Dream Theater
Systematic Chaos


4.5
superb

Review

by PsychicChris USER (564 Reviews)
May 10th, 2024 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I judge as my eyes see

Whether you love or hate Dream Theater, I think we can all agree that they’re pretty damn ridiculous. Every album has a slew of cheesy moments, but I don’t think there’s a more potent example of that cheese in action than 2007’s Systematic Chaos. While swinging back to the metal side of their light/heavy pendulum, the vibes hit different than Train of Thought. It seems to have a more classic spirit as the solo sections are somehow even more over the top than they already were while the lyrics are preoccupied with fantasies of evil pharaohs, vampires, and dark masters.

The album also stands out for how much of a spotlight it puts on Mike Portnoy, emphasizing his vocals on top of his always powerful drumming. He had been contributing backup harmonies as far back as Scenes From A Memory but is more upfront here with more of his own lines. It works at times as his intrusive shouts add to the disjointed feel of “Constant Motion” and a brief croon gives “Repentance” a hit of vulnerability, but then you get the aggro distortion on “The Dark Eternal Night” or the melodramatic rap at the climax on “Prophets of War.” It feels like he was trying to give the music an extra edge that LaBrie couldn’t bring but ironically makes the experience even goofier than it’d be otherwise.

But while these bombastic elements are no doubt a turnoff for some, I’d be hard pressed to think of the last time a Dream Theater album was this much fun. “The Dark Eternal Night” may have those ridiculous barks, but it also has a gnarly riff set, strong chorus, and some wacky keyboard-driven curveballs. I also gotta love the gothic camp on “Forsaken” thanks to its tight structuring and “Constant Motion” is another fitting exercise of frantic thrash riffs describing relatable mental distresses with a smooth call and response chorus to boot.

Thankfully it’s not all dumb as the album shows a more contemplative side as it goes along. “Repentance” is a welcome break from the heaviness both here and the whole AA Suite, its mellow Opeth-esque swirls supporting restrained vocals that eventually give way to a collage of echoing confessions and apologies. “The Ministry of Lost Souls” also does well in relaying its lengthy life and death narrative through somber verses and an uptempo solo section while “Prophets of War” makes for better Muse worship than “Never Enough.”

Just as Wish You Were Here was bookended by “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” Systematic Chaos is similarly defined by the two-part wraparound that is “In The Presence of Enemies.” While this move could be seen as gimmicky, each part is substantial in itself and nicely enhances the overall flow. The first part makes for a great start, invoking memories of “Erotomania” as its extended shred-friendly overture fades into a gradually ominous verse/chorus set. The second part ramps up the darkness and camp in equal measure across sixteen minutes, spreading spooky motifs over bass-driven murkiness, sinister calls to arms set to Iron Maiden-inspired gallops, and an apocalyptic yet triumphant finish. I don’t know if I’d call this the best Dream Theater epic, but it is among their most entertaining.

Prog metal may be the last genre you’d ever expect to see something that invites you to turn your brain off, but Systematic Chaos makes for some dumb fun by Dream Theater standards. The playing feels more energized than their last couple outings and the songwriting seems more cohesive with no outright dud bringing it down. It didn’t exactly refute the band’s corny reputation and those viewing them through that lens will likely find plenty to hate here, but it’s yet another instance of that character shining through.



Recent reviews by this author
Ministry Filth PigDream Theater Black Clouds and Silver Linings
Dream Theater OctavariumDream Theater Train of Thought
Dream Theater Six Degrees of Inner TurbulenceDream Theater Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
user ratings (2235)
3.3
great
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Mikesn EMERITUS (2)
    Systematic Chaos is an album that showcases a ton of potential, but ultimately falls short...

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

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

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

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

    enslaved1896 (4)
    While not as classic as say "Images and Words", Dream Theater's new LP "Systematic Chaos" ...

    Xenorazr (2.5)
    'Haphazard Mess' would be more apt....

    Locrian (2)
    Systematic Chaos is Dream Theater’s attempt to do what they’re just not very good at....

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

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



Comments:Add a Comment 
Beardog
May 10th 2024


5232 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Hard disagree on the rating and I think the flaws you mention really bother me a lot more than they do you. Good review however!

kalkwiese
May 10th 2024


10452 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I am more bothered by how boring most of the songs here are tbh

Book ends are gud tho

Koris
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2024


21185 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

Damn, quite a bold rating for this one. I still have this in my bottom 3 (alongside the s/t and The Astonishing), but good review regardless

DaveyMonsoon
May 10th 2024


1105 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This is absolutely not a 4.5 but I commend your work ethic nonetheless.

e210013
May 10th 2024


5221 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree with the other comments. This is an album less good then the previous ones, probably except their debut. I also think this one is probabbly weaker than "Octavarium". Still, I think this is also a good album and that is the reason why I gave it a 4.

But I agree with Brendan. This is a good review, regardless your bold rating. So, pos.

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2024


1577 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah glad to see this getting some love. Great album

DocSportello
May 11th 2024


3380 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Nowhere near as offensive as my other 1s, on the contrary it’s rather cozy to me. A special 1 for sure

Kusangii
May 11th 2024


6625 Comments


At least Constant Motion is fun to play on rock band

Veldin
May 11th 2024


5275 Comments


PsychicChris, what do you think of/rate A Change of Seasons EP?

Hawks
May 11th 2024


88483 Comments


Constant Shit

Koris
Staff Reviewer
May 11th 2024


21185 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

The tables have turned, and One Last Shit has suddenly become...



The Dark Eternal Shit



Speaking of which, I still watch that Dark Nintendo Night video from time to time. Nostalgic stuff

PsychicChris
May 11th 2024


413 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I’d put A Change of Seasons somewhere in the 4/4.5 range. The title track is obviously great and I actually think the live covers are terrific, it’s just one that I didn’t have in rotation as often as their full-lengths so I didn’t think to review it as part of the series.

DaveyMonsoon
May 11th 2024


1105 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"I still watch that Dark Nintendo Night video from time to time"

And here I thought I'd forgotten about that video lmao, fun times.

Veldin
May 12th 2024


5275 Comments


Right on, yeah I really enjoy the title track and all the live tracks. Going thru DT discog for first time! YYZ cover is a lot of fun and just found out they have live albums covering Number of the Beast, Master of Puppets, and Made in Japan! Finally finished Metropolis Pt. 2 and could definitely see it growing to a 5 in time. Onward!

e210013
May 13th 2024


5221 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think Metropolis Pt. 2 is an album that can grow easily to a 5 in time, as happened with me.

wildinferno2010
May 15th 2024


1907 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Ministry of Lost Souls is one of DT's most underrated songs imo

pizzamachine
May 15th 2024


27270 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I love it when chaos is systematic, it makes sense of the world

iHaveSex
May 15th 2024


207 Comments


Rush did it better.



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