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I Judge As My Eyes See - 92%

Twisted_Psychology, January 21st, 2010

Ever since the surprise success of "Images and Words" back in 1992, Dream Theater was always one of those bands that thrived on a massively loyal fanbase while just falling short of a major mainstream breakthrough. However, that all seemed to change when this 2007 effort managed to crack the Billboard's Top 20 and introduced the band to a new legion of music listeners. Of course, the magic of it all was that every signature aspect of Dream Theater was surprisingly kept intact through it all...

Musically, I like to describe this album as a sort of cross between 2003's "Train of Thought" and 2005's "Octavarium." On one hand, the riffs/song structures are surprisingly heavy and the vocals are more aggressive thanks to some interesting contributions by drummer Mike Portnoy on such tracks as "The Dark Eternal Night." On the other hand, there are plenty of melodic moments on such tracks as "Repentance" and "The Ministry of Lost Souls," and "Forsaken" has an accessible fusion of both elements. Hell, "Prophets of War" even has some of those Muse influences that everyone is so divided on!

As several have suggested in previous reviews, I believe that this album's highlight is none other than the 25 minute epic known as "In the Presence of Enemies." Cleverly divided into two parts as an homage to Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," the first part starts the album off with a nice extended introduction and some cool soft/heavy trade-offs during the verses and choruses. The second part is where the song truly shines as it features a twisted atmosphere during the building verses and chilling chorus, a demonic fast paced segment with guitar playing that just screams Iron Maiden worship, another extended solo section that brings in some clever allusions and a nicely dramatic ending. Throw in some strange Faustian lyrics and you have one of my personal favorite Dream Theater epics to date, even if the long-winded introduction makes it an acquired taste...

Speaking of lyrics, this album also features some of the band's most intriguing themes to date. While past topics such as stress ("Constant Motion"), alcoholism ("Repentance"), and politics ("Prophets of War") continue to be touched upon, this album also dabbles in more supernatural themes and plays with the occult on "Forsaken" and "The Dark Eternal Night." Some moments may be a little too generic at times, but it's generally pretty interesting to hear Dream Theater's take on vampires, demons, and other twisted forces.

In terms of weaknesses, this album's biggest flaw seems to be a few lesser tracks not standing up to the highlights on here. "Constant Motion" is a solid number inspired by Metallica, but a few awkward vocal trade-offs keep it from being a true highlight and "Prophets of War" is set back by a slightly awkward structure and the controversial Muse touches. Portnoy's more prominent vocals may also be unwelcomed by some listeners but I find them to be pretty tolerable.

All in all, this may be my fourth favorite DT album and one of the strongest albums that 2007 had to offer. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you like the two efforts before it.

Pros:
1) Cool balance of heavy/melodic styles
2) Interesting changes in lyrical themes
3) "In the Presence of Enemies" may be my favorite Dream Theater epic to date

Cons:
1) A few lesser tracks
2) Controversial vocals by Portnoy
3) Slightly generic lyrical moments

My Current Favorites:
"In The Presence of Enemies," "Forsaken," "The Dark Eternal Night," "Repentance," and "The Ministry of Lost Souls"