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Before I begin, I'd like to come clean: I have zero experience with Dream Theater's music. I've never sat through one of their albums prior to the preparation for this review, and I've wiped my slate clean of all expectations. I have heard of this album as being heavier than past albums by the band, but that is ultimately meaningless because I don't know what is deemed as being 'heavy' for this band. Aside from this I've also heard of the usual critiques of this band - 'they wank and James LaBrie sounds awful' says the detractors and 'they're progressive and visionary' says the fans - so I genuinely had no idea what to expect.
Unpacking the performances reveals that Dream Theater had a pretty clear train of thought when writing this album - the words 'progressive' and 'metal' are quite blatant misnomers, and the character of the riffs and especially the vocals puts me in mind of that breed of alternative/nu-metal that was quite prevalent in the world of rock back in the early to mid '00s. The idea that this album is in any way heavy is a purely aesthetic observation - the guitars on this album largely play very little of substance, opting instead for hypnotic and repetitive 2 to 3 note fragmented riffs mixed up with the occasional groove and some outright chugs that are about as far removed from any sort of metal as is possible. Any heaviness comes through only in the muddy mallcore guitar tone, as opposed to any quality riffing.
As the album unfolds a clear pattern emerges in the instruments - repetitive and worthless instrumental sections with some really blatant window dressing thrown in. Said dressing can range from very short melodic leads between chugs to short drum solos to lengthy leads. To be fair, no single song contains one very large reservoir of wank, with it being spread fairly evenly throughout - however this comes with the caveat of 'Stream of Consciousness', an 11 minute misdirected abortion which is far less than the sum of its parts. Any technical chops exhibited throughout this album is utterly negated by the incoherent non-arrangement and misdirection of said chops. Even more obvious bouts of compensation come about with the usage of keyboards, which simply follow what the guitars are doing and are never given a chance to soar at all. I suppose the effect was to layer the music and give it an air of grandiosity but it falls flat given the utterly comical and broken nature of what is playing beneath them.
Given enough time, a very clear songwriting trend beyond the hopelessly rigid and over-extended verse-hook framework becomes evident, and that is a tendency towards vocal orientation. There is clear pattern of the redundant faeces being played when James LaBrie keeps quiet being thrown out for a tuneless atmospheric interlude as in 'As I Am' or totally boring and uninvolved mechanical chugs that are as redundant as can be, with the rhythm either complementing the vocal line above or, as 'Honor Thy Father' demonstrates, deliberately being syncopated to give a quasi-rap cadence to LaBrie's singing. All of this would be fine if the void left by the instruments could be filled with something compelling but this isn't the case, given that James appears to have listened to one too many Creed albums. His voice has taken on that slightly gravelly radio-rock tone that is both completely inappropriate given that the music has more in common with nu metal than it does any sort of post-grunge drivel that steeped the airwaves of the time, and grating given that he sounds awful anyway. His voice suffers from that same vaguely tuneless and whiny tone that is common in this style of music, and the similarly anti-melodic vocal lines only compound this problem. The surprisingly hook-y nature of this album (with a lame radio rock hook being shoehorned into every song) makes this problem even worse than it needs to be, along with the needless electronic distortion done to his voice on songs like 'This Dying Soul'.
The worst thing about this album though is simply that it carries almost no structural intrigue with it at all. The number of times the band will repeat a riff throughout a song is quite astounding. Individual sections of songs are never developed at all, and every monolithic chunk of the song doesn't flow into the next part. A random atmospheric part will follow a loud hook, which will then be followed by a fit of directionless soloing which leads into another revolting quiet verse. The songs are simply far too long given that they carry so few ideas, and even fewer of quality. Every song rigidly adheres to a distinctly stagnant structure, which is the exact opposite of what progressive metal should be - a series of flowing ideas that are dwelled upon for long enough and developed in said time. This idea that this is somehow an experimental return to form is completely nonsensical. Even though I've never heard another album by this outfit I refuse to believe that they ever wrote drivel like this before this album. There is almost nothing of worth here, with any good bits being negated by bad parts and all of it being wrapped up in structures that are simplistic, lazy and overly dogmatic yet completely incoherent. It is simply a tragic misfire that is unworthy of a name like Dream Theater's and should be left for those drones who worship Iowa but wish to make believe as a thinking man.
Let's face it, Dream Theater has always been a metal band, but with such a heavy emphasis on progressive elements such as melody changes, unconventional song structures going beyond the verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula, and their extended and intricate instrumental sections and solos, the heavy riffing and drumming has just always served as a building block and base to build their sound on. And yet they've been known to go heavy on songs such as Lie, The Mirror, Caught in a Web, Home, and The Glass Prison on their previous albums and positive fan reaction at concerts to these songs inspired the undertaking known as Train of Thought. It is this album that Dream Theater reminds us that they are technically a metal band, but, much like later releases such as Octavarium, it has forever polarized and divided their fanbase. Some applauded the new direction while others complained of the band going "commercial." But really, with the exception of cranking up the heaviness and intensity, all of the progressive elements that made Dream Theater what they are are still present, making this one of the best they've ever released.
Opening track As I Am picks up right where Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence left off, beginning with the same symphonic keyboard note that Losing Time/Grand Finale ended on. But then a low and foreboding guitar chord is heard, and you know things are about to get heavy. As I Am really helps set the stage for what this album will be. Although there aren't really any melody changes, the skillful instrumentation is in no ways lost and John Petrucci delivers a solo that will make shred fans cheer. The lyrics are somewhat simpler and more straightforward for this song, as well as the rest of the album, than the band has been known for, but often times it really helps get the point across rather than trying to over-rely on metaphors and symbolism, something the band had struggled with in the past. The theme of the album is truly what the title implies, as most of the songs flow almost seamlessly into each other. Right as As I Am ends, This Dying Soul (the second part of the Twelve-Step Suite) begins. Easily the heaviest, fastest, and most intense song on the album, the track features frantic double-bass drumming by Portnoy and heavily riff layering from Petrucci and John Myung giving it a deep and booming feel. But there is no lack of progression, as the song is chock full of melody and time changes, solos, and even a reprisal of the Glass Prison. LaBrie also exhibits his range, interchanging soaring and melodic vocals with distorted quasi-rapping. Like the transition from the previous song, This Dying Soul goes right into Endless Sacrifice, which features a nice soft/loud dynamic in the verses and chorus and features an extended solo section in the middle with some of Jordan Rudess' finest keyboard work. It's elements like these as well as in This Dying Soul that show the band can keep some familiarity with their instrumentation and solos while experimenting with heavier sounds.
Starting with a mind-blowing drum fill by Portnoy, Honor Thy Father is perhaps the most controversial song on the album. Many fans have long complained that LaBrie's rapped-like aggressive vocals in the verses make the song (gasp!) "mallcore" or "nu metal." With the exception of LaBrie's vocal delivery as well as more simplistic lyrics (the song is basically an "I hate you" to Mike Portnoy's step-father) Honor Thy Father continues the trend of this album: traditional Dream Theater progression with heavier riffs and faster drumming. The song also features a soundbyte montage, an occasional Dream Theater characteristic not heard since Space-Dye Vest on Awake. The heaviness comes to a screeching halt in the next song though, Vacant. Clocking in at under three minutes, it is a melancholic symphonic and orchestral-sounding ballad about James LaBrie's daughter who fell into a brief coma from suffering a seizure. Similar to Wait for Sleep serving as interlude to Learning to Live on Images and Words, Vacant seemingly serves as an interlude to the instrumental Stream of Consciousness. Dream Theater has been known for their knack for instrumentals, but Stream of Consciousness is in all likelihood their best effort, even beating out favorites such as Overture: 1928 and the much-revered The Dance of Eternity. Featuring a fairly consistent mid-paced melody, the song also features numerous masterful guitar and keyboard solos (being the longest instrumental there's time for plenty) and MIke Portnoy's constant time changes and drum fills has led Stream of Consciousness to be considered as his crowning performance. The final track is In the Name of God, an over-fourteen minute epic. The band goes all out with a heavy-yet somber sound in a song denouncing Muslim extremists that picks up in emotion and desperation to the very end, which features a nice background rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", ending with a low piano note that begins the opening track on the next album, Octavarium.
Train of Thought will probably never be as universally accepted as albums such as Images and Words, Awake, or Scenes from a Memory, but without a doubt this album is one of Dream Theater's most stacked and consistent efforts. James LaBrie still impresses with soaring melodic vocals interchanged with aggressive rasps, John Petrucci is still capable of a masterful shred solo, John Myung's basslines increase the intensity of the riffs, and Mike Portnoy switches off double bass pedalling with crazy fills. While some will continue to complain about the album's emphasis on a heavier metal sound, none of the instrumentation, melody, or emotion you would expect from a Dream Theater album is lost. Rather, everything is still there and that normal base metal sound is just turned up a few notches.
Dream Theater have always been known as a band that likes to try out something new. I liked the calm progressive rock of the early days as much as the previous conceptual progressive metal epics. "Train of thought" continues the line of this diversity of styles and is an album that surprises with a very dark atmosphere, a very modern and clinical sound, some really heavy riffs that create a pendulum between pure Thrash Metal and the so-called Nu Metal and from fast rapping parts to sweet and calm cello interludes that are dominated by some keyboards, we get a lot of new things with this record. Purist and traditional metalheads beware, the band uses evil "modern" influences and "untrue" styles and has decided not to do an "Awake II" or "Metropolis Part III". And while many closed minded people will largely discuss about what happened to the band and how they could have ever done such a record, I appreciate the band's courage and I am truly happy to see and hear that they are still trying out something new and trfying to truly progress and innovate their genre where other bands of their kind like "Symphony X" or "Spock's Beard" deliver very solid albums without a doubt but somehow the usual material for the usual masses. With "Train of thought" Dream Theater take the risk to lose some old fans but get also the possibility to attract some new fans, especially younger persons that listen to commercial Nu Metal or fans of harder metal genres that always thought that the band was too soft. But in a fascinating way, the album doesn't sound as if the band had tried at all costs to please to those people or to follow a trend, it all sounds very natural and certainly fresh.
And while there are some electronical sound samples, some rap passages, some more vocal passages by Mike Portnoy and some heavy and straight riffs, the traditional fans may be happy to hear that this album still delivers us some excellent guitar solos ("Honour thy father"), some very calm and epic moments where James LaBrie creates magic moments with his soft voice surrounded by the keyboards ("Vacant") and some exotic elements and addicting melodies where every contributing instrument is extremely well executed ("In the name of god"). There are a lot of new elements but the band doesn't quite forget its roots and combines both influences. The more you listen over and over again to the songs, the more gems and surprises you discover such as the mumbles on "Honour thy father" that are taken from two movies or the famous morse code and parts of the American civil war hymn on the diversified masterpiece "In the name of god". Every single song on this record keeps some very emotional and addicting instrumental passages and there is no single filler on the record. The only slightly negative point that I can find is that some songs could have been cutten down a few minutes for example the solos or the outro on "Endless sacrifice" or the repeating parts in the stunning instrumental "Stream of consciounceness" that unites experimental passages with a catchy main riff.
With a liitle bit more consistence and concentration, this album could have been the best one in the band's discography because it is courageous, fresh and still addicting and combines a new sound to the typical trademarks in a very open-minded way. I would only put the very diversified killer album "Black clouds and silver linings" above this one. But progressive rock or metal fans should be warned and give this album a try before they buy it because the usually quite soft and traditional band sounds very modern and heavy on this album and reminds us rather of Mudvayne or Korn than of Rush and Iron Maiden. This is an album for open-minded friends of dark and proggy heaviness.
Any artist or band playing any kind of music, metal or not, that's progressive in the sense that it's not revolutionary but focuses on altering time, key, and other aspects of theory within individual pieces of music, is an acquired taste. Very few people find themselves getting into progressive metal from the outright. Often times it can take people a rather long time to get into such bands. For me, I was one of these people and Dream Theater was no exception. I admired the band's individual members for their prowess, but in a time when I was saw caught up in the heaviness of metal, I didn't have patience to hear Dream Theater's progressive brand of metal. But after listening to one album, things really began to click for me when it came to liking Dream Theater. That album was the album that divided the Dream Theater fan-base and has drawn more criticism then any other of their albums. That album was Train of Thought.
Without Train of Thought there was no way I would be into Dream Theater. While I have since moved onto more bands in the progressive metal genre and acquired other Dream Theater albums that are not as easy to get into, Train of Thought it still one of my favorite albums by any band out there. The combination of extreme instrumental proficiency and progressive but not overly technical song structures still draws me to this album time and time again. Despite the fact that I don't think this is the best Dream Theater album ever, I do think that Train of Thought is an album that needs to be taken as it is; a simpler (by Dream Theater standards) album that shows a decent amount of experimentation by a band that was clearly trying to push the boundaries of their comfort zone.
The album starts off with As I Am. Right from the beginning, after a dreamy sounding brief keyboard intro, it gets into some seriously bass heavy stuff before emerging into one of the darkest and heaviest Dream Theater riffs I've heard in awhile. Then when the main beat starts up, it asserts Dream Theater's presence before promptly moving on to the lyrical content. The lyrics of this song strike me out, as it was almost like the band predicting how this album would sound to a portion of their fanbase. How ironic. Either way, the song is just the proper length and is composed great. Each transition flows into the other nearly seamlessly, each part catches your ear, and does not feel like seven minute forty eight second song in the least. That to me is huge. One thing I've always appreciated about Dream Theater is their ability to make long sounds not sound so long, and on Train of Thought they do that practically better then any other album out there.
However, the album directs a lot of derisive criticism from Dream Theater fans who didn't like the band tried to do something differently. Particularly, more then any other member, most of this criticism is directed at vocalist James Labrie. Now to get it straight, I've never been a huge fan of Labrie. The guy is an acquired taste, and I think that there are better progressive metal vocalists out there then him, but I don't mind his performance on each Dream Theater album. However, Labrie is frequently accused on this album of committing a cardinal sin in heavy metal. If I could stand as an attorney in the heavy metal court in his defense for a moment, James Labrie has been accused by Dream Theater fans for rapping. This could not be farther from the truth. The guy simply sings fast while with a rhythm. I mean serioulsy, is it such a crime that he tries to sing with a rhythm? Is it so bad that for once he tries to sing fast? Honestly no. If he had sang slow on songs where he's accused of rapping, he would've sounded sappy, over dramatic, and generally boring. I mean seriously, you can't tell me that Honor Thy Father would have sounded good if he used any of his traditional vocal patterns, or that the fast part in This Dying Soul would've sounded good doing that instead of the way he sings. That's just not true. While the distortion of those vocals in This Dying Soul makes no sense to me whatsoever and I think it was a failed attempt to cover up the fact that Labrie has a hard time singing "aggressively". To me, Labrie has some of the catchiest vocal patterns anywhere in Dream Theater's catalog. For me, someone who's not really a fan of his voice, this makes listening to these songs a lot easier and actually sort of makes him sound better then normal.
This rapping and the next issue present have led to Dream Theater being accused of playing mallcore throughout the album. The next accusation stems that guitarist John Petrucci's riffs were simply not technical enough and too dumbed down. Well yes, they are simple but these riffs wouldn't work for real mallcore and they are not totally basic. Just because he's playing simple riffs doesn't mean that John's lost any least bit of technicality. The time and key changes he works through on Train of Thought are as impressive as ever, and the guy can still shred his tail off. In fact, this album has some of those most technical and accomplished guitar solos he's ever done on Dream Theater songs. I mean, I knew John could shred from watching his instructional video, but my oh my he takes it to a new level here. As stated before, he does adopt some new guitar techniques here to complement his strengths, most notably sweep picking. His sweeps on the solos of songs like Endless Sacrifice and In the Name of God sound great, and his guitar work is as ripping as ever.
The other members perform very well. John Myung's bass, ever present under the guitars, keyboards, and drums provides a much necessary bottom and end is as technical and innovative as ever. This is arguably Dream Theater's most bass heavy album, and while there are not any real bass solos on this album, you can tell that Myung provides a huge dimension to Dream Theater's sound that was crucial to these songs sounding so heavy. Mike Portnoy's as proficient as ever on the drums, using all sorts of crazy beats and making good use of both his hands and his feet. Though he isn't incredibly fast, his beats are very well used on this album. Great job by the original Dream Theater drum master.
Here though is where things fall off significantly. Jordan Ruddess's keys are actually rather pushed back on this album. The keys and synths are there but they are not used in songs as much as they are in soloing. One problem I do have with this album is that I feel Jordan did not put on a good performance keyboard wise unless he was in a soloing duel with Petrucci. Most of the synth sounds on Train of Thought just don't sound good at all, being basically simple pop synths and hardly being used in the songs outside of soloing. It is this work that I feel like Ruddess really falls off, as I feel like he should've tried to do more then simply match Petrucci solo for solo.
The other area to me that the band doesn't perform well in is lyrics. This is the one part of the criticism that I will side with when people said the band sounded like they were a bit mallcore-ish. The lyrics are for the most part covering typical introspective, Dream Theater like topics, but the content is painfully sub-par. This is kind of kicked off right from the beginning with As I Am, where (as stated above) the band asserts itself on the album to it's fans. Good assertion, but it just sounds so weak, especially when James Labrie places emphasis on saying "fuck". That's just lame. While I love the premise of Honor Thy Father and I think it's a rather catchy song, the lyrics are totally weak and sound like an angsty teenager in a creative writing class wrote them. Endless Sacrifice sounds like the lyrics were written by Creed or another alt rock band. Vacant is a totally useless filler track with equally useless lyrics. In the Name of God has lyrics that just don't make sense and while I kind of understand what Dream Theater was getting at (the song is about religious extremism and those who try to use religion as an excuse to commit terrorism), they just sound disjointed and weak throughout. Petrucci and Portnoy really didn't do well in the lyrical department on Train of Thought.
The production of Train of Thought was really well done. I love the way every instrument on this album can be heard without one overpowering one in the least. The guitars sound like guitars and are not swooshy sounding at all, just like how I like them. The solo tone is especially good, with every note sounding crisp and clear and Petrucci's shredding wailing like I've never even heard. John Myung's bass is ever present without the need for separate sections or an excessively ringing tone. Mike's percussion sounds completely equalized, and I especially liked his snare sound on the album and how how the cymbals sound so free and cut through the mix just right. Ruddess's keys can be heard throughout, even if his laid back role means you won't hear them as much as others. Labrie's vocals got a great treatment and sound perfect.
Train of Thought may be the most divisive album in Dream Theater's entire catalog, but it's a good album in the grand scheme of music and should be the first place anyone trying to get to the band should go to. Dream Theater tried to evolve and explore newer territories of aggression and emotion on this album, and it should be seen by the listener and deserves some appreciation. In the end, this is an album the listener just needs to one thing for. Take it as it is.
In 2003, Dream Theater may have been going through a bit of an identity crisis; of course, this album gets badgered and dismissed as DT trying to sound like Metallica. I disagree. Stuff like this happens with many bands; how many times have we seen it with Rush? First they were hard rock, then had a (wonderful) prog stint and then got commercialized in the 80's. Same thing happened with Judas Priest; they were a major player back in the 70's singing about death metaphors and spirits before the 80’s came around which more people are familiar with, when they were about "rocking" and driving fast cars and breaking laws (pun intended). If they can do it without taking shit, why can't Dream Theater? It had to happen sometime, and 2003 would be that year.
Let’s get to the pros first: since this is basically their heaviest record, the musicianship on here is among the best they have had put out; they did not disappoint. Furious fretwork by Petrucci and jaw-dropping solos coupled with mind-blowing drumming provided by Mike Portnoy fuel this metal machine like diesel. Songs are long, complex and fairly well-written. Better than some of their later material, that’s for sure. One half-ballad, Endless Sacrifice, and another, Vacant (like “Wait for Sleep” from Images and Words) serves to give you taste of what the next track holds. I like that they did this, and really had no complaints.
ToT was the first DT album I bought at the recommendation of a friend and liked it a lot actually. This was the album that got me into them. Then I started reading what other people thought about it. "This Dying Soul sucks because of rapping" “They don’t pull off the heaviness well” etc. I disagree with these claims; I had no problem with the so called “rapping” during “This Dying Soul”, nor did I feel the lyrics of this album were juvenile, as I heard one nay-sayer claim. It does however feature a rather weak closer, “In the Name of God”, I like its’ chorus though. It’s a good song on its own, but as a closer it fails to capture the epic feeling of “Learning to Live, “The Count of Tuscany” and (my favorite) “Octavarium” in comparison.
The production sounds great, however Jordan Rudess basically takes a backseat, and Myung’s bass also seems absent, since (wanting to be like Metallica apparently) it seems like the wanted only minimal keyboard work this time, and just cut bass guitar out almost altogether. Luckily they would finally be utilized in when recording Octavarium. LaBrie also does not pull of wanting to sound “hard” very well. It’s already been established that he is best at hitting high notes. Sounding like James Hetfield or some other thrash metal singer is not his expertise. But it doesn’t really bring the album down all that much thankfully. And I’ve heard all kinds of mixed opinions about its instrumental Stream of Consciousness, but I think it’s a very good one, it is also the song which has the most use of keyboards. It has a nice sense of progression to it too. But I still believe Erotomania is their best one.
All in all, this is actually a decent album and worth a buy if you can get over the underused keyboards and LaBrie’s poor attempt to sound heavier than he should be in most songs. Standouts include “This Dying Soul” “Honor Thy Father” and “Stream of Consciousness”.
Subject to much controversy amongst both the metal scene and Dream Theater's fans, Train of Thought is often seen as the bastard-child of the DT discography. In some ways that statement bears true as this is their most visceral and heavy affair, vastly different to any release in their discography. Leading me nicely into why this album is both maligned and revered the world over. Due to its much heavier sound than previous releases, use of more conventional vocal lines and the largely offending "rap" moment press and fan-boys alike spat Nu-Metal accusations left right and centre. The true fans as well as the more open-minded of us praised this for both its artistic merit, and the bold step into new horizons. However from a marketing stand-point the controversy surrounding this release would result in a quality PR plan, driving Dream Theater's music into the masses of Disturbed T-shirt-spiked hair-nail varnish wearing-posers (Trust me I witnessed it first hand). Which ultimately gained them a host of fans – of course in turn this dissuaded the posers from the tripe dominating their MP3 players, turning them onto real metal acts.
Initially I was scared away from the middle era Dream Theater albums, due to conflicting reviews, cries of selling out and that common assumption that these guys hide behind lengthy instrumentals, and virtuoso musicianship to cover up the fact they no longer bear any song-writing credibility. Now I'll be the first to admit that throughout the years these guys have made some rough choices, the odd bad approach has been taken, and of course some things just don't gel. However it's the plain and simple fact that these guys take those kinds of risks with each and every release in pursuit of diversity and creativity. The Dream Theater back catalogue is a formidable collection of tracks tailored to appease any audience they may face.
As previously stated Train of Thought is Dream Theater's most metal release to date, a release that in my eyes worked a treat. From the ominous intro to "As I Am" we're treated once again to a darker sound from these guys, John Petrucci's guitar tone is sublime, complementing the down-tuning of his guitar – never becoming too sludgy. Probably the most accessible track these guys recorded since "Pull Me Under", "As I Am" quickly became a fan favorite –especially amongst the more metal-inclined fans. Next up is the biggest offender with the naysayers, a continuation of Mike Portnoy's alcoholics anonymous suite, the sublime "This Dying Soul" raging through the speakers with stupendous guitar solos and Portnoy's ever identifiable drum-work. Obviously it's not until further into the track where we see what had fans spitting their tea over their computer screens, the much maligned "rap" part. Honestly it's really not that bad; if you can let Daniel Gildenlöw get with staccato vocals I'm sure you can forgive LaBrie. Another point worth noting is the nods to the first part of the suite "The Glass Prison" where you can hear some of the riffs (something that would continue through consecutive releases). A personal highpoint of the release is the stunning "Honor Thy Father" certainly one of their finer cuts to date – an unforgiving romp with superior arrangement.
"Vacant" serves up a short ballad - just how they should be, quick and painless. Leading into the final part of the album, the lengthy instrumental "Stream Of Consciousness" which despite its enormous length still proves an entertaining listen and album closer "In The Name of God" - a damn cool track, displaying the finer vocal work and arrangements on Train of Thought. The biggest issue I have with this release is that it's lacking in the keyboards department, something I've always deemed a high point in my Dream Theater listening. However the moody piano work is very suitable, helping to further the dark soundscape across the release. Strictly speaking I find it hard to see much wrong with Train of Thought. The Nu Metal accusations reek of bullshit, this is 100% metal albeit with a slight modern twist to it. I commend DT for this release, an essential release in a back catalogue full of essential releases. Dream Theater never fails to please – just some albums please more than others. Train of Thought is a very good release that should be embraced without allegations and expectations.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
I will start by immediately clarifying that I am NOT a Dream Theater fan and, in fact, Train of Thought is their only album I really enjoy. There are songs here and there from other albums that I find myself liking, but none consistently like this one. What's more, I have little respect for the band as artists or as people. While they of course do exhibit extraordinary technical ability, I think they suck as songwriters and put no emotion into anything they do. They are also a bunch of pretentious fucks who think they are better than everyone else when they are horrifically wrong. I am willing to put all of that behind me, though, as I do enjoy Train of Thought a good bit.
Train of Thought seems to be what happened when the robot that is Dream Theater attempted to show emotion. On the upside, this resulted in them performing some very cool music, but on the downside, just like a robot, it feels very false as if they had never actually heard emotional music but had read about it and thought 'shit, I can do that.' I get the feeling that after having written this album, the band thought that they had really accomplished a career milestone and done something new and different while really all they did was play their usual progressive metal, just heavier.
The place that this is most evident is right on the first track, As I Am. If it didn't have such a long-ass intro pushing it to the 7-minute mark, this song could be considered a fairly 'normal' metal song (god knows DT probably slapped the intro on just so that it WOULDN'T be a normal metal song.) It's got a fairly easy structure of verses, choruses, and solo, and the lyrics and vocal performance are the kind you'd expect out of a metal song. It's a 'single' you could say, with the DT twist on it. However, it absolutely reeks of trying too hard, especially in the vocal department. The vocalist does all that he can to sound tough and fails miserably while spouting bullshit horrible lyrics like a fucking Trivium album. The song isn't bad, and it's still fun, and you still may even sing along, but you'll do so knowing just how forced it feels. While the rest of the album immediately goes into total what-the-fuck songwriting structure, the forced emotion is ever-present.
Before I even continue, though, I'm going to bring up This Dying Soul and the album's two and a half minute little insert, Vacant. Neither of these songs is, in my opinion, worth getting into. Vacant just because it's a tiny ballad thrown onto the album for no immediately evident reason. This Dying Soul because it is practically filler. It's a little bit of all the things that happen on the album, and none of it stands out here. A lot of people call this the best song on the album, but I really don't know why. The end of it and the beginning mean nothing in correlation to each other - it's just eleven minutes of who-gives-a-shit. The remaining tracks each deserve their own mentioning.
Endless Sacrifice is a 7-minute guitar solo disguised as an 11-minute song. It quite literally is a soft ballad for five minutes, and then a much more heavy and energetic guitar solo for the next seven minutes. The five minute 'intro' as I'd like to call it could be done without. It's too long for being the intro that it is and it's quite fucking boring. If it had been maybe two minutes long it would have been fine, though still hard to care about, but as it stands, there's no reason not to just skip to the guitar solo. This is, in fact, the best guitar solo on the album in my opinion. It doesn't necessarily make much sense, as Dream Theater solos are usually just an experiment to see how many time signature changes the guitarists and keyboardist can play while drums go batshit nuts. However, this solo is fun and just works plus has some 'just for the hell of it' noises thrown in that I can't really bitch about. The song also has a pretty great climax that is always a little surprising when the other lyrics in the song were so shitty.
Honor Thy Father is easily my favorite song on the album and the most (see: only) consistent one. The song is heavy, visceral, angry, and just quite damn good. For once, it actually feels at all times like you really are listening to the same song. Being ten minutes long (as usual) there are parts that aren't as good as others (the verses, mostly) but most of it works pretty well. Like in As I Am, there is some real bullshit attempt at emotional vocals, but it works a little better this time with the mix with regular singing and some almost hilarious but fun lyrics (how do you even sleep a wink at night pretending that everything is alright and have the balls to blame this shit on me?) The real money here, though, is the guitar/keyboard solo/musical interlude/whatever the fuck it is in which a whole lot of movie quotes are dubbed over the music at varying volumes and left-right justifications while the riffs become more and more intense and dramatic. It's the best experimental bit the album over and very memorable. Easily the album highlight.
Stream of Consciousness is, in my opinion, a 12-minute shit. It's an instrumental bit that is something akin to five guys standing in a circle over a recording device and just masturbating. It's a giant-ass guitar solo completely lacking in attractiveness - unemotional, unmemorable, not fun to listen to, and without purpose. When this song ends, I usually don't even realize it had began. Is it insanely technical? Oh you fucking bet. Do the band members probably think it's the greatest thing ever and listen to it while having sex? Very likely. It's still shit, though.
In the Name of God, the 14-minute album closer, is another one of the band's 'attempts', this time to make something only describable as epic. Hilariously, this is done by having a completely gaudy and rediculous climax at only five minutes into the song which is repeated at the end of the song only longer and five times more gaudy. In between these is some more prog-sperimental shit that actually does work for the most part. It's easy to loose track of this song in it's crazy length and many tempo changes, but it's at least a lot of fun and the ending, in all it's gaudiness, is quite memorable. As far as 14-minute epics go, it's no And Then There Was Silence, but it's still good.
All in all, Train of Thought is fun even though it is so blatantly trying too hard - in fact that may be part of the fun itself. It's a shame that Dream Theater hasn't failed an attempt to escape it's comfort zone again and probably won't in this fashion ever, but then I really don't need two albums like this one. It may not be enough to put Dream Theater on my list of favorite bands, but it's always been one of the albums I consider amongst those I enjoy.
I cannot believe what I am reading right now. Train of Thought is DT selling out to mallcore/nu metal? Has the metal scene really gone up it’s ass with closed mindedness and apprehension that much. This is probably Dream Theater’s heaviest album yet. It has their best written songs of their career, their most technical musicianship and the heaviest of their sound combined. In my opinion that makes for their best album of their career. I will go into more detail on why this is not a sellout later, but let me start with the goods.
An album is nothing without songwriting, and honestly these are Dream Theaters best written songs of their whole career. Dream Theater is a band that is frequently knocked for being “all about technicality” and various other criticisms along the same lines, and most of the time I am quick to come to their defense. Dream Theater, despite having extended instrumental sections, rarely go completely up their ass with the “we’re so technical” thing, and this is especially true on Train of Thought. Obviously the 10 minute plus songs all have these sections, but they actually fit the flow of the song very well and are not just random “wanking”, as many Dream Theater detractors dub it (which isn’t even the technical definition of “wanking” in musical terms). The main riffs in the verses and choruses here are all very well done, whoever said that “on this album there are no actual riffs they just play power chords” are obviously not listening hard enough. These are some of Dream Theater’s most technical riffs of their career, but masked well under melodic song craft. Listen for example to the verse riff of “As I Am”. Upon first inspection it may be overrun by James LaBrie’s relatively simpler, driving vocal line, but when you inspect it, it actually contains some very quickly played 16th notes and triplets, balanced out with chords, plus a shifting time signature. When the band does do a simple riff, however (like the “breakdown” section of “Honor Thy Father”), it completely proves wrong all of their detractors who say they have no sense of songwriting, because they place in simpler but more crushing and brutal riffs simply for the purpose that it better fits the emotion of the lyrics. DT knows where to be real and underplay some of their technicality when they have to, and anyone who claims to the contrary has obviously never really listened to Dream Theater.
The bands musicianship is also truly at their best, more varied and more melodic than anywhere else in their career while also being even more technical. John Petrucci’s solos actually get even more technical (he starts to use techniques like sweep picking, which he had not done much of in the past, a lot more) and ridiculously fast (“In The Name of God”) than before, but he always makes sure his solos have a melodic part that fits the song. Mike Portnoy’s drumming has never been better. The heavy music allows for him to really show off his double bass skills, and this combined with his known skill with odd times and crazy fills, proves to all of the haters that Portnoy could hold his own against any death/black metal drummer (the intro to “Honor Thy Father” reminds me more than anything of something Richard Christy would do in Death, Slipknot influences my ass). Jordan Ruddess starts to really explore his more creative side here, playing a lot of really disjointed and odd stuff, while remaining totally technical and it works well. John Myung is buried by everything else as usual, but when he does pop up (like in the bridge to “Honor Thy Father”) he plays very well and does more than mirror Petrucci’s guitar. James LaBrie continues to be the bands weak link, and really his somewhat half assed attempts at “aggressive” vocals are the main reason I take two points off this album. However there are moments where his vocals really shine more than ever previously (“Endless Sacrifice”) and he shows his true potential. When this full potential is realized, LaBrie transcends to become an unstoppable force as much as his band mates.
Onto the accusations of Train of Thought of being “nu metal” and a “sellout” and whatnot, I hate nu metal as much as the next guy. If Dream Theater had truly gone nu metal (which would truly apply if Petrucci’s had stopped playing solos, Ruddess began turntable scratching, the songs never deviated from 4/4 time and LaBrie utilized “wigger” style rap vocals at all times), then I would immediately decry them and call them a sellout. Seeing as the “simple riffs” part has already been disproved, I will go on to the accusations revolved around LaBrie’s occasional (truly it shows up very rarely) utilization of “rap” vocals. These rap vocals are not Fred Durst styled “yo fuck dat shit muthafuka up da hood g unit!” whatever. In fact, in the first of two rap vocal section, which occurs in “This Dying Soul” LaBrie simply speaks fast paced and actually quite aggressively, over a heavy and tense riff. This is yet another example of Dream Theater utilizing a technique simply because it works well with a song craft. If LaBrie had sung this part, it would have come out awful. That vocal style works better with that kind of tension. The other rap vocal section occurs in the first verse of “Honor Thy Father”, and if anything this is slightly more stylized, but once again, it is played over a simple, tense riff that would not work well with LaBrie’s regular vocal style. And even with this taken aside, Dream Theater is a “progressive” metal band, and what is “progressive” truly but the idea that a band can incorporate sounds and influences from many genres. Perhaps in today’s generation of Symphony X clones this virtue has been neglected, but regardless this technique is utilized twice throughout this very long album and it should not be made into nearly as big of a problem as it is.
In short, this album is absolutely incredible. Pay no attention to the detractors. This is the strongest work of Dream Theaters career, and while they have continued to make quality music, I doubt they will ever be able to outdo their magnum opus. This is recommended to all fans of progressive metal or even just any metal fan who wants to explore the more adventurous side of the music. Every single song is great, but in my opinion the strongest is “This Dying Soul”. If you don’t already own this, do yourself a favor and purchase it at once.
Final score: 98% (minus one for LaBrie’s more aggressive points being somewhat unconvincing and another for Vacant being a bit of a filler)
After years of "pulling off" albums that better all previous recordings (except probably for Falling Into Infinity), DT has once again surprised the world with another "different" release. It wouldn't be fair to say that this is their best work so far, but certainly the heaviest. After two excelent Concept albums, (the latter with non concept tracks on the first cd), this "change" into non-conceptual writting was probably where the band found their best options. Along with some clear heavyness and the obvious talent and some more experience, voilá, you have TRAIN OF THOUGHT!
On a general view, the album is pretty well balanced, not only because you "feel" their heavyness throughout (which isn't that common on a DT album), but mainly every song is as you'd expect, minimum 7 minutes long (no surprise there)...and that is the beauty of this album, is that you don't "feel" those 7 minutes. Its so well crafted between the melodies and the technique that you'll want some more at the end of each song.
The quintet have risen to another level and thanfully so, have created yet another album to be remembered.
A review on some of the tracks just to open up the appetite...
AS I AM:
Its a great opening once you get used to it, and it doesn't take many listens. It has a kind of catchy vibe with a riff that isn't particularly their most intricate nevertheless very intelligent. It starts with Myung performing some bass harmonics just before Portnoy presents his sounding kit (GREAT sounding kit) that will be with you for the next 70 minutes. So the Riff come in after this small intro and soon enough LaBrie's vocals join the party. He sounds better in this type of environment (heavy) that probably everyone ever thought. The song will have very few intricacies apart from some tempo changes with the riff + drums and the lyrics overlapping just before the second chorus, but that also shows that they needn't always show off immensely to bring you an awesome powerful riff that will have you headbanging in your living room.
The solo is probably the most memorable part on this first song as Petrucci uses is talent to good purpose giving clearly a bigger dimension to the song as it runs from one part of the song to its original riff, finishing off with portnoy's bashing away tempos and drum fills before LaBries last chorus is handed to him. The song finishes as the pace quickens and the guitar feedbacking at the end giving it a nice clearly touch, even if for a bit too long...
THIS DYING SOUL
A great drums intro and a few more intricacies are apparent on this song from the off, you'll hear some cymabally noises in between the drumming thunders , but those are Mr Rudess' intro contribution. It is followed by another magnificient guitar solo that melt with rudess' talent just before the riff comes in.
After that it all goes kinda quite when LaBries ventures to join. The chorus comes in bringing the same beautiful solo at the end of it. Then it all spees up on all fronts as the intro is recalled. It has some tempo variation into a kind of mini bridge before the chorus welcomes you again into the heart of the song. It is followed by some more tempo changes, a bit of Glass Prison fades in and out and it is all very composed up to ear, although you can find the vocals a bit monotonous in this song, but then the intrumental bit after makes up for the rest of it. Simply put you'll hear some of their nicest changes and technique on here. Variations from Rudess and Petrucci will have you glued to memorize all the solos (not that many) whilst Portnoy keeps you rhythmically entertained. It finishes off with some very intricate scale play by petrucci and Rudess some double bass to finalize.
The "Ballad" of the album, in a way...
It starts with a beautiful melody in an off 4/4 fingerpicking mode, with some great accompanying by Portnoy. The vocals come nicely into this melody and it grows slowly slowly into a powerfull chorus, faints of Pantera-Nevermore can be appreciated here, as it mellows back down into the body of the song.
As it reaches the 5th minute all DT fans will be loving this part as the bands most proficient elements come to life on an intro that is both led by rudess' skills and some great guitar. The tempos will change as expected and it mellows into a kind but not quite psychadelic groove only to lift off again by the keyboards and guitar slos taking leads from each other. Portnoy's ever present reating great rhythms on all the changes. The leads from Petrucci and Rudess with link for the end bit in a very positive finish. But there's more...oh yes, it carries on onto the main riff and some grreat double bass by Mike Portnoy during some catchy riffs from Petrucci leading it all back to the vocals in a perfect balanced manner. The songs finishes after this last vocals with the enhancement of the drums over a guitar riff.
HONOR THY FATHER
Again, the drums come into play exquisitely, but awesomely almost taking away your breath away. Joined by the guita riff in an off beat tempo only to link again in a 4/4 manner. Vocals come into play probably not in their best effort, but you'll get used to it as you get to know the song. It is the crudest song of the whole cd and probably the heaviest also. It has some good double bass and varied changes throughout. It comes to the middle, you'll find your rudess solos as well as petrucci contribution and at around the 8th minute the song and it iniciates cleverly into the beggining off beats (like the intro). LaBrie sing the remaining of the song as it mini explodes to its conclusion.
Is a beautiful song accompained by some violin orchestration. There's no drums on this track and James' voice kind of tunes nicely into the feel of it. Major work here by Rudess as he is clearly the leader of this song.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Led by the sound still of VACANT, this intrumental comes into life, probably the best intrumental they's done so far. Very complex at parts, very simplified in others, all in all, a song you won't get bored of even it being a 11 minute song plainly instrumental.
IN THE NAME OF GOD
An amazing eastern-esque type riff omes into play, you might find it catchy after some listens, but not a damaging catchy, much on the contrary. The drums come heavily into the song. It goes on for about a minute of changes up until the main riff comes along, very powerful riff in this song. Obviously the lyrics are a commanding force in this song, reminding one of THE GREAT DEBATE in the previous album. The song is very well balanced, very powerful with a mellowed down in tempo chorus. this will probably the song that James will find more difficulty when playing live due to the high notes. The instrumental parts of this song are also remarkable, very arabian like solos at some stage that goes really well with Rudess' keyboard playing near the 10th minute mark. The vacals come back into play for the last time on the album and it finishes of with a great outro inviting every band member and leaving Rudess to close with the last notes.
To finish off, I would say that this is amongst the best works the band has done so far, even though I believe that there is better to come. Whether you are a fan or not, this is an album that is heavy, powerfull, and brilliantly played. If you enjoy metal, you'll enjoy this.
When I first heard Dream Theater many years ago, I was amazed to say the least. I've owned a number of their releases and they are a regular listen in my MP3 player. When I heard that they were releasing a new album I was fairly excited, and when they mentioned in a few interviews that they were going for a more "dark" sound my interest was definitely mustered. To me, DT had always captured a very mellow, soundscape kind of atmosphere - the kind of music I would listen to to relax and marvel at true musicianship.
When I went to the store to purchase the album (#1 mistake of all CD purchases - hear before you buy!) I was a little confused as to why it had been reduced in price so much (about 30%) considering the store wasn't having a sale. After listening to it, I could see why.
Obviously the guys had been listening to large doses of nu-metal and Tool. I never really marveled at their lyrics, but these are just so banal;
"Takin’ in the view from the outside
Feeling like the underdog
Watching through the window I’m on the outside
Living like the underdog
I’ve been trying to justify you
In the end I will just defy you
To those who understand, I extend my hand"
(I've been trying to justify buying this album, heh.)
If I wanted to listen to mundane, inward, teenage angst lyrics I would listen to Mudknot. (One in the same really...) I mean, looking back at other DM releases the lyrics had a bit of thought in them, be they political/social/personal... but it seems as though this album is AIMING to appeal to 15-17 year olds who are going through that "I'm so angry at the world, by the way I'm a total individual and you can't change me ok!" mentality.
There is some hope in "This Dying Soul" with a bit of the old-styled soloing/keyboards but then it reverts to the mundane over distorted guitar. However at 2.15 into this song the guitar effect is EXACTLY the same that Mudvayne use. Then there's that annoying "radio distorted" voice. But the "best" is at 3.50 or so - obviously System of a Down kidnapped them all and made them create that annoying stop start guitar thing with that "radio" voice again. (AKA that Chop Suey mainstream single). GOD. Can I say overproduced or what?? Just listening to this CD again to write a review is pissing me off.
If you like Tool, you will like this.
If you like System of a Down, you will like this.
If you like Mudvayne, you will like this.
If you like any form of Nu Metal or Mallcore, you will like this.
Gone is the obvious Iron Maiden influence. Gone are the flowing melodies. Gone is the originality.
I've never really thought that James LaBrie is amazing. In fact it's the guitar work that makes me enjoy them so. But in this album, seriously, he goes for that "angry rap" that Nu-Metal unfortunately cultivated. And I hate to say this, he cannot angry rap to save himself.
Petrucci's guitar work has definitely spiraled. Don't get me wrong, there are the segments with super technical shredding and so forth, but the ongoing churning of power chords really makes this album slip. Plus, in the few moments when the melody isn't as bad as the rest of the album, the structure isn't really a change from their usual stuff. (In Endless Sacrifice, the intro sounds like it should be from the "Falling into Infinity" album. But that song too slides downwards with the chorus sounding as though it was ripped from Disturbed, seriously.)
Overall, this is probably the biggest disappointment I've had this year. Don't get me wrong, I secretly listen to a bit of Nu-Metal now and then, I enjoy its mindlessness. But Dream Theater shouldn't go for that sound, they can definitely achieve more (musically) than the Linkin Parks of this world. DT are one of those bands that I always thought would produce quality music without trying to please any particular audience. This album is the beginning of the end for Dream Theater.
R.I.P to good Dream Theater.
Dream Theater is one of the leading bands in the progressive metal scene, and up to this point, had released two very solid concept albums in the form of Scenes From A Memory and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Their newest album, Train Of Thought, rose my expectations even further. Unfortunately though, the wankery that a lot of people blame this band for indulging in has appeared to finally catch up with them.
Some people call this album a step into nu-metal for the band. The only "nu-metal" I can even remotely find on this album are some Disturbed-style harmonics in the chorus of Endless Sacrifice. They sound a little like the harmonics in "Down With The Sickness".
But the number one knock on this album is the length of the songs. Quite a few of them could be very well done being cut in half. Unlike their last album, the long instrumental breaks get very tedious, and actually rather annoying, and are not really in any way interesting. There's just too much of a reliance on keyboard work. I haven't been bothered by their wankery in a while, but this album is the exception to the rule. It's gotten out of hand. The aforementioned Endless Sacrifice and In The Name Of God have some very long keyboard sections and guitar solos that don't fit the songs very well in my opinion. The 4-minute instrumental break in Honor Thy Father is actually a strong point in the album, though. There is a very good guitar solo there and the riffing is strong.
I also don't like the idea that this is not a concept album, like their last two albums. The songs, being as long as they are as well as the lack of a story is why the wankery just gets in the way, and their's not a lot of flow to the album, making most of the songs boring. The concept is what really made 6 Degrees interesting, and made listening to the 42-plus-minute title track of that album very bearable and enjoyable. I couldn't find that here, though.
There are good points as well on this album. Petrucci's riffing in particular seems to be stronger than before. I still think they need a rhythm guitarist though. But he seems to handle riffing quite well. James LaBrie is still crystal-clear voiced, and his vocal performance on "Vacant" is quite good. The drumming, especially on "As I Am" shows that Portnoy is still on top of his game, and Jordan Rudess is still one of the best keyboardists in metal. "As I Am", "Honor Thy Father" and "Vacant" are all strong songs. Production is clear as usual, courtesy of Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci, who have been producing DT's albums since Scenes From A Memory. John Petrucci also gets a little more freedom to cut loose with his guitar work, which is also a good thing.
So overall, this release is average for the most part. The album is not bad per se, but I know this band is capable of more if they just focused on writing good songs, and cut it out with the useless meanderings that have finally caught up with them.
Never being one to disappoint, DREAM THEATER are back again with yet another colossal disc filled to the brim with epic mind rousing arrangements that are as memorable as they are lengthy (seven tracks at nearly seventy minutes). Before we proceed, though, let’s consider this… Musically, the word progressive in its true sense signifies both evolution and growth in ability as well as diverse, artistic expression by way of experience. As the leaders of the prog-metal scene, DREAM THEATER are out-and-out notorious for change and, with their latest metamorphosis, confirm that perpetual transformation is inevitable.
With an emphasis on heaviness, "Train Of Thought" continues along the similar lines of 2002’s opus, "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence". Seemingly drawing influence from the likes of MEGADETH, METALLICA, PANTERA, and TOOL, "Train Of Thought" is a grab bag of familiarity that DREAM THEATER has somehow renovated to sound fresh and their own. By no means does this imply that there is a lack of complexity or unworldly musicianship, it simply insinuates that this album is by far DREAM THEATER's edgiest record to date.
While thumbing through the pages of the booklet, you will observe that there are no photographs of the members and that everything is printed in black and white, making it evident that the band has certainly succeeded in what appears they were striving to achieve: A stripped, raw metal classic, where the music speaks for itself.
In addition, each lyric sheet is accompanied by enigmatic imagery that embodies what may be occurring in that specific song. Case in point, the Petrucci inscribed "Endless Sacrifice" features a photo of a man and a woman’s interlaced hands being forced apart by another set of hands and a crowd in the backdrop. This may represent that the constant responsibilities of a recording/touring musician is strenuous on a relationship. Like the music, these puzzles are open to your own observation.
Every last number on "Train Of Thought" is a winner and each element of performance is in top form... From John Petrucci’s thick rhythms and blazing solos or Mike Portnoy’s godly drum work to James Labrie’s flawless vocals, which are the highlight of his career, in my opinion. The most honorable mentions are the first single "As I Am", "This Dying Soul", which appears to be a sequel a previously released DT composition, the breathtaking instrumental "Stream Of Consciousness", and mentioned earlier, "Endless Sacrifice".
Here's your ticket, now buckle in and take a ride (or several) on the DREAM THEATER "Train Of Thought" before it runs over you. Either way, it's bound to be one amazing trip.
- Harley Carlson
Dream Theater's latest release Train of Thought, expands on the previous heaviness on tracks like The Glass Prison but maintains a more metallic, riff intense feel throughout most of the album complete with trademark Dream Theater sound. This album is sure to alienate a fair amount of their fanbase seeing as the compromised some of their progressive elements for a crunchy distorted feel with less guitar melodies. Simply put, its by far their most metallic release today.
James Labrie does an excellent complimenting the heavy sound of Dream Theater. Perhaps not his shining moment on vocals in this album, he needed to expand his vocal horizons with the bands newfound change into a metallic direction. Lyrically, Dream Theater are as good as ever I think! Most naysayers will just look out how this once extremely progressive uses heavy metal guitars as a basis for their sound. Mike Portnoy is smashing the drums excellently once again although his role on this album seems somewhat limited.
John Petrucci is still writing some ultra-technical virtuoso leads that only the truly elite musicians can play but at times they are too technical. I am not totally agreeing with people who say that his solo's on Train of Thought lacked any sort of feel but I still think at times his solo's went overboard. Still very memorable guitar solo's on this album. One thing that was kind of disappointing was the lack of usage of Dream Theater keyboardist on this album. They hadn't disappeared but werent used very much. It seems a crime not mention John Myung who writes some pretty good bass lines although for the most part he is washed out like most of their studio efforts.
This Dying Soul, one of the better tracks starts off with this heavy chugging riff and long yet very memorable guitar solo from John Petrucci. I'd say the end of the first solo is one of his best moments on this album. The metallic onslaught cools down on the verse and follows by an excellent dual guitar harmony and graceful vocals on the chorus of This Dying Soul. This song has continues with heavy chugging guitar riffs, memorable leads and excellent keyboard work.
Endless Sacrifice starts off with a great acoustic intro/verse reminiscent of A Change of Seasons with a nice intro guitar lead and builds in incredible soothing atmosphere complete with keyboards into a heavy, yet incredibly catchy chorus which I consider to be one of the better on the album. Continues with an excellent contrast of soothing soft verses, memorable chorus and then is followed by a heavier, more metallic interlude with flourishes of excellent keyboard work.
Honor Thy Father has James Labrie almost rapping in a verse, which actually turns out better than expected. Not the best track on this album but still very good. A little light on guitar leads but still filled with more heavy guitar interludes, catchy choruses, tasteful keyboards but manages to differentiate itself quite well from the previous songs on this album. Vacant is a short little interlude piano driven melody with Labrie's more passionate vocals on the album with some excellent cello fills included. Easily the most beautiful track on here and worth a listen. Stream of Consciousness is a well-crafted piece of instrumental work. It takes you on a progressive journey of excellence even more than the other tracks on this album. The contrast to a groovy bass in the middle is just awesome like the rest of the song. In The Name of God is an excellent way to end the album. The chorus and the closing of the song/album are definetly highlights of Train of Thought. By now you would have recognized DT’s new flare for tight metallic riffs accompanied with timely keyboards, amazing leads with an uncanny ability to create memorable moments in music. All in all, I expect this album to alienate some fans but I applaud Dream Theater for taking a new direction. Showing once again, they are masters at creating progressive music and not being afraid to take chances in the process.
Favorites : This Dying Soul, Endless Sacrifice, In The Name of God
Like a Borg cube, the "modern" sound of reliance on distortion and detuning instead of content, the acceptance of elements of grunge rock, mallcore, and pseudo-rap, and other nuances, have gone through the musical galaxy assimilating all kinds of things into its horrific, mechanical meaninglessness. Even Dream Theater, one of the shining stars of those who worship musical wankery -- which isn't necessarily bad -- has been infected.
For the most part, this is pretty much Dream Theater, and it hasn' degenerated into St. Anger or Opeth or anything. Their songs are still based on prog rock structures that extend well over 10 minutes, filled with timing changes, tons of solos from all instruments, soft interludes with keyboards, a few surprises, and what not. There's still plenty of wankery, but Dream Theater generally does it well. The lyrics are angsty, yet still reliant on Christian themes and aren't written in ebonics.
However, they've added a ton of "modern" elements into the mix. Train of Thought is believed to be "heavier" than other Dream Theater albums, but that's mostly because of the chunky mallcore guitar tone and other crap. Most of the songs are beyond repair. The first song borrows from maybe Alice in Chains and Load-era Metallica, and is mediocre at best. This Dying Soul is horrible, and is full of blatant chugga-chugga "get crunk" mallcore. In addition, there's rapping into crappy distorted vocals inbetween Petrucci's blazing solos other standard Dream Theater fare, which strike me as out of place. Come to think of it, it does sound like Maynard with the "I want to feel your body breaking" chorus.
Endless Sacrifice has plenty of shitty detuned groove, too but isn't as bad. Honor Thy Father goes from bad to worse with many of the same flaws prevalent throughout the other songs, including pseudo-rapping, and it sounds like something Korn would write if they ever got into prog-rock. Stream of Consciousness and In the Name of God are the only half-decent songs on here, but they're not much to write home about. When combined with the fact that most of these songs are really long, this album gets very grating.
I'm sorry, Dream Theater, but you're not angsty mallcore kids, you're 30-40 year Berklee graduates and a bunch of Christian pussies, to boot. Get back to what you do best and be yourselves, or be sentenced to death -- by guillotine!
I don't really know what Dream Theater was thinking with Train of Thought. They seemed to abandon their progressive metal influences and make an album laden with distorted, almost nu-metal like riffs. The songs for the most part are horribly long, and don't really need to be. The band more than likely could have cut down the length of each of the songs just a bit and squeezed a couple of more songs that they did instead of settling on only seven tracks.
As I Am, I don't see why this isn't a hit, its full of angst, distortion, and everything that nu-metal embodies, without really that much melody in LaBrie's vocals. I still really like this song, but I will probably become bored with it after consecutive listens, because there isn't really all the much special about it, except for the fact that at the end, Portnoy's drumming speed and signature time changes seem to have returned to form.
This Dying Soul is very promising. It could be a very nice song, except for one thing, Rapping from James LaBrie!! The chorus is pretty catchy and at times, the high range of LaBrie's voice sounds pretty nice. The guitar riff to this is rather progressive, until it gets to the rapping, then all of a sudden, it is a pure "chugga-chugga riff".
Endless Sacrifice, exactly the same as This Dying Soul, could be very promising, except for the fact that the guitar riffing is rather simplisitic. This in my opinion is actually one of the best song on this album though.
In The Name of God, a mediocre song that is stretched into 15 minutes. If it were only about 7 or 8, you'd still have the same effect.
Stream of Consciousness is an extremely catchy instrumental, and was probably written for Liquid Tension Experiement, because of its extreme length. If this song had lyrics, it would be the best on the album. There is very little distortion here, and a lot of guitar and bass complexity like Dream Theater has been known for in the past.
Honor Thy Father has mallcore written all over it. Just like the Great Debate, from the previous album, LaBrie's vocals begin to sound like Maynard's from Tool's, which is not exactly a good thing in my book, considering I rather enjoy LaBrie's high notes and falsetto. I usually just skip this track.
Vacant is a decent ballad, but also can get boring, and I usually skip this one too.
The reason that this album gets such a high rating is because hearing them live can help one appreciate them slighty more than if you were to just hear the album by itself. I believe that the last two Dream Theater albums have put them into a bit of a slump, and as paraphrased from the song As I Am, I hope they are still running up hill, and swimming against the current, and I wish that they won't be so fucked with future releases.
NOTE: I am reviewing a pirated version of the album. I am positive that this is the real thing and I fully intend to purchase the album when it is released tomorrow, as I advise you to do as well.
Well, here we are: the newest release from Dream Theater! Like many, Iwas eagerly awaiting its release for many months, and finally, here it is. I was so excited to hear it, that the second I burned it I retreated to my room and blasted it at full volume.
"What the FUCK is this?! RAPPING?!!" was my initial reaction. And indeed, a horrible revelation was bestowed unto me: our favorite prog vocalist, James LaBrie, actually RAPS at one point on the album. No, I am not kidding. Believe me, I wish to God I was. But it's true. And not only that, the first song, As I Am, is, in fact, PSEUDO-MALLCORE. Jesus Christ, what has happened to this band?
As I soon found out, they are still alive and well. Despite the brief moments of St. Anger influence, we find that there is much influence drawn from earlier albums like Awake. The technicality and instrumentation is still as good as ever. The lyrical content is questionable and (in the case of As I Am at least) shitty, but, really, there's nothing new there. As for the songs themselves, they are some of the longest and most improvised songs the band have ever released, but also some of the most accessible. They sound similar to The Glass Prison (which gets reprised here), or The Mirror.
As I Am kicks us off with the characteristic single, and I will be the first to tell you: this song sucks. It isn't total garbage, it's just kind of mediocre. The lyrics are atrocious and mallcore, and the keyboards are nonexistant. That's one thing about this album: Jordan Rudess hardly does anything on this album. The song continues with a catchy chorus and James' James Hetfield imitation (!), and then the first uttering of the word 'fuck' on any DT album. Yes, that's odd. Well, this isn't horrible, but it's definitely the worst song on here.
We continue with This Dying Soul. This is the song with the aforementioned rapping. LaBrie goes into a wild Linkin Park impersonation here and raps. I am not joking-he sounds just like the guy from Linkin Park. Son of a bitch, that makes me mad. Well, other than that, the song is very nice, with a nice SFAM-style lead. This is a continuation of The Glass Prison, which is why thy lyrics are split into parts IV and V. The song gets reprised here as well. Excellent song, except for the rapping.
The next song is Endless Sacrifice. What we have here is a decent ballad (a rarity!) with A Change of Seasons-style leads and emotional vocals. The chorus is pretty good. This song reminds me very much of Voices off of Awake. A gigantic instrumental 'Dance Of Eternity' freakout ends what is probably my second-favorite song on the album.
Honor Thy Father is next. The song opens with a drum solo that sounds suspiciously like the opening to Painkiller, and it goes on to be a nice midpaced, heavy song with nice riffage and pretty good vocals. LaBrie raps here as well, which makes the song worse than it has to be. Not bad, just kinda mediocre.
After a short interlude in the form of Vacant, we are taken to the best song on the album: Stream Of Conciousness. This song owns in every way imaginable, especially the wild improvisation. One of the bands best instrumentals yet, this is definitely going to be a Dream Theater classic and is recommended to everyone!
In The Name Of God is our closer, and it is the longest single track on any Dream Theater full-length album. This isn't the best song on here, but it is a great little number with excellent guitars and drums. There have been a good number of 'freakout' sections in these songs, and this one is no different, going all over the place in its engrossing solos.
That's it, the album is over, and it sure was a great ride. There were some pretty bad moments (I still can't get over the rapping), but overall, this one's a keeper. If you are remotely interested in Dream Theater or prog metal at all, I would highly recommend giving this a try.
Hell, even nu-metal fans might love this.