Dream Theater - Train Of Thought

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Elektra
Catalog Number: 62891
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:24:00

Progressive rock aside, for it encompasses a wide variety of styles and sounds, most current rock/pop music seems to be nothing more than a few influential bands or artists and their posses of imitators. Most of it seems to be the Metallica sound-alikes, or the Britany Spears wannabes. Progressive rock has their own archetypal bands and their followers as well. Dream Theater has spawned quite a few offspring, and most progressive-metal bands owe some debt to the sound of Dream Theater. Dream Theater seems to have decided to be an acolyte instead of an icon with this release. They have joined the camp of Metallica followers, and with that, and a few references to Alice In Chains and Marilyn Manson, they produce the long awaited Train Of Thought.

It seems obvious that DT wanted to be sure that no one had forgotten that Mike Portnoy can beat the bejeezus out of a drum set and that John Petrucci can play very, very fast guitar licks. It is a fact that, previous to this release, John could, with little effort, pull off endless 64th notes in flowing, cascading waterfalls of sheer guitar angst. It seems that he can now probably play 128th notes or something. God only knows. Somebody help me, please?

Another thing please. Just what the heck does the keyboard player do in this band? About every eight minutes or so, you get the idea that there may be a fifth member in this band, but that generally passes quickly. Once in a while you hear Rudess playing one of those DT style synthesizer solos. All DT keyboardists have used them almost exclusively. You know, the one where you have to listen for five or ten seconds to figure out that its not another Petrucci solo? What's the spell cast on otherwise good keyboard players, that when exposed to the DT sound, they immediately stop playing keyboards, and start trying to imitate guitar playing? Is there something wrong with sounding like a keyboard player? The only time you can really be sure that there is a keyboard player in this band is when you occasionally hear Rudess playing some crappy piano line like that you might hear in an Elton John or Styx song

Now, on to James LaBrie. He is apparently a great, wonderful vocalist. I can't see any reason why anyone would believe this, but he is always guesting on some other band's releases, and he makes even more side-project recordings than Mike Portnoy does, so he must be a fine and talented singer. Everyone thinks so anyway. Thankfully, the material on this release requires almost no vocal talent or ability, so we won't know from listening to Train Of Thought what a fantastic vocalist LaBrie is, but have no doubt, people have made up their minds on this already. It is probably a good thing that LaBrie has decided to go in for the current style of producing heavily compressed, distorted vocals, for this helps to disguise his miniscule vocal range and his almost total lack of power or projection.

The music itself is exactly what one might expect, given my earlier description of the bands current path. We get endless pounding, riffmaster playing, oh, about a hundred blistering guitar solos, dozens of drum breaks where Portnoy gets a chance to wallop some drum skins, free of any hindrance. The songs all require what I assume is Petrucci's seven string guitar, producing subterranean licks and gut twisting chord changes. We get clean guitar picking out lines that seem to have been lifted in whole from Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and "Nothing Else Matters." I have always laughed at the silly old guitar wisdom that "one well chosen note says it all". This really is a foolish old canard, but Petrucci's playing on Train Of Thought will prove beyond any doubt that ten thousand notes can't say much either, if beneath it all, you have nothing important to say.

All the cuts on this release are far, far too long. With the exception of track five, the almost overlooked "Vacant," at under three minutes, everything is in the range of eight to fourteen minutes, and all these songs could be cut to half their length with no loss of effect. Heck, you could cut them even shorter than that in my opinion. They are little more than guitar solos in search of songs to support them, but the songs are nowhere to be found. This is nearly seventy minutes of non stop sturm und drang, a blitzkrieg of repetitive, almost painful, self aggrandizing wanking. The amazing thing is that they felt that, in the midst of all this, they needed an instrumental. "Stream Of Consciousness" is its title, and yeah, there is a stream of something here, but I think it smells like something other than consciousness.

I am not a huge fan of progressive metal, or of Dream Theater in particular. There is usually too much metal and too little progressive content for my tastes. I guess I really haven't enjoyed much of DT's output since A Change Of Seasons. Maybe this release will be just the thing DT needs to move up from their cult favourite status to greater general acceptance, but I doubt that it will happen that way. This is pretty late in the game to start playing for the other team, and they had better start shaving their heads, getting some more tattoos and nose rings if they really intend to make a shot at success in this arena. I don't see that happening, frankly.

It is a real pity that this enormously talented group of musicians don't have any inclination to do anything of value with their gifts. I know what I'd want to hear from them, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it. An album where Portnoy uses a small single bass kit, a song where Petrucci plays a 12 string acoustic and has no solos whatsoever. How about a cut where Rudess's keyboards carry the song, or one with some vocal harmonies? You know, something that might lead to some "progressive" content?

But all that aside, I'll hang on to my copy of this release. Once in a great while I'll listen to a few moments of one of these songs.

Sometimes you want to get smacked right between the eyes with a two by four. I can't imagine why, but you never know.

As I Am (7:48) / This Dying Soul (11:28) / Endless Sacrifice (11:24) / Honor Thy Father (10:14) / Vacant (2:58) / Stream Of Consciousness (11:16) / In The Name Of God (14:16)

James LaBrie - vocals
John Myung - bass
John Petrucci - guitars
Jordan Rudess - keyboards
Eugenes Friesen ? cello

When Dreams and Day Unite (1989)
Images and Words (1992)
Live At The Marquee (1993)
Dream Out Loud (1994)
Awake (1994)
A Change in Season (1995)
Falling Into Infinity (1997)
Once In A Livetime (1998)
Scenes From A Memory (1999)
Cleaning Out The Closet (Xmas CD 1999) (1999)
Scenes From A World Tour - Christmas CD 2000 (2001)
Live Scenes From New York (2001)
Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (2002)
Train Of Thought (2003)
Live At Budokan (2004)
Octavarium (2005)
Score (3CD) (2006)
Systematic Chaos (2007)
Greatest Hit (...And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs) (2008)
Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)
A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011)
Dream Theater (2013)
Dream Theater - Live At Luna Park (2013)
Dream Theater - Breaking The Fourth Wall - Live From The Boston Opera House (2014)
The Astonishing (2016)
Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York (DVD) (2001)
Live At Budokan (DVD) (2004)
Score (DVD) (2006)
Chaos In Motion (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: May 2nd 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website: www.dreamtheater.net
Hits: 1112
Language: english


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