Progressive rock masters Dream Theater return in full force with their ninth studio album, Systematic Chaos. Rooted in the virtuosic sounds the band is known for, the album features heavy riffs reminiscent of Metallica's earlier years, soaring melodies and intricate arrangements. With Systematic Chaos, Dream Theater have sought to not only appease their ever loyal fans with their remarkable musicality, but to also reach out to all rock fans with hook-laden rockers like Constant Motion, Forsaken and The Dark Eternal Night. Co-produced by Mike Portnoy (drummer, vocals) and John Petrucci guitarist) and mixed by Paul Northfield (Rush, Hole, Ozzy Osbourne), Systematic Chaos is an apt title for an album that ranges from parts ever so delicate to arrangements that beg the question, how do they do that? Dream Theater have delivered a seminal album that clearly shows the band is at the top of their game twenty years into their storied career. Special Edition available featuring unique artwork and bonus DVD including a 5.1 mix of the album and a 90 minute making of album documentary.
Despite dubbing their ninth album "Systematic Chaos," this New York quintet's complex musicianship seems executed with forethought and mathematical precision instead of randomness, as the title suggests. Even the feverish poetry and disconnected haiku of a song like "Repentance," the fourth song in drummer Mike Portnoy's suite on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, seems calculated to both enthrall and frighten with a lethal mix of minor chords, mumbled spoken word, cold brittle keyboards, and buzzy Pink Floydian vocals. The zombie chorus (comprised of 50 Dream Theater fans) of "Prophets of War" echoes that wet sodden paranoia with an anxious and anthemic warning of a daunting future if things don't change, showing these prog rock avatars to be as socially conscious as they are inventive. This disc stretches the limits of Dream Theater's earlier canon, as they continue to concoct breathless musical anagrams while subsuming some of the territory that Metallica used to occupy with their bleak mediations, doomsday prophecies, and thrashy bashing guitars. This is an unnerving record for unnerving times --Jaan Uhelszki