Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dream Theater - Train of Thought

Dream Theater - Train of Thought
Published in 2003

Three posts in one day? Say it ain't so! I'd of course like to thank Zach for the suggestion, and for putting the word out to other people, Thanks!

Let me talk a little about my relationship with Dream Theater before I get to this album in particular. I've been trying to get into them for years, but have always had trouble just penetrating the surface. I find them to be a band that seems just out of reach of my tastes. When they go metal, they just go a little too far for me. Two of my good friends swear by them, so I keep trying. I've actually been more of a fan of Systematic Chaos (After Train of Thought), because that was the only album that really kept me listening. I enjoy it, and I find times to listen to it, but it's never gotten a hold on me the way some other music has. With that in mind, lets move on to Train of Thought.

First, and allow me to make this abundantly clear, this is a dark album. There is a lot of abyss in this motherfucker. Go too far in, and you'd be liable to find some old fucking gods. In the first couple of seconds, a triumphant sounding beginning is crushed by a pulsating baseline. The lyrics, which are hard to make out sometimes for me, but become more and more clear as you listen more and more, are deep and dark, just like the music. You want some fucking awesome 'getting pumped up to fucking rip shit apart' music, this is the kind of stuff that I'd suggest.

When Dream Theater is on top of it's game, they play some fucking great music. It's exactly what I'd have liked to hear from Metallica in their prime, but harder and more epic. I have a feeling that these guys heard guys like Metallica and said 'Why are you backing off, you fucking pussies?'

What they do very well is motifs and themes. Now copy and paste that about a hundred times. If you are not a student of music, this is what I think makes them a bit hard to pin down. These guys love repeating, morphing phrases. They want you to hear the same riffs over and over again in every possible permutation, drilling them into your head and then switching them up. When you notice the changes, it's kind of cool. Unfortunately, it is also where I sometimes get lost in their songs. They repeat so much it is sometimes hard to hear the subtle things that they are doing to change the music. I'm happy to report however, after really paying attention to the music, I've grown to appreciate them at the top of their game.

The reason that I am not in love with this album is because in some of what I thought were their best songs, there were parts that I found, to paraphrase Christian Bale, fucking distracting. Why do we need to have all of the whispering repeated lines over Honor Thy Father, when the music is plenty oppressive enough? What the fuck is with the loony tunes fucking interlude in Endless Sacrifice at 6:30? These kinds of things break my concentration and appreciation, but maybe that is just one of the things that they do, I don't know.

Don't let that last paragraph give you the wrong impression, I like the album, and I think it is a good one, I just can't find myself desperately wanting to listen to it more. Actually the song that I think is best on it is the shortest one on it. Vacant is what some would call a fucking tight song. It's brief, yes, but what it makes them do is incorporate what is good in a long song into a great short song. It's beginning is one of the perfect sinking chord progressions that you can really hear in their songs. It's slow, but it milks you for the emotion that it wants. It has a fucking Cello in it for fucks sake!

Maybe I've been trained to listen to short music by pop music, but I really do feel that they are at their best when they aren't wandering all over the place. When they are forced into a tight rhythm they can kick ass, and that doesn't mean that they can't get the permutations in. But I will say, I respect the hell out of these guys for not giving in to fucking assholes like me telling them to shorten it and tighten it up. These guys are obviously incredibly talented artists, and they can seriously fucking shred, to use the parlance of our times. This just might not be the album that gets me to jump down the rabbit hole, which in retrospect I should have known. A real fan of these guys suggested this album to me, which probably means that having spent a lot of time with the core course work of Dream Theater, this is one of the last bastions that he hasn't finished. If you love metal, you've already heard it, but if you haven't, it's an interesting experiment. This is an album I'd love to have a long conversation about.

Once again, thanks a lot Zach, it was a wild experience. I think I'm actually liking it more the second time around, so I promise to keep listening to it.

Up Next: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips

In the not too distant future,


  1. Matt
    Some suggestions: Ride the Lightening, London Calling, Land of the Bottom Line (John Gorka), Fogarty's Cove (Stan Rogers) and Joe's Garage (Frank Zappa)

  2. Matt, I'm diggin this project


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