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Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos - 65%

whitefrozen, May 18th, 2010

I have to say, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this album. I love Dream Theater and no one can deny that the band members are incredible players, but this is an odd album for me. There's times when I listen to it and love it, and then times when I listen to it and really don't think it's that great.

There is some top-notch stuff here, though. The opening two songs are fantastic, with the former (In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1) being a pretty solid Dream Theater song, with lots of soloing and terrific playing all around. It's sort of the kind of song I expect them to do on a regular basis; it's not amazing but it certainly isn't too shabby at all. Forsaken, the second track, is a terrific shorter piece, focusing more on a slightly darker (and dare I say "gothic") atmosphere and a good catchy chorus. Forsaken was the single and if I'm not mistaken the song that got radio play. The rest of the songs sort of waver between okay, good and not that great, except for The Ministry of Lost Souls. This is the kind of song Dream Theater need to be writing; long, technical, multiple long solos and non-conventional structuring. It's one of my favorite Dream Theater songs and definitely the strongest on the whole album. There's a few interesting moments here and there, such as the Opeth-like psychedelic rocker Repentance, which is a good relaxing song and something of a throwback to the psychedelic/trippy feel of 70s progressive rock. Other than that though, the songs are just not that great. The solos are all cool, the band is in top form and James LaBrie sounds terrific, but the songs just don't pack any real punch.

I don't hate this album and I listen to it fairly often, but my selection of songs on it is pretty thin. When the band tries to sound heavy and metallic, like on Constant Motion and The Dark Eternal Night, it just plain old doesn't work. However, the softer songs like Repentance and the more typical Dream Theater songs like the opener and The Ministry of Lost Souls really let the band shine. This isn't a bad album, it just lacks some of the fire that other Dream Theater albums have. Thankfully the slight slump in songwriting isn't an ongoing problem, as the latest album has shown.

In conclusion, Systematic Chaos has a couple of good Dream Theater songs and a couple of not so good songs. Don't expect to be blown away by this album but don't expect a total failure. I'd recommend buying a couple song off of iTunes or whatever service you use, and leave the rest alone.