DREAM THEATER — Systematic Chaos

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DREAM THEATER - Systematic Chaos cover
3.52 | 131 ratings | 13 reviews
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Album · 2007


1. In the Presence of Enemies, Part I (9:00)
2. Forsaken (5:35)
3. Constant Motion (6:55)
4. The Dark Eternal Night (8:53)
5. Repentance (10:43)
6. Prophets of War (6:00)
7. The Ministry of Lost Souls (14:57)
8. In the Presence of Enemies, Part II (16:38)

Total Time: 78:44


- James LaBrie / vocals
- John Myung / bass
- John Petrucci / guitar and vocals
- Mike Portnoy / drums, percussion and vocals
- Jordan Rudess / keyboards and Continuum

Special Guests (on Repentance):
- Mikael Akerfedt / voice
- Jon Anderson / voice
- David Ellefson / voice
- Daniel Gildenlow / voice
- Steve Hogarth / voice
- Chris Jericho / voice
- Neal Morse / voice
- Joe Satriani / voice
- Corey Taylor / voice
- Steve Vai / voice
- Steve Wilson / voice

About this release

Label: Roadrunner Records
Release date: June 4th, 2007

Also available as a special edition CD+DVD package, housed in a slipcase with modified cover art. The DVD features the entire album in 5.1 surround sound, plus a 90 minute documentary "Chaos in Progress: The Making of Systematic Chaos".

Thanks to Stooge, Vehemency, adg211288, Pekka, Unitron for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

As a prog metal group who put a lot of stock in both the "prog" and the "metal" part of that term, Dream Theater have had a tendency over the years to follow up more progressive-leaning releases with harder-edged affairs. The band seem to spend much of their career walking a tightrope - why, they even included one on the cover of a later album! - and so once they've pushed hard in one direction, they tend to correct in the other direction rather than going too far in any one trajectory.

On Octavarium they pulled out an orchestra, something which prog bands had been doing as far back as 1967 (if you are willing to accept the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed as a proto-prog release); thus, Systematic Chaos finds them trimming back to just the core band members. No guest instrumentalists are present at all: every note played is played by the band members, and every word is sung by just James LaBrie himself. The sole concession is that a large cast of friends of the band show up to provide spoken word contributions to Repentance, this album's episode of the multi-album Twelve-Step Suite by Mike Portnoy: as the title implies, it's a song about making amends for past mistakes, so a great number of musicians from the prog or metal world show up to record little apologies, regrets, and admissions of fault.

So much for the talking: what about the music? Though generally heavier than Octavarium, it feels like the band here are trying to show off just how diverse a sound they can deliver with just the five of them. Take The Dark Eternal Night, which has moments ranging from a Dream Theater approximation of nu-metal to a sort of prog-metal-jazz-fusion hybrid. Some aspects of Repentance feel like a nod to Porcupine Tree, which makes the presence of Steven Wilson on the track (he's providing one of the apologies) particularly apt.

Meanwhile, Prophets of War finds Dream Theater inspired once again by Muse, as they were on Octavarium, though I'm absolutely fine with that because as far as I am concerned by this point Dream Theater were doing that sort of very feverish sound better than Muse were. That said, I actually find it a weaker track - it's a little too much like a rehash of Never Enough from Octavarium - and one suspects the band aren't too keen on it either, since so far as I can tell it hasn't exactly been a live staple. (A quick check of setlist.fm suggests that they didn't even touch it live until 2009, and then dropped it from the set in 2010 and haven't picked it up since.)

Still, rounded off by two epics - The Ministry of Lost Souls and the second half of In the Presence of Enemies - the album comes to a pretty solid close, and whilst I don't think it's as consistent as Octavarium by some measure, it's still a very good release which finds Dream Theater going from strength to strength.
I was nervous to hear Dream Theater's 2007 release 'Systematic Chaos' when it first came out. Having recently signed with Roadrunner Records, one of the most famous and well-known metal labels in the world, I expected the band to water down their sound in order to appeal to the more mainstream audience that the label would market them to.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Everything Dream Theater fans love about the band is still here. The complex song structures, intricate musical passages and over-the-top performances remain as they always have. But there is one thing in particular that this album has in abundance, and I can only really describe it as "focus". Possibly due to the fact that they now have a big time record company backing them (which is support they felt they never truly got with past labels), but the guys really go all-out to appeal to a whole new metal audience, whilst trying to remain as loyal to their prog fans as the fans have to them.

Being a heavier and darker album in terms of tone, feeling and musical content, it should come as no surprise that 'Systematic Chaos' is a very guitar-driven release, in particular with songs like 'Constant Motion' and 'The Dark Eternal Night'. That's not to say that Keyboard player Jordan Rudess is neglected, as he still shines in the Evanescence-sounding 'Forsaken', and with one song being 15 minutes and one being 17 minutes in duration, you know there will be plenty of progressive madness to keep die-hard fans happy.

Also featured is 'In the Presence of Enemies', spread into two parts that open and close the album respectively, part one has some very tasty vocal melodies, while part two has some of the greatest guitar riffing ever, with John Petrucci totally owning it in this song and putting most modern metal bands to shame. Then there's 'Repentance', the fourth part in Mike Portnoy's "12 Steps" suite, based on Alcoholics Anonymous and it's 12-steps to recovery program. It's one of the more interesting chapters of the suite due to its softer, more sombre tone, and the various confessions from guest musicians adds depth to the serious nature of the lyrics.

And for the more dedicated fans; the special edition release comes with a cool bonus DVD with over an hour of studio footage, documenting the making of this album! I love stuff like this, as it's a great chance to see not only how the finished product was made, but also an opportunity to delve into the personalities of the band members.

'Systematic Chaos' won't please the fans who were put off by Dream Theater's heavier direction built upon over the previous few albums, but for the most part they've done a fantastic job in adapting their style for a broader metal audience, and since they've only gone on to bigger and better things since then (an impressive feat so far into their careers) I'd say it was a success!
It seems like the heavier DREAM THEATER gets the less fans seem to like them. I must admit i'm scratching my head as to why this one isn't rated much higher but then i could say the same for "Train Of Thought" another favourite of mine. I like some of the ideas they've come up with here like on the track called "Repentance" where LaBrie sounds different vocally and we get all these talented guests speaking words at one point. It almost seems like a waste to have Steve Vai, Mikael Akerfeldt, Daniel Gildenlow, Steve Howe, Steven Wilson, Neal Morse, Jon Anderson, Joe Satriani and others speaking things instead of either playing or singing. Cool stuff though. And how about the crunch on "Constant Motion". Nice. I could go on and on about the instrumental prowess of this band especially on this record. I will never tire of hearing Portnoy on the drum kit either. If you like smash-mouth instrumental work then it doesn't get much better than this. It might help if you like ants too. A solid 4 stars.
The Angry Scotsman
"Systematic Chaos" seems to be one of the least popular DT albums, and I understand why. It's more metal oriented, like "Train of Thought", which appears to be an automatic turn off to many fans. However, unlike "Train of Thought", this album is a bit commercial sounding, which of course is a turn of to fans of prog rock and metal in general. I'll admit, I used to be in that latter camp, but many years later I've re-listened and "Systematic Chaos" is a pretty decent album.

I feel a bit foolish taking the "accessible" pill, because it sometimes comes across like this is pop rock, which is quite obviously not true. There are certainly accessible, (or modern, as Portnoy tried to sugar coat) moments but this is actually a very heavy, technical album for DT.

Maybe it's a tad less progressive than standard DT, but it's still prog and really it becomes an issue of splitting hairs... So if you are one who gets caught on the "less progressive" thing, or demand your DT be more melodic in nature, well don't even bother with this one.

"In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1" is the first part of a 25 minute song that book ends the album. It starts off, awesome. Real awesome: a heavy, progressive intro, intense drumming, lots of bass and keyboard and a frantic climax. After your mind is blown it moves to a slower, melodic section. The first 5 minutes are a killer intro. The song then alternates between a heavy wall of chords and spidery riff. The bass is pretty prominent, finally!, and there's a good dose of keyboard. Maybe the wall of chords is "accessible" but damn, call me a metal head: I like it! At least in small doses like this. Song can get a bit stale, but it's real solid and a great opener. Lots of intensity and technicality.

"Forsaken" is sadly quite bland, and I really don't like it.

"Constant Motion" is back to riff based prof metal, and damn are there some great riffs. The song is packed with them, and some are quite groovy. A real progressive song, again loaded with great melodies, riffs and technicality. Again, the bass is nice and audible, which still floors me since you can never hear Myung. Good song, and the few accessible sections don't hang around too long.

"The Dark Eternal Night" now this one is a trip. Some major off tempo grooving and thrashing right off the start. Unfortunately they use those distorted "evil" sounding vocals at times which kind of bug me. Still, gotta love that groove. There's a lengthy middle section that is insane and all over the place, it's awesome. A tornado of music. This kicks into a flat out thrash metal part, and it's pretty intense. That's what I'm talking about...some DT that kicks your ass! This song rocks.

"Repentance" gives us a break, and a pretty nice one. The next part in the twelve step suite, this a pretty mellow, spacey song. Dare I say, Pink Floyd esque? Well why not? Portnoy said so, really it's a pretty accurate description. It's a nice song, real drifty, somber but not too bleak. Featured are several spoken word contributions from some big names, apologizing or repenting to people they have wronged.

"Prophets of War" is a straightforward and riffy, mid tempo song. It's not bad but kind of drags on. A not too aggressively anti Iraq war song, complete with fan group cries. Alright but a little boring.

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" is a long, slower and melodic song. Well, it starts that way, picks up a bit at times and really kicks into high gear in the middle. Then follows some DT w**kery with many guitar and key solos. A bit DT by the numbers, but it's not a bad song. The slower parts can be nice but also drag at times. Nice ending, overall not too shabby.

The album ends with "In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 2" because every prog band needs an album with Pink Floyd style book ends. It picks where the opener left off, and slowly builds to peaks and valleys, before reaching the shreddery. Another DT song that is fine, I'd say even good, but leaves me a bit cold. Can't knock it though, has everything you'd expect and is well done. I'm sure some will knock the cheese factor, but as usual I say just take that cheese and make a pizza with it. This is prog metal.

So after some listens, this turned out to be a pleasantly surprising album. Not spectacular, but pretty good. If you can get over the "accessible" and "more metal" hurdles you should find it a fine album. Heavy, (very heavy) technical, progressive and intense. It has all you want, and done very well, including lots of bass! "The Dark Eternal Night" is killer, as is "Repentance" just in a different way. Stand out tracks in my book.

Three Stars.

Dream Theater are incredibly frustrating to me. They are obviously a very talented band, and in the past they have written some very good material, but since the late 90's they have been progging so hard I can't listen to any of their albums in one sitting unless I'm doing something else. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence was too boring (I never understood the hype that album gets), Train of Thought was too weird and Octavarium was too mediocre. Now this...this album follows in the same path, unfortunately. If I had to pick one word to describe Systematic Chaos, it would be "overdone". It is strange that I would come to this conclusion, because this was supposed to be Dream Theater's attempt at being more "modern" (thank you Roadrunner) and accessible. Honestly, there is definitely a difference between Systematic Chaos and earlier Dream Theater material, but there isn't much improvement. At all.

Basically, the problem here is that there is a lot going on, sure, but not much of it is any good. The "throw shit against the wall and see what sticks" idea is fun in theory, but it doesn't work when you are actually recording something and releasing it. Take a gander:

Example 1: A progressive rock/metal band starts one of their albums with “Song Title, Part 1, really long” and ends it with “Song Title, Part 2, also really long”, with all of the songs in the middle having nothing to do with the first and last one(s). Sound familiar? It's like Roadrunner said, "make it modern and METAL!" but then Portnoy said "Butbutbut! We need to show MORE Pink Floyd influence, since the first 5 minutes of Octavarium and entire Dark Side of the Moon Bootleg were not enough!" so then they came to a compromise to make a modern metal Pink Floyd song. Does that sound like a good idea? No, of course it doesn't. Of course, I'm kidding, but "In the Presence of Enemies" would work a whole lot better if they just trimmed out the fat and made it into one song.

Example 2: “The Ministry of Lost Souls”. It’s a very emotional song. Yes, Dream Theater writing an emotional song. That happens, like, never. The first 7 minutes of it are among my favorite 7 minutes in the Dream Theater discography. They are filled with sweet melodies and good vocals. Yes, a Dream Theater song with good vocals. You read that right. But what’s this? A riff that sounds nothing like the first few? And now the keyboards are going boop-boop-beep-bop-boop-beep-bop! Look, Petrucci is shredding over another riff that has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE REST OF THE SONG! And just like that, precious minutes of your life have been wanked away in typical Dream Theater fashion. Long story short, trim out some more fat.

Example 3: “Repentance”. Trim out the fat. Again. Like, the whole song. It’s useless, save for the fact that it adds another 10 minutes to the Portnoy alcoholism series. See that amazing list of guest musicians up there? Mikael Akerfeldt? Steven Wilson? Steve Vai? Yeah, they’re just talking in this song. You can’t even understand half of them, since two of them are talking at once. Another bad idea.

Example 4: Say what you will about James LaBrie, but I think he’s a pretty good vocalist. Apparently, Mike Portnoy doesn’t agree with me, because he insists on putting his own vocals in places where they are simply not needed. Of course, LaBrie’s voice doesn’t work in half of these songs anyway because they are either too heavy for him to sing in and sound good, or they don’t need his vocals at all because the rest of the band is going on another wankfest (see “The Dark Eternal Night”).

Now, for the praise paragraph. Ah yes. Obviously, this album isn’t total rubbish, or else I wouldn’t even bother reviewing it, or would have given it .5 stars saying something like "Dream Theater has not been good since Awake/Scenes from a Memory, Kevin Moore was the heart and soul of this band!" or something equally as douchy. “Constant Motion” is a good song. Whoever says it sounds like Metallica is off their rocker because the riffs are tighter than any riff Metallica has written in 23 years and the drums are tighter than anything Lars can dream of playing. As a matter of fact, most of the riffs in this album are very good, no matter how out of place they may be. “Forsaken” isn’t bad, either, showing how YOU CAN WRITE A GOOD SONG WITHOUT PUTTING IN AN EXTRA FIVE MINUTES OF POINTLESS SOLOING. Ahem. It might seem sort of poppy, but it’s well-written. I love when bands focus on writing good songs. It tickles my soul.

Imagine that your supper is this big pot roast. You haven’t eaten in what seems like forever, and your mother tells you that this particular pot roast will be way better than the last one she made (the meat from that one was from the grocery store. This one is from a butcher). Obviously, you are very hungry, and delve into the roast immediately once it is set in front of you. But to your dismay, you find that with the meat and veggies are things such as black olives and bits of tuna fish. Yes, the meat is delicious, but how on earth can you enjoy that delicious roast with those weird things floating around in the mix? Yes, you could pick out the wayward pieces of food, but wouldn’t you rather your mother just followed the recipe correctly and not experiment this much? Yes, I would have too.
Time Signature
In constant motion...

Genre: progressive metal

As with "Train of Thought", "Systematic Chaos" is a Dream Theater album which is very unpopular among more progressively inclined fans. The reason is probably that "Systematic Chaos" is almost as heavy as "Train of Thought", anthough I think that "Systematic Chaos" is musically more complex; but, interestingly, there are more commercial-like elements on "Systematic Chaos", such as catchy and simply choruses and chorus melodies.

Personally, I really like "Systematic Chaos". I like how heavy it is, and I like how the complex and tricky parts as well as the more commercial parts blend into the picture very well, creating systematically chaotic progressive metal. I like all of the tracks very much, although I did get a little bit tired of listening to "Forsaken".

This album will probably appeal to fans of heavier progressive metal, and I also think it would be a good entry point into the world of Dream Theater for the "uninitated".
Conor Fynes
'Systematic Chaos' - Dream Theater (7/10)

After two or three enjoyed listens of 'Systematic Chaos,' I started to tire of it's corniness. It really started to get on my nerves, and before long, I was starting to hate it. 'The Dark Eternal Night' especially. Lyrics like 'Dark master of sin, I will fight for you' exemplified the reason why I was so dissapointed by the album. Being one of my favourite bands, I would logically have very high expectations for the album when I bought it. Having a great resentment for the cheesiness of it all, I shelved the album and spent my time on other albums...

About a year passed, and finally I decided to give 'Systematic Chaos' another try. I was amazed by how much I enjoyed it. Granted, there were still parts of it (such as 'The Dark Eternal Night,' which I still don't like) that I found annoying, but musically speaking, the majority of the material was very good! While it's definately not one of the best Dream Theater has done, it's a worthy album by any standard, and has some absolutely outstanding songs that will stand the test of time as being some of Dream Theater's best.

'In The Presence Of Enemies' is a song (divided into two parts) that takes up about half an hour of play time. While I wouldn't count it as another 'Change Of Seasons,' it's still a great epic, and the fact that it's divided into two parts works really well to bring the album together. Having an epic split into two parts for once is refreshing, relieving the listener of the chore of having to sit through such an extended duration composition. The first half is absolutely stellar, and while the second half is very good, parts of it scream 'cheesiness.' I'm sorry, but blatantly singing about 'serving and dying for a dark master' doesn't work as well as I'm sure they hoped it would.

'Forsaken' and 'Constant Motion' (the two singles off of the album) have two very contrasting moods to them. 'Forsaken' is a pretty straightforward gothic metal song, but it is very well written. The latter single is much more chaotic, and what you would typically expect from the band; complete with plenty of blistering guitar and keyboard solos...

The other great song on here is 'The Ministry Of Lost Souls.' With a song structure that's reminiscent of 'Sacrificed Sons' off of 2005's 'Octavarium,' this 14 minute song tells a very moving story of a man who saves a woman from drowning, but the woman kills herself, feeling empty without the presence of her saviour. This is a song I love to hear, because it shows that Dream Theater can still write a damn good song without having to rely on their technical abilities. Warm guitars, and perfectly mournful vocals followed by a blistering dose of instrumental make 'The Ministry Of Lost Souls' an instant classic in Dream Theater's repetoire.

The song I obviously have the biggest problem with is 'The Dark Eternal Night,' the distorted vocals are really stupid and amelodic, and the music is noisy. The instrumental section though is suprisingly good and progressive. Disregarding all of the vocal and conventional 'songwriting' parts, the song is actually not that bad. But as it is, it is a blemish on an otherwise excellent album. With no offense to Mr. Mike Portnoy (he really is a fantastic drummer,) but someone should tell him to stop singing and ruining otherwise good music!

'Repetence' is 'Systematic Chaos' addition to the suite about alcoholism that Mike Portnoy has been fronting for years now. Without a doubt the most mellow track on the album, it takes a bit too long to get where it's meant to go, but there are some beautiful melodic lines in it, and the repetition makes it an almost hypnotic segment of the album. 'Prophets of War' is another pretty straightforward song that sounds like it was plucked out of a Muse songbook. For recent Dream Theater lyrics however, there is alot of intelligence here, and the song is a profound commentary on the current war in the Middle-East.

While this album isn't quite as good as I hoped it would be (with a few tweaks here and there; it could have been a really excellent piece of work), it's definately a step in the right direction. One can only hope that Dream Theater's 2009 release will surpass this album, and the world will be gifted with an album that brings the band back to their peak of glory...
After being somewhat disappointed in Octavarium I still had hopes that Dream Theater would bounce back and produce more quality material, if not masterpieces like Images and Words then at least the enjoyable-but-flawed kind of albums like Train of Thought. I wasn't counting days to the release of the album but happened to walk into a record store the morning this was released, so I got it and put it into my cd player right away. Oh those days before the Ipod took the last bit of uncomfort out of my on-the-road music listening. My first thought when putting the album on was "haven't I heard this riff on an In Flames album?"

After that thought went by I remember I listened to the album with at least some pleasure, but repeated listens over the years have shown me that while most of these songs have solid, enjoyable parts here and there, the songs as a whole fall flat at some point, the highlight parts being too few and far between. Constant Motion is the one exception with its good riffs and a brilliant hyperactive instrumental section. Forsaken comes pretty close, I particularly enjoy the way James LaBrie delivers some of the lines. The ultra heavy metal caricature of The Dark Eternal Night and the Muse-like Prophets of War are my least favourite tracks of the album, no good parts to remember on those. No member here gives a particularly good performance, some fine moments here and there like the LaBrie ones on Forsaken, but more often I find myself annoyed by some overused Mike Portnoy trademark fills or Jordan Rudess noodlings.

Lyrics haven't always been their forte, really, but on this album they hit a new bottom particularly with the fantasy fluff of In the Presence of the Enemies. This impression isn't helped one bit by the fact that I've succesfully misheard the word "Heretic" in the part 2 as "hairy dick" every single time.

Despite my absolute disappointment in this one I still occasionally give it a spin to see if that something would click with me. I'm about to give up as nothing seems to happen. One star for the sole great song Constant Motion and a half one for the fine tidbits in the other songs. Luckily they'd step up on the next one.
Here it is! Dream Theater's heaviest album by a long shot.

I decided it deserved 4 stars but only just due to a few shining moments.

Very dark, and very progressive with some of the best material from the band such as In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 and 2, and Constant Motion. All brilliantly played and sung by the band at the peak of their powers. Check out the incredible growl vocals on the The Dark Eternal Night - as band members mused on the doco We are beginning to sound like Biohazard - Indeed.

Devin Townsend meets Metallica in places. Repentance is simply wonderful with a contemplative reflective lyrical content and lots of guest artists speaking their regrets and asking forgiveness.

It is a great album, not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but simply solid DT with heaps of brilliant lead breaks and masterfully played keyboards throughout.

There is not much else to say except it does not disappoint and has some awesome tracks.

Grab the special edition as the doco is terrific and offers a real insight to this amazing prog metal band.

I think the doco is actually better than the whole album. it will continue to dazzle and infuriate listeners for years to come I guess. Give it a chance, as there are some excellent tracks on this CD.
Well, the album name is certainly apt when it comes to describing the band. Much of their work consists of well-structured songs that allow for a good amount of frantic and fluid instrumental interplay. When it comes to Systematic Chaos, Dream Theater's ninth album, both those aspects of the band seem less inspiring.

"In The Presence Of Enemies: Part 1" starts off with quite a bit of promise, but after a few minutes, I start to lose patience with where the Prelude is heading. Resurrection finally rolls around and breathes new life into the song. The first few minutes alone help make this one of the finer moments of the album.

"Forsaken" is an OK song. A bit more stripped down than most songs on the album, which is a good thing. However, there is nothing about it that I feel strongly about in either a positive or a negative way.

The next two tracks, "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night", basically sum up why two years after purchasing this album I rarely get the urge to listen to it. When the band joined Roadrunner, what I feared most appeared to be happening: they attempt to become more "metal". I am a big fan of the metal genre, and many of my favorite Dream Theater moments are when the band explores dark and heavier parts of their sound (much of Awake, for instance), but these songs miss the mark horribly. The main riffs during the verses of both songs seems like throwaway metal riffs, and the rhythmic vocal deliveries bring out a side of Labrie's vocals that I don't really care for. I'm not a fan of Portnoy's backing vocals on these songs at all, especially with that awful distorted vocal on "The Dark Eternal Night".

"Repentance", a song that I gave little attention when I first bought Systematic Chaos, is actually now what I would call the strongest track on the album. A rather beautiful, somber song with some touching lead guitar playing by John Petrucci. The track ends with some spoken word confessions by an assortment of musicians (many of whom feature on Prog Archives) to contribute to the AA theme of the Portnoy-penned lyrics.

"Prophets of War" reminds me of some techno/metal hybrid bands (sort of like Rammstein) from a musical standpoint. The lyrics are fairly standard for a more political song. Like "Forsaken", it is more of a bare bones song. When I first read the song title, I expected the song to be one of the heavier songs on the album. Overall, I can't say I'm a fan of this track.

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" has some of the best vocals on the album, but much like the previous track, it seems kind of sappy. The instrumental section seems to do little but stretch out the length of the song. The fault is not on the musician's execution, it's just that I literally just listened to that portion of the song five minutes from when I'm typing this sentence and can't think of any part that I can clearly remember.

The album closes with the second half of "In The Presence of Enemies". Naturally, it share a lot thematically with Part 1, but it lacks the power of the first part. I've yet to listen to both parts back-to-back, but I already get the impression that I wouldn't be getting another "A Change Of Seasons".

I'll be honest, while I'm giving Systematic Chaos a 2-star rating, the album barely made that grade for me. I've been following this band for seven years, and am familiar with all of their studio work. They are capable of so much more than this. If I didn't own the special edition of this album, I do not know whether or not I would still have it in my collection.

Members reviews

After a very smooth and calm record called "Octavarium" Dream Theater tried out something new again on this new record. They were looking for a more technical approach, sounded very modern and also diversified on this album and concetrated more on a heavier approach than the stuff they had just done before.

The epic "In The Presence Of Enemies" that is separated in two parts for no obvious reason at all shows us a typical, very technical but not very outstanding or fresh epic track that has its moments, especially concerning the introduction and the solo parts of the second part. But many times, the same vocal lines and main riffs come back and are only interrupted by smooth ballad passages and a few strange sound effects so that this song becomes very difficult and sometimes boring to listen to within more than twenty-five minutes. This song is finally one of the less convincing epic Dream Theater tracks.

Now, what can we find between the two parts of this overlong average epic song? We can find teh usual ballad and commercial track with "Forsaken" that has a little gothic touch and a catchy chorus but nothing outstanding and ha sto go down as a quite weak track. "Constant Motion" sounds like a more technical rip off of a Metallica song. Dream Theater goes Thrash Metal but not in an original way like on some parts of "Train Of Thought". This song feels misplaced and even though it is a catchy and energizing track this just doesn't fit to the band's style and Metallica have also done some better songs like these back in the late eighties. So this is another song below average.

"The Dark Eternal Night" is a very modern and technical song with weird vocal sound effects, a rather epic chorus and some very simple lyrics and harsh riffs. This song shows us a completely new side of Dream Theater's universe and doesn't copy any band or any style and that's why this song is at least outstanding. Personally, I like the style of this song even if it is a very particular one. It is definitively the highlight of this record for me even though traditional fans might have some problems with this experience.

But then comes "Repentance" where Dream Theater would like to sound like Opeth. This song is just too long, too boring and without the glimpse of a doubt the weakest part of the famous twelve-step suite. The idea of mumbling voices of different well known artists in the ending of the song to create a strange sound collage is original but executed in a rather bad way as this passage gets very long and annoying. After a Metallica and an Opeth rip off comes now a Muse rip off. Some parts of the previous album "Octavarium" had already been influenced by this band but this track seems to be entirely copied from the promising English prog rock band that also gained commercial success. But Dream Theater are not Muse and even though they almost sound like the original and create an appreciable song without a doubt the song has the mood of an unoriginal copy and doesn't have exactly the same kind of magic Muse are used to put in their songs and that's why "Prophets Of War" ultimately fails. "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" is finally a rather traditional Dream Theater song and has surely some musically interesting parts but it is way too long with a length of almost fifteen minutes and seems somehow endless to me.

To conclude, this album is Dream Theater's most unoriginal one. It is somewhat a homage to their different influences. It is a very modern record where the band shows its technical skills but forgets to create something unique they were always used to create on all their records. And that's why this album is probably the band's weakest one. This record has the mood of a compilation album without an own soul and that's why it ultimately fails. This is a chaos without any rationally appreciable system.
A couple of years ago I was given this album as a Christmas present by my other half. Seen as most of the DT albums I own had been a disappointment to say the least, I would never have bought it of my own accord. In spite of repeated attempts to get into the band, my opinion of them has really never changed - lots of talent, technical chops galore, but ultimately poor songwriting skills. Though the various members of DT play as if their life depended on them, the results never really gel - and their latest effort is no exception.

However, to be perfectly fair, I have found "Systematic Chaos" somewhat easier to approach than the other albums I own, with the sole exception of "Images and Words" (the only DT album I can actually listen to with some pleasure). True, my mind still sort of blacks out halfway through the record, but in some way I have found most of the tracks manage to hold my attention long enough to distinguish one from the other. As most other DT offerings, SC is definitely too long, with two-thirds of the compositions lasting between 8 and 16 minutes - the band have yet to learn that less can be more.

Another rather serious flaw of the album has to do with those songs which are sharply reminiscent of other bands' work. I don't want to use the word rip-off, but this is what came to my mind when I first heard "Constant Motion", which sounds like vintage Metallica with keyboards - while "Repentance" reminds the listener of Porcupine Tree, and "Prophets of War" of Muse. On the other hand, "Forsaken", with its big chorus, is the token ballad which graces every DT album - rather pleasant to listen to, even if LaBrie's voice (still the band's weakest point) does not do it any favours. With "The Dark Eternal Night", the band return instead to heavy metal territory, complete with John Petrucci's heavily fantasy-flavoured (and to me quite cheesy) lyrics.

The same rather embarrassing lyrics grace the two-part epic that bookends the album, "In the Presence of Enemies", whose instrumental parts are as a whole the best thing on SC. In particular, the "Prelude" kick-starts things with pyrotechnic energy and Petrucci's trademark manic noodling, which makes the band's sound immediately recognizable. The other epic of the album, "The Ministry of Lost Souls", is another typical DT track which throws in anything but the kitchen sink, but ends up being ultimately forgettable for all its length. In any case, I am quite sure a different vocalist would improve DT's overall impact immensely, since to these ears the instrumental tracks are almost always the most impressive, in spite of the distinct whiff of self-indulgence that all too often permeates them.

Definitely listenable, at times even somehow enjoyable, "Systematic Chaos" is far from essential, unless you happen to be a die-hard fan of the band, and think they can do no wrong. Not really cohesive nor innovative, it is however a reasonably solid effort from an outfit that, for better or for worse, have almost single-handedly created a genre.

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