Released: 2003, Elektra Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Following 2002’s SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE, Dream Theater’s new CD, TRAIN OF THOUGHT, is a much more condensed effort. While 7 songs stretching almost 70 minutes is hardly considered “condensed” to most bands, compared to last year’s 2-disc behemoth featuring the 40-minute “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” track, this IS a much more scaled-down affair. Prog metal has never been known for its lack of self-indulgence but Dream Theater is a bit of a special case. Most prog rock/metal is long, drawn out pap with no purpose other than to show how great the musicians who created it are while boring the listener to tears. Dream Theater, on the other hand, is able to reign in their egos enough to make cohesive records that keep the listener interested. TRAIN OF THOUGHT is the bands best effort since 1992’s IMAGES AND WORDS. The production is fantastic as John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy again take control. The drums are heavily felt and the guitars are also mixed high. Except for a few tracks, the keyboards are surprisingly low-key. Dream Theater has also taken a noticeably heavier approach on this album. TRAIN OF THOUGHT could easily put Dream Theater into the next level of success.
Opening track “As I Am” is Dream Theater’s best track in years and most worthy of airplay since “Pull Me Under” from 1992’s IMAGES AND WORDS album. The song starts out slow and within 90 seconds, kicks into high gear with a monster riff and bass line. The lyrics of this song are quite telling of Dream Theater’s position on their music towards their critics. “Don’t tell me what’s in, tell me how to write…I won’t change to fit your plan, take me as I am”. In other words, no trends or fads and they will continue to write songs the way THEY want to as they have been doing for almost 15 years, and if you don’t like it…TOO BAD! The two verses of “This Dying Soul” that begin at 7:15 sound SO close to Metallica’s “Blackened” it CANNOT be a coincidence. The next two verses feature vocalist James LaBrie sounding an awful lot like Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine! Metallica and Megadeth nods…ON A DREAM THEATER ALBUM?!?! John Petrucci ends the song with a blistering guitar solo, as well. “Endless Sacrifice” finally slows things down until the chorus hits and once again, the band is on fire. This is one of the best tracks on the album. LaBrie’s voice is spot on throughout the 11+ minute track, too. “Honor Thy Father” is a bitter song with lyrics by Petrucci that contradict the title and lash out at his father. “I’ll get my peace of mind when you hear this song…how can you sleep a wink at night pretending everything is alright…never in my life have I seen someone so fucking blind to the damage he has done, you’re the rotted root in the family tree.” OUCH!! This is the heaviest track on the album as Portnoy’s double-bass thunders at several points. I could do without the megaphone vocal effect that LaBrie uses at certain points in the song, though. “Vacant”, the lone song under seven minutes, is a piano and cello-driven ballad with poignant lyrics from LaBrie (his only songwriting credit on the album). I suppose it is a decent middle-point to the album but it is probably the weakest track. The 11+ minute instrumental, “Stream of Consciousness”, allows each member of the band to step forward, if only for a brief moment, during this extended jam session. The album closer, “In The Name Of God”, attacks blind faith and religious fanaticism, asking “does following faith lead us to violence?”. Petrucci has an incredible solo on this song and Jordan Rudess’ keyboard outro is perfect..
TRAIN OF THOUGHT is an “enhanced CD” which, when inserted into the computer, allows you access to weblinks and video clips entitled “Writing The Record” and “Recording The Record”. The clips run eight minutes and seventeen minutes, respectively, and feature behind-the-scenes footage of the band recording the album with narration by Mike Portnoy. Portnoy’s drum kit in these clips is MASSIVE!! It truly must be seen to be believed.
TRAIN OF THOUGHT contains enough wankery and soloing to keep the prog heads happy but without any dull points to keep the prog-haters in check. The album is heavy as hell, without LaBrie’s vocals extending too much into the glass-shattering octaves. The musicianship is stellar as always, which is exactly what we have come to expect from this band. Dream Theater is the finest prog metal band EVER, in my opinion, and TRAIN OF THOUGHT should be one of their proudest moments.
KILLER KUTS: “As I Am,” “Endless Sacrifice,” “Honor Thy Father,” “In The Name Of God”