaBrie's vocals to come to the forefront for the majority of the song and the solos take somewhat of a backseat. There is a solo by Petrucci -- as amazing as ever -- but it's brief and suits the style of the song.

One of the odder songs is The Dark Eternal Night, which features effects-heavy vocals from LaBrie uncharacteristic from his usual operatic-metal approach. The unique start does foreshadow a bit of what's to come with the rest of the track, which features a cool little saloon-inspired piano work from Rudess and some fantastic percussive work from Mike Portnoy, who also co-produced the record along with Petrucci.

Lyrics — 9
There is a distinct war-related theme on much of Systematic Chaos, from the pictures showing skulls and bullets, to songs like Prophets Of War. On that particular song, there is obviously a call for change with the war in Iraq. LaBrie sings, Compelled; Can we clean up this mess; The loss of loved ones; A perverse request; They continue the same rhetoric; These derelicts that profit. While some Republicans might be miffed by the anti-war lyrics, it's still a fairly engaging song.

Drummer Mike Portnoy adds another chapter to his project called Alcoholics Anonymous Suite with Repentance exploring his experiences with the demon bottle. LaBrie sings, Staring at the empty page before me; All the years of wreckage running through my head; Patterns of my life I thought adorned me. It's a song that it as honest as it gets, and if anything, it's a tiny peek into the mind of Portnoy.

Overall Impression — 9
There is one track that is somewhat of a letdown, if only because it features guest performances from guitarists who don't even play guitar on the song. Repentance features the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani among others, but the musicians only sing backup. While the voices do add a slightly different sound to the track and it's cool to have them all together, it's still a bit disappointing that they didn't contribute any solos to Repentance.

Not all of the tracks are as memorable as In The Presence Of Enemies, but it's hard to not find at the very least 3 or 4 sections that impress in each one. Petrucci is at the top of his game, and pretty much every song features a mind-blowing solo from the guitar god. Petrucci and the band are plain and simple a group of musical virtuosos that play amazingly well together, and listening to them work together so effortlessly is absolutely a worthwhile (and educational) experience.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Divinephyton
    I must admit the new CD is more straightforward and less prog. than let's say SFAM. One might say it's more commercial *cough Roadrunner cough* and that they're disappointed with DT. I'm not, it's a great album, memorable songs, nice and intriguing, it's definitely worth the money two times over. I'll say it again, it's a great album. The problem is that DT have always delivered albums beyond brilliance and fans sometimes hope for too much (like Portnoy said, people would still be disappointed if they were to bring the second coming of Christ :p). I'll be one of the first to admit it's not their best, but it's certainly not their worst (do they even have that? no, they don't :p ). To put it simple the album definitely kicks ass, go listen to it, you'll see.
    distilledspirit
    I love the new album it's so amazing compared to some past releases! Btw, In The Presence of Enemies was split into two parts because POrtnoy didn't want the album to end in a boring 30 minute song.
    robbymml
    The Album's not really a let down for me, it's a real trip! I mean sure it's not as consistently unique as octavarium, trail of thought, and six degrees of inner turbulence, but the storytelling and technical difficulty of the songs in the album still leave jaws dropped (especially after I first heard the starting riff of dark eternal night)! Every DT album has its good points and bad points, but in my opinion the only bad point in this album is that Constant Motion was the picked single... NOT a great song to release as a single to grab new fans; DT newbies wouldn't be treated to the excellent technical solos and time-changes that have captivated us DT-followers in past albums... Gad, I'd love to see a compilation CD released of all 12 suites of alcoholics anonymous songs when they're all done; that would be a great novelty DT album itself!
    GuitarGod1212
    I just recently got into the Dream Theater with the "Score" album and now I love them. I think it is amazing how they play their songs and rock out. I listened to this entire album and thought it was ok. There are a few songs that sound like Metallica to me but thats fine. I love the album thanks for keeping the Dream Theater experience alive.
    Bassist #5
    i am a huge dream theater fan and i can say this is definitly my favorite album to date. and their darkest. the slower songs are great but they keep it to a mellow more dark side. and everything else is basically constant motion. its more heavy than usual and its a new place for them and they delivered. train of though was dark form start to finish but this one has balls! no song was a dissapointment. all in all this is a great album. ASS AND BALLS!
    Divinephyton
    carpe-diem : What do you call Falling Into Infinity?
    A good album nonetheless, why do people talk thrash about FII, I think it has very good songs (Trial of Tears, Hollow years,...) No offense but people nowadays just don't have their own opinion, they follow what the masses think, for example, you'll always find people bashing CoB or Dimmu Borgir or Trivium, although imho these bands do have some (stressing some definitely not all) good songs, regardless of how poser some are in person... Open mindedness is not a keyword of the new millennium... (Then again, it wasn't one of the previous one either :p) Now I'm not saying you don't have your own opinion carpe-diem, and I'm aiming this towards the general metal head. I do respect your opinion on FII, I merely don't agree with it.
    agm_ultimatex
    Yeah I agree it's not their best. I've read comments on youtube, fans wanting htem to go back to the awake sound. Personally I think moving on and progressing is a better idea. Awake and Falling into Infinity weren't the best times. Metropolis p2 was a better time for em. Lyrically my favourite too.
    metalter
    Kickass album!!!! In The Presence of Enemies is just awesome!!! Hail DT.... \m/ \m/
    guynaa
    but you have to admit like others here that its not their best. not in the level of octavarium or train of thought
    magvol
    too be honest.. i listened to the whole cd, then to old DT.. i was disapointed like hell.. ok CD, kickass.. but nothing like the old cds
    TheUncreator
    great album, i love it alot, In The Presence Of Enemies Part 1 and 2 are some of my favorites, along with the The Dark Eternal Night, Repentance, And SO Many Others. DT Never fail to make a super kick ass album.
    drunken ninja
    i love this album!!!!! i think prohpets of war and repetence couldve been better/more epic. in the prescence of enemies might be the greatest song ever
    carpe-diem
    I'll be one of the first to admit it's not their best, but it's certainly not their worst (do they even have that? no, they don't :p )
    What do you call Falling Into Infinity?
    Aftertime
    oh wow it's finally out~all this time i've been waiting didn't know it was this close! going to buy it tomorrow~thanks for the reviews
    magvol
    ehrm.. i dont think this is any more heavy than the old.. and i prefer music that is very heavy
    ordinary_story
    pretty mixed responses to the album and to "those 2 songs" - Constant motion and The Dark Eternal Night..... but one thing common in all those reviews - Ministry Of Lost Souls!!! great track...
    kalamari
    ^ being first is nothing to shout about so keep your joy to yourself. anyway, i can understand some people have said they prefer the older DT because it is less heavy than this and ToT, but personally i prefer their heavy side, it's what they want to do and i think it's amazing to see DT at such a high level of song writing at their age, and so prolific at that. An awesome album, Ministry Of Lost Souls will not escape my head!
    Kadavreski
    distilledspirit wrote: I love the new album it's so amazing compared to some past releases! Btw, In The Presence of Enemies was split into two parts because POrtnoy didn't want the album to end in a boring 30 minute song.
    so he thought it'd be a better idea to end it in half a boring 30 minute song?