Dream Theater
Systematic Chaos


2.0
poor

Review

by Locrian USER (13 Reviews)
September 5th, 2010 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Systematic Chaos is Dream Theater’s attempt to do what they’re just not very good at.

During the production of Falling Into Infinity, Elektra Records pressured Dream Theater to make the record more commercial, in an attempt to attract more listeners. The strategy backfired, however, as the album was met with mostly negative reviews and did not sell well. The record label, realizing their mistake, gave the band freedom to do whatever they wished with their next record. The result was Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, a concept album that received overwhelming praise and garnered much attention. Following that album’s success was Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, which featured a forty-two minute song and began the hour-long Twelve-step Suite. It had become clear that Dream Theater’s greatest strength was in concepts and longer tracks, with impressive musicianship serving best as a way to keep the listener’s interest throughout lengthy passages.

Still, this didn’t stop the band from achieving success with Train of Thought, a heavier album inspired by the work of classic metal groups such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. Taking cues from those influences, Dream Theater managed to create an album with strong individual tracks. Octavarium, the band’s next effort, was essentially the opposite; while a few songs were somewhat weak, the album worked as a whole because it had this wonderful concept to it, wrapped up nicely with a twenty-four minute track.

And then, for one reason or another, the quintet suddenly stopped doing what worked so well for them. Systematic Chaos had no unifying theme or concept; separate tracks were now given priority. But unlike Train of Thought, which also focused on individual songs, Systematic Chaos features songwriting that ranges from lackluster to mediocre. One of the worst offenders is Forsaken, a song with almost no redeeming qualities except for a fairly nice piano intro. Longer songs, unlike those in Dream Theater’s previous albums, are also lacking in entertainment; the only interesting track over ten minutes is Repentance, and this is only because of its involvement in the Twelve-step Suite. A few passages, such as the verses of Constant Motion and the intro of The Dark Eternal Night, do manage to capture some attention. However, there is not one full song on the album that ranks among Dream Theater’s best material.

The speedy and technical instrumental work is present as always, but it doesn't add any value to the album this time around; in fact, one might say that it is out of place. In older albums, blistering guitar solos and swift drum fills were not only welcomed, but arguably also necessary. Without them, many listeners might not have had the patience to sit through any song over ten minutes; therefore, they had an important role in strengthening longer tracks. Ironically, on Systematic Chaos, shorter songs like The Dark Eternal Night seem to contain most of the technical passages, while longer ones such as Repentance have fewer. As a result, many of the album’s instrumental sections can be perceived as unnecessary, and several seem to be thrown in as an afterthought.

Also seeming out of place is the vocal work of James LaBrie. While his voice is often a subject of criticism, the man is not a bad singer; his voice is consistent at a high range and he knows how to carry a melody. The main problem is that he is not really suited for Dream Theater. During the golden days of Images and Words and Awake, LaBrie was an ideal choice for the band, selected only after over two hundred other aspiring vocalists were rejected. Even his food poisoning incident in late 1994 did not set him back too much, as his voice would fully recover in time for the release of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. However, while the rest of the band was rapidly changing in style on Train of Thought and then Octavarium, LaBrie’s vocal style stayed largely the same. The inevitable consequence was that by the time Systematic Chaos was released, the vocals seemed to be dull and uninspired along with the rest of the album, especially on tracks like In the Presence of Enemies and Prophets of War.

In short, this album is the result of Dream Theater doing what they don’t really know how to do: creating a listener-friendly, individual song-based album. Fortunately, however, most of the problems present in Systematic Chaos have been fixed in Black Clouds & Silver Linings, the band’s most recent effort. After yet another drastic change in style, one can only wonder what the band will choose to do next.



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user ratings (1693)
Chart.
3.3
great
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Kenneth E. Rathburn (2.5)
    'Haphazard Mess' would be more apt....

    Thomas Carpenter (3)
    A fantastical Train Of Thought with added instrumental excess...

    Grayson Hale (2)
    Perhaps they should be looking less to their contemporaries and more to their own back cat...

    Austin (3)
    Dream Theater does just enough to make a passable album, but it's a disappointment conside...

  • Eric E. Smith (4)
    While not as classic as say "Images and Words", Dream Theater's new LP "Systematic Chaos" ...

    Mike Stagno EMERITUS (2)
    Systematic Chaos is an album that showcases a ton of potential, but ultimately falls short...

    Jorn van Schaïk (2.5)
    An album that sounds like Train of Thought + Octavarium rehashed, more devoid of originali...

    Jeremy Price (4.5)
    Twenty-one years in, and Dream Theater still know how to be creative, exciting, and powerf...

  • GenuineImitation (4.5)
    This is a great album. It could very well wind up being a Dream Theater classic....


Comments:Add a Comment 
theacademy
Staff Reviewer
September 5th 2010


28639 Comments


lol tone down the DT fangirlism

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

climactic
September 5th 2010


19366 Comments


Don't agree at all, this is actually one of my favorite DT albums despite what everyone says. But good review, have a pos

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
September 5th 2010


28639 Comments


you haven't pos'd him yet.

you lied.

tiesthatbind
September 5th 2010


7375 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review, pos. I enjoy parts of this, but I can't disagree with any of these points.

Ire
September 5th 2010


41795 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0





Oh. My. God.

LepreCon
September 5th 2010


4141 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Review's pretty well-written. Don't get all the hate this album gets though, just solid Dream Theater imo. BCASL was much better though.

Prolapse
September 5th 2010


4370 Comments


DT suck ass

LepreCon
September 5th 2010


4141 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Naw

Motiv3
September 5th 2010


8938 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

album sucks.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
September 5th 2010


31353 Comments


Yeah, no it doesn't

Digging: Objekt - Flatland

ShinXetsu
September 5th 2010


605 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This is the only DT album that has absolutely no songs on my ipod. Good review.

scissorlocked
September 5th 2010


3511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

such an average album



Digging: Traumprinz - All The Things

NeutralThunder12
September 5th 2010


8742 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

pretty meh, it doesnt completely suck, but it's one of their worst

Bfhurricane
September 5th 2010


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice review. I particularly like The Ministy of Lost Souls, that has to be one of Dream Theater's most underrated songs.

R6Rider
September 5th 2010


4679 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Me too.

I've always liked Forsaken also.

Digging: Diocletian - Gesundrian

jybt
September 5th 2010


345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

REALLY excellent review. I need to listen to this again to discover my own opinion for the last time.

Dream Theater just cannot pull off the cheese factor; the attempts at reinforcing it using the distorted vocals, "scary" key effects, etc. sound comical as a result.

burnafterbreeding
September 5th 2010


1466 Comments


DT suck soooo bad.

beefshoes
September 5th 2010


4206 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This was the firs Dream Theater I had ever heard and at the time I loved it but once I had heard the other albums, this one didn't even compare.

Digging: Devin Townsend Project - Z2

bloc
September 5th 2010


34919 Comments


Still have to give this a listen

R6Rider
September 5th 2010


4679 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

no you don't



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