Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dream Theater - Train of Thought (2003)

After the rather uneven double CD, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Dream Theater showed a tremendous return to form in this prorgressive heavy metal onslaught.

Where previous releases and even subsequent releases featured a somewhat more polished or refined brand of metal...  Train of Thought has a gritty and raw edge that sets it apart from much of the rest of Dream Theater's musical oevure.

Its this grittiness that makes this one of Dream Theater's best albums, if not their best overall.  From start to finish, with a short respite in the middle of the album with Vacant there's an edge to this album that seemed to have been missing from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.

The album opens with As I Am.  While the lyrics are almost groan-inducingly bad at times, the music more than makes up for the song's subpar lyrics ("I've been trying to justify you/in the end I will just defy you"- c'mon guys, we know you can do a lot better than THIS!). 

And thankfully after the lyrical hiccup of As I Am the album improves substantially with This Dying Soul the 2nd part of Mike Portnoy's Twelve Step Suite which he began on Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence with The Glass Prison detailing Portnoy's battle with and recovery from alcoholism.  Many of Dream Theater's fans have gained inspiration from Portnoy's suite and the band does a brilliant job of giving Mike's story a fantastic musical voice. 

On Endless Sacrifice the band really stretches out with some brilliant solos.  And as one who has never been tremendously keen on James LaBrie's vocals I'd argue this song features some of his best vocals since Images & Words.  The song builds slowly until about the 2:07 mark when the band shifts from gentle and melodic to raw and crunchy and back again.  It's easily one of the best songs on the album as it shows the versatility and breadth of the band's talents.

Honor Thy Father is one of the heaviest songs the band has ever recorded.  It starts chugging along building in intensity like a freight train with no brakes.  There's a greater anger and bitterness to the lyrics that the band had not really exhibited since 1994's Awake.  This also features some of Jordan Rudess' better keyboarding.

Vacant is a brief slow, somber, and melancholic piece and at just shy of 3 minutes easily the shortest song on the album-- it gives the listener just enough of a respite to catch his or her breath before the metal onslaught continues with Stream of Conciousness and In the Name of God which finishes out this brilliant album.

For many fans this was the album they'd been waiting for since Awake.  For others it was just a bit too raw and crunchy and lacked enough of the band's softer and gentler side and polish of some of the band's other albums.  But for this listener, this was the album that put the METAL back into progressive metal for Dream Theater, and it did so with a large bold-faced exclamation mark!

Related Media & Links
As I Am video

This Dying Soul video (Pt. 1)

This Dying Soul video (Pt. 2)

Endless Sacrifice video

Honor Thy Father video

Dream Theater (official site)
Dream Theater (wikipedia)
John Petrucci (official site)
John Petrucci (wikipedia)
Mike Portnoy (official site)
Mike Portnoy (wikipedia)
John Myung (wikipedia)
James LaBrie (Official Site)
James LaBrie (wikipedia)
Jordan Rudess (Official site)
Jordan Rudess (wikipedia)


Brett said...

Ok so this is an old post but I had to chime in being that I am a huge DT fan. I love this album!! This Dying Soul is probably one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) songs by them. I also have spent many hours practicing this song on the drums (lots of odd time changes). Of all their albums I always come back to Six Degrees (which I love as well) and Train of Thought. This CD got hammered in the forums but in an interview on the second audio track of the Live at Budokan DVD, Mike explains that making a heavy album was the plan after hearing many of favorite bands get older and go soft. He also mentioned that he noticed over the years which songs pumped up the crowd and wanted to make an entire album that could do that. Mission accomplished I say. Awesome CD.

Perplexio said...

Brett, this is actually one of my favorite albums by them. While I dig This Dying Soul I think I actually prefer Endless Sacrifice and Honor Thy Father. The only low points on the album for me are Vacant and the lyrics to As I Am (musically, I love the song, but those lyrics are groan inducing-- some of the band's worst)