Dream Theater – Train of Thought

November 11th marked the release date of the latest Dream Theater album, “Train of Thought.” I've been looking forward to this one for a while now, and I defintely think it was worh the wait. I don't know if it's on par with some of their other albums like Scenes From a Memory or Images and Words, but I don't think it was supposed to be one of those kind of albums. I read a blurb mentioning something about the band saying this was written as a Metal album from day one, and that it certainly is. They bring a bunch of sweet riffs and crushing rhythms to the table, and spice them up with their usual pizazz of sweet solos and time/tempo changes, albeit not as many. They seemed to be going for a record with more of an extended groove, instead of playing a sweet riif for 10 seconds then changing to another riff on a different time signature, then repeating. Combine that with the metal attack, and you get some serious headbanging potential.

As I Am – DT released the radio edit of this song on their website a few weeks before the album was released, and I snapped it up really quick. It starts out with some cool distorted bass harmonics, and then goes into a full 7 string swing. One of the things that made me happy about this album is that John Petrucci pulled out the 7 string guitar for this album and didn't put it away. Too many assclown bands today use 7 strings to be tough and cool, but they never really use any more than the two low strings. If they do make it to the high strings, it's just for annoying dissonant chords played over and over that just make your ears want to pick up and move out of your head. John Petrucci goes from low B all the way to 24 on the high E, and everywhere in between. One thing about this song it's definitely following a radio-type formula… lots of verse, chorus, verse-chorus, then the obligatory guitar solo (no keyboard solo, what a travesty), and then a couple more verse-choruses, then done. The song still has plenty of cool instrumental moments, and weighs in at 7:47, so it's not like its totally radio friendly. I actually heard it on the radio the other night though, so it's out there.

This Dying Soul – This song opens up freakin heavy. A big low B power chord followed by a thundering herd of bass drums, then it blasts right into a full blown guitar solo, then a keyboard solo. This is how it should be. They go lyrical after that, and the music for that is a little more toned back. By looking at the lyrics and listening to the music, the first part is supposed to be a revisitation to the song The Mirror from Awake. They even pull a short piece of music straight out of The Mirror and use it as a transition into the second part of the song, which seems to borrow a bit from The Glass Prison lyrically. There are a couple parts to this song where James LaBrie is doing the “screaming into a megaphone pointed at the microphone” vocals, and I don't dig on that too much. He kinda raps during that part, and it doesn't really work for me. The music behind it does though. It's this really stacatto rhythm with a lot of triplets, and it's sweet.

Endless Sacrifice – This song opens pretty slow, with some cool clean guitar lines, but then drops into a thundering rhythm for the chorus. The song builds slowly during the next verses, then goes nuts in the gratutious (and obligatory) extended instrumental section in the middle. Petrucci and Jordan Rudess have their fun while exchanging lead lines. Cool stuff. Once they've had their fun, they bust back into the main flow of the song with a peppier version of the chorus riff, and finish things off with a lot of energy. This is probably my favorite song off the album right now.

Honor Thy Father – This song opens up with a really off-beat rhythm, then slows down into a more subdued sound for the verses. Rudess brings out a huge sound for the bridges, laying a high synth line over the thunder of the guitar and bass. Sounds really cool. The jam session in the middle of the song is really sweet, but they have one of those White Zombie-esque tracks of weird conversation clips overlaying the music, and it's weird. Takes away from the sweetness of the jam. I never liked those talk tracks anyways.

Vacant – This is a very short by DT standards (only about 3 minutes), but it's also not one of their jam fests. Its a somber sounding tune, and it only has bass, keyboards, and a cello plus lyrics. It's cool sounding, and almost a welcome break from the fury.

Stream of Consciousness – This song is an instrumental, and with Dream Theater, instrumentals are always fun. They continue some of the musical themes and progressions started by Vacant and expands with drums and guitar. Very cool. A good portion of the song has a constant driving beat, perfect for flying down the highway at speeds exceeding the legal limit… 😀

In the Name of God – This one also starts kind of slow, but the rhythm has a 3 part harmony (or so it would seem to my untrained ears) between bass, guitar, and keys that sounds really cool. The verse riff in this one is sweet… pretty simple, but sweet. The song kinda gets a little drawn out in the middle, but they break into a much cooler section after that, and it sounds really big. They break into a solo section after that, which sounds really cool. The solos that stand out for me are the ones that are probably the easiest to play – a long series of hammer-ons and pull-offs that seem analgous to a trip up and down a hill, but it's really neat nonetheless. The song finishes quite slowly, and the album finishes with a cool piano lick.

Before you know it, 69 minutes and 21 seconds have passed, and the album is done. If you're like me you're already reaching for the remote to start the CD over again. There are only 7 tracks on the CD, but the album definitely isn't lacking. It's not the prog-metal masterpieces that some of their previous albums were, but I don't think they were aiming at that. Overall, it's sweet, and if you dig on heavy metal with a lot of parts and solos, you'll probably like this disk. Grade: A.

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