Sound — 9
With the new label a lot of people expected a new sound and, in tracks like 'Prophets of War' they have nothing that sounds fairly modern from Dream Theater. However, the majority of the tracks are the same style we've come to know and love from Dream Theater. 'In The Presence Of Enemies' is something fairly new from Dream Theater. It begins as something of an overture to the song itself. From the lick that begins it all to the soft, mellow little piece before the interchange. It all acts as a sign of things to come. In the more relaxed sections we can hear Petrucci and Rudess working in close harmonisation. This is not unique, but still as affective as it was during Scenes From A Memory. When the heavy beat kicks in there is a quiet litle build before it, showing seperation from the rest of the song up until that point. From there the song takes off, and you are simply dragged along with it. The sounds that continue are an interesting range of music. Forsaken is a fairly typical metal song as current metal seems to go, but that subtracts nothing from the song itself. The harmonisation of guitar and keyboard works well once again, while the bass defines the bulk of the song. Portnoy's drums are mainly used to lead the rest of the band in this song. Constant Motion is also quite typical metal, but in a way that suggests that the band were in a very relaxed and typical frame of mind at the time. Dark Eternal Night is somewhat different. It has a fairly long intro which doesn't provide much in the way of tension. The song continues in much the same way, without much to it, but still a fair song. You know a lot of work has gone into the beat and the riffs, but you can't really feel it in my opinion. Repentance has a slow start with a riff from 'This Dying Soul.' The beat changes seemlessly, giving us something interesting and new. Something that, though relaxed, shows a deeper meaning to itself that keeps a listener interested. Prophets Of War is not something usually heard in the Dream Theater songbook. The chords and style do not seem to be typical in Dream Theater, but this allows the drums to come into closer prominence. The change of voice later on for a bridge is not a common occurence. However, what with the new label, the band seems to have been given much more leave to experiment, and they have. I do very much enjoy this song. Ministry Of Lost Souls is another favourite and is again fairly unique. The sound begins very sad and emotional, and keeps that feel going for it's entirety.
Lyrics — 8
James LeBrie has always been gifted at fitting his lyrics to the music being played. Especially considering those lyrics are very rarely his own. This shows once again in Systematic Chaos. In most of the songs he manages to either avoid the majority of the heavy sound or he simply cuts through it to make himself known. He chooses the correct times to do each. In Forsakes he tends to mostly avoid it, while in In The Presence Of Enemies, he makes his voice stand alone, which helps to drive the song itself. In Dark Eternal Night he tries an effect on his voice, which I thinks works very well until the point where the effect is gone. The multiple voices works okay, but not perfectly due to the scarcity of them. In Repentance also the changes in voice come randomly and unexpectedly. Often this subtracts from the song itself. Prophets Of War does well, simply giving away the lyrics for a bridge keeps the listener paying attention, as the song is quite similar for the majority of it. Generally the album is sung quite well, though I believe James LeBrie, as the singer of the band, should stick to the majority of the singing himself.
Overall Impression — 9
I originally bought this album simply because it was new, but it has rapidly become one of my favourite albums. The major reason being In The Presence Of Enemies. It really stands out on it's own. Forsaken is also quite gripping for me, while Constant Motion works in the opposite way to reach the same affect. The general feel of the album differs in some areas. The feel fluxuates, but generally it sticks to a war-based theme. Between man and man but also between good and evil. All however, is about the affect it all has on man itself.