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“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.