Review Summary: Dream Theater's seventh album is heavy, dark, over-the-top, and very underrated as one of the band's best works.The Journey Through Dream Theater, Part 8
On Train of Thought
, Dream Theater made a huge push into heavier territory. While previous efforts certainly had their heavier moments, it was not until this album that they focused their heavier side into an entire album. Train of Thought
is much less of a progressive album and more of a straight-up metal album. Here John Petrucci focuses much more on riffs than any other Dream Theater release. He lays down memorable heavy riffs in every song (save for the ballad). Although it's much different than the normal Dream Theater album, it's one of the band's best.
As I Am
kicks things off with a slow-building intro that was a continuation of the finale from Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence
. It soon leads into a driving heavy riff. It’s the most straightforward song here, as the band uses a simple verse-chorus-bridge-chorus approach, but it’s still very enjoyable, and it boasts a catchy chorus hook. Petrucci wastes no time in displaying his chops, providing the first of many shredding solos. James LaBrie also displays an fittingly edgier vocal performance to this track.
From there the album continues its journey through metal territory. Written about Portnoy’s stepfather, Honor Thy Father
is quite possibly the angriest song the band has ever written. The great thing about this track is that the bridge isn’t the typical wankery from the band. It’s much more restrained, relying mainly on a riff over some effective voice samples before eventually leading into Rudess’ keyboard interlude (which thankfully is much more toned down than some of his solos are). The only ballad is the piano-driven Vacant
, and although it’s very short, it’s inclusion is vital to the album, as it provides a short break from the heavy riffing, assuring that the album doesn’t become monotonous. It’s a slow, brooding track that effectively bleeds into the instrumental Stream of Consciousness
. The band’s heaviest instrumental is one of their best, featuring a couple of great solos from Petrucci. The slower, more laid-back sections in the middle of the song are a nice addition as well.
The album highlight is Endless Sacrifice
. Unlike the rest of the album it begins at a slower pace, with clean guitar. LaBrie’s vocals are at their strongest here, especially once he finally delivers the chorus after the long build-up. Midway through the song the band unleashes a climactic 4-minute instrumental section to turn the song into another blazing rocker. This track is only rivaled by In The Name of God
, a fantastic closer which alternates between passages of groovy metal riffing and slower, more dramatic chorus sections which are masterfully delivered by LaBrie. The solo in the middle is a minute and a half of mostly uninterrupted shredding by Petrucci, including a particularly impressive section where he and Rudess play in unison.
One weakness of the album is that the band does get a bit carried away in the instrumental sections. The band can be forgiven for this, as the over-the-top instrumental sections are part of what makes this album so spectacular, but still, despite how entertaining it is, occasionally it’s overkill. Also, the weakest track is This Dying Soul
, the second part of Portnoy’s AA saga. The reason that it’s the weakest is that even with its great melodies, tempo changes, effective use of double-bass and blastbeats from Portnoy, and numerous solos, it can’t quite match up to The Glass Prison
. The comparisons are inevitable due to the fact that it reuses riffs from that song in order to provide continuity to the AA saga. It’s a very minor quibble, however, and it’s still a very well-constructed and enjoyable song in its own right.
This is definitely Dream Theater’s least subtle album. Portnoy tears up his drum kit like never before, making great use of his double-bass pedal, and taking numerous drum solos. Petrucci goes wild with soloing from beginning to end, and there is very little of his slower emotive playing demonstrated here. Rudess’ keyboard work gets plenty of showtime as well. But although the band overdoes the instrumental noodling sometimes, for the most part it works, making for a consistently enjoyable album. Train of Thought is also a good answer to those who feel that James LaBrie isn’t an effective metal vocalist, as he holds his own against the heavier material he’s presented with here. Even the rap-like sections of This Dying Soul
and Honor Thy Father
work without being cheesy.
It might not have the elegance of Images and Words
or the inspiration of Scenes From A Memory
, but Train of Thought
is still an excellent album that deserves a spot as one of the band’s best works.
Top Tracks: Endless Sacrifice, Stream of Consciousness, In The Name of God
Dream Theater is:
• John Myung – Bass guitar
• John Petrucci – Lead guitar
• Mike Portnoy – Drums, Percussion
• Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
• James LaBrie – Vocals
To Be Continued…