HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Systematic Chaos (Roadrunner)

Prepare to get stuffed, because the prolific Dream Theater are back, carting with them long, vocal-less introductions tacked onto very long songs (although for only the third time in nine records, there are no instrumentals - ha ha, technically speaking). All told, this is an amalgam of the last three records, meaning it's touched by the darkness of Train Of Thought but tempered by the melody of the others. I'm finding the production a little harsh and noisy though (the snare, bass drums and cymbals sound terrible), and the emphasis on playing and playing circles around themselves a bit tiring - rarely are these intros contributing anything to the songs. Still, 'The Dark Eternal Night' is uncommonly heavy (and modern) for the guys, and 'Constant Motion' is even heavier, at least in its Megadeth/Metallica central riff and amusing LaBrie vocal. Key sounds are a bit dodgy here and there too, more bad choices with tones made than good - too synthetic neo-prog. 'Prophets Of War' is pretty OSI-trippy, dance beat and all, but smartened with guitars, big gang vocals, and a languished break section - my fave on the album. Portnoy continues his interesting and brave alcoholism suite with 'Repentance', a sloshing and roiling bit of reflective Animals-era Floyd music on which to chew before the next electric swirl with a slide rule confuses or substantiates, based on your patience. No real central concept this time, but that's almost preferred, even if 25 minutes is dedicated to one goliath theme, split into the first and last tracks. I dunno... it's hard to be a regular rocker fan of these guys. That's where I and so many other posers really situate, but are too embarrassed to admit it, with a whole extra army admitting to that, and then not giving a damn at all. And for all the deeply committed details-obsessed fans... well, few of them past muster as such under harsh white light. So what do Dream Theater deserve? It's not that there aren't dozens and dozens of bands that can match these guys, to a man, as players. There are - and many of them play thrash and death, for crissake, and legions more, prog metal that doesn't nearly get the reviews. So maybe it's left up to you to decide if Portnoy and Petrucci (essentially) are writing on a plain way up on maturity over those other players. Is that likely?
Rating 7.5

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