Sound — 9
This is easily Dream Theater's heaviest album. All of the songs (excluding "Vacant") are full of detuned riffage and insane guitar and keyboard solos. Dream Theater plays progressive metal, but this is obviously the metal part of their music really coming through. Some of DT's heaviest songs ever recorded are on this record, such as "As I am" and "Honor Thy Father". The latter also contains the most swearing on a DT track. The album altogether is their most explicit album to date, even though it didn't get the "Parental Advisory" warning. It's still one of my favorite DT albums, simply because it shows that they can also play straight-up heavy metal. James LaBrie's voice also rarely strays into opera territory, which I think is great. Only two of the seven songs are under ten minutes in length. Overall, this is a classic DT album.
Lyrics — 10
First of all, James LaBrie rarely goes into opera mode, which is for the greater good on this kind of DT album. Also, the lyrics are very dark, and many songs contain swearing. Not like that's a bad thing! "Honor Thy Father" in particular has many swear words. It was written by Mike Portnoy, and I think I read somewhere that it's a stab at his step-father. Here's a sample lyric: "How can you ever sleep a wink at night/Pretending that everything is alright/And have the balls to blame this shit on me/Never in my life have I seen someone/So f--king blind to the damage he has done/You're the rotted root in the family tree." Here's the tracklisting: 01. As I Am - great song. The opening riff will open a can of whoop-ass on you, and the solo will make you weak in the knees. Awesome way to start an awesome album. Opens with the note played at the end of "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" from the album of the same name. 02. This Dying Soul - amazingly heavy song. Great solo sections, great lyrics. Part II of Mike Portnoy's Alcoholic's Anonymous Suite. 03. Endless Sacrifice - starts mellow, then gets heavy. Some more great soloing work from Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci. 04. Honor Thy Father - one of my favorite songs from this album. Insane heaviness, the heaviest one on the album, one of DT's heaviest in their 22-year history. I tell you, it's heavy heavy heavy! The most swearing on a DT song. Godly keyboard solos from Rudess, surprisingly short guitar solos from Petrucci. Overall, it's a crazy awesome song. 05. Vacant - not much to say about this one, it's mostly a prelude to the upcoming gem, "Stream of Consciousness". 06. Stream Of Consciousness - incredible, very lengthy instrumental. This song shows once again that Dream Theater is one of the most skilled bands out there. 07. In The Name Of God - what a beastly song! It's a political song, and it must be the heaviest political song ever recorded! It's definitely the heaviest of DT's four political songs. Crazy solo sections here, great way to end an awesome album.
Overall Impression — 9
This album is in the middle range of DT album awesomeness. I would say that albums like Six Degrees and Awake are better, but this one will satisfy all the fans that are hungry for metal. All of the songs stand out, even "Vacant", which is kind of a break before another crushing song. This album is verging on a little too heavy, because there's too much focus on heaviness, and not enough on the progressive elements. On the other hand, their follow-up album, Octavarium, covered the more progressive elements nicely. If it were lost or stolen, I would immediately buy it again. This is an essential DT album. One complaint: the songs get kind of repetitive after a while. But overall, it's a must-have for any prog-metal/Dream Theater fan.