A solid effort from DT this time around, and it’s wonderful to see the support of a good record label behind them. Definitely worth getting the special edition for the documentary and packaging. The music…well, as with every album since SDOIT it’s a mixed bag. Despite Portnoy’s insistence that this would be a heavy, modern, ballsy album, it simply isn’t.
ToT was a determined move in those directions, competing with the likes of Disturbed and Tool while maintaining the classic DT prog sound. On this disc however, The first four songs are heavy and aggressive, but not any more so than an your average track from Awake or ToT (though much more aggressive than anything on Octavarium). The album slows WAY down about mid-way through with ‘Repentance’, ‘Prophets of Doom’ (a bizzare metal/techno song??), and ‘Ministry of Lost Souls.’ This triple punch of slower/mellow tunes really lets the air out of the whole experience and ultimately prevents it from living up to Portnoy’s promises. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad songs, but they simply aren’t as strong as they should be in light of the earlier tunes (Constant Motion and Dark Eternal Night in particular), and they seem to bog the whole album down a bit.
It’s also hard to imagine most DT fans not taking issue with some of the lyrics on this album. DT has been long known for introspective, well-crafted, mature themes. I’m not sure if DT is trying to fit in with some of their new label mates, or simply got lazy, but some of the lyrics (especially on the sprawling ‘In the Presence of Enemies) are plain bad if not embarrassing. Petrucci has stated that he wrote a lot of fictional lyrics for this disc, but I thought he meant something along the lines of ‘Pull Me Under’ or ‘Metropolis’. Apparently he meant ‘1982 Iron Maiden B-sides’. Constant references to the ‘Dark Master’, vampires, ancient pharoahs are awkward and seem juvenille for a band that delivered such stunning works as the ‘Scenes from a Memory’ concept album, and songs such as ‘Sacrificed Sons’ or ‘Take Away My Pain’. The usually sobering vocals of LaBrie are almost comical as he sings “Dark Master – I will not serve youuuuuahhh!!!” Cringe-worthy to say the least. It reminded me of an SNL skit where Hetfield and Dickenson duel it out for the sake of melodrama. Not sure what was going on here. I’m all for something new and different, but the lyrics are just bad. No offense to Petrucci (one of my favorite lyricists), but it just doesn’t work in the context of DT.
Overall I can’t complain much. DT’s worst effort is still better than most swill on the market today, but they’ve delivered so brilliantly in the past that it seems impossible for them to improve. I’ll enjoy this one just as much as the others and anticipate what they do next.