Sound — 8
This is the album that got me into Dream Theater and progressive music as a whole. And when I bought it, it changed my life, and the way I saw music. I had never heard any band play with such originality and virtuosity before. To the Dream Theater newcomer reading this to decide whether they should get into the band-the sound can basically be described as heavy metal, but with progressive influences such as longer songs, odd time signatures and classical/jazz influences as well. DT are amazing and this album is a good intro to the things that Dream Theater can do. But what the hardcore fans want to know is-how does it relate to other Dream Theater albums? Well, I suppose while many DT fans love both elements of the DT sound, many of them are really into the heavy Train Of Thought type 'balls out sound' shown on 'As I am', 'The Glass Prison' and 'The Root Of All Evil'. The other half are into the less heavy and more progressive stuff on Scens From A Memory and Images And Words. Well, Systematic Chaos does have a lot of ballsy stuff like Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night, but is more varied than Train Of Thought, with ballads like Repentance and Ministry Of Lost Souls along with the seemingly Muse-inspired Prophets Of War. Overall, this album does not have the same reliability as other Dream Theater albums. With Scenes From A Memory and Train Of Thought I can put the CD in my player and listen to it the whole way through, each song amazing. With this album, In The Presence Of Enemies Pt 1 is brilliant, Forsaken is pretty good, then the album starts to slide a bit, especially on the Dark Eternal Night, which has a seemingly pointless middle section. Repentance, In The Presence Of Enemies, and Forsaken are the standouts, although it would have been nice for In The Presence Of Enemies to be grouped as one track. This album is great, but some songs lack the 'wow' factor that every song on Octavarium had for me.
Lyrics — 9
Dream Theater are a great band lyrically, and I can't really find to much flaw with the lyrics. They are deep enough to look into and fit fantasticly well with the music. John Petrucci's 'In The Presence Of Enemies' is great and is the highlight of the album lyrically, although another honorable mention would be Mike Portnoy's Repentance, which is the fourth chapter in Portnoy's Alchoholics Anonymous Suite saga, which includes The Glass Prison, This Dying Soul and The Root Of All Evil. The lyrics in this song compliment the music's moody, hollow approah really well, and the guest voices add a lot of depth to the song. James LaBrie is a great vocalist, and his vocals are in great shape on this album. He knows when to step back and let the band play but also adds a great sonic dimension when he does sing. Overall, lyrically, this album is very solid, and the lyrics have a lot of depth, a rarity in metal.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall this album is a great piece of progressive metal, and the documentary that comes with it is suprisingly good. I love In The Presence Of Enemies, which is basically a showcase of how amazing DT are. However, The Dark Eternal Night, Prophets Of War, and Ministry Of Lost Souls are fairly average and stop this from getting a 10. This album is awesome, just not as consistent as I expect of DT.