Train Of Thought
Review by Phil Ashcroft:|
Love them or hate them, Dream Theater are a band who make music for themselves. If the fans want to come along for the ride then that's fine, but with the exception of parts of Falling Into Infinity, it's music made without concession or compromise. That statement probably isn't entirely true and integrity doesn't always go hand in hand with being on a major label, but even though I've no idea how they've managed to stay true to themselves AND appease the label, I'm certainly glad that they have.
After the rather eclectic collection of songs that was Six Degrees, the band have this time opted for less variety and more cohesion, a unified sound that's both incredibly direct and hard hitting, but no less technically demanding for both the listener and the band. To compare it to past albums it's part Scenes From A Memory, and part Awake...the heaviest parts!
Containing 7 songs, 5 of them well over 10 minutes long, Train Of Thought could have been too much for even the most hardened prog-metal head to cope with, but what DT have done is basically leave the over-the-top instrumental bits in, but simplify the songs around them. By songs I mean the bits where James LaBrie is actually involved, and despite the length of the tracks it's heartening to note that there are an awful lot of lyrics in the booklet.
Kicking off with a Black Sabbath riff (or the riff to Black Sabbath to be precise), the relatively short As I Am soon turns into a Metallica-like affair. With a great chorus, both musically and lyrically, and with Jordan Rudess taking a back-seat, John Petrucci's playing is very direct and it's the closest thing they've done for a while to a straight rock song. It's also immediately apparent that LaBrie is in excellent voice, probably his best since Images & Words, and that Mike Portnoy is definitely not underplaying this time around.
On to the longer tracks, This Dying Soul returns to the punchy riffs and multiple time changes of old, while the vocals are aggressive and the insistent hooks of the song even include a processed rap vocal that actually works. Rudess scores his first points with a couple of manic solos and some tasteful piano, while Petrucci complements him with some pacy riffs and shredding solos.
The pace is brought down a little for the outstanding Endless Sacrifice, which has a gentle verse and crunching, almost Nu-Metal, chorus. LaBrie is outstanding again and the instrumental interplay is a throwback to Metropolis. Honor Thy Father, on the other hand, has all manner of weird and wonderful things going on, crystalline metal riffs, off-the-wall vocal lines circa Rage For Order, odd rhythms, spoken dialogue, soaring vocal melodies, and even a keyboard solo that's a dead-ringer for Rick Wakeman. Intense is not the word.
Things are broken up nicely by the short gentle ballad Vacant, on which LaBrie's voice has a haunting, breathy quality. It's a simple theme built around bass, piano and cello, and leads nicely into the album's instrumental, Stream Of Consciousness. Dynamic and moody, and in the great tradition of Erotomania and Hell's Kitchen, the instrumentation is razor sharp and the many tempo changes don't change the fact that it's a superb succession of memorable tunes.
Saving the longest for last, In The Name Of God is heavy and atmospheric, but also relatively simple. It's a typical closing epic with tons of melody, some serious shredding in the mid-section, and builds up to a stirring climax in a similar way to Finally Free, right down to Rudess' simple piano. LaBrie pulls off a stunning vocal yet again and the song benefits from the simplicity of the arrangement, and the sharpness of the production.
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