Sound — 3
Systematic chaos is a grand example of how bands can change and not alienate their fanbase, while keeping the same old sound. Why, you ask? Because it does exactly the opposite; it's almost a musical checklist of what not to do. Systematic chaos is Train of Thought 2.0; heavier, darker, and a lot more "roadrunner". The band's "sound" is still there, with instrumental sections still showing off all of the band member's prowess. At the time of writing this, the album has been out for quite a while, and was even leaked beforehand, so I've allowed it time to grow on me, like most fans suggest. However, it hasn't. All the enthusiasm I had for a new dream theater album is gone, and instead replaced with of disappointment. I appreciate that Dream theater do not let their label listen to the album before it's finished, so they can't tamper with their sound, so I can't accuse them of selling out. However, this album is a lot different to previous efforts, leading to almost a feeling of isolation. This is not a disgruntled fan's anger at a band for changing their sound; my CD collection is about as diverse as it gets, yet this is completely lost on me.
Lyrics — 1
The lyrics are mostly quite laughable, more so from song to song. Dream Theater hold a special place in my heart when it comes to lyrics (Songs such as "Voices", "Lie", and "Pull Me Under" being a few of the highlights), so you can imagine how I felt upon reading the lyrics to songs such as "The Dark Eternal Night" and "Constant Motion". "The Dark Eternal Night" is the story of an ancient terror, or perhaps lots of them. This song is perhaps the worst on the singing front. The singing does not fit the song at all, and even ruins it. "Constant Motion", which a decent and catchy song in itself, has lyrics on par with such classics as the nursery rhyme The wheels on the bus. Mike Portnoy claims it's about his OCD, which may be, but the lyrics hold absolutely no meaning. The great thing about Dream Theater songs is how poetic they are, and how you, and other fans, can find lots of meanings for very few lines. You don't get that feeling on this album at all, however, and without an explanation, most people would've written some songs off as meaningless. It's very, very disappointing, as on this front they could've been much better. You often get the feeling they've run out of ideas, with such cliches used, like selling your soul to the devil, or how we just HAVE to make a change to the world, and even, rather randomly, having a close encounter with a female vampire, and falling in love with it. Nothing stands out, it just sounds like the average topics metal bands choose from nowadays when out of ideas. Boring is a word I never thought I'd use to describe anything DT, but this is boring. Very, very, boring.
Overall Impression — 2
Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but this is an awful album. To answer the age old question, if it were lost/stolen, I wouldn't really care. I'd probably feel worse for the person who took it, if I felt flippant. It's unfair to compare this to any other DT effort, as it doesn't even come close, except to perhaps Train of Thought, and even then it falls short, lyrically and musically. There are some nice tunes I listen to every once in a while (Constant Motion and Repentance being my highlights, but even then), however, I honestly believe this album marks the "death" of Dream Theater; the inevitable decline most artists hit. So much for a new Images and Words!