on May 12, 2004
Where do you go? You just made one of the best albums of all time, and for my money THE BEST album DT could ever make, in "Metropolis 2, Scenes from a Memory." It was all an evolution up to the most mighty and magical concept album possible. So what next?
Answer: a near-45-minute-long-song.
When I first heard about it when they were in the studio, I didn't flinch. "Yeah," I thought, "that's all they know how to do and it probably will lack some focus." Nobody can touch them for their virtuosity, but those who've got the Transatlantic, LTE, and Explorers Club stuff are well aware that this family of progrockers doesn't have to work quite as hard as, let's say, Blink 182 or Matchbox 20 (that's my little joke), to bypass radiofriendlyness and do a song that lasts for a half hour or so. I'm all about epics, and GIVEN that the mighty DT's release is guaranteed to squash anything the majority of kids are picking up these days (another little joke, I'm only 23), I'm only finding flaws with DT on the hardest of grading criteria. You'll notice this double set is still an easy 5 stars, according to me. But a 42 minute long song in and of itself isn't immediately guaranteed exemption from scrutiny...
AND...I don't know how they did it, but they did it. The epic 8 movement song is a near masterpiece afterall. ESPECIALLY when held up against Metropolis 2, Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence isn't a whole lot weaker than the former. Still not quite as good, but so much better than I would have thought possible. They really did "do it again."... Again Mike, Jordan, James, and the Johns have the maturity to balance excessive overplaying with songwriting, yielding the ideal scenario from virtuosic performers: strong compositions.
The overture is amazing, quite suited for a filmscore really, but it displays Jordan's multitalented brain, as he doesn't just do a good job playing, but he's got great arranging skills as well! "Goodnight Kiss" is my favorite of the movements, as it is paced perfectly, the timbres are experimental yet not "Ladies and Gentlemen, The 21st Century and Ms. Spears!", and the chords are to die for. It molds slowly into "Solitary Shell," a song that proves good music CAN be catchy, and builds to one of my other favorite moments, a blues-tinged solo from Petrucci that seems to pay homage to Slash and his work in GNR's epic "Coma." Oh so soulful! James's climax at the end is a bit underclimactic after all the buildup (42 minutes for God's sake!) but it doesn't ruin anything either.
Oh, right, the first disc.
Well, to be honest, it's not all that great. If that were all there was, I would be MAJORLY disappointed. Except for a few obvious spots (the last song was defintely inspired by Bartok), there's not a whole lot of creativity or soul, and the recurring theme of mental illness sounds more intellectual than heartfelt. "Glass Prison" really baffled me, as it's a real bad way to lead off the album; lack of originality is bad enough, but to drag it on for too long is even worse. That said, all of the songs on the first disc are still good, just not like the level of DT one would have been hoping for.
Nonetheless, I am very amazed at how good and relevent this whole offering turned out, especially given the shoes of 3 years back that had to continue to be filled. Also this band is extremely patient and humble. They aren't clamoring for mainstream success, but they wouldn't mind it either. In another 10 years, maybe enough people will know them so they will debut PAST the 40's (where this one was)! If anyone deserves mass recognition, it's Dream Theater. But either way, in a world of so much turmoil, things are looking up; good music is alive and well.
on April 9, 2004
Dream Theater has never quite matched the heights they achieved with the classic "Images & Words" from over a decade ago. The closest they came, according to most fans, was "Scenes from a Memory", the album before this offering.
Enter "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence". An eclectic mix of songs, to say the least. The album opens with a progressive metal masterpiece, "The Glass Prison". This is arguably Dream Theater's greatest purely metal song, with great riffs, varied and interesting progression, and a heaviness seldom found in the band's work.
The other songs on the first disc of this two-CD album don't quite equal the opening track. They represent a competent if somewhat uninspired effort, and while they get tiresome after awhile, are still excellent songs. This first disc suffers a little from "wankfest syndrome", in that it does contain long, uninspired instrumental sections in some places. The best example of this is the outro of "Misunderstood", which essentially degenerates into Petrucci messing around with his wah pedal and seeing what kind of cool sounds he can make with his guitar. A shameful conclusion to an otherwise excellent song.
The second disc is much better. The songwriting is mostly tight, and it definitely sticks to a theme while remaining varied and interesting. It's hard to pick stand-out tracks, because all but "Overture" and "Goodnight Kiss" are outstanding. It's not quite as good as "Scenes from a Memory", but the 45-minute 'song' (I say this skeptically because though it's organized as a medley, each track is clearly its own song) represents powerful and intelligent music that doesn't forsake emotions as some prog-metal bands--including Dream Theater itself, at times--do.
Overall, "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" is uneven at times, but a worthy album nonetheless. This is Dream Theater through-and-through, and serious complaints as to its quality are unfounded. Get this CD, but only after you pick up "Images & Words" and "Scenes from a Memory".
on November 14, 2003
My opinion of an album never changed over time as much as it with this album. The first disc of this album is drastically different from anything that DT has ever put out. The vocal sound and method is new for DT...its a very modern sound. Personally, I think JL has an amazing natural voice...and he should never use effects to alter it in any way. I wasn't really into the first disc after my first listen...but I was VERY VERY anxious to hear the second disc...another progressive concept disc. My initial thoughts...I didn't like it too much. I played it through a few times...then I stored it away with the rest of the CDs that I wouldn't listen to for awhile. Then a day came when I decided that I was going to give this album a second chance. I listened and listened to that second CD...with the lyrics in hand....and boy did it ever grow on me. It is a masterpiece...indescribable. The fact that I didn't acknowledge this initally blows my mind! I could still take or leave the first disc save Glass Prision, but this album should be in everyone's collection. To the people that say to "throw away the second disc", you are out of your minds. The second disc rivals SFAM in every way except for perhaps a shorter less connected story. Sceptics should embrace the second the disc with an open mind...and see where it leads you.....
on November 12, 2003
When I first heard Disc 1 of Six Degrees, I admit I was disappointed. Their previous album, Scenes From A Memory, was incredible, and their absolute best. On this nothing seemed to really gel, and Jordan Rudess didn't seem as integral a part of the sound as he did on SFAM. However, this is definately a record that grows on you. With this, Dream Theater progressed. Progression doesn't equal time signatures and blazing 32-note runs. Progression means the band changes, hopefully for the better, from disc to disc. While SFAM was the group at its most complex, Six Degrees focused more on tight songwriting and a healty dose of experimentation. "The Glass Prison" roars out of the gate like early Metallica or the lost demo from Awake. Although Mike's "singing" threatens to blow it all to hell, it is saved by high energy, a good performance by James and Myung, and Jordan's hilarious "turntable" solo. "Blind Faith" took me a while to get into. More of an alternative rock song with some intelligent lyrics, it also has a badass solo section. I particularly love the intro. "Misunderstood" shows that DT is trying out some new things. It's it's use of acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies, and cello, of all things, give it an ominous feel, yet it still contains those majestic chord progressions that are something of a DT trademark. "The Great Debate" is a decent heavy song, but it has nowhere near the energy of "The Glass Prison" and tries a little too hard to sound like Tool. The lyrics deal with stem cell research, and although they cover both sides of the debate, you can pretty much tell that Petrucci is against the research. Although the lyrics are hit and miss, it is interesting to see Dream Theater get political. "Disappear" is probably my personal favorite. It's extremely melancholy, eerie, morbid, and VERY experimental. Sounds kinda like a cross between a film score and Mr. Bungle. I could seriously see this tune playing at the end of some bizarre science fiction movie. All in all, I am impressed by the songcraft DT shows off here, as opposed to masturbating on their instruments. Although not quite in the same league as SFAM, Awake, or Images & Words, Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence remains a fine addition to the Dream Theater discography.
Oh, and the second disc isn't bad either...
on November 12, 2003
Whenever a musician changes their style in any way, shape or form, there is at least one fan of the musician's original material who does not like that change. Many of these "fans" are quick to judge that musician as "selling out" (a wrongful accusation, as a band has to actually sign with a different record label as well as make drastic changes in their music in order to "sell out"). Dream Theater, and many other bands, change and shape their sound with each album, and thus it's hard for some "fans" to keep interest in them over time. That said, Dream Theater's seventh studio album, SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE, is no more a change than their others, and thus no sell-out.
What we have here are, on two discs, six terrific, beautiful, epic songs dealing various issues. Musically, Dream Theater's never been heavier (except, perhaps, in parts of 1995's AWAKE). This album was heavily influenced by Tool - no denying that - but it takes only the most fitting moments of that band to blend in with Dream Theater's sound. As there are only six songs, I will go through each one individually...yes, even with "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence."
"The Glass Prison" - After the static intro and a few guitar and bass notes, a loud crash of drums and thundering distorted guitar riffs instantly show the listener just how heavy this album is. A few more riffs and crunches, peppered with melodic keyboards, and then all goes quiet except a fast, jagged riff that is simply infectious. Then the song starts up again, but at the same pace as the solo, heavy with double-kick pedaling and an overall METAL feel to it. In fact, when I first purchased this album, I seriously thought that for some reason, this was a different band I was listening to; however, as I listened, I realized that it really was Dream Theater. The singing starts; it's mostly just Mike Portnoy at first, with little, blurry snarls from James LaBrie. As the song is almost 14 minutes long, I won't get into the rest of it. It's alternately fast and medium-paced, extremely heavy, but also very melodic. Nice bass solo in the bridge, too, connecting a simply SHREDDING guitar solo to an eclectic keyboard solo. A terrific song - just make sure you have time to listen to it!
"Blind Faith" - A wonderful 10 minute song, with lush textures and a sort of matter-of-factly depressing feel to it. Parts of it present that Tool-esque feel. The guitar solo is fantastic. John Pettrucci's skill really is present here, then there is a brief instrumental interlude, then a great keyboard solo a la Jordan Rudess. The piano solo towards the end of the bridge is also very nice.
"Misunderstood" - Possibly one of my most favorite Dream Theater songs, ever. A luxurious clean guitar intro, soon after joined by breathy, beautiful singing from James LaBrie, instantly sets the mood. It's much more like a "traditional" (although there is no such thing) Dream Theater song, but it is a bit heavier than their usual sound. This is the second shortest song on the album, but it IS still over 9 minutes long. It gets fairly dark in the second verse onward, but it's just so beautiful and becalming. Eerie outro, too. Ooh, I love this one.
"The Great Debate" - I saw them perform this one in concert, before I owned this album. The song was so good that, although I already wanted to own everything in Dream Theater's catalogue, I wanted to get this album more than ever. Musically it is heavy, with fairly angry snarls from James LaBrie in the chorus. Like "The Glass Prison," it starts off fairly quiet, but gets much, much louder as it goes on. It is also over 13 minutes long. Subjectively, it is about stem cell research, and even features a few samples from radio and TV interviews of people's opinions about the topic. Also, THIS SONG IS NOT IN SUPPORT OR IN FAVOR OF STEM CELL RESEARCH. It is simply about the great debate over the matter, and the reasons behind each argument.
"Disappear" - A fairly depressing song, written by James LaBrie. I'm pretty sure it's about coping with the loss of a loved one. Spacey sound effects and keyboards lead to an acoustic guitar intro, and LaBrie's vocals harmoniously go with the strumming. He sounds so pained and saddened; this is one of the most emotional songs I've ever heard from Dream Theater, if not from any band. Shortest song on the album, too: less than seven minutes long. Regardless of time, this is a splendid, emotional masterpiece.
"Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" - HOT damn, this is a long song. 42 minutes long, this song is the longest that Dream Theater has ever written, beating 1995's "A Change of Seasons" (review coming soon!), which clocked in at 23 minutes. It is also because of this song's length that it was put on a separate disc, and is (thankfully) split into eight tracks. This is the epic tale of a girl suffering from some kind of mental disorder. It has whole sweeping sections of alternating heaviness and melody, and is especially plentiful with keyboards. It's really hard to describe everything within this song, so you'd best just experience it for yourself. Again, just make sure you have the time to listen to it!
So there it is. SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE is the heaviest album Dream Theater has ever made, and as a result, many "fans" were quite disappointed with it. I, however, think it is just as good as anything else. Dream Theater is a band about taking risks and progressing into new sonic realms, and with this album, they have found a new nook in the deepest realms of heavy progressive rock.
on October 22, 2003
I really don't like to do this sort of "song by song" analysis of albums, but this one deserves it:
The Glass Prison: Great song, starts with double bass drumming and great guitar solo. Heavy crunchy riffs on this one, the seven stringed guitar sounds really heavy, close to the "Awake" sound. Great guitar and keys solos, nice lyrics, outstanding Bass as well. 5/5
Blind Faith: Another good one, but there's something missing. 4/5
Misunderstood: Just average lyrics and song structure. 3/5
The Great Debate: I Hate, i really, really hate the lyrics of this song. The riff is ok, but just that. I think that DT shouldn't be doing these sort of Tool stuff. Tool's great, but that's because they are TOOL. The lyrics of The Great Debate tend to be "deep" but are awfull and that spoils the whole song.
Yeah, the riffs are OK, pure Tool, nice time shifts and all. 2/5
Disappear: Skip this one. 1/5
Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence: A good story. Good riffs, nice intro. 4/5
on October 10, 2003
Okay, as said, this is a two disk album. The first disk is 5 songs, averaging about 10 minutes a piece, and the 2nd disk is a "mini-concept" album, lasting 42 minutes. The music on the 2nd disk is fantastic, as it always is. But the concept is extremely weak for DT standards, and I find the 2nd disk a little pointless.
Disk 1, in my opinion, is probably DT's best work to date, and I like all the other CD's. But this disk, these five songs, seem to be their most concentrated writing ever. "The Glass Prison" is not for the nu-metal or Celine Dion fans. It is complex, progressive metal, in the vein of Pantera or Metallica. Great music, but mediocre lyrics. The drummer, Mike Portnoy, really needs to leave the lyrics to the rest of the band.
Blind Faith, the 2nd song, is amazing. Not nearly as heavy as alot of their stuff, but it rocks really hard and the lyrics are some of DT's best.
3rd Misunderstood, this song could've been huge for radio, if edited down that is. How many times can you listen to Stained, sitting around, spewing the same old lines of depression over and over? This song takes the isolation and loneliness thing to a new level. Great words and brooding music.
4th The Great Debate, possibly, one of their best songs ever. It's all about Stem Cell research and whether or not it should be legal. It doesn't take either side through all 13 minutes, but instead shows both points of view so you get a full description of the publics deillema. Great words, great music in the vein of Rush and Tool.
5th Disappear, one of their shorter songs, 6mins, and probably the most touching part of the album. James Labries vocals float over the dank, dark, music. It's all about loss, and having to move on. Breathtaking.
I'd call this DT's best work, closely followed by Scenes, Images and Words, Awake, Falling Into Infinity, and When Day & Dream Unite. If you like amazing, complex music with heart and soul, DT is for you.
on October 2, 2003
How can a band like Dream Theater release another weak album after the release of one of the weakest album of their history, Metropolis 2000, is a mistery. And why release a two disc set that does not cointain enough good material to release a single album is another one. Dream Theater wake up !!!!! This music is boring!!! A 42 minutes song full of riffs and tecnical stuff is not music, it's a perfect narcotic medicine. I'm telling this because I love Dream Theater and I am in anger with them because in my opinion they did a lot of wrong choices about their career. First of all. Kevin Moore should remain the creative head behind the band. They never should permit him to leave the band. His sense of poetry, his weird arrangements were responsible for some of the best moments in Dream Theater history. Sherinian and Ruddess are both perfect players from a technical standpoint this is not the problem. But they fail to me because they did not take to the band inspiration ... The fact is that DT music until falling into Infinity (their worst album ever) was a perfect blend of aggressive parts and delicate parts. Only Moore was responsible for the seconds. And infact actually in DT we have only aggressive riffs that tend to bore me to death after a while. Sherinian and Ruddess didn't take the Moore's chair which is still empty. Another false move was to go in the direction of direct heavy music. There's less attention to details now in DT music, less attention to arrangements. Their music is more direct, heavy, but a lot less rich, intelligent, and evocative. Probably the reason lies in the fact that the band want to be appealing to a younger audience less sophisticated. I don't know. The result is that I don't like this new band. My Dream Team remains the one responsible for Images and Words, in my opinio, one of the best, if not the overall best album of the last 20 years. In the end two little advices to DT. The first. Stop record epic music, Overture and Grand Finale. This attempts produce only terrible kitsch music that lacks any value at all!! You guys are not classical composer c'mon!!! Be serious. The second. "No matter how far you have gone down the wrong road. Turn back."
on September 15, 2003
I'm at a loss for words trying to describe just how amazing this album is... My first experience with Dream Theater (it certainly wasn't my last), SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE has the band refining their technical brand of progressive metal. Coming right after what is perhaps one of the greatest progressive metal albums of all time, SCENES FROM A MEMORY, and an equally stunning live album, it absolutely boggles the mind how Dream Theater could manage to follow those up with something this impressive...
For this double-cd release, the band has purposely isolated two of their distinct trademarks... long slices of heavy progressive metal (on the first disc) and the concept album (on the second disc). Had the band just given us one of the two, this would still be an amazing release, but to give the fans both at the same time really says something about these guys...
Disc one starts off with "The Glass Prison," one of the heaviest songs that Dream Theater has ever done. The extended introduction that starts this track off is awe-inspiring in itself, but it's when the speed and aggression of the song kicks in that you recognize its greatness... "Blind Faith" is a bit more atmospheric, trading off speed for catchy vocals and memorable riffs. "Misunderstood" is another great song, which is perhaps a bit more conventional than the other songs here... that is, until the end where the band starts tinkering around with strange sound effects... No complaints here! "The Great Debate" is another solid track, this time layering over sound clips regarding stem-cell research... As some have point out, the song doesn't take any particular side in the discussion, but rather presents all the information and lets the listener decide for themselves (something that they should be commended for). The first disc ends an a high note with one of my favorites, "Disappear," notable for its almost-eerie guitars.
The title track stretches on for just over 42 minutes on the second disc and, needless to say, it's one of the most ambitious things that Dream Theater has ever done in their career. Sure, it doesn't quite scale the heights of SCENES FROM A MEMORY, but it's damn close. The song is divided into eight movements, the most notable of which is "About to Crash," with vocals that are instantly memorable. The song sometimes slips into heavier sections, like "The Test That Stumped Them All," but for the most part it's relatively restrained and laid back (not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're expecting the unrelenting assault of "The Glass Prison," you'll be disappointed).
This is a band that has shown no signs of slowing down... I can't possibly see Dream Theater follow this album up with anything quite this good, but then again I said the exact same thing when SCENES FROM A MEMORY came out. Either way, I'll be one of the first on line to get my hands on it when they finally release it...
on September 8, 2003
...the single most irritating progressive album I've had the displeasure of hearing. Now before you get in a huff I'll come right out and say that Dream Theater is composed of very skilled musicians. Exceptionally skilled even. I've heard this statement countless times as it seems to be just about the only one I get in response to my negative remarks about DT. Portnoy, great drummer. Petrucci is an amazing guitarist, no question about it. So why exactly can't they forge all of this amazing skill into cohesive and memorable songs?
Now in the past they teetered on the edge of meaningless excess and well-crafted songs. The previous album to this Scenes from a Memory does go off the deep end a bit too much for me to really label it as a solid album but it has it's moments and enough of them to warrant the occasional listen. Images and Words is better in this respect and is a strong album start to end
This album abandons all sense of restraint. It's as if anyone in the band who previously had spoken up to keep things in check whenever they threatened to go into full-blown Tales From Topographic Oceans mode decided to shut up this time around. The result is a sprawling mess that lacks any direction or focus. Clearly the band is of the mind that instrumental virtuosity alone makes great music. Funny how that could be true if acts such as Ramones, Motorhead, Venom who all were of a simple compositional nature could remain so well known years later while literally hundreds of 70s progressive bands remain forgotten forever. Italian prog band Laser anyone? Didn't think so.
I must give credit though for the production of this album. While it's very tame nature tends to drain what little aggression the music might have contained, during the aggressive sections that is, the balance and clarity of each instrument is remarkable and is about as good as can be achieved. A solid production though and vast instrumental skills are no excuse for an utter disregard to crafting songs that mean something and on that count Dream Theater have hit rock bottom here. This album will only appeal to die-hard DT fans, who already own it, or fans of albums that have no structure or purpose but contain plenty of notes, such as the aforementioned Topographic Oceans. Not recommended