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Dream Theater return from critically acclaimed fifth album "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory" with a new formula and ideas. With the greatness (but inconsistency) of their last album, how could this new album be bad? Definitely far off-base with that thought.
The album starts out with some impressive instrumentation from the boys and all is looking well, however the riffage soon turns to what could only be described as...nu metal riffs. I can only imagine what they were thinking when they thought using turntable scratching and Korn chugs. I'm sure it seemed quite natural with John Petrucci's TRIPP pants. The album continues with more of the same. The 5 songs presented to us on DISC 1 seem to really hold all the same crummy atmosphere. Not to say they all sound alike, but most of the ideas on this are so downtrodden, as if they were so depressed from being so out of ideas they wrote this. "The Great Debate" however offers something Dream Theater used later in their career, and that's using sound clips in most of a song. Even when the song does kick in with vocals, they are very held back. If I had to pick a favorite track from Disc 1, it would probably be "Misunderstood" even though the song is mostly bland, but the chorus isn't bad.
There are some extremely positive elements to this album, but none of them lie on the first disc. In fact, the only reason this album isn't getting a 10 percent is because of the second disc. The "Song" on the second disc is definitely DREAM THEATER full force. It's amazing that the second disc holds so many moods, landscapes, ideas, and sounds in comparison to the first disc. It's almost like they were written at two different times.
My advice to anyone looking to get into this album is to stay away from the first disc. My overall score is definitely not aimed towards the first cd.
I would like to leave a little disclaimer as follows: “Due to the lengthy nature of this album, its review has been divided into two sections as per discs and were scored separately. The final number was an average of the two. Now I believe it is only fair to warn you that this was indeed my first Dream Theater album, although I have listened to a number of others since then. As a result, I might have a pretty bad bias on the awesomeness of the music compared to a seasoned Dream Theater veteran who bought this album when it was brand new and wrote a review.”
So the first disc on this album contains mostly longer songs, with double digit giants like The Glass Prison, Blind Faith, and The Great Debate. The first song, The Glass Prison, is easily the best song on the album. In the same way, it easily has the best riffing, solos from all instruments, and great lyrics that hit home hard with me. The riffing flirts with thrash metal at some points and heavy Dream Theater riffs common on every album. The three movements have distinctly different themes which add spice to a long song which can very easily get boring. James LaBrie also shines in this song, with interesting vocal effects.
Blind Faith continues the trend of interesting lyrics, as well as with some of the best keys on the entire album. This song is quite awesome, but not quite as good as the first. This trend continues, as Misunderstood has an interesting acoustic intro with a good chorus that gets everybody into it. However, the song is absolutely destroyed (in a bad way) when the weird sets in. The guitars transform into some sort of howl that kills the rest of the setup the beginning of the song provided.
This trend continues, with my least favorite song on the first disc, The Great Debate. The lyrics contain subject matter which I don’t exactly care about unless I’m listening to a political band like Dying Fetus. I have not physically been able to listen to this song all the way through. I get about 8 minutes through it and get sick of the crap I am handed and refuse to call that Dream Theater. The keys are all over the place, LaBrie sound like he just came from the dentist with 6 root canals, and Petrucci plays the guitar transparently.
Okay, now that I’ve calmed down, let’s continue. The disc finishes out with Disappear, a nice mellow song that calms you down from the horrific nightmare of the previous song. Overall this disc presents us with mellow keys that provide a nice backdrop and twist and turn ferociously in sync with the guitar solos, and the guitars switch things up the rest of the time as well. Mellow guitars on Misunderstood and Disappear, skull shattering riffs on Blind Faith and The Glass Prison. Mike Portnoy is all over his set and does not disappoint (except in how he recently left the band, but that’s a rant for another time), with some really fast sections and takes the back seat at times, creating a nice balance. LaBrie shines with his lyrics that contain interesting and original thinking, most apparent in Blind Faith, and as usual throws his all into the song, something that sets him apart. This disc does a nice job of showing how progressive they are with orchestras, acoustic guitar, fun sounds like police sirens and breaking glass, etc., as well as with whatever it is making those sounds on Disappear. Rating: 87%. Best songs: The Glass Prison and Blind Faith, but stay away from The Great Debate.
So now it’s time for round two. The second disc is comprised of one song that is divided into 8 minutes, bearing the name of the album, although each of the movements can be regarded as an individual track that even has a separate name. We are given a lot of variance on here, and this ends up being for better or for worse. The rock opera that they were going for is lost due to a lack of an overarching continuity in all of the songs.
Consistency is certainly found in the overture, which adequately displays all of the movements of the pieces in one fluid sound, succeeding at that rock opera approach. It is instrumental as well, which helps with that. It features an impressive repertoire of sounds, with slow drum sections, heavy orchestra, and some sounds that are difficult to describe on paper but are yet present. Odd sounds also come into play later, in the movement called Goodnight Kiss. This is a particularly disturbing movement, with sound effects that are offset from the typical lightness of a Dream Theater work. As such, I thoroughly dislike this as my least favorite track on the album. The finale also is styled the same as these two, but it is boring and way too drawn out to amount to much while trying to incorporate a regular song. The song is also a low point.
Curveballs are also thrown in the third and fourth movements. The lyrics are rough and tough styled around mental illness, and the instrumentals reflect that. The guitars go from low and heavy tones to technical and unmelodic. James LaBrie adds interesting vocal flavor, and Mike Portnoy lays it all on the line in these songs. The keyboards are barely present here aside from adding a little bit of flavor here and there, where they are overbearing elsewhere on the album. This makes for a very good and heavy section.
The other three songs are grouped together pretty easily. After all, two of them are the same song title. These also deal heavily in mental depression and insanity with their lyrics, and the singing is phenomenal, which is not an accolade I usually patch on vocalists, as I do prefer me some roars and screams. These songs pack way too much keyboard, as piano leads every song and is incredibly overbearing and allows little else progress to be made. The guitars are featured with some nice solos but take a backseat most of the time. I was also surprised by the use of acoustic guitar in the very mellow song that is Solitary Shell (on another note, if you think they stole that from Slipknot, it is pretty sad that a band can become so crappy that their ideas seem better than yours). Portnoy continues in the same fashion here.
This is definitely the weaker half of the album, as things are all over the place and the songs are a bit too varied to maintain itself as a rock opera. The lyrics aren’t even following the same storyline; they just all have to deal with mental health. Nonetheless, there is still some great material here when it is taking out of context. Best movements: 2, 3, 4, and 6. Stay away from 5 and 8. Rating: 78%.
So let’s sum up this album quickly. The drums and guitars are intense in instances, but fail in other situations. Heavy songs are the best on here, with some of the lighter ventures going to waste as they fail to contain many ideas that are good. The keyboards as a whole are overbearing, and I miss the days when the keyboardist was a part of the band rather than a virtuoso. Bass doesn’t come through much but sounds awesome when it does; and the vocals are killer on this album. I believe them to be some of his best. I would say this album is worth getting if you see it, but not exactly worth it to go out of your way. Heck, you might even get away with only buying a few of the songs. In fact, here are some suggestions: The Glass Prison, Blind Faith, The Test That Stumped Them All, and Solitary Shell.
So Dream Theater is back with their 6th output, which incidentally is a double CD album. Being a double album it is expected to be unnaturally long, and so it is containing over 90 minutes of Music. Also looking at the track list it is seen that the second disk contains just the title track which is nearly 42 minutes long divided into 8 parts a la Fates Warning A Pleasant Shade Of Grey.
As in a Dream Theater record, the technical performances of Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci are amazing. There is lot of technical wankery to be found here from the endless solos in the opener to the piano solos in about to crash. Mike Portnoy is tight in is kit as ever and we never once hear a sloppy performance from him. Unfortunately the bass isn't heard too much on this album except some solos and John Myung is again underused here considering how great bass player he is. Kevin James Labrie's performance in this album gives the worst performances in his career so far a run for their money. Hell they have even sampled his voice on many tracks. Not that it was his fault entirely, but he really sounds crap in the album, which is a major drawback of it.
So by now everyone and their dog must have heard how a Dream Theater album sounds like, so be prepared for useless technical wankery to the 9th degree. All the songs are nearly ten minutes or above and with poor quality composition you really can't expect this album to rule. So we start the album with an attmpted thrash-prog song in the form of Glass Prison, but the opening riffs remind me more of Pantera rather than Kreator. The vocals suck hard. Why the hell counldn't Labrie sing in his normal Images And Words vocal style? Why does he have to use those raspy vcals which sounds totally hideous? The showoff behind the kit was definitely not enough for Portnoy so here he steps in to do backing vocal duty in the form of death growls which sound more like the Linkin' Park rapper rather than Chuck Shuldiner. The attempted thrash break is full of Machine Heads and Lamb Of Gods rather than Slayers. Blind Faith is much better. It is a fairly good composition with good transition between the heavy and softer parts. It starts slowly and builts up speed towards the end. Misunderstood is attempt at balladry and not a bad one, but oerlong. The Great Debate is again an attempt at sounding heavy and I might add another wastage of 13 minutes. Dissapear is the shortest song from the album. It is dark, deppressing and very moody but very effective and works as the highlight of the album along with Blind Faith (But both of the songs would have been B-sides on Awake).
Then we move on the title track which is I already discussed 42 minutes long. Creating such a long song Dream Theater managed to trick their fans into thinking that they have created something awesome when in reality the song is mediocre to the core. The song is divided into 8 parts which actually are 8 unrelated hideous songs joined together by mediocre orchestrations. Nearly 13 minutes are wasted on useless intros and outros. Among the remainnig parts, only 7 minutes are actually good and heavy. The rest contain shit balladry and useless technical wankery. The song constructon is crap and the parts don't flow into each other as they did in a certain Fates Warning or Manowar song. The lyrics are vomit inducing and totally unrelated with each other. Now conside the line "She was praised as the perfect teenage girl And everyone thought highly of her". And Dream Theater call themselves metal writing lyrics like this? The music is so sissy that I doubt the kind of audience this was meant to target.
So as expected this album contains less ideas than the sum of it's parts. Whatever good ideas are present they are blown away either by Portnoy-Rudess-Petrucci's "look how many fills and notes I can cram in 1 minute" showoff or by serious faults in composition. Technical performances are just superb in this album but what wanted is intelligent composition and songwriting. Yeah I agree that the guys in DT are no Hansie Kursch or Tonny Iommy but yeah they can write a good tune or couple to save their ass if they can't help it. Awake need I say more? That album was an excellent display of this band's powers when they are put in good use. I really feel sorry writing such a negative review as this is a very talented band the guys know how to play their games seriously. But if only they leave aside their "see how technically adept musician I am" showmanship and concentrate on writing songs which are meant to be enjoyed by the listeners like they did way back during the days of Awake, this could have been something very different. So finally, stay away from the album, it will cause huge turbulence in you.
When I first listened to this album I thought that it was a good album but the more I listened to it, the more I took the time to discover it attentively, the more I realized that this is somewhat the underrated gem in the discography of the most important progressive metal band of all times. This album is a truly progressive album and has something of a modern version of a classical symphony. A Beethoven or Wagner could not have created something more epic and diversified than Dream Theater create not only in the outstanding title track but also in some parts of the other parts that do not have the same level of “epic sound” and greatness but that are brilliantly executed and at least very good too.
"The glass prison" is the first part of another famous epic masterpiece of Dream Theater, the twelve-step suite. This modern, surprisingly fast and heavy song is one of the best parts of this epic conceptual track that would be followed by four other tracks on the next albums. The sound effects are very interesting and progressive and especially the keyboards do a certainly great job here. The only problem with this song is that it gets somewhat lost in its own heaviness and lacks of creating a melodic chorus, a truly catchy riff or other memorable moments. That's why this song is good or at some point even very good. But it isn’t an outstanding one. But as I said, it is a promising and highly entertaining beginning of a new saga.
The second track "Blind faith" is smoother than the opener and surprises with a very atmospheric and relaxing introduction. Especially the keyboards do once again an outstanding job on this track and create exotic folk sounds. Sadly, this calm song goes somehow nowhere after a very promising beginning and lacks of a catchy or epic chorus or some surprising breaks. The intro and outro are great but the middle part is only of an average quality and somewhat boring and that's why this track is the weakest one on the whole record.
The third song is called "Misunderstood" and is a sleepy, smooth and soft ballad that surprises with a weird guitar technique where a solo is reversed and creates a very eerie and addicting effect. Another strong point is once again the keyboard work and one must admit that this album is probably Jordan Rudess' masterpiece. All in all, this calm track is a song that grows more and more as time goes by even though it could maybe have been cut down a little bit and has a couple of lengths.
"The great debate" is a conceptual song with highly interesting lyrics. It starts with a very progressive intro where a debate is hold and different sound patterns and collages from speeches and interviews are included. The song surprises with a stunning drumming by Mike Portnoy who is delivering an amazing job. The once again great keyboard effects and strange vocal effects give this song a somewhat modern, progressive and apocalyptical touch and surprise us again and again. That's why this song is able to maintain the tension and be highly interesting until the very end.
The last song from the first disc is called "Disappear" and is a calm track with a somewhat eerie atmosphere because of a very spacey intro and an as amazing outro. The keyboards once again carry this song as well as the very touching lyrics. The monotone and repeating middle part fits to the sensitive and sad topic and I wouldn't see this as a negative point even though this song is obviously not as addicting as the previous one.
And then comes the title track, a masterpiece with a length of forty-two minutes and not one single minute of this symphony is boring or unnecessary. There are so many changes and emotions in this epic song that almost works like a movie or at least as a movie score that it would be way too long to describe everything that happens in the eight different parts of the song. The orchestration is great and almost sounds like if a true orchestra was playing. This shows once again what an amazing job especially Jordan Rudess does on this whole record. The live version on the "Score" album with a true orchestra is even more intense than this one. Lyrics and music perfectly fit together and it is an amazing pleasure to go for a ride on this epic journey and voyage through the highly interesting minds of six degrees of inner turbulence. Each different part of the song has a very special mood that fits to the concerned turbulence and creates images and ideas in our minds. This is like cinema for your ears. If I had to chose one single song to represent the band Dream Theater to someone I would pick this epic track or the easier to listen to first part of "Metropolis" because of its rather short length. This song is maybe the opus magnum of Dream Theater and not just one of many superb epic tracks. If you are a fan of Dream Theater and don't have this album yet, you should correct this lack right now and you surely won't regret to buy this intellectual masterpiece.
To keep it short, you get delivered one unforgettable and outstanding masterpiece, two extremely strong tracks, two good ones and only one weaker track on the whole record. Just the title track is worth buying this album. In my opinion this is one of their best records ever. It grows more and more every time you listen to it and has to be at least in my top five albums of Dream Theater even if I was sceptical in the beginning. So, if you truly admire the band in general, it is simply impossible to dislike this record. And this record may even please to people that are no metal heads but fans of progressive rock, krautrock, classical symphonies or operas. This is a great album for anyone that is able to take its time to listen to and appreciate music. Let me formulate it like this: Glory to the patient ones as they will truly live an adorable experience by listening to this record that slowly becomes one of my favourite ones of Dream Theater.
Before I go any further, I must add that the concept of doing a few "normal" songs and then doing a multi part super epic is nothing new. I know there were a few done in the 80's, but one example I can cite with certainty is Manowar's Triumph of Steel. The only difference is that Manowar were kind enough to make the super epic "only" 28 minutes long and make the rest of the album fit in to the whole schematic. Dream Theater feature around 40 minutes of songs that have a rather hit-and-miss quality to them as a "super epic". The reason I put it in quotations is because aside from dubious lyrical similarities, there is no reason to believe that they are all part of the same song. Shit, there's no reason to believe half of them are even on the same album. As well, Manowar's attempt, while not perfect, was still an actual SONG, not 8 unrelated and mediocre songs.
However, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (the song) can be easily ignored by the action of ripping only the 2 good parts and throwing the disc into your nearest garbage receptacle. What remains is approximately 55 minutes of, again, hit-and-miss. This time, the hit-miss ratio is a bit higher on this disc. Glass Prison is a good song, even if Dream Theater do the whole "parts" thing again (what's wrong with simply writing a song, and letting it be at that?) and has a relentlessly pushing feel throughout the whole song. The others are a bit forgettable, for reasons I will list below. But there's few times where it's so outrageously pretentious that I feel as compelled to hit the "skip" button as a crack addict is compelled to smoke crack. For that reason, this effort isn't TOTAL garbage.
Why do I say this is garbage, you ask? Suppose you're a DT fan that asserts that the band reinvents music everytime they make an album. If a chef makes a dish consisting of jalapeno peppers and chocolate ice cream, that doesn't necessarily mean he's reinventing quisine. Most likely, he's created a, while not putridly offensive, rather confusing dish that insults the same senses it purports to please. He'd only be reinventing cuisine if the dish tasted goo. It's the same concept with Dream Theater here. Just because they "broke musical boundaries" and did things that not every band was doing doesn't mean that what they produced was worth anything. That's assuming Dream Theater broke new ground here.
See, believe it or not, I understand what Dream Theater is trying to do here. I am musically literate, and have many years as a musician under my belt. I cannot play the stuff they play, and logically, I'm not debating their technical skill as musicians and even composers. They are a well oiled machine, and writing all this shit probably took a lot of time. As much as effort means in the world of music, result is a much more important concept. It doesn't matter if you took 10 years, included a 500 piece choir/orchestra/symphony and recorded 1000000000000000000 guitar tracks and 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000 vocal tracks and 1000 different parts. If it's not listenable, it's not listenable. Thus is the delusion of Dream Theater; it's the idea that just because you crammed a whole bunch of ideas and concepts into your music it's gonna be a guarantor of quality. It's correlated, to be sure, but without proper precaution, it can come off sounding pretentious and cheesy as hell. Even then, there's a proper way to do pretentious. Ulver's Blood Inside is pretentious as hell, even I'll admit that, but I'll be damned if I don't hum along to "For the Love of God" or "It Is Not Sound".
Emotion can be argued to be the centerpiece of all music, no matter what the genre. Even music that tries to convey a cold, robotic emotionlessness possesses emotion by default -- to know what emotion is not, one must know what emotion is. It's entirely different here. Emotion is simply irrelevant here. It's all plastic, lifeless, pap. Dream Theater have relied for a while on sheer technicality and a "different for different's sake" approach to writing songs, which leaves no room for any actual quality. While quality material will escape my speakers every so often when I put this on, it appears as if by accident, as if they threw a bunch of song ideas together haphazardly. They didn't used to be this way, back several years, when they still had Kevin Moore, in the days of "Awake" and "Images and Words". They weren't perfect, but they still devoted their energies towards creating SONGS -- songs meant to be listened to and enjoyed, not analyzed endlessly. Then they replaced him with the super-technical and super-soulless keyboardist Derek Sherinian and they recorded Falling Into Infinity, which witnessed a dramatic drop in quality. Then they kicked him out and found and EVEN MORE PRETENTIOUS keyboardist, Jordan Rudess. They have been increasingly pretentious since then. And his tenure has been marked by this philosophy that music is made to credit the musician, not the listener. I'm of the firm belief that music should be made to be enjoyed by the listener, not as a chance for arrogant musicians to show off endlessly. Why do I give high ratings to certain Yngwie albums, then? One reason:
Because Yngwie can write songs that get stuck in your head. Dream Theater haven't done that in years. In the end, it's about whether the music is a pleasure to listen to. And despite their best efforts, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence is a chore to listen to.
As good as Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence is, it is a frustrating album because it signaled the start of a trend in Dream Theater’s music that has remained popular to this day. With the success of songs like “The Glass Prison” and “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”, two tracks that pushed the boundaries of their respective genres to the fringe, the band was given the false impression that being bombast and epic all of the time was a good idea. It is for this reason that the record’s greatest strength - its disregard for conventional, subtle (DT) songwriting - is also its greatest weakness.
The songs “Disappear” and “Misunderstood” are two prime supporters of my argument. The former is phenomenal at times, in particular its heart-wrenching chorus, but it’s hindered by sound effects and herky-jerky vocals in abundance. The latter is half great, half boring. The final three minutes of the song stray so far from where they were going in the first place that they become less bearable than nails against a chalkboard. Heck, they sound just like nails against a chalkboard.
“The Great Debate”, unlike the aforementioned two compositions, is devoid of any redeeming qualities (except for perhaps its instrumental section). It starts off with samples, and then it tries out some annoying vocals that are over-ridden with effects, and to finish up, it revisits more samples. Oh, and did I mention that the work as a whole clocks in at just under 14 minutes? It’s an insufferable bore, one that’s placement near the end of the first disc of the record doesn’t help matters.
I cannot stress just how close Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence came to failing. Its two discs comprise what has to be the ballsiest hour-and-a-half of music in the Dream Theater catalog, music that comes close to being too ballsy for its own good. However, because of this recklessness on the part of the band, the album finds a way to work, and demands respect. In particular, there are three songs that not only save the record, but define the most remarkable aspects of Dream Theater’s new millennium sound.
The openers “The Glass Prison” and “Blind Faith” are two of the most interesting pieces of weaponry in the band’s arsenal, and have served as blueprints for many of their more recent outputs. For example, “The Glass Prison”, with its relentless, thrashing nature, was an obvious influence on Train of Thought. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that that entire album metamorphosed from “The Glass Prison” and the fun the band had playing it live. “Blind Faith” also, with its big jam section and ever-changing tones, is structured a little bit like “Endless Sacrifice” and “The Ministry of Lost Souls”.
Where the SDOIT songs go right and their imitators go wrong is in the utilization of Jordan Rudess. Throughout the record’s running length he churns out stunning melody after stunning melody, his soloing still a little shreddy for my taste but undoubtedly memorable. In particular, his piano work on “Blind Faith” might be his signature moment with the band, a rambling of notes that is as elegant as anything I’ve ever heard inside of the progressive metal genre (although, that might not be saying much).
Rudess’s most famous contribution to the album is it’s title track, which he wrote a substantial portion of, and spans an overwhelming 42 minutes. The song is not perfect - its length makes it a chore to get through and some of it’s movements feel out-of-place, in particular “Goodnight Kiss” and “Solitary Shell” - but it’s solid enough to resonate with you. In particular, “Overture”, “About to Crash” and “About to Crash (Reprise)” are great, their free-flowing essence shining through every note, and “The Test That Stumped Them All” and “War Inside My Head” kick all kinds of ass. “Grand Finale”, the final movement of the epic, is excellent as well, although the long fade-out at the end always annoys me.
It has been well publicized that, had Scenes from a Memory failed, Dream Theater would’ve broken up. Thankfully, they didn’t, and the result of their success with Scenes was their best JR-era effort to date. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence is a wonderfully mysterious album, one that rewards the listener after each successive listen and consistently reveals new elements of its craft. Still, I cannot stress enough just how close the record comes on numerous occasions to jumping the shark; reaching a point of ridiculousness that is so far-fetched one wonders whether or not Dream Theater has become a parody of themselves.
However, in almost going too far, the band succeeds tremendously, showcasing a willingness to take chances and no concern over cosmopolitan perception of what they should be. It is because of this that Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence divided the DT fanbase upon its release, but has since become one of the group’s most heralded works. The risks that they took in composing it, I think, were clearly worth it, and would be welcome in the future.
“Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” is a problematic album. The first warning sign is the album’s length: 20 minutes longer than any typical Dream Theater release. Yes, this is progressive metal, but long songs aren’t always what progressive music is about: it’s about creating something that is beyond what you hear on the radio, by testing out your limits. It’s about exploring your own creativity as a musician, trying to break boundaries and doing something different, using weird time signatures, peculiar instruments, and ambient sounds or even writing lengthy songs. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the formal definition of progressive but this is the way I see it.
So, is a 13-minute song necessarily progressive? Well, if it’s just overstretched and drags on without any purpose then no. If it’s a smooth composition that leaves no room for filler parts than I guess you can call it progressive. But the real question is still unanswered: is a 42-minute song necessarily progressive? That depends. If you’re an avid Dream Theater fan that only by looking on the track listing you get excited from the length of the title track while moments from “A Change of Seasons” play in your head, you might consider this song progressive. You cannot wait to get back home and listen to this album because if this song is so long it must be so awesome and epic. That’s just the problem. Dream Theater managed to trick their fans with this song into thinking they’ve created such an epic masterpiece. In this case however, this track is REALLY just a series of unrelated songs that don’t fit well, but rather just stuck together.
After 1999’s “Scenes From A Memory”, I’m pretty sure a lot of Dream Theater fans were waiting for another astonishing masterpiece. Sure, “Scenes” was great, and by far better than the previous effort “Falling Into Infinity”, but somehow I cannot help but think that the fans that worship this band so much have ridiculous expectations. What’s even more ridiculous is that Dream Theater are adding more oil to the fire by trying to fulfill those wild expectations and make each release more pretentious than the other.
I should mention that I’m a big Dream Theater fan and that I’ve always loved their wide range of material and how they alter their sound with each album. I appreciate this because that way they manage not to repeat themselves too much. With this album, Dream Theater finally cemented themselves as a progressive metal act rather than a progressive rock act, at least with the first disc of this double album.
The first disc is compromised of heavy experimental material. While it’s a bit inconsistent, it still features “The Glass Prison”, one of the best song Dream Theater have ever made, as well as “Misunderstood” and “The Great Debate”, two other great songs. Featuring a more technical approach and more 7-string action, by itself, this disc isn’t nearly as long as a typical Dream Theater release. In my opinion, a lengthy (yet still in the 15 minute range) closing epic sixth track could have made this album excellent (as long as it was good of course), but Dream Theater took it to the next level, and wrote a 42-minute song.
Disappointed after their label didn’t authorize the release of a double album back in 1997, Mike Portnoy and his palls finally had a chance to release such an album in 2002, only now it seems that this was done just for the sake of releasing a double album.
The second disc consists only of the title track which lasts 42:04. The song is divided into 8 tracks that represent the 8 movements of the song.
Beginning with the instrumental “Overture”, the song already gets boring halfway through this first movement which goes nowhere. After this section you will stumble across some decent tracks with horrible lyrics – “About To Crash” & “About To Crash (Reprise)”, some genuinely just boring and highly forgettable tracks – “Solitary Shell” & “Goodnight Kiss” and the closing movement “Losing Time / Grand Finale” that just doesn’t deliver the goods. The two remaining movements, “War Inside My Head” & “The Test That Stumped Them All” are surprisingly awesome, featuring great technical work and a great vocal performance by Labrie. These tracks however, are hardly redeeming. Overall, the songs just don’t fit together and you end with a big mess that’s supposed to be a big epic song.
“The Test That Stumped Them All” could have easily been placed on the first disc if it had it been longer because it doesn’t fit at all in the second disc. Wasn’t it supposed to be one song? Because all I heard was just 8 songs that are barely consistent but are linked lyrically.
All I make of this second disk is that the band got too pretentious for its own good. Although the first disc is great, and the band managed to venture into new grounds, showcasing a heavier darker style, its length is barely more than half of the entire double album, and the second disc makes it a pretty lame attempt as a whole.
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence is the template on which all Dream Theater albums since have been modelled off. It begins with some amazing tracks, but then collapses into an absolute pile of shit, as this talented group of musicians get stuck in ballad mode, and thus cancel out their talent. Not to mention they get mindlessly pretentious and whiny in the lyrics. This is basically what has happened on all albums since, but never on this scale. Why? Because this gets dull at "Misunderstood". And is well and truly as boring as anything they've ever done by the end of "Disappear". This would be a pretty good DT album at this point, because "The Great Debate" isn't too bad, so there's probably over 50% quality on offer, which is pretty good for the band...
But then we get a whole 42 minute album tacked on the end without a solid minute of quality on it. Completely dragging down the quality of the album.
This album doesn't suffer from the usual complaint of mindless wankery, the problem is there isn't enough wankery. You could hardly call "The Glass Prison" direct and too the point, but it works. It's long, complex, and it holds your attention throughout it's entirety, and the fact that it's 14 minutes long is merely an after thought. Compare that to "Misunderstood", which spends about 80% of its time being soft. It just doesn't make sense; surely a band of this technical ability couldn't find enjoyment in writing this much simplistic music.
Both the albums both have a completely different sound to them. The production is always clear and precise, but the standard and style of playing is miles apart. The guitar work is powerful, majestic and quite complex and fast... On the first disk. However, when it comes to the second album, Pettruci seems to forget that he has the ability to be amazingly complex, yet engaging, and basically decides that he isn't needed, and writes support material to the keyboards. Jordan Rudess himself is quite tolerable for the first 50 minutes, interacting with the guitars, and more or less created a solid canvas for the band to build off. On the second album, he's the only thing you'll hear as he wanks his was from section to section. Mike Portnoy is in the same boat with the drums. Amazing on the metal tracks, boring as watching a hourglass filled with mud on the other ones.
The final weapon in Dream Theater's arsenal is of course, the usually phenomenal James LaBrie, who we see beginning to show weakness. There's a lot of vocal distortion starting to creep in, not as much as what will come on the next two subsequent albums, but enough to get a little on the irritating side, and then you've got the lyrics. Now, I know that Portnoy is responsible for a lot of the lyrics, so I can't blame it all on him. But there are some serious duds here. "She doesn't wear make up, no one would care if she did anyway", "She was praised as the perfect teenage girl, and everyone though highly of her" come to mind, along with other pointless observations, and his classic rhyming of like 60 lines in a row with the same syllable. For instance, the first chorus of "About the Crash", we get these rhyming words, 'by, try, eyes, high, fly, sky, by (again)'. That's all in about a twenty second period. It hurts.
Really, the first disk is at a high quality. The first two songs are easily amongst the bands finest efforts. And "The Great Debate" is solid despite some lyrics which aren't quite balanced or technically correct, eg. 'taking life to save life'. "Misunderstood" and "Disappear" are boring, overlong, pretentious angst-fests. But overall it's a good disk. But then we get the 42 minute final track, which is, in the kindest way I can put it, devoid of quality and completely worthless.
Basically, of the 42 minutes, almost 13 minutes are spent on unnecessary intros and outros. Which are basically cheesy medieval overtures, with some metallic instruments thrown in, “Losing Time/Grand Finale” has some lyrics added, but it's still got lots of big cheesy keyboards and trumpet samples. Somehow, in practice it actually sounds worse than it looks on paper. It sounds like the castle music in a Legend of Zelda video game, with an electric guitar section which imitates the silly music. So Six Degrees of inner Turbulance itself is only about half an hour long. It's like making a film with 2 hours of credits, and an hour of content, and then claiming that you made a three hour epic.
Unfortunately, the actual song in the middle isn't an improvement; it starts and ends with pretty much the same 5 minute section of music, "About to Crash" and "About to crash (Reprise)", which sounds like an introduction song to a new sitcom. The lyrics are repulsive; think of how many words you can rhyme with 'sky', the chorus of this song will name all the answers you can think of, and some more. Musically it's dull, mainly piano based, and guitar work when used is dull and boring, merely supporting the piano work. It has no positive elements at all. To think that they repeat this part again at the end of the song...
Things get a little better and darker after this, for about 7 minutes. The keys are still more dominant than the guitars, and LaBrie's vocals are often delivered badly or played around with in post production, resulting in elements being worse than they had to be, There's only like three solos in the song, none of which are at DT standard, instead of the usual complex instrumentation, the main focus of the solos are on of from interaction with the keys, or on odd distortions on the guitar. I guess this middle section of this song isn't unbearable; it's just not any good either. This slight improvement doesn't last, because there's about 12 minutes of boring, poppy, low quality, ballad put in until the final outro closes out in its pathetic manner, just in case you get too stimulated by the 7 minutes of actual moving music that preceded it.
There, that sums up the title track in three paragraphs. Nothing goes right. 12 minutes could be trimmed, about 25 minutes of what’s left absolutely sucks and the remnants are a sign of the chunkiness of the next two album's heavy sections. So those parts are not even that good.
To be honest, the album is worth getting, because the first disk is definitely a good listen, with several good ideas thrown about. And the band was nice enough to keep the whole of the terrible mess of a sixth track on a separate disk, allowing you to almost forget its existence, but it's still there, so its awful wreckage cannot be completely ignored. It's like seeing someone break into your house, not stealing anything or causing any damage, but you know they've been there. No real harm comes of it, but I'll be damned if it doesn't piss you off.
I guess they wrote they second album, realised that if they sold it on it's own it'd never be given a review of higher than 10%, so they bundled it with a superior album to hopefully avoid drawing attention. I hate to say this, but despite the flat 50% rating on the album overall, I still have to recommend getting "Six Degrees...", purely because of the first disk. Just throw the other one away before listening to it. Maybe then you'll be able to deny its existence.
So here we have Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It's one of the first Dream Theater albums that I bought, and remains a favourite to date. However, like most Dream Theater albums (with the exception of Awake), it tends to be pretty controversial within the fanbase - there's a pretty distinct split between those who consider it an experimental progressive masterpiece, and those who think it's little more than hyperextended wankery. Personally, I think it rocks to the point it puts many other albums to shame.
Track 1, The Glass Prison, starts off where Scenes from a Memory left off - with what sounds like it's meant to be a downpour of rain, but could equally just be radio static. A bell tolls, and a catchy yet haunting riff builds up, instrument by instrument, steadily growing heavier, until the kickdrums come in, and you can tell the track's gonna be a rocker. And that's pretty much what it is - a solid, heavy track. Makes for a pretty hard-hitting opener. James LaBrie's vocals are great and well varied throughout the track, there's some impressive bass work, the drumming is excellent - the keyboards are the only instrument which don't particularly shine as much in this song, but that's okay, Rudess gets a lot of time to show off later on in the album. The lyrics are great, too: Mike Portnoy's went from the guy who didn't write any lyrics whatsoever for the first two albums, to probably the best lyricist in the band. This is the first of his songs on the subject of the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve-step program, which continues through This Dying Soul in Train of Thought, The Root Of All Evil in Octavarium, and onwards.
Then, we move onto something very different. James LaBrie provides the lyrics to Blind Faith, a moody attack on religious zealotry. From the first few seconds of the fade in, you can guess this isn't going to be anything like The Glass Prison. It begins quite mellow, with a lot more keyboard influence than TGP had, and far less guitar - that's a distorted six-string bass you can hear Petrucci playing, there. Eventually, it builds up to a more heavy (but still keyboard-focal (and still awesome)) sound, as the chorus comes in, which it maintains in varying degrees until the outro. Around the five minute mark, James LaBrie stops singing, and you're treated to quite possibly the best instrumental section in any Dream Theater song, featuring Petrucci and Rudess taking it in turns to outsolo each other. This is definition kickass, and probably the high point of a great album. A brilliant song, one of Dream Theater's best.
As Blind Faith fades back out, the acoustic-sounding, heart-felt introduction to the pseudo-ballad Misunderstood begins. It continues in much the same vain for a while: soothing and melodic, before building up to a contrastingly heavy chorus, and ditches the soothing feeling for a haunting feel to it. Anyone who thought they were in for a mellow track after three minutes of the song should have learnt their lesson better from Blind Faith: Misunderstood is probably the darkest song on the album. Unfortunately, two minutes from the end, it spoils what was a great song with some horrible... noise. There's no real way to describe it, other than noise, it's dreadful. They'd have done better leaving it out, but at least the rest of the song is a masterpiece.
Moving on, The Great Debate also builds up to its main contingent pretty slowly, but not in the same mellow yet listenable way as Blind Faith or Misunderstood does. Instead, it begins with an overly stretched-out section of modern keyboardy sounds upon a bass line, with samples over the top presenting both sides of the argument against stem-cell research, making great use of the pan. It's extremely dull, so if you want to listen to it all the way through, I advise listening to at least the intro with headphones, as that's the only way this intro is going to be even vaguely interesting. However, once it does build up, this is, musically, exceptional. It's well-orchestrated, melodic, heavy to a certain degree, interesting, and generally extremely listenable - the keyboard and guitar taking equally dominating roles. The lyrics leave a little to be desired, but they're not as cheesy as some make out. The vocals aren't nearly as good as LaBrie is capable of, and the first few lines would have been much better without the robotic vocal effects. The drumming compensates for that severalfold, however. I'll say it straight out: the drumming in this song is unmatched by anything else on this album. Apparently, there's a lot of Tool influence in them, but not being a Tool fan, I'm in no position to confirm. Eventually, it goes into a pretty kickass keyboard solo, followed by a less kickass guitar solo, and closes with what may as well be the intro played backwards. This song probably should have been only nine minutes long, but hey, the bits which aren't unyielding torrents of samples kick sufficient ass to make it an enjoyable track.
Disappear is a song which I always tend to group with Misunderstood in terms of general feel. It took me far too long before I began to appreciate it, however. It starts out with some creepy-sounding effects, followed by a haunting keyboard line, before progressing - quite suddenly - into an acoustic ballad. Unlike Misunderstood, however, this song won't turn around three minutes in and become a heavy track. Which, I must say, I appreciate - this song is absolutely beautiful. I didn't appreciate it at all, originally, but now that I've got used to it, it's the perfect closer to the first disc.
Disc 2 is all a single song, though it doesn't really feel like one. In spite of the often less-than-subtle transitions, however, it's a pretty kicking disc.
Overture is just what it says on the package, an overture. It's slightly... odd for an overture, though. As opposed to the traditional approach, in which the riffs are almost identical to how they're presented in the song, they've designed it to sound extremely orchestral and classical in nature - and they did it quite well, too. It's a majestic opening to the CD, and fits quite well. Eventually, it builds up to a climax, and the beautiful piano intro to About To Crash enters. And, About to Crash is a great song, it was one of my favourites for a very long time; Rudess' piano ability fits in perfectly, and it's harmonious all the way through. It begins with quite an optimistic feeling to it, but gradually becomes more sinister, fitting in perfectly with the subject matter of the lyrics - a bipolar girl. It's a great track, one which I'd kill to hear live.
War Inside My Head is a song about a man mentally scarred by war, and sounds the part, too. It launches with an intimidating, guitar-driven intro, before LaBrie sings a short verse, followed by a kickass call and return chorus, between Portnoy and LaBrie. Followed by another short verse, followed by another short chorus, followed by The Test That Stumped Them All. It's a catchy song, and near impossible not to headbang to, but... where's the length? Totals two minutes, about a minute of which consists of intro. Still, the guitar's awesome, the drumming's top notch, and it flows well - I love this song. I'd love it even more if they wrote an extended version of it, however.
The Test That Stumped Them All has a slightly hysterical feeling to it. It's fast and heavy, but the vocals at the "We can't seem to find the answers...," etc. verses are kinda irritating. That said, the instrumentation is good, and it's a damned good song, all in all. The instrumental section at the end sounds excellent; it fits the rest of the song far better than that at the end of, About to Crash, say.
Goodnight Kiss' first half drags on a bit. The intro takes a little too long, but once you get into it it's got a lot of feeling to it, and it's not exactly dull. The first solo is quite heartfelt, and then, a little over halfway through, the pace changes for the instrumental section, to an extremely kickass darker, faster section. The drum sets a good, foot-tappin' (:P) pulse through it, which flows perfectly into Solitary Shell.
Solitary Shell is a pretty damn cool song, with a good mood, and makes for a more calm, collected interlude. The instrumental break at the end has something of a latin vibe to it in places, and doesn't quite fit with the rest of the song. It's probably the one part of the album I'm least familiar with, it sort of becomes background noise until the intro to About to Crash Reprise comes up.
...which, might I add, rocks. The guitar intro sounds great, the keyboard roll sounds great, and it's got a great feel to it - far more optimistic and fastpaced than ATC was even at the start. A bit shorter, but that's excusable. The instrumental section towards the end almost unravels the overture from the start; you can hear sections of War Inside My Head in it, and it's in much the same style. It only lasts two minutes, however, before making the final transition between songs.
Losing Time is just plain beautiful. It's a mellow, touching close to the disc. The lyrics are stunning, the best on the disc, and the instrumentation is majestic, tying back to Overture extremely well. The lyrics to the Grand Finale are slightly cheesy, but it builds up great, and the gong is the perfect climax to mark the end of an exhilarating album.
In all, this album gets a 93%. The awesome bits outweigh the imperfections (and let's face it, every album has a couple) by a long mark, and there really isn't a single song (or track, should I say) I could say that I'm unsatisfied with. Worth every penny.
Being the first Dream Theater album I was ever introduced to, 6DoIT has always been one of the first things that comes to mind when I think Dream Theater. I still enjoy this album very much but, ever since I discovered their older material, this has been pushed out of the spotlight, and I don't think it will ever find it's way back. Unfortunately, when I compare 6DoIT to Dream Theater's ultimate masterpiece, Images and Words, it just can't reach that same level of divine greatness.
The biggest reason I can see for this, is that 6Degrees is an album of extremes. More than any other work DT has ever done, this album (almost always) clearly sets the line between the soft songs and the heavy ones, and that, in my opinion, provides for a slightly less enthralling listening experience. Nonetheless, there is still more than enough killer progressive rock/metal on these two discs to satisfy almost any Dream Theater fan.
Take your time and look around.
Is this utopia you've found?
1. The Glass Prison
As is always the case, Dream Theater open with a bang. While I've never been a great fan of the really heavy DT songs, this one kept me entertained all the way through. Rudess' guitar samples sound great, and the whole band is in top form. Unfortunately, this song has started to thrill me less and less each time I hear it, although I'm not quite sure why that is. Quite good anyways.
2. Blind Faith
For me, the pride and joy of disc one would have to be Blind Faith. As one of the few songs on the entire album to actually create a really good mix of heavy and lighter musical elements, I loved this one right from the start. Clever lyrics from James Labrie complement the engrossing musical package, which starts out slow, and builds up speed, until it climaxes in the middle with an awesome guitar riff leading into a beautiful piano solo. This is probably my favorite part of the whole album. Incredible song.
Being the first DT song I ever heard, misunderstood holds a special place in my heart. It basically begins with just some light guitar and bass, before adding in some atmospheric keyboards and drumming. The whole song just grows from beginning to end, getting louder and more powerful every little while until it reaches it's peak with a final chorus. While some may find the closing minute a bit boring or distracting, I think it's a very creative use of volume and sound (I'm a Mike Patton fan by the way, so that may explain why I enjoy this passage so much).
4. The Great Debate
As the other real heavy track on DISC ONE, my opinion of Great Debate is very similar to that of Glass Prison. It doesn't encorporate the progressive side of DT enough to become one of my favorites, but it's hardly a throwaway track. It's well written, well played, and has very thought provoking lyrics. Not very much else to say here.
It took me a while to get into this one, but now that I have, it's become a great listen for me. While the overall theme and tone of the song is dark and sad (it's a song by Labrie about the death of a woman in his life), the ending manages to be quite uplifting, and rounds out the track nicely.
(note: the entire second disk is comprised of only one song, the title track. It's an epic song, clocking in at 42:04 minutes in length, and spans a wide variety of music. As the title suggests, each section lyrically deals with a different type of mental distress or illness. The song is divided into the following eight parts for the sake of navigation and refrence, and to represent the different degrees of inner turbulence)
I - Overture
II - About To Crash
III - War Inside My Head
IV - The Test That Stumped Them All
V - Goodnight Kiss
VI - Solitary Shell
VII - About To Crash (reprise)
VIII - Losing Time/Grand Finale
As the center of attention on this album, 6Degrees is a stunning amalgam of many different musical genres and techniques. It starts with the mid-tempo Overture, gains ground and emotion with ATC and explores some heavier ground with WIMH and TTTSTA. Then it cools down with the beautiful GK ballad and returns to the mid-tempo sound with Solitary Shell. ATC (reprise) represents the final hard hitting song on the album, before the epic grand finale in Losing Time. All the songs are technically profound both musically and lyrically. Some are great for driving and rocking out to, while others are more tranquil and relaxing. Overall, it's an experience not to be missed!
So there it is. 6DoIT by Dream Theater. DT fans should find all they need in a good prog album, while others will most likely find certain musical aspects of the album more enjoyable than others. Regardless, all music fans owe it to themselves to give it a shot.
I have a lot of gripes about this album. If these guys wanna wank, more power to them, but don't play crappy ballads all the time that hardly qualify as mediocre. Stellar production, cool lyrics, good musicianship (obviously), but unfortunately they couldn't cut down on the crap.
The Bad tracks include Blind Faith, which actually breaks into something worthwhile speedy bluesy section at about 5.01, but it's much too late to start shredding, the listener already gave up. Misunderstood is a worthless power ballad, that has about as much balls as a hamster. The Great Debate has a couple good riffs, but it's all been done before. As I was nodding off during the plodding Disappear, I could have sworn James said "I have a mangina". Obviously another pussy ballad. If that wasn't enough, there's a whole other disc chock full of more eunuchified crapola. Overture goes for way too long, if this track was like 2 minutes long total I would probably praise it, but they milk it, and milk it, and I'm getting very sleepy again. Goodnight kiss is another power ballad, I want METAL, not some crappy ballads with excellent prog metal thrown in. Losing Time Grand Finale ends off the title track with some fast prog metal that just shreds... oh wait it's more pussy rock.
There are only a couple above mediocre tracks, those being best described as the ones that stand out from the boring pussy rock but aren't quite excellent metal. About to Crash and it's reprise are really mellow prog with some heavier hints in the reprise. James sounds good, and the lyrics and overall composition work well, especially the piano parts, really different. Solitary Shell also is pretty good, not quite a ballad, but yet it is, just more of an uplifting and uptempo ballad, and the lyrics are fairly touching, detailing a man's life of introversion and depression, to which many of us can relate, so it works in the way that it means something, and the music amplifies that.
The good tracks on here aren't really just "good" they fucking kick ass 14 ways to Sunday! The Glass prison starts out fairly foreboding, then adds some killer guitar work, eventually repeating the forward moving melody. A little keyboard. Then as it slows into 1.45 it takes off with a killer wah-laden lick, headbanger's rejoice! Every time that licks comes back it's just ownage. Later on the melody returns with more cool keyboard stuff, then ritards into a heavy one note groove riff. Pretty much the song stays heavy throughout and goes for 14 minutes(!!) but never get's long-winded, and that's quite the feat.
Movements 3&4 of the title are the best, not just amonst this album but amongst the great stuff. War Inside My Head is a great song about war, although I never really got the "inside my head" though possibly it's all in the narrator's mind? Badass either way you take it. "A free vacation of palm trees and shrapnel" yes that's definitely metal through and through. It leads right into The Test That Stumped Them All, which starts out with shredtastic riff, leading into a two note riff for just a bid, and the verse destroys. James sings with balls, and the riff underneath is thrashy as fuck, some of the psuedo triplets in there. The riff that reoccurs between the different parts of the song is kind of similar to the fast riff in metallica's one, but is much better. The solo section has a new riff, and the shredding from the intro comes out of nowhere, still good. A keyboard solo, return to shred, end.
Why, someone explain to me why they couldn't play more heavy tracks? If it was all pussy rock under the guise of progressive that's one thing, but those kickass tracks really frustrate me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way. So in closing, download the three godly tracks and buy a Yes cd, you'll be much more pleased that way.
After the critically-acclaimed, yet overly sappy and indulgent Scenes From a Memory, Dream Theater got their shit together and released their most ambitious album yet, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. I don't know how they came up with the title of this album, but I must admit that it is turbulent. This isn't a bad thing, though.
This is a 2-disc album, with Disc 1 being dedicated strictly to straightforward progressive metal songs(oxymoron, eh?) and Disc 2 consisting of the 42:04 title track, which is divided into 8 parts.
The first disc begins with The Glass Prison, which tackles the topic of alcohol addiction. It doesn't get much better than this folks. This is Dream Theater's heaviest, most ass-kicking song ever and stretches out for almost 14 minutes. The guitars rage at a malicious, almost thrashy speed and the vocals give a nod to Rush at times. Complaints I have about this song are the static at the beginning and the grunted vocals during choice verses in section 2 of the song. Overall, this is a DT classic and is bound to be on the next fan club best of/compilation CD.
Following this song, we have Blind Faith, which compromises speed for a calm, sleep-inducing tempo. One of the catchiest choruses to be found is on this song and the guitar solo near the end is totally heavenly. Misunderstood is the first ballad-like song of the album and it again flows at a very tranquil speed. Much notable keyboard work is on this song and the guitar interlude later in the song is absolutely WICKED. Man, I've never heard DT or any band in recent memory use the guitar tone that surfaces later in that song. It reminds me of an anime horror film or something of that ilk. Simply spellbinding.
Ok, enough time chatting about ONE RIFF. Haha. The next song is The Great Debate, which is slightly shorter than The Glass Prison and not nearly as speedy. This song deals with stem-cell research and presents both sides of the argument without forcing one view or the other upon the listener. I'm glad that's it like that. Otherwise, Labrie and Co. could've had some tough legal shit to deal with. This song is very brooding and is initially reminiscent of Red Harvest in the overall atmosphere. Nice apocalyptic-sounding guitar work near the end as well.
Finally, we have the last song of the first disc, Disappear. What a spooky, grim song this is. It's the only average-length song on the first disc and has a VERY creepy guitar tone. This song may disturb your tranquillity if you're already on the edge. This song is arguably more depressing than Space-Dye Vest. Both are beautiful songs, but sometimes it's a bummer to hear such a downer of a song at the end of an album.
Ok, if you were listening to this entire album in one sitting, you obviously wouldn't stop after Disappear, so next you would listen to Disc 2, the title track. This is DT's most grandiose song/disc yet and sure kicks the hell out of Scenes From a Memory, IMO.
It begins with Overture, which has a distinct march-like sound that often sounds like Pomp and Circumstance. Next is About to Crash, which has an excellent, uplifting guitar melody that soon gives way to War Inside My Head. This is some really heavy, caustic stuff here, almost as much as The Glass Prison. Gotta love that thrash-riffing again.
Next is The Test That Stumped Them All, which again has some killer thrash-riffing and the first cuss word on the album(shit). The only detriment to this song is the narrative, talkative-styled verses that deal with loved ones of a mentally ill boy discussing treatment options. The vocals are just incredibly silly and annoying.
Otherwise, this is a good song, though. Following TTTSTA comes the fifth song, Goodnight Kiss. This sounds like a nursery-rhyme and is very dreamy. I think it would be neat if Dream Theater made an album consisting solely of songs like Goodnight Kiss. It's that unique and calming.
This is merely a short interlude to Solitary Shell, which again tackles the subject of mental illness, dealing with a boy who is possibly autistic and spends too much time to himself, not interacting with others. Musically, this song is stellar, the piano-playing amazingly fresh and crisp and the acoustic guitars like a Celtic hymn or shanty. This song has the most memorable chorus from the whole album and is one of DT's catchiest songs ever.
After that comes the reprisal of About to Crash, which again has those godly, Rush-inspired riffs, played with more fervor. The best part of the song is the climactic guitar thumping with the abrupt piano interlude. Great neoclassical-sounding stuff right there.
Finally, we have the last song of the entire album, Losing Time/Grand Finale. There's not much musically to speak of in this song. It's just a closer, and it's achingly pretty.(I would've said 'achingly beautiful', but I didn't want it to seem like I was copying Paradox in her review of "Space Dye Vest") I love the way the vocals gradually build up to the ending of the album, gaining and losing volume continually.
Well, that's it folks. At the end of this album, it is clearly the end. It's not like Scenes From a Memory where it has this little symphonic reprisal with some dude on the news talking or anything like that. After the last word of the song, there's nothing left to look forward to. Anyway, this isn't my favorite DT release, but I feel inclined to give it a 100% out of my deep respect for it. You see, if it wasn't for this album, I may not have gotten introduced to the many other excellent bands that I listen to and I would not have the knowledge of metal that I now have. Someone recommended Dream Theater to me one summer during summer school, so I decided to order SDOIT from Columbia House. I've had metal CDs before buying SDOIT, such as Metallica's Master of Puppets and Fear Factory's Obsolete, but SDOIT was the catalyst for me to become a metalhead, and that's what I consider myself now. What a blissful state of metallic wealth I'm in today just because of this one album.
Now, I've had this album for quite a while, but recently I just popped it in and really listened to it. I was surprised I hadn't realized this thing before. I will only review the first disc, because the second disc is but one song, that would be hard to review.
First, it's The Glass Prison. It's a great song to start off the cd except for the part where they use some turntable effect. It's not their best, but it does pwn a good amount. The solo rocks out loud, and there are some catchy-as-hell riffs.
Then, there's Blind Faith. This is probably tied for the best song on the cd. It's just great. Probably the best part in the song is when it starts to go into the chorus with the whole Mona Lisa thing. I just found that pwnage. The solo is probably my favorite solo on this whole album. This really is a song to show off James' talent as a vocalist as well.
Then, as for the best song on the album (with Blind Faith) Misunderstood. It starts off with a great acoustic intro. Then in the middle of it it goes right into the rockin' part. That was a great DT moment in my book. They really stretched out almost 3 minutes with the whole weird freaky solo part, though. All in all, m/.
The Great Debate. This was the first song on the album I actually heard to be honest. The only thing I don't like about it is the long news intro. There's not much to say about this song, it's just a standard DT song. Best part is the whole "Turn to the light" thing IMO.
And last, there's Disappear. A nice little soft thing, but nothing to get excited about at all. I've probably heard it 2 times, I don't care for it that much. So, I won't say anymore about it.
As I said, I will not review the second disc, for I do not feel like reviewing a 45 minute song. And I'm not gonna do each and every chapter, because I'm lazy. So, there ya go....
Final opinion: It's worth the 20-30 bucks you spend.
After initially listening to this album with the expectation of another "Awake" or maybe even "Scenes from a Memory", I came away disappointed. It seemed that Dream Theater was slowly but surely starting to move away from the epic tendencies that previously defined them. However, I recently took it upon myself to get rid of any prejudices, and simply listen to this as if it were from a different band. My, how that paid off. I came to the realization that this album is definitely strengthened by the power of its individual songs (well, the first disc at least), and that the pretentiousness of trying to create a masterpiece was left out for a good reason.
While certainly integrating different aspects of music into their sound, nothing sounds like it clashes or forces a sense of uneasiness onto the listener. The band's technical proficiency is up to par as always. James Labrie seems to stick to a style of singing that doesn't rely on high notes, which may be attributed to his slowly deteriorating voice. No worry, as he doesn't take the spotlight nearly as much as in the past, and avoiding over the top performances is a good thing. Jordan Rudess is undoubtedly cementing his place in the band, with a display that could easily rival that of "SFAM". The first disc displays the experimental side of the band more so than the second, which contains an epic in the style of "A Change of Seasons". This easily rekindles fond memories of the DT of past years, but not so much as to seem unoriginal or lacking in ideas.
Highlights are the album-opener "The Glass Prison", "Blind Faith", and to some extent, the first half of "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence". While not as mesmerizing as one would expect, this album rewards patient listeners who are willing to evolve with the band, and expect the unexpected on occasion.
One thought: is this album too close to heaven?
I know, sometimes Dream Theater try to hard, but most of the time they keep it on the edge and manages to pull everything off just right. When they succeed, sure the world keeps spinning, but to an ordinary human - time stops!
And this time they nearly pulled a 100% and remade (according to my opinion of course) Images & Words. Most of this albums is so tight, so excellent and the riffs and beats are created with so much skill and experience that they live their own lives and tell their own stories.
Most of the songs on both discs are great, especially pieces like: "My Glass Prison", "Misunderstood", "The Great Debate" - "Solitary Shell" & "The Test That Stumped Them All". But there are some things I personally think they could have done better - like the intro on the first disc, its just noisy static! I mean sure, nice sequel to "Metropolis Pt. II" where the albums ends with the same static, but its relly just annoying...
And Im just going to pick a little on the beginning on the second disc too: the first song / the first songs: Whats this "March-band" feeling I get? These "war"-drums and Rudesess' prodigious whirlwindishlike clinking on the keyboard? By erasing this part, the seconds disc could have been perfect.
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence contains great material and really great lyrics (although they might imply a little too much about the USA and their religion). But no matter - this is a great album!
Dream Theater has long been recognized as progressive metal's favorite whipping boy (now sharing the spot with Opeth..), yet rarely was the band actually guilty to the extent of what they were charged by the critics.... up until this album.
Unlike most of their previous work, a good deal of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance is the embodiment of everything DT's detractors despise: overlong compositions with too much fat on them, uncomfortable vocal moments, good ideas that never come to full fruition. Being a 2-CD album, with lyrical concepts dealing with mental illness/struggle, Dream Theater had the potential to create a rich, expertly sculped album that could draw in the listener to dive deeply within in it and revel in it's expression. Instead, many parts of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance tend to be a chore to listen to, and this hinderance seems to grossly compete with the great points of the album for attention. Rather then meshing layers of smooth oil paints together in a complex and beautiful sonic swirl - as can be found on their best work - Dream Theater now has more messy watercolor then ever before, occasionally even straying way off the canvas sloppily onto the wall.
That's not to say the good points of the album are completely overshadowed. On Six Degrees, DT has finally progressed their sound somewhat, integrating longer and more experimental song structures, balancing out their heavy and light elements better, and adding some more varied keys, programming, and orchestration to the mix. There are great moments throughout both discs, and moments of brilliance. However, in almost every song with great moments there are also awkward, forced sounding, and generally bad parts that spoil or come close to spoiling the song, and this can make for a hard listen.
The Glass Prison opens the album with promise, turning from a classic sounding keyboard/guitar harmony intro into a fast double bass assault shifting into cruise control when James LaBrie's computerized vocals enter from opposing sides of the speakers. Very nice, and more then a sign of creative life. Unfortunately, the first hint of things to come is contained later in the track, as the band is not able to pull off all 11 minutes while retaining the same quality and unity throughout. The chorus-like lines in the song, for the most part, have a very positive and uplifting melody to them, which wouldn't be bad in itself but the problem is that The Glass Prison is a song based around the struggles of alcoholism. The victory over addiction only comes at the end of the song, and so there are a good deal of odd sounding parts beforehand that don't fit the lyrics whatsoever. Blind Faith is next, and is excellent for the most part, with airy programming and instrumentation that brings almost mountain/canyon like imagery to mind. The different passages that pop up repeatedly show a great amount of chemistry within in the band and keeps the music richly layered and interesting. The chorus is another matter however, being much too hard rock sounding to fit in well at all with the rest of the atmosphere, but the band makes it a focal point. Misunderstood is another good piece lyrically, dealing with the misconceptions of an outsider's view of fame, and the isolation of the person being misunderstood. Again, unfortunately the music - while being competant on it's own - does not fit well with the subject matter, sounding instead like some lazy ballad in poetic contentment. The vocal melodies, like others on the album, sound uninspired and thrown together. Next comes The Great Debate, and this is where everything comes together for Dream Theater. A 13 minute analysis and summarization of the controversial stem cell research issue, the song manages to be haunting, rocking, and intense at once, with John Petrucci's lyrics exploring both sides of the debate and simply presenting the facts. There is a little Tool-esque sound to parts of the song, but the band retains it's own vision well and fuses their ideas perfectly to make The Great Debate the best song on Six Degrees. The verses are almost sinister, the sampling of various people's comments on both sides of the issue emerging from different speakers is engaging, and all the lyrics are presented in a contemplative, yet heavy context. The band also flexes it's instrumental muscles well between the lyrics, the bass and guitar lines creating a good base atmosphere to work off of and take the song to places justifying the length. The last song on the first disc, Disappear, is also good, one of the darkest songs on the album lyrically and musically. The keyboards and guitar are spacey and filled with misery, Jordan Rudess's keyboard work being the driving element of the song and carrying LaBrie's sad lyrics about the loss of a loved one very well.
While the first disc of the album is good though annoyingly inconsistent throughout the songs, the second disc is somewhat of a disaster. The 42 minute title track of the album takes up the entire second disc and is divided into 8 smaller songs. Very obviously, this is quite an ambitious effort, but unfortunately also the kind that usually ends up a masterpiece, or a complete pain to listen to thanks to excess filler within. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance is, for the most part, of the latter group.
Overture starts the disc, and when looking at the dark subject matter - which includes the effects of war on the mind and antisocial helplessness - of the other 7 songs that make up the title track, the song makes little to no sense. Instead of the song sounding like a prelude to various explorations of hard mental struggles, it has an almost Disney-esque motif to it despite the more seriously theatrical feel, and in some plain goofy parts I keep expecting a lounge singer to croon a bit about the joys of a good martini. After 6 minutes of the laid back, semi classical instrumentation going absolutely nowhere, About to Crash comes in, betraying it's title and lyrics by sounding at times like sugary pop-rock - and the extra sugar on LaBrie's voice here may help prevent a calm stomach. War Inside My Heard and The Test That Stumped Them All thankfully darken the mood a bit - though the former is much less interesting then the latter, which features some good acting by LaBrie as different characters, and some of the catchiest music to be found on the second disc. Unfortunately, by the time the heartfelt, somewhat disturbing ballad Goodnight Kiss rolls around it becomes completely apparent that the title track, when treated as one track, is incredibly weak and poor in structure - sounding as if the band recorded 8 mostly different songs and taped them together with a thin adhesive of instrumental excess. Fortunately the situation improves as the end draws near, with Solitary Shell easily being the strongest section of the piece, featuring excellent lyrics and great, atmospheric guitarwork. The final two tracks that make up the title song vary from mediocre to pretty good, the first being a reprise of About to Crash that is not too much better from the original, and the second, Losing Time/Grand Finale manages to close the second disc with more well written lyrics and a tasteful amount of climatics, eventually fading out gently with Jordan Rudess' soft synth.
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance is not a terrible album, but it came much closer to being so then it did to being as good as it could have been, especially being a 2-CD album. Way too much left of the middle here, in way too many places.
The band didn't want to follow up their great conceptual opus with merely another run of the mill (for DT anyway) studio. They felt the need to do something more and I'm glad they felt that way.
Some long time hard core DT fans don't like the new direction this album took. Bands change with time and so does their sound. If you can't deal with that then you should just shut up and listen to the old releases you do like.
The first disc would make a great album all on its own. "The Glass Prison" epitomizes the new, more aggressive direction the band is taking. "Blind Faith" is so-so, but nothing to scoff at. "Misunderstood" is good except for the last three minutes or so. All the electronics and weird effects really aren't necesary. "The Great Debate" is simply superb. Musically it is awesome, but I think the lyrical accomplishment is even more impressive. Both sides of the stem cell argument are presented without actually stating which they as a band or as an individual song writer stand on the issue. If an opinion would have been stated it would perhaps alienate people of opposing views from enjoying the song. "Disappear" is a very nice slower song reminiscient of "Space-Dye Vest."
The second disc doesn't appeal to me as much as the first, but a 42 minute long composition is impressive nonetheless. The high points for me are "About to Crash" and the reprise. I also greatly enjoy the juxtapostion of the light-hearted sound of the acoustic guitar as compared to the dark lyrics of "Solitary Shell."
. . . and why a gong? I suppose it is probably a "why not have a gong?" sort of thing, but it works no matter how unexpected it might be.