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Dream Theater are in a difficult place: no matter what they do, their many fans will complain. It is true that Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence did have some major weaknesses, but Train of Thought was blasted by fans for being too heavy, not having enough keyboards, and/or wasting James LaBrie. I agree that LaBrie's vocal parts were weak, but as for the other two, it was Dream Theater evolving. Fans just complained about the fact that Petrucci's guitar was dominant and overlooked the fact that it was them at their most consistent and strongest lyrically. They didn't meander off without a direction like they constantly did in "Scenes From a Memory." Unfortunately, Dream Theater listened to those fans and tried to fix everything that those fans have complained about: Petrucci is given no room to work, another 20+ epic was written, plus they tried to make themselves more accessible. Hence tracks 2-4 were penned: 2 being a sappy ballad, 3 seemingly inspired by Coldplay, and 4 sounding like modern U2. Few are the fans that will enjoy these, although now that I think about it, if they had done something more along the lines of "War"-era U2, the results might have been different; just a thought.
Anyway, "The Root of All Evil" has been trashed by many of the fans for some reason; I thought it was great. Heavy rhythm guitars and I like the tuning that Rudess used for his solo. Petrucci's solo is short and weak, but they redeem for that with a haunting piano outro (although I admit I have a weakness for piano outro's, some of my favorite songs being DT's "In the Name of God," Faith No More's "Epic," and Opeth's "Leper Affinity"). "Panic Attack" starts out with a complex bass section by Myung, and explodes into heavy 7-string riffing. This would probably be one of my favorite DT songs if Petrucci didn't deliver his weakest solo ever. In "Never Enough," Petrucci goes for quality instead of quantity, making his solo one of his best. "Sacrificed Sons" seems about 2-3 years late, being about the Twin Towers, but the instrumental section is great. This is really Petrucci's only extended solo, and he takes full advantage. His riff after the solo is memorable as well. I love the way that Mike Portnoy completely changes the rhythm of the song about 8:00 in, even with the rest of the band continuing the same riff. "Octavarium" is difficult for me to grade, because I have only heard several songs that long. I can't really tell if it's good or not as a whole; there are many slow and boring sections in the song, something that wasn't in "A Change of Seasons" and Symphony X's "Odyssey," which were interesting the entire way through, but then again, those two set the bar pretty high. Throughout the album James LaBrie proves he is not the weak link in the band. His vocal work is his best in ten years at least; especially in "The Root of All Evil" and "Never Enough" where his singing is top-notch.
Anyway, I wish people would stop comparing this to DT's past albums. It isn't a return to Images & Words, whoever says so is wrong. It is a progression, and while there are some good and even great moments, it is far from their best. Even so, there is enough good stuff to make this a worthy chapter in Dream Theater's history.