DREAM THEATER - "SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE" (ELEKTRA)
If I ever were to join a band, or form one, I'd be very careful not to blow my wad all in one go (excuse my French). I would not use up all my ideas on the first album, because you never know...the ideas might not come again on the second album and you effectively become, as we call that in Holland, a one day fly.
Clearly, the people in Dream Theater are endowed with more inspiration and ideas than yours truly. Which is as good an explanation as any as to why these guys are the prog rock artists by whom others are measured, and I, well, I am nothing of the sort. The guys in Dream Theater, indeed, create full length album upon full length album filled with great musical ideas and impeccable musical craftsmanship, to which they add solo projects, side projects, and generally loads of other reasons why these guys should long ago have run clean out of ideas. But they haven't, and just to rub that fact into poor lesser saps such as I, their new album is a double album containing well over an hour and a half of music...
I always give an album quite a few listens before I write a review. With this one that was an almost gargantuan undertaking, as I have a full time job and...hey, I haven't shared something really important with you guys (and gals) yet!
(Human interest alert, skip the following bit if you don't care about anything other than the actual review...)
I AM IN LOVE! Yes, it's true, ladies and gentlemen, and I can hardly believe it myself. As some of you (having read other reviews) may recall, my wife left me at the end of July last year. I was emotionally destroyed and not feeling too good about it. My self confidence had vanished and I felt a sense of betrayal so complete that it numbed me totally. However, through the months that ensued I have grown very close to a girl that I'd known a lot longer than my now ex-wife. She was there for me with an absorbing shoulder and a listening ear, she was all that I needed. Slowly but certainly she helped me get out of the pit that I had been nudged into. My faith in the future was restored bit by bit, and my optimism and sense of humour returned similarly. I spent New Year's Eve at her place, seeking to escape from memories of such earlier occasions that had always been very close and intimate with my former wife. And when the clock struck 00:00 I didn't feel half as rotten as I had feared. And when this girl hugged me and wished me all the best for the New Year, we both noticed there was more going on than met the eye. We both didn't believe it, however, both doubting the other's feelings. The next few days we emailed and slowly discovered that the feelings appeared to be mutual, true and very passionate. I would have considered anyone stark raving bonkers had they predicted this in the previous six months. I really, honestly and truly thought the happy part of my life was over, I had felt emotionally dead, terrified of the future and generally pathetic indeed. It's beautiful and surprising how the occurrence of love can so quickly change your outlook on life, and my entire mood. The coolest thing about this girl, apart from her being very sweet, understanding, funny and, um, sensual, is that she's actually into loud music. Quite a huge difference with what had gone before. I had pretty much made peace with the thought that I'd never have a shared breakfast to the sounds of My Dying Bride or Cathedral, but in past weeks I've had both, and more! Laura - for such is her name - is the new and hopefully permanent ray of sun in my life, and I just wanted to share that with you, to additionally explain the hardship of finding time to review such a long Dream Theater CD with my recently acquired free time so rapidly filling up again...
(End of human interest part, with sincere apologies on my behalf. What with my life now kindof having re-attained a certain level of normalcy, these ejaculations of verbal diarrhoea will conceivably be curtailed...)
Now where was I?
"Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" is called after the title track which takes up the entire second CD. More about that later. Let's first concentrate on the first CD, which also features over three quarters of an hour of classic Dream Theater material...
The first disc starts off with my personal favourite, the "balls and chunks" track "The Glass Prison". I especially like the second section, which inevitably causes me to fill up with energy, start bobbing my head to some sort of inner rhythm, and generally feel good. To Dream Theater standards, "The Glass Prison" is a pretty simple tune. But nonetheless it's a corker of a tune, and I for one shall be looking forward to hearing it performed when I see them on February 4! Hot on the heels of "The Glass Prison" you'll find "Blind Faith", a song reminiscent of some of the better tracks on "Falling into Infinity", with some good chorus riffing. It displays some good guitar work by Mr. Petrucci. Then we get "Misunderstood", starting off as a ballad, but gaining more balls nearer the end. A fine track, filled with background soundscapes that I've heard people compare to Radiohead. Only bad thing about this track is the ending, with rather too much noise. Don't know why they did that. A driving bass riff and audio documentary snippets about embryonic stem cell manipulation introduces "The Great Debate", nearly 14 minutes of it, which was the track I liked most initially. For some reason, however, it hasn't grown after multiple listens, whereas the others have. The first disc ends with the shortest track (nearly 7 minutes, still), "Disappear". This is a beautiful ballad we haven't heard from Dream Theater since "Space Dye Vest" ("Awake", 1994). Full of those fascinating soundscapes again, and just beaut-ti-ful. If only other bands also knew how to write rather more sensitive, "ballad" type tracks, without plunging head over heels, flailing inexorably, into the cheese pit.
As mentioned before, the entire second disc contains the title track, clocking at over 42 minutes. It's a concept piece of sorts, lyrically about mental disease. The lyrical subject doesn't captivate me much at all, so I'll concentrate on the musical impressions.
Musically, the track is almost classical in structure, starting with a near-7-minute overture containing the musical themes that occur later, ending with a grand finale. Between these parts we find some better and some more average pieces. "War Inside my Head", "The Test that Stumped them All" and "About to Crash (Reprise)" are the more ballsy tracks that appeal to me most, whereas the others somehow seem average by comparison, though "Solitary Shell" is quite a good ballad-type cut. On the whole, I am not that as much impressed by the title track as I would have hoped and expected. The first disc is superior. Maybe it'll grow on me yet, I don't know. The five bullet rating is largely due on account of the immeasurable excellence of the first disc, whereas the second one is 'merely very good'.
I think a world in which talented musicians such as Petrucci, Portnoy and Rudess are allowed to unbridledly record and release, is a pretty good one. In the past five years these guys have contributed to my personal aural universe with some excellent Dream Theater material, not to mention to bafflingly excellent Liquid Tension Experiment CDs. I think it's excellent that Elektra allowed them to release their latest album as a double CD. I think it is the music business' prerogative and solemn duty to expose the world at large to as much musical produce of these guys, and for me this album heralds the coming of even more...
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Written January 2002
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