DREAM THEATER — Train of Thought (review)

DREAM THEATER — Train of Thought album cover Album · 2003 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
Raff
"Train of Thought", aka the Dream Theater album people love to hate... Strangely enough, I actually find "Train of Thought" somewhat better than the other DT albums I have listened to so far, with the sole exception of "Images and Words". While "Awake" sounded to my ears like a wall of sound which swallowed every single track whole, ToT offers some semblance of variety and individuality. This does not mean that I find it a masterpiece, or even that I am going to start listening to it on a regular basis: unfortunately, for me DT are something to be taken in small quantities, and quite infrequently to boot. Most of their albums are way too long for starters, and their relentlessly gloomy quality makes for sometimes uncomfortable listening.

That said, ToT has a few redeeming features. Opener "As I Am", widely hated by fans for being too "commercial", is in my opinion one of the best DT tracks, with enough instrumental intricacy to make it interesting, and a great, catchy chorus. I particularly like the lyrics, which I feel apply to me quite well - "I won't change to fit your plan/ Take me as I am". LaBrie's James Hetfield impersonation is particularly effective both on this song and on the whole album - his adoption of a lower singing register being a vast improvement over his usual, whiny self. As a matter of fact, Metallica's influence seems to hover over the whole album,which sometimes sounds like DT's take on "And Justice for All" - only with much better production values.

Other standout tracks are the lengthy instrumental "Stream of Consciousness", whose main fault is going on a bit too long, in true DT style; and album closer "In the Name of God", which has actually got some of the melody other tracks sadly lack. On the other hand, the token acoustic song, "Vacant", seems tagged on as a sort of afterthought, not really meshing with the record's overall sound. Moreover, the three central tracks, "This Dying Soul", "Endless Sacrifice" and "Honor Thy Father", sound almost indistinguishable from each other, showcasing the band members' individual skills to great effect, but offering rather little in the way of melody or feeling.

From the disturbing, black-and-white cover art right to the doom-and-gloom-laden lyrics, ToT is a dark album - even darker than "Awake", which is no mean feat. Why so many prog-metal bands seem to wallow in this unrelentingly depressing state of mind is quite beyond me... Anyway, DT's dark mood feels somewhat soulless and contrived, quite unlike, for instance, Queensryche's in "Operation Mindcrime". Though not deserving of its negative reputation, "Train of Thought" is still very much of an acquired taste.
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