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Technical ecstasy. - 90%

Empyreal, May 5th, 2009

Dream Theater as a band are truly a respectable outfit. Whether you like them or not, it is pretty much undeniable that they have kept evolving in a truly soldier-like fashion throughout the years, sometimes even using current trends to their advantage. This is a band that can truly do what they want, and it's impossible to say that anything they do is "not Dream Theater" because of this. This brings me to their latest full length offering Systematic Chaos, which, as all of Dream Theater's best albums do, has inspired a world of controversy amongst anyone who is enough of an asshole to voice their opinion on the internet.

This album is less graceful and emotional than the previous Octavarium, focusing mostly on heavily progressive songs with long durations and a lot of bells and whistles, but not much of the so-called technical wankery that so many of the band's detractors often accuse them of. The songs here flow like the white water rapids, the band jumping through musical and songwriting hoops with relative ease. Yes, the technical proficiency of the notorious band members is heavy here as always, but the band strings their songs together with a sort of curiosity and adventurousness that makes them easy to enjoy and digest with a few listens. There is a lot of confidence at work here, the sound of a band that knows what they're doing and has been doing it for a long, long time, and I like that.

Kicking off with the truly mountainous "In the Presence of Enemies part 1," Dream Theater show that they have no intention of slowing down yet. The song moves through some dark, somber instrumental work before it reaches the halfway mark, where James LaBrie's charismatic whine makes its appearance with a stirring build up to the great, hooky chorus line. "Forsaken" shows the more commercial side of the band with a big chorus and some delicate opening piano lines. One song that everyone seems to love to criticize is "Constant Motion" for its slightly Thrashy overtones in the crunching guitars, and I guess I can see that; it's certainly the worst song on this album, but I kind of like it anyway. "Prophets of War" is the other weaker song, a propulsive and catchy number that seems dwarfed within the cataclysmic gulfs that the longer tracks around it create.

"The Dark Eternal Night" is probably my favorite of the bunch, as it is just a stellar song with a host of unsavory and yet deliciously progressive musical ideas ranging from bouncy swing to huge Heavy Metal riffage, all coming together for a damn near orgasmic composition that I will never tire of. "Repetence" is a bit slower and maybe a tad over-long, but the emotional, soaring leads will make you forget that instantly. "The Ministry of Souls" is a real gem, with its foreboding air and balladesque beginning chords exploding into a hugely gratifying experience that you will want to return to again and again, and in "In the Presence of Enemies part 2," we see the band propelling forward with an insane and wondrous concoction of musical bliss to end this album in style. Get this if you like good Progressive Metal - it might just surprise you.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com