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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.