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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.