I was really looking forward to this album. In typical Dream Theater fashion, it contains heavy riffs, soaring melodies, complex arrangements, and those little subtle intangible elements that they incorporate into their music so well. Sounds good right? Well, on the other hand, I found this album to be a mix of good and some not so good to downright bad. I'll admit while it is an overall decent album, I do feel a bit disappointed. My disappointment mainly stems from the vocals. While in some places they are good if not great, in other places they are just god awful (more on that later). To their credit, the technical mastery of the musicianship is at some points just breathtaking. This album bridges the gap between Train of Thought and Octavarium in its overall sound and style.
Another source of disappointmnt for me is that they seem to "borrow" so much from other bands. I can hear in this album: vintage Rush, some Pink Floydesque moments, some Queensryche, some Muse, some Satriani type riffs, and even some blatant mimicry of Metallica. I wish they would focus more on their own sound as they did in Images And Words. I know, I know, it's not 1992 anymore!
The albums track listing follows a formula where the opening and closing tracks are really one song split into 2 parts. Pink Floyd used this formula much more successfully on Wish You Were Here with Shine On You Crazy Diamond than Dream Theater does here with In The Presence of Enemies. So, with that, into the blow by blow of the songs.
I)In The Presence of Enemies (part 1)
When I first put this CD into the player, this track got me so excited! It's a great opener to set the mood for the rest of the album (or so I hoped). The lengthy instrumental section is just plain awesome! The guitar solos are very technical and enjoyable. I only wish the rest of the album actually did follow the high standard set by this song.
A beautiful almost "power ballad" of sorts. Definitely the most catchy chorus of the album, it will really sink its hooks into you. Nice riffing with a mix of both technical and emotional that Dream Theater do so well. Sweet solo from Petrucci here to boot.
Great song overall, in fact it was the single they released. However, I'm not sure if they are paying tibute to or ripping off Metallica. Blackened
anyone? Portnoy and Labrie alternate vocals on this one.
IV)Dark Eternal Night
While I certainly do not mind a band delving into some experimentation, they failed miserably in their experiment here! In the first half of the song the distorted, rap-like, nu-metalish vocals of Portnoy just make me cringe!!!
Portnoy and LaBrie again share the vocals here. Later, what could have been a song saving instrumental section is interrupted by a "ragtime" keyboard interlude.
The next chapter in the ongoing Portnoy "AA 12 Step" saga. Very Pink Floyd like in its nature. The solo (the highlight of the song) is rather Gilmour like although it does not hold a candle to Gilmour. This song suffers in several ways. It's too damn long and slow!!! The "special guest voice" mumbling interludes from the likes of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Chris Jericho, David Ellefson, and others just ruins it for me.
VI)Prophets of War
I think this song had great potential which was unfulfilled. Mixed bag of good and bad vocals. The music is almost "disco-like" at times while terrific at others. This song examines the difficult Iraq War issue. In my opinion, they should have quit while they were ahead on the social/political issues with Sacrificed Sons from Octavarium which is fantastic.
VII)The Ministry of Lost Souls
A nearly 15 minute epic. Starts off very slow and ballady. LaBrie's vocals are very warm, emotional, and powerful. Just when you feel you are being lulled to sleep at about the 6 minute mark the music begins slowly building up until it really takes off at the 7 1/2 minute mark into an amazing instrumental section where all the musicians really get to showcase their stuff. Some more excellent guitar work from Petrucci. After about 4 minutes of this, it returns to where it all began and then transitions into an extended really sweet guitar outro. Overall an enjoyable piece.
VIII)In The Presence of Enemies (part 2)
Very different than part 1. 16 1/2 minutes in length. Starts off very slow and eery like. The overall feeling it gives is dark and heavy at times. Too much use of the "Dark Master" lyric. A very intricate and complex song overall with many different sections. Another incredible instrumental section once again showcasing the technical expertise of the musicianship.
A decent album with some major flaws.
At least it will help kill 70+ minutes of flight time to Hawaii!!!
Systematic Chaos by Dream Theater
Paradise Lost by Symphony X