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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.