Reviewed by Nuno on 14 Nov 2003
Without really wanting to waste these lines making comparisons to the whole discography of this reference band in progressive metal, I’ll refer only to the immediate previous album – Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. And I’ll do this because I was really curious to find which would be the path taken by the band in their next step - Train of Thought. If it was the harshness and aggressive content of the first album or the more progressive vision of the second. Well, it is obvious they have chosen the first !
Train of Thought brings us a powerful Dream Theater, now closer to the heavy metal patterns while still embracing the progressive bases. This new album is a feast on fast riffs and drumming, a cornucopia of aggressive bass and swirling keys, where even the vocals use a much more raging approach by the use of distortion mechanisms and angry tones to add to the usual semi-high pitch vocals.
If the overall sound draws occasional tangents to Metallica, Mudvayne and a faster version of Tool, the fact is that you can still recognize each and every track like being Dream Theater within the first few seconds.
When talking about one of the prime bands in terms of technical savvy and quality playing by its members, there are always good things to brag about. But the fact is that in this album I also find some “sins” that, though not preventing Train of Thought from being another winner, do take some of the shinning from this album.
One of those “sins” is related to the production of the album. In fact the sound seems too much focused on the guitar work by Petrucci and occasionally upon the dual guitar/bass attacks, which tends to drown the other instruments when this duo fiercely attack.
The other “sin” I will point it at Petrucci. We all know of his ability, but this time he seems to sometimes get lost in his self created labyrinth of shredding, substituting way too much (in his solos) some sense of melody for long, bliss, piercing shredding.
On the other hand, this album also presents us with a new successful adventure by this beloved (at least by me) band. The creativity and complexity imposed in a much heavier suit is increasingly more difficult, but not for these gentlemen. They have achieved a technical degree that allows them to step new grounds of fastness and heaviness without loosing an inch of quality or focus.
The music still has a deep progressive feel attached, with the use of complex riffs, mutating musicality, occasional fusion intrusions but encapsulated inside a furious layer of distortion.
The lyrics are vivid and meaningful, touching themes of some depth like grief, alcoholism and religion. They are an important component because they are set to express feelings and emotions that are closely related to the music where they fit.
I find the album to be divided in two parts, being the first the heavier and more aggressive. This is from track 1 to 4.
Vacant opens the second part of the album, as a slow tempo ballad format (so common in this band) that precedes the two best and more accomplished tracks: the all instrumental Stream of Consciousness (a roundabout in DT ability to create masterful music) and In the Name of God.
Summing all parts, this is a different approach without being that different at all. It is Dream Theater exploring heavier grounds while keeping intact their distinctive finger print in prog metal.
That said, go get it…its Dream Theater! (just dont forget to have a deep breath before you put it on the player...you wont have time to do it during the listening experience...)
Reviewed by MJBrady on 20 Nov 2003
It seems that Dream Theater has become a paradox to both it's original fans and the new fans alike. Message boards around the net have proven that the band can enamor and alienate it's fans all at the same time. Of course this will always make for good reading, yet the bottom line will always remain, 'Is the music good?' Reasons for this bi-partisanship behind the bands legacy seems to lie in the fact that band cleverly adopted fans from both the progressive and metal genres. And dare I add that somewhere along the way(LTE?), they were able to lure some fusion fans into the group of followers.
So, it seems with every new release by the band, everyone becomes a critic or promoter for the band, which always leaves one wondering why one band can seem to be the object of so many fans attempts to pidgeonhole them into set genre distinction. The bands' last cd - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence met with a very mixed reaction by many. And it seems with every sucessive cd, fans are wishing for another Awake / Images and Words recording. Yet, the band has managed to step outside of the strict confines of progmetal, and found a fanbase outside the metal scene.
As for this 'fan', (I tend not to like that term for it's idolatory associations). I have yet to hear a Dream Theater cd that I didn't like. In fact, the band seems to be able to capture most everything I like about prog and fusion music in a collective shell. Whether it's the complexity and heaviness of Progmetal, the symphonic air and melody of progrock, or the virtuoso of aggressive fusion. They seem to be able to deliver the goods on any given cd. I enjoy the bands exploraratory nature. They have steadily evolved into something that perhaps their original core fans may have felt alienated them. Yet every cd is full of impressive music to say the least.
Train of Thought serves as yet another growth stage in the bands elusive metamorphosis. They have taken a page from the past and present to create a cd that surely will give each diverse fan of theirs some fuel for thought. They have taken to the heaviness found during the Awake/Images and Words era. And also found space in what are some pretty long songs to provide the musical prowess that fans expect from this group to be featured. With those factors in place, some new ideas have taken form also, processed vocals and one occasion for rap have allowed vocalist James LaBrie to step outside his operatic voicings, where it seemed he was straining as of late, and found a more midtone range where he can sing in a more convincing fashion.
This cd is yet another step forward for a band that refuses to stagnate in any given rut, they posess a talent base that is incapable or unmotivated to rest on it's laurels. Every cd seems to reveal another facet of sound, style, direction from this band. They prove that they are always pushing themselves as musicians and composers to push the limits of their previous efforts in some way or fashion. So this reviewer will summarize that Dream Theater again has delivered the goods, a cd that pushes the standards/limits of progmetal in a few more directions, and provides another good reason to go see them play another live gig when they come this way.