Sound — 9
This is a progressive metal album by the band Dream Theater. The sound is actually more modern and mainstream sounding than some of their other albums, like Scenes From a Memory and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The album doesn't really have a story to it, although the first and last tracks are related and share the same story. If you combine the two parts it would be 25:38 in length. Three songs out of the eight clock in at over ten minutes. Athough this may be a little more mainstream sounding for DT, it's still a strong effort.
Lyrics — 9
Many of the lyrics are fantasy-oriented on this album. John Petrucci shows a lot of imagination on these lyrics, particularly on "In the Presence of Enemies" and "The Dark Eternal Night". He wrote these songs and two others, "Forsaken" and "The Ministry of Lost Souls". James LaBrie performs very well on this album, one of his better performances in DT studio album history. Drummer Mike Portnoy sings a little too much, though. 01. In The Presence Of Enemies - Part 1 - This track kicks off the album with what I believe is a keyboard/guitar unison. It's a great song, LaBrie doesn't come in until after the five minute mark. Some incredible soloing work here. Nine minutes long. 02. Forsaken - starts with an interesting piano section, then kicks into a badass riff. Great solo by John Petrucci here. 03. Constant Motion - awesome guitar riff that starts the song. DT actually ventures into a Liquid Tension Experiment-esque fusion section in the middle of he song. Cool solos by Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci. 04. The Dark Eternal Night - incredibly heavy opening riff, one of the heaviest I've ever heard Petrucci play. Blast beats have been present on previous DT songs, but on this one Mike Portnoy makes them particularly prominent. Distorted vocals don't go with this song, or any other DT song for that matter, so that's one of the few dissapointments of this song. But if you can get past that, you'll find out that this is a great song. 05. Repentance - Part IV of drummer Mike Portnoy's Alcoholics Anonymous Suite. Fairly mellow, but has a great John Petrucci guitar solo. Many famous musicians, including Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Jon Anderson (of Yes), appear on this song making apologies. Chris Jericho also appears. I'm dissapointed that someone like Satch or Vai couldn't contribute a solo to this song. Overall, this song isn't all that great, because the last three minutes are occupied by just the same riff over and over and over again. 06. Prophets Of War - weak. Totally mainstream. My least favorite song on the album and possibly my least favorite DT song of all time. Addresses the issue of the war in Iraq. 07. The Ministry Of Lost Souls - incredible. The band recovers from the failure of the previous track with this masterpiece. Around 15 minutes long, with an ingenious instrumental section. This is my second favorite song on the album. The outro solo gives me the chills. 08. In The Presence Of Enemies - Part 2 - this + Part 1 = best song on the album. Period. This combo is also one of my top five DT songs of all time. This is what Dream Theater is all about, right here.
Overall Impression — 9
Compared to other albums by Dream Theater, this one is right around the middle. It packs some awesome moments ("In the Presence of Enemies", "The Dark Eternal Night", "The Ministry of Lost Souls"), but also fails ("Prophets of War"). Compared to Paradise Lost by Symphony X, which was released the same month, Systematic Chaos isn't as good. If this album were stolen or lost, I would buy it again. It's still a good effort by Dream Theater.