Dream Theater - Train of Thought 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Dan MacIntosh   
Tuesday, 11 November 2003

Dream Theater

Train of Thought
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Elektra
release year: 2003
performance: 7
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Progressive metal is a fitting tag for what Dream Theater does, unless of course you’re a music snob that believes “progressive metal” is an oxymoron from the very get-go. But if you openly accept progressive metal as a valid musical category, then Dream Theater certainly lives up to this term’s complicated expectations. While the album “Train of Thought” opens with “As I Am,” which finds vocalist James LaBrie growling through a Metallica-esque rocker. “Endless Sacrifice,” on the other hand, features the kind of guitar and organ instrumental jam that one usually associates with old prog-ers like Kansas. It may not spell forward progress for metal, but it certainly mixes its metal with almost equal measures of progressive rock.

The music is much more expansive than typical hard rock, with movements within tracks that play out a lot like classical compositions. There’s even a straight instrumental track called “Stream of Consciousness” here. Guitarist John Petrucci is the driving force behind the group, and his fretwork is oftentimes breathtaking. He also penned the lyrics for two of this album’s epic length tracks, “As I Am” and “In The Name of God.”

Much of the lyrical content on this album appears to involve exorcizing inner demons. The opener, for example, is about stubbornly stating one’s individuality – in the face of strongly antagonistic social pressures. “Not under your command/I know where I stand/I won’t change to fit your plan/Take me as I am.” “Honor Thy Father” includes a dramatic spoken word section, and is seemingly a one-sided dialogue between father and son. It was written by drummer Mike Portnoy, and based upon the angry description he receives I wouldn’t feel too good about myself right now if I were Portnoy’s old man. ”The Dying Soul” rips along with double-time drumming, and equally speedy bass and guitar. It’s subtitled “IV Reflections on Reality (Revisited),” and is all about facing reality bravely. It has an almost Middle Eastern guitar solo, and includes a concert-ish piano part.

“Vacant” is dramatically different from everything else on this disc, with its cello, keyboard and quiet singing. It’s a tragic character portrait about a woman. “She’s losing control/What can I do/Her vacant eyes/Black holes/Am I losing you.”

Call it what you will, but anyone who dares to ride this train of thought is in for a wild ride, indeed.

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