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Systematic Chaos (W/ DVD) [Special Edition]

Dream Theater Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product Details

1. In The Presence Of Enemies
2. Forsaken
3. Constant Motion
4. The Dark Eternal Night
5. Repentance
6. Prophets Of War
7. The Ministry Of Lost Souls
8. In The Presence Of Enemies- part II

Product Description


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

Product Description

Progressive rock masters Dream Theater return in full force with their ninth studio album Systematic Chaos. The album features heavy riffs, soaring melodies, and intricate arrangements. Dream Theater appeases its loyal fans but also reaches out to all rock fans with hook-laden hits like "Constant Motion," "Forsaken," and "The Dark Eternal Night."

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good Nov. 18 2013
By Left-T
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This is a great DVD but isn't as good as Metropolis. the quality is there but the song choice isn't as easy-flowing as their prior DVD.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Vader
Format:Audio CD
Dream Theater has released what can be considered one of the best metal albums of 2007. Constant Motion is an amazing first single and reminds of early Metallica. Dream Theater is one of the best metal bands today and this album is amazing. It's a masterpiece. It's well-written and the music is outstanding. This album is one of the best from Dream Theater.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
Fantastic album, still doing regular time in my player. Unfortunately, those longing for a return to the days (and albums) of Dream Theatre's yesterday are ultimately going to be left wanting this time around. Compared to Octavarium, this album probably went in the wrong direction for the hard-core DT fans.

Technically, the band is still miles beyond the norm (of course), but they seem to have set a little of their usual melody aside. A little more metal, a little less progressive. Every time I hear "Constant Motion" or "The Dark Eternal Night", I find myself checking to make sure I don't have Metallica's Black album in my player. Additionally, I can't help but gripe about the quasi-religious-ish lyrics that fairly saturate many songs on this album. They're honestly not powerful or interesting enough to be worth paying attention to, but they're too frequent to tune out entirely.

Despite all of the above, the driving leads, intricate ballads, and genuinely fun instrumentation and solos throughout, give this album lots of replay value. People still looping Scenes From A Memory and Budokan in their heads are probably going to come away dissatisfied, but the rest of us won't regret getting this album.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Too systematic and contrived Sept. 4 2007
Format:Audio CD
This group of amazing musicians has faltered again in their uneven career. Complex but unsophisticated compositions, musical masturbatory soloing and weak, over-affected vocalizing bring it down. The sense of melody that made "Images And Words" and "Falling Into Infinity" so enjoyable is completely absent. The intelligent lyrics and daring composition of "Six Degrees.." are also missing. If all you seek is hard-driving, fast and heavy music then you will be happy with this album. Sadly, the "progressive metal" moniker must be shortened as they relinquish the "progressive" component completely.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  271 reviews
85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting Better With Age June 26 2007
By TOL - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I always find it interesting to read the reviews after Dream Theater releases an album. In short, you never get any type of consensus from the fans. If they release a heavier album, half the fans want it to be more orchestral and moody. If they release a melodic album, half the fans want something heavier. If they play too fast, some people want them to slow it down. Playing too slow, on the other hand, causes the speed demons to turn their heads. Too much keyboard - not enough keyboard. Too much Portnoy, too much Petrucci. Not enough Petrucci, not enough Rudess. Bring back Kevin - and on, and on, and on, and on. Honestly, it's tiring.

But, you know what - behind it all is an army of hard core fans (mostly, dare I guess, musicians themselves who, by all measurements are always the harshest critics) who, whether they know it or not, are giving this band the highest form of praise you can ever give: In a word, VIRTUOSITY. These guys can spread themselves across such a wide range of styles that they have, along the way, picked up fans of all shapes, sizes, and musical tastes. So the fact that Dream Theater can never please them all at once is a testament to their artistic range, their musical talent, and, yes, their virtuosity.

Should I tell you about Systematic Chaos? Well, if you haven't guessed it yet, I loved this album. I am a fan of their more melodic works like Scenes From A Memory and the second disc of Six Degrees and, yes, even of the oft slammed Space-Dye Vest. That's not to say that Train of Thought doesn't have a coveted place in my collection. But I just happen to like the "catchier" albums a little more. So where does this one fit? Well, quite honestly, right in the middle. Every song has it's own set of big brass ones. But mixed in between are the signature catchy hooks that made this band so famous. I've seen many comparisons to many of their different albums in the various reviews, but the closest I could come is somewhere between Six Degrees and Octavarium - probably closer to the former than the latter.

I do have a few specific comments regarding the songs:

1. In The Presence Of Enemies Part I is a great opener featuring fast, high-energy riffs and the beginnings of a structured epic. The problem is that it doesn't go anywhere (clearly because it was recorded as one song with the closer). In any case, it's a good enough tease for the album that follows.

2. Forsaken is the catchy single. It is, in my opinion, the most listenable song on the album from the standpoint of wanting to hear it over and over again.

3. Constant Motion is, by far, my least favorite song on the album - mostly because it is a total rip-off of Metallica. They do it well, but this is not at all an original song. Dream Theater falls into this trap every so often, but never so obviously as this, in my opinion.

4. The Dark Eternal Night is a solid song with ripping solos, speedy runs, and dark but decent subject matter (feels a little Iron Maiden in it's story). Not a lot to remember, but definitely a lot to appreciate. My only problem here is with Jordan's "signature" ragtimey piano interlude. Jordan - enough already! I feel like he's trying to make this his trademark and, unfortunately, it's already been taken by Rick Wakeman. I wish he would drop the "piano in the western saloon" bit and break away on his truly original continuum instead.

5. Repentance is good, although too heavily influenced by Pain Of Salvation's "Be" album. I like the narratives, but POS did it just a little better.

6. Prophets Of War is another heavy tune with a great message. Not one of the stand-outs, in my opinion, but a solid contributor.

7. Now we're getting somewhere with Ministry Of Lost Souls. Some nice guitar work in the slower beginning parts, with one of the best vocal melodies toward the end that I have ever heard them build to.

8. And, finally, the rest of the first song. Again, great vocal melodies with an epic feel and an intense conclusion. But the song definitely loses some of its drive by being separated from it's start. Still, the album feels strong and complete with this one finishing it off.

So that's my take, for whatever it's worth. I love the fact that the fans are, yet again, mixed on this one. I hope they never all agree, because it will mean that Dream Theater has fallen into complacency and predictability - and that can never happen. But here's the most important thing - and please listen closely. I have seen a lot of different people who were fans since Awake or even Images. Well, I was a fan since the Majesty days. Truthfully, I followed these guys before they were ever signed and have been a die-hard fan ever since. And one thing I can say for sure is that they have all individually grown as musicians and, more importantly, have done the same as a band over their 20+ year career. These guys work hard at what they do and they are always honing their craft. I don't think we'll ever see them just sit back and take it easy and stop learning their instruments. And that's why their albums always evolve - in some cases even past their fans. But that's a good thing for the music business and, if we can all learn to appreciate it, a good thing for us.

Here's to another 20 years! May the rest of their career be as long as this review...
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another awesome release June 13 2007
By WillieB - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
DT's new release is a solid disc-filled, 78-minute, journey that should please most fans and shows they still are on top of their game. Their intense musicianship and enduring passion to create great tunes and give it their all shines through on this disc, however, the lyrics still are their weakest link. Although they break no new ground in their musical styling, Portnoy's vocals, that used to make me cringe because of the sour notes he hit, have improved, or maybe I'm just getting used to them.

My least favorite tracks on "Systematic Chaos" are the last few minutes of "Repentance" with the dialog babble in the background, and I'm not a fan of the industrial-techno-disco-sounding riff on "Prophets of War". Otherwise, this disc is killer, the engineering and artwork are amazing, and this probably will be the best prog-metal release of the year.

The special edition DVD is a must and includes a behind the scenes "making of" feature and a 5.1 mix of the album. The 90-minute documentary is good and Portnoy's personality rules the film, but it's odd that John Myung didn't say anything through the entire feature. Was this how he wanted it? Some of his thoughts on the album would have been a treat. The 5.1 mix is awesome - full, thick, spacious and you can even hear the bass guitar, so get rid of the earbuds, buy a decent surround system, and crank it up!
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This IS the best DT CD in years June 5 2007
By Cesar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I was willing to hear the next Dream Theater release to see what it was going to be like. After OCTAVARIUM, an album that I still consider a "revision" of the different styles that DT have recorded over the years, what was going to be next was kind of a mystery.

SYSTEMATIC CHAOS confirms even more the notion that Octavarium was musically transitonal. In the new CD, DT returns to the style they were playing in TRAIN OF THOUGHT, with a change: the new CD sounds as heavy, but with more progressive and chord changes, sounds and riffs added. It's like a combination of SIX DEGREES and TRAIN OF THOUGHT, a perfect balance that make me like this album more than the three previous. But I found that songs like CONSTANT MOTION and DARK ETERNAL LIGHT sound heavier that DT has ever been. They really rock !

Of course, this is not SCENES FROM A MEMORY, but it's still a worthy candidate to be there as one of the best albums they have ever released. It is produced by Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci (just like the 3 previous albums), this time with the help (as engineer and mixer) of Paul Northfield, who has lent the same services to the likes of Rush and Queensrÿche.

Even though this is not supposed to be a concept album, from a first impression it DOES look to have a concept, dealing with the themes of sin (in the form of the fight between good and evil), death, repentance and soul salvation. With the exception of "Prophets of war" (a self-explanatory protest song about the on-going war in Iraq) all the songs seem to follow a thread and fall into that category, which gives the album a spiritual meaning (and avoid a pair of slowers to sound mellow). That is until you hear what each song is about -in the DVD that comes with the special edition-. For instance, THE FORSAKEN is about a vampire, IN THE PRESENCE OF ENEMIES is about the attraction of the darkness and the temptation to fall into it (mmm...not unlike Anakin Skywalker's story), the MINISTRY OF LOST SOULS is about a trascendental encounter between somebody who was saved and his saviour who died. Still, the individual meaning of the songs, although more simplistic, is interesting.

The album have some good surprises. Mike Portnoy sings more than usual Not that he sings entire songs, but he appears in some instances as a complementary voice to La Brie's, and in others like in an interaction or "question and reply" manner. He sings good, providing a stronger element to make some heavy songs feel heavier (like the aformentioned CONSTANT MOTION and DARK ETERNAL LIGHT), and this might be a sign that he will do more vocal duties in the future.

Other great surprise is the inclusion of a batch of guest musicians in the song "Repentance", but in an original way: they don't sing or play, but do spoken parts, confessing "sins", to illustrate the theme of the song. There we have Steve Hoggarth, Neil Morse, Steve Wilson, Jon Anderson, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani... (why not Geddy Lee?).

In "Prophets of war" and "In the Presence of enemies", choruses are done by a bunch of fans that were invited into the studio (damn it, I wish I had been there!).

I think the best that I can say about this album is the same that I said about their last concert DVD: The songs have energy and vitality. DT still seem happy to play. Their motivation is still there...and they're still in the peak of their skills.

Notes on the Special edition DVD: I highly recommend the special edition, a must for any DT fan. The DVD has the 5.1 mix of the album, that enhances perfectly the heaviness of the album and presents the execution of the different musical parts and instruments clearer. The mix is for DVD video players in Dolby Digital 5.1 (meaning that it can be enjoyed in ANY DVD player, and that there is no layer for specialized DVD-Audio players). Also included is "The making of" documentary directed and edited by Mike Portnoy. Mostly, is about the band members, performing, creating and talking about the whole process (except John Myung, who is consistent with his "no speak about anything" policy). It's a real pleasure to watch the stages of the creative process, and how the skills and contributions of the different musicians convey in the whole as the finished product. By the way, there are no fights or heated arguments, but the band having a good time. It's interesting also in the information of how each song was conceived, and their meaning. And the documentary is surprisingly full of humor. The program has no subtitles.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chaotic, but not exactly Systematic July 6 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
A solid effort from DT this time around, and it's wonderful to see the support of a good record label behind them. Definitely worth getting the special edition for the documentary and packaging. The music...well, as with every album since SDOIT it's a mixed bag. Despite Portnoy's insistence that this would be a heavy, modern, ballsy album, it simply isn't.

ToT was a determined move in those directions, competing with the likes of Disturbed and Tool while maintaining the classic DT prog sound. On this disc however, The first four songs are heavy and aggressive, but not any more so than an your average track from Awake or ToT (though much more aggressive than anything on Octavarium). The album slows WAY down about mid-way through with 'Repentance', 'Prophets of Doom' (a bizzare metal/techno song??), and 'Ministry of Lost Souls.' This triple punch of slower/mellow tunes really lets the air out of the whole experience and ultimately prevents it from living up to Portnoy's promises. Don't get me wrong, they aren't bad songs, but they simply aren't as strong as they should be in light of the earlier tunes (Constant Motion and Dark Eternal Night in particular), and they seem to bog the whole album down a bit.

It's also hard to imagine most DT fans not taking issue with some of the lyrics on this album. DT has been long known for introspective, well-crafted, mature themes. I'm not sure if DT is trying to fit in with some of their new label mates, or simply got lazy, but some of the lyrics (especially on the sprawling 'In the Presence of Enemies) are plain bad if not embarrassing. Petrucci has stated that he wrote a lot of fictional lyrics for this disc, but I thought he meant something along the lines of 'Pull Me Under' or 'Metropolis'. Apparently he meant '1982 Iron Maiden B-sides'. Constant references to the 'Dark Master', vampires, ancient pharoahs are awkward and seem juvenille for a band that delivered such stunning works as the 'Scenes from a Memory' concept album, and songs such as 'Sacrificed Sons' or 'Take Away My Pain'. The usually sobering vocals of LaBrie are almost comical as he sings "Dark Master - I will not serve youuuuuahhh!!!" Cringe-worthy to say the least. It reminded me of an SNL skit where Hetfield and Dickenson duel it out for the sake of melodrama. Not sure what was going on here. I'm all for something new and different, but the lyrics are just bad. No offense to Petrucci (one of my favorite lyricists), but it just doesn't work in the context of DT.

Overall I can't complain much. DT's worst effort is still better than most swill on the market today, but they've delivered so brilliantly in the past that it seems impossible for them to improve. I'll enjoy this one just as much as the others and anticipate what they do next.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dream Theater's best since Six Degrees, but it's still not up there with the best of 'em. June 5 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I'll be honest, when I first heard the singles "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night", I thought "Systematic Chaos" was going to be a "Systematic Failure". There are some bands which get worse as they progress, while there are other bands which release albums of similar quality and seem worse because the fan's initial tastes have changed. When I heard the first two singles, I thought that they were solid Dream Theater songs but that I might finally be tired of their progressive style. Today, I heard the rest of the album and was proven wrong. Dream Theater have released another solid album. There's enough new material on "Systematic Chaos" to keep longtime fans of the band at least slightly interested, while fans of the Jordan Ruddess-era material will find little to complain about.

The album opens up with a very progressive bang! From "In the Presence of Enemies pt.1" Those who know of the middle of "Metropolis pt. 1", "The Dance of Eternity", and the part 3 of "Octavarium" know what I'm talking about. After that, the song settles down and turns into something very listenable. The next song, "Forsaken" is another solid song (and a relatively short DT song, for that), and probably one of my favorite on the album. "Constant Motion" and "The Dark Eternal Night" follow, neither of which I'm too fond of. The first song sounds too much like Metallica for me, while the second seems to be a bit too much of a "cut and paste" effort. Also, the lyrics to these songs are horrendously cliched. For example, Constant Motion's chorus "Forever More/Into the Night/Disarray!"

"Repentance", which is the next song, takes the album in an interesting turn. It's certainly the next song in Mike Portnoy's AA saga, and this time it's a slow song. Very nice touch. It seems that the band is beginning to think about how the whole thing is going to work as one big piece of music. But the peice drags on for over 10 minutes without any real musical changes, and the strange narration at the end just ends the song on a very weird and awkward feeling.

"Prophets of War" is interesting at first, and probably the best song on the album lyrically, but the music and vocals are just horrible. This is the worst song on the album, in my opinion, and it's also a shameless attempt at stealing Muse's style (again).

The album turns to a slower pace again for "The Ministry of Lost Souls", a 14 minute epic that I think might be good enough to join the ranks as a "Dream Theater Epic". The only problem is it's a bit too long, and the instrumental section doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the song.

"In the Presence of Enemies pt 2" wraps up the album quite nicely. I recommend anyone capable of burning CDs onto computers to set the first and last song as a separate play list so that it can be listened to as one piece. As a whole, "In the Presence of Enemies" is without a doubt the 25 minute epic song that we all thought "Octavarium" was going to be before that album came out. That's not to say "Octavarium" wasn't a great song, but it's nothing in comparison to this one!

Overall, I think this is a better album than "Train of Thought" and "Octavarium". There's fireworks abound, which I would prefer less of at this point in my life, but Dream Theater have seem to become more tasteful about were they place their fireworks. Some songs go overboard in instrumental sections, while others remain more or less "to the point." If you've liked Dream Theater at any point in their career, there's probably something for you on "Systematic Chaos".

I'm giving this album 4 stars because though I'll admit almost half the album is garbage, the other half is really good. And it's still worlds better than anything you'll hear on the radio lately. But in terms of what I think Dream Theater are capable of, this album is probably closer to a three. One would think that the band would learn to utilize their own vocalist properly after 9 studio albums, instead of making him sing the same thrown together vocal parts over and over until they begin to sound awkward and forced. James LaBrie sounds GREAT in every recording of him, side projects included, up until Dream Theater's "Train of Thought". And, he sounds excellent on the Score DVD/CD. Give the man something to work with! Next time, I'd like to see Dream Theater "Take The Time" and give us another well planned album like "Scenes" or "Six Degrees".

This album is a step in the right direction after the past two letdowns, but the band haven't exactly written another masterpiece yet.
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