Review Summary: Dream Theater, unabashed and unleashed.
“Darker” and “different direction” are the most wearily common words bands use when pitching their latest album. Dream Theater never had to bother with the latter, since their sound is constantly changing. This leaves the oh-so-ominous dark side we’ve since become saturated with in all media and culture (movies, videogames, music, books, etc.). With Train of Thought
, Dream Theater fully exposed the mere glimpses we got of a decidedly bleaker territory.
The note linking Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
and Train of Thought
quickly recedes, leading to a play of foreboding and usually aggressive sounds that refuse to let up. Even “Vacant” epitomizes the album’s moody nature in less than three minutes, all without help from Myung, Portnoy or Petrucci. In fact, you probably won’t hear a more depressing Dream Theater song than this. That’s the kind of album listeners are in for.
Far from catchy, Train of Thought
is remarkably light on melody, especially taking the normally-extravagant Jordan Rudess into account. He might sneak a brief lapse into “Endless Sacrifice” and get a chance to truly appear during “Stream of Consciousness,” but his presence feels notably understated. This only adds to the album’s more straightforward and, dare I say, base metal sound. All the songs are traditional Dream Theater length (except “Vacant”) and provide a routine dosage of progressive elements, but not to the same degree as Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
How well does it ultimately play out? Depends on how you look at it. Train of Thought
is an album that demands the right state of mind in order to be fully enjoyed. And when it is, boy does this beast deliver. Other than song length and progressive technicality, this is uncharacteristically Dream Theater. Every song is an ideal example of how far the band wanted to take their attempts at harsher material, the key culprit being “Honor Thy Father,” far and away Dream Theater’s most hostile song to date. It’s also a personal favorite in an expanse of consistently solid, if not excellent, tracks.
While it’s possible to choose standouts, Train of Thought
demands being heard from start to finish. The band’s contentious direction managed to breathe a different--albeit pent-up and decaying--type of life into them. Perhaps the best overall example of this is “This Dying Soul,” the second of Mike Portnoy’s Twelve-step Suite. For a while, we have a steady and methodical sound, but come the second half, connections between it and “The Glass Prison” arise along with the pace. Things get downright explosive. If any song can get the listener to drop their guard, it would be this one (or the effective “Endless Sacrifice”). That said, there are no guarantees.
When Train of Thought
isn’t ignored, it’s usually frowned upon and seen as a notorious venture. Just like Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
, this is both unfortunate and understandable. As with Falling Into Infinity
, Train of Thought
is an alienating work for listeners, which is interesting since the albums polarize each other. Except where one seemed to compromise the band’s integrity, the other saw them take liberties on their own accord. It didn’t draw popularity or celebration, but it did produce potent material that, regardless of opinion, leaves a strong impression.