Review Summary: Dream Theater's erroneous step into the fantasy world.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Ants. I loathe them. They sensibly proclaim their dominance by crawling on anything to search for sustenance, and they invariably piss people off by expanding their repute into territories that they don't belong. These creatures wield a double edged sword; my knowledge of their presence can lead to their death, and their exploration outside their territory can lead to my overflowing food supply. So it's not by my deposition of growing up with ants in my home that I despise Systematic Chaos
, but how the album manages to piss me off as much as one of the residual insects. As a fantasy record it is effective from start to finish, but only after a whirlwind of lyrically awkward moments of forced darkness and pretentious instrumental structures. The album seems to exist only to cash in on the paranormal craze of Twilight and the Hot Topic generation with songs about vampires and tragic romances, and every song has a sense of appeal missing from the usual Dream Theater.
While Dream Theater was relatively good at keeping their religion and political views from interfering with their music, the album becomes a sudden bold statement in a career of unbiased thought. As a way to preserve their connection with their fans, they take a commonly held stance against the war on terror with the cleverly titled ‘Prophets of War’ and then with the ‘rebellious’ nature of ‘In The Presence of Enemies.’ The album takes the time to display an unprecedented amount of talent on each song, playing too many flurries of musical scales among their creature features. It could have been just as good at half the length, but it would have remained immensely better by simply adjusting the soloing to a relaxed rate. The songwriting has taken a considerable increase in depth from Octavarium
, but the chords have been weakened and the solos dominate the length of the stronger performances. ‘The Ministry of Lost Souls’ takes listeners through six minutes of instrumental confusion in order to squeeze in a piano reprise when the song could have brilliantly right at six minutes. The following drawn out ending to ‘In the Presence of Enemies’ is exhausting and the lukewarm ‘Repentance’ manages to make ‘Trial of Tears’ look as remarkable as ‘Learning to Live.’
really is the opposing reactor to Octavarium
in it’s display of influences. While the previous endeavor aimed at their lighter influences of Genesis, Yes, Muse, and possibly King’s X, this album is an unabashed dictionary of Pantera and Metallica riffs with all the complicated drumming patterns of Mike Portnoy. 'The Dark Eternal Night' is proof of this and Mike Portnoy's dominating vocals. While Portnoy has done superb work integrating his vocals since before Metropolis Pt.2
, Systematic Chaos
is almost a tribute to himself with his obsessive bombast of drums and his domination of every song as a backup vocalist. Constant Motion
can only be described as a seven minute song of him beating the *** out of a drum set and making some delusional allusion to ‘Pull Me Under’ in an attempt to garner the same kind of lucky fame as in 1992.
It's hard to find the heart of Systematic Chaos
among it's 78 minutes of drumming, chanting and ‘evil’ undertones. There's a beautiful motif in the 26 minute epic ‘In The Presence of Enemies,’ a clever instrumental breakdown in ‘Constant Motion,’ and the incredibly short piano segment in the latter half of ‘The Ministry of Lost Souls.’ Everything else shows that Dream Theater’s edge is either dull at this point, or their songwriting is boring without their application to reality. While Portnoy wanted Systematic Chaos
to be a ‘balls to the wall’ album, its attempt to show the tough side of the band is a joke in comparison to Awake
, and even more so to Train of Thought
. Systematic Chaos
is void of emotion and any thought beyond mathematics, and is essentially existent as another vessel to advance Dream Theater’s status as kings of progressive metal. While the ant theme isn't as deadly or strong as Dream Theater would like it to appear, it does prove to be annoying, and like an ant Systematic Chaos
succeeds in settling too long in places it dosen't belong.