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Good, but I Still Have Many Questions - 80%

octavarium, August 13th, 2013

Dream Theater proved that they could carry on without drummer and co-founder Mike Portnoy with the excellent A Dramatic Turn of Events. The album featured drum wiz and Berklee instructor Mike Mangini as Portnoy's replacement and while he did a good job, the drumming just lacked the passion and energy they had with Portnoy. That can be chalked up to Mangini having not written the drum arrangements himself, rather only adding his personal touch to programmed beats developed by John Petrucci during the early-writing process. But for the band's upcoming self-titled album, Mangini has been fully unleashed and we're given a small sample through The Enemy Inside. Mike answered the question of what he could bring to the table, but there's a lot I still don't know.

First off, Mangini's drumming is absolutely phenomenal. Heavy and almost suffocating but filled with intricate fills and time changes, Mangini has proved he's not the band's silver medal. The song itself is extremely heavy and fast-paced. Petrucci's riffing is in the same vein as Train of Thought, The Dark Eternal Night, and Bridges in the Sky. John Myung's bass compliments and supports the guitar very much the same way as it has on previous heavy efforts. Jordan Rudess' keyboards only take prominence in brief flashes, but they add some very haunting atmosphere to the heavy riffs and give the song a feel much like On the Backs of Angels, only if it were much faster. James LaBrie continues the more relaxed vocal style he displayed on A Dramatic Turn of Events and his solo albums, but lets his voice soar during the chorus. LaBrie has always been smart enough to know how to use his voice and whether it's appropriate to use a hushed semi-whisper, aggressive rasp, or operatic scream. The song keeps a relatively consistent, heavy, and fast-paced sound over the course of six minutes. There are some unnecessary deviations and melody changes at the beginning and bridge, but they lead to a cool keyboard melody and awesome guitar solo, respectively. And again, that is to be expected by a band that focuses so much on instrumentals and breaks. The lyrics and chorus aren't spectacular but definitely aren't too shabby either and are fairly easy to follow. Overall, it sounds like On the Backs of Angels meets Train of Thought.

I am moderately impressed with the band's first single and it definitely has me excited for the album's release. But therein also lies the problem. I want to hear more of the album because I still have no idea what to expect. Dream Theater has always had a habit of making one or two slightly mainstream-accessible songs while taking a more intricate and complex approach with the rest of the album. I have a feeling that The Enemy Inside might be their "commercial song" much like Build Me Up Break Me Down and Forsaken were, but it still leaves me confused as to whether or not this a hint at the direction the band is going in. It leaves me a bit anxious, considering that even though the song is fairly good it's not as impressive as what I have usually come to expect from the band (even though they have their fair share of unimpressive songs). But then again I guess that means the band is doing its job in making the fan anticipate the album's release even more. Even though The Enemy Inside is a bit too straightforward, it definitely has a lot going for it and is yet another fine example of the musicianship and skill we should expect from Dream Theater.