I first heard DT back in the early 90’s when the only saving grace to the crap hairband stuff coming out was Marillion. I really remember how impressed I was with the playing ability of the band – from musicianship standpoint they were just amazing. But I really was annoyed with how they took the crap cheezy hairband melodies and then inserted the brilliance… I gave that album away since I couldnt listen to the whole thing just the instrumental sections.Ok, so flash forward to 2003 and I read a guy’s post on a PF here at work:-new Dream Theater album, very very heavy and excellent!Intrigued, I ask to borrow the disk for a day of listening. Probably the best hour of listening to new material I’ve had in 5 years. DT does kinda go back to the NuMetal genre to grab the heavy grooves and chunka chunka guitar sounds that are so popular, but I dont think Limp Dickstick or others in that genre could ever put together a NuMetal song in 12/8 or mixed time sigs that DT succeeds in doing. Yes it’s a bit derivative but they take it and extend it past anything out there right now. LaBrie’s vocals were always a source of issue with me just because they’re too pretty for the music, but with the production they definitely have grown on me. He’s tried to toughen them up and for the most part succeeded. Especially the layered minor 7th and minor 3rd harmonies a la Alice In Chains, LaBrie is finally coming up to the rest of the band in his presentation. To be succinct: John Petrucci is just freaking amazing!! With sections where Portnoy and Myung are right in the speed metal groove a la Master of Puppets and Kill Them All, Petrucci just flies on the guitar making everyone else in metal look to be a pale pretender to the craft. I wish I could play like that but I would need about 10 cups of coffee every hour just to hit that intensity level. Portnoy and Myung are typically brilliant, with Portnoy playing that big huge stupid work of art Siamese Monster kit of his and Myung chugging out ripping bass work supporting Petrucci and Rudess. You cant have a decent piece of music without solid rhythm track, and these guys give it everything and more.Probably the only criticism I could have would be Jordan Rudess’ playing seems hidden by the fact that his lead key sounds all sound like guitar – too close to Petrucci’s sound to make it out on first listen. But after a few listens I found to my astonishment that what I thought were guitar lines were key solos and … well that’s all needs be said.Bottom line: excellent musicianship, only one song seems weaker than the rest otherwise a brilliant concept album from start to finish. Any Prog Rock or Metal freak needs this in their collection.