Dream Theater
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence


4.0
excellent

Review

by Kenneth E. Rathburn CONTRIBUTOR (108 Reviews)
July 29th, 2014 | 154 replies


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A two-part plunge into culturally relevant topics and intrapersonal issues.

Dream Theater were already on a musical roller coaster during their first decade together. Much of this had to do with (outside) pressure to replicate past successes, which resulted in one of the band’s best efforts, followed by one of their worst. Fortunately, the band quickly recovered from Falling Into Infinity with an album that ultimately topped Rolling Stone’s reader-voted Top 10 Prog Rock albums. With that kind of acclaim, it would seem the band had played yet another trump card and that the next album would be an inevitable step down.

Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence is Dream Theater’s longest album, comprised by two parts/discs that, together, span nearly 100 minutes. The approach taken with splitting the album, in addition to its name, is rather crafty. Disc one features five tracks and the second, though technically comprised by eight, is really a 42-minute behemoth of a song (the album’s title track). And just to play up the six factor, “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” describes six individuals, each with a certain mental condition. If nothing else, Dream Theater at least had a neat structure in mind for their sixth studio album.

The static noise which concluded Scenes from a Memory returns, introducing us to one of the band’s best songs in “The Glass Prison.” As far as sheer sound, the album opener is one of Dream Theater’s darkest songs, especially at this point in their career. The first half features aggressive guitar playing that would make any nu metal musician blush; the second half has a barely catchy chorus to hold things back until the band hits overdrive during the final stretch. It also begins the Twelve-step Suite conceived by then-drummer Mike Portnoy, continuing on Train of Thought’s “This Dying Soul.”

One of Scenes from a Memory’s fundamental flaws was the on/off (though usually off) lyric quality. Not the case here; Six Degrees features some of Dream Theater’s best, most consistent songwriting. This is in no small part thanks to the album’s serious subject matter. While Scenes was far from light-hearted, Six Degrees feels like a significant maturation. All one has to do is look at the concept for each song; themes range from alcoholism to religious uncertainty, stem-cell research and death. And that’s without the mental notes from disc two.

There’s no way to pitch Six Degrees without making it sound like a daunting, heavy-handed experience. Yet in spite of the aforementioned aspects, Six Degrees isn’t a difficult album to indulge in. The first disc could’ve used less meandering and more tightening, but the 97 overall minutes don’t feel so long when the final note is struck. In particular, the motions “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” takes us through are varied to the point of alternating outright heaviness (“War Inside My Head,” “The Test That Stumped Them All”), mellow calms (“Goodnight Kiss”) and quirky upbeats (“Solitary Shell”). These sudden transitions work more fluently than they probably should, making the album’s final 42 minutes feel remarkably short. If the idea of a song this far into the double-digits intimidates you, give it a chance anyway. You might be surprised.

Along with its immediate successor, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence has mostly slipped under the radar. This is just as understandable as it is unfortunate, since the band tackle a number of unifying and, depending on who you are, personally empathetic issues (“Solitary Shell” right here). There’s a lot to appreciate too, especially since the band miraculously avoid bludgeoning us with any of the individual themes. You may go in expecting to feel overwhelmed, but resolute listeners will find themselves either hitting the repeat button, or seeking out the band’s next chapter.



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user ratings (1929)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2014


984 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Honestly, if tracks 2-5 were better, this would probably tie or top Images and Words. That said, I have found myself listening to this one more often, if only for the second disc.

MO
July 29th 2014


21931 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

first disc destroys the 2nd except for misunderstood that track smells



part 2 is mostly forgettable with the exception of war inside my head and test. everything surrounding those tracks is pretty meh

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2014


16474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, pos'd. I prefer the first disc, which I consider near perfect. I really like the second disc too but the only songs I really love on it are the last two

Digging: Toby Driver - Live at Roulette, March 2017

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2014


984 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Other than "The Glass Prison" and parts of "The Great Debate" the first disc just doesn't stand out to me. I can listen to the second disc repeatedly and not get sick of it.

ChoccyPhilly
July 29th 2014


11624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. I personally prefer the second disc as a whole, but no individual song comes close to Blind Faith or The Glass Prison. About to Crash (reprise) maybe does, but that would be pushing it

Digging: Cecil Otter - Dear Echo

Artuma
July 29th 2014


29044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"except for misunderstood that track smells"



nah it's great except for the overlong ending which is just silly

OmairSh
July 29th 2014


14297 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"if tracks 2-5 were better"



Dude wtf? Great Debate and Blind Faith are probably my top 2 of the whole album

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2014


16474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The second disc has a lot of great accessible sounding replayable songs, but the last two are the only ones that really stand out to me. Blind Faith is one of their best happy sounding songs with amazing instrumental stuff, Misunderstood sounds cool and nothing like what they've done before, and Disappear is one of their best 00's ballads

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2014


984 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

*shrug* They've grown on me a bit, but I can't put them anywhere near the level I'd place "The Glass Prison." That's currently a contender for my all-time favorite DT song.

OmairSh
July 29th 2014


14297 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Not you too

ChoccyPhilly
July 29th 2014


11624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's just you who dislikes that song, Omy

OmairSh
July 29th 2014


14297 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I used to love it like most people, grew off pretty hard.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2014


16474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Come back to the light

Artuma
July 29th 2014


29044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah grew off pretty hard for me too but it still rules for the most part

ChoccyPhilly
July 29th 2014


11624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Most DT songs have grown off me, but they still have quite a lot of nostalgia value. Probably the only reason I keep them now

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2014


16474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah pretty much all of it has grown off me and I haven't listened in over a year, doesn't mean I don't still love them and plan on listening to them again at some point

ChoccyPhilly
July 29th 2014


11624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I appreciate their more of the rare subtle tones these days, like the piano interlude in the middle of Blind Faith

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2014


16474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah this album might be their most restrained overall, I'd probably enjoy it the most now out of all of them

ChoccyPhilly
July 29th 2014


11624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The second disc may be, especially Solitary Shell

MO
July 29th 2014


21931 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it's their most metal for sure. maybe train of thought out metals it but yea



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