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No signs of slowing down - 89%

CrowTRobot, November 6th, 2003

After initially listening to this album with the expectation of another "Awake" or maybe even "Scenes from a Memory", I came away disappointed. It seemed that Dream Theater was slowly but surely starting to move away from the epic tendencies that previously defined them. However, I recently took it upon myself to get rid of any prejudices, and simply listen to this as if it were from a different band. My, how that paid off. I came to the realization that this album is definitely strengthened by the power of its individual songs (well, the first disc at least), and that the pretentiousness of trying to create a masterpiece was left out for a good reason.

While certainly integrating different aspects of music into their sound, nothing sounds like it clashes or forces a sense of uneasiness onto the listener. The band's technical proficiency is up to par as always. James Labrie seems to stick to a style of singing that doesn't rely on high notes, which may be attributed to his slowly deteriorating voice. No worry, as he doesn't take the spotlight nearly as much as in the past, and avoiding over the top performances is a good thing. Jordan Rudess is undoubtedly cementing his place in the band, with a display that could easily rival that of "SFAM". The first disc displays the experimental side of the band more so than the second, which contains an epic in the style of "A Change of Seasons". This easily rekindles fond memories of the DT of past years, but not so much as to seem unoriginal or lacking in ideas.

Highlights are the album-opener "The Glass Prison", "Blind Faith", and to some extent, the first half of "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence". While not as mesmerizing as one would expect, this album rewards patient listeners who are willing to evolve with the band, and expect the unexpected on occasion.