Without a doubt, this is the heaviest album Dream Theater has ever produced. While some fans are saying that this album is a bit too
heavy, I am going to tell you that is certainly not true. The best songs by Dream Theater have always been their heavy ones, and this album delivers six metal songs that average over ten minutes in length.
One particular thing that stands out when listening to this album is Portnoy's excessive use of the double bass. He is capable of executing a very fast double bass, and he does it in sections of almost all of the songs on this album. In addition to that, Portnoy has an uncanny ability to utilize almost all of his drum set on his solos, which makes them really interesting to hear. Also, Petrucci delivers his usual shredding solos in every song (besides Vacant). This album is of course technically brilliant in almost every aspect.
Unfortunately, Myung and Rudess are shoved to the background for the most part on this album. Except for the three-minute piece Vacant, they are barely noticeable. Also, LaBrie is horrible again. His lyrics are just stupid and angsty. For example, Endless Sacrifice had the chance to be one of the best Dream Theater songs ever. But LaBrie's lyrics are just so wimpy
. The chorus in this song is so incredible instrumentally, but then you notice Labrie's lyrics: "I'm trying to stay alive, until I hear your voice. I'm gonna lose my mind, someone tell me why I chose this life." That sounds like whiny pop punk lyrics to me. Also, his voice is terribly ill-fitting in this band. It is rather high and whiny. His screaming ability is nearly nonexistent, and his yelling ability is painfully average. Other than that gaping hole in the lyrics/vocals department, this album is great.
The songs on this album are very long, even for a progressive band. All but two are over ten minutes in length. That is due in part to the huge length of time that Dream Theater lets Petrucci and Portnoy solo in every song, four or five minutes most of the time. While some people deem their solos "tedious" or "emotionless," I personally find them to be very entertaining. In fact, Stream of Consciousness is a song entirely devoid of vocals. Dream Theater lets all four instrumental members do their thing, and that is one of the better songs on the album.
The only song where LaBrie's vocals aren't painful to listen to is Honor Thy Father, which is the best song on the album in my opinion. This is definitely the most "metal" song on the album, with some sections being genuinely heavy. Portnoy is excellent again in this song, using double bass again. LaBrie even raps a bit in this song, and it isn't as painful as you would expect. LaBrie's best vocal performance on this song is the first verse, where he does a great job of singing in a quiet, tentative way, which sets the mood for the song. Another section where LaBrie sounds great is the section where he says "Don't cross the crooked step!" That comes exactly at the five minute mark, and sounds nothing like the regular LaBrie. After that line comes the heaviest part of the song, which sounds like it was lifted straight out of a System of a Down song. Another thing that is good about this song is that the solos are rather short and concise, not the overblown extravaganzas that some of their solo sections turn out to be. Great song.
There aren't many sub par songs on this album, most are just about at the same quality level. The only song that really stands out as poor is Vacant. This little song is not even three minutes long. You will hear no sound out of Petrucci or Portnoy on Vacant. Dream Theater seems to be playing shorthanded on this song, they sound like an average band in terms of technical skill without Petrucci and Portnoy. Being that Dream Theater relies almost solely on technical skill, that sounds like trouble. I admire their attempt to try and make a song that relies on overall sound instead of technical playing, but this song is a really poor attempt.
The other songs on this album are all a varying mix of heaviness and softness. No song on this album is pure heaviness, all of them mix in soft sections. That helps these rather long songs from getting tedious. No other track really stands out on this album, but In The Name Of God is one of the better ones.
So overall, this is a very good release from Dream Theater. Heaviness is always excellent, and there is no shortage of that on this album. Honor Thy Father is one of the better songs that Dream Theater has released. The main strength of this album is its consistency. While Dream Theater's new release, Octavarium, was hit or miss on song quality, this album is rock solid all the way through.
1. Honor Thy Father
2. Stream of Consciousness
3. In The Name of God
2. This Dying Soul
3. Endless Sacrifice