Systematically showing why they are leaders and not followers
It's funny to see what bands pop up on what labels nowadays. Another act that has moved from a major to Roadrunner Records in recent times is long standing prog-metal act Dream Theater, who are vocalist James LaBrie, guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Portnoy. After completing their contractual obligations with their now former label, Atlantic Records, the New York (U.S.A.) quintet soon found a new home at Roadrunner Records, with their ninth album and first for their new label coming in the form of the whopping eight track, 78 minute Systematic Chaos.
Wasting little time, In The Presence Of Enemies - Part 1, which for at least half of it's nine minute lifespan (titled Prelude), is an instrumental display of epic proportions with the trio of Petrucci, Myung and Portnoy proudly showing off their respective chops in a display that is sure to appease fans. LaBrie joins the fold as the song changes mood and takes on another twist (titled Resurrection) just after the five minute mark. In direct contrast, Forsaken is as stripped down and straight forward as it gets showing none of the musical complexity of the opening cut. The off timed riffs and rhythms of Constant Motion, the album's first single, see the track living up to its name as it twists and turns through a myriad of tempos, with not only La Brie taking on a somewhat of a Chuck Billy (Testament) edge during the verses, but some of the riff patterns and rhythms also following a similar parth. That, and the following cut, The Dark Eternal Night, are the album's heaviest tracks.
In direct contrast is the Portnoy's continued 12 step musical exploration of Alcoholics Anonymous via the very Pink Floyd-esque Repentance which represents the eighth and ninth steps, Regret and Restitution respectively, and also features a number of guest vocal appearances including Mikael Äkerfeldt (Opeth), Dave Ellefson (F5, ex-Megadeth), Chris Jericho (Fozzy), and Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) amongst several others. Prophets Of War also darts in and out of various styles and tempos with some passages holding up stronger than others over what is the album's most inconsistent song. Two totally epic numbers round out the album. The first, The Ministry Of Lost Souls which clocks in at almost fifteen minutes, which begins as a soft ballad before taking on a totally different tack at the midway point. The finale, the almost seventeen minute In The Presence Of Enemies - Part 2 is marked by it's distinct sub parts - the build up of Heretic, the chugging thrash of The Slaughter Of The Damned, the twisting and turning prog-fuelled The Reckoning and the final piece of the puzzle, the markedly slower Salvation.
Seventy-eight minutes is certainly a lot of music to take in, especially when it's by one of the leaders of the prog-metal scene. Fans should have an inkling of what to expect from Systematic Chaos, as Dream Theater are continuing to do as they've always done.
(Roadrunner Records/Warner Music Australia)