Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos 5.1 Mix Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 7 Old 10-28-07, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
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Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos 5.1 Mix Review

Artist: Dream Theater
Album: Systematic Chaos (Special Edition)
Version: Dolby 5.1 Mix
Performance: 8/10
Sonics: 9/10
5.1 Mix: 8/10

This is Dream Theater's ninth studio album and the first that includes a surround sound mix. For those of you not familiar with DT, they are a progressive rock/metal band known for their high level of technical skill. They are a thinking man's pre-black album Metallica. Their song's are frequently long (7-10 minutes), use odd time signatures (7/8, 19/16, etc.), and complex. Many instrumental sections use musical phrases from other songs, thus providing conceptual links within their musical catalog. The musical heart of the band consists of lead guitarist John Petrucci and drummer Mike Portnoy. Keyboard maestro Jordon Rudess, bassist John Myung, and vocalist James LaBrie round out the rest of the band.

After the conclusion of their epic 8th album, Octavarium, DT's fan base was very curious about the direction the band would go. Octavarium's cover art and album sub-structure suggested the future held a U-turn in DT's musical progression - maybe into the heavier style of their 7th album (Train of Thought). The new installment, Systematic Chaos, however, is close in style to the 8th album. The album contains a good mix of prog, shredding, and melody. The band has continued to mature, as evidenced by Mike Portnoy continuing to realize that less can be more. Lyrically the album touches on a variety of topics - alcolism, hyperactivity, war mongering, and vampires. Yes, this album takes a step closer to wizard rock, ala Symphony X.

All the songs are fairly consistent. The songs are indicative of great band synergy and there is plenty to like in each song. The album starts out strong with "In the Presence of Enemies Pt.1" The instrumental section in the beginning gives overview of the flavor of the album. The aggressive track 3, "Constant Motion", is about hyperactivity and is very reflective of Mike Portnoy's personality. It moves pretty quickly and has Mike Portnoy keeps the instrumental section in the middle of the song moving along with a a mix of dynamic beats. Other musical highlights on the album are Petrucci's guitar melodies on the seventh track "Ministry of Lost Souls." Very beautiful. Though some of the songs are long, none of them seem especially bloated.

The 5.1 mix is descent - I much prefer listening to the album in 5.1 over stereo. The mix uses standard tricks to add a sense of open space to the album. Background vocals are frequently sent to the surrounds and occasionally pan across the room. The drum set is mixed pretty well across the front three speakers, giving you a nice 3D picture of the set's layout. The bass drums sound pretty awesome. There is no subharmonic mixing, so you won't feeling 16Hz, but there is plenty of pop when Mike rattles of 16th notes on the double bass drum. The DVD also contains a documentary which shows the recording sessions with commentary from the band members. The documentary is quite enlightening and is a valuable addition to the DVD.

If you never liked hard rock, you'll probably not like this album. However, if you're an audiophile and like the heavy stuff, I'd strongly consider picking up this mix of Systematic Chaos. The 5.1 mix is worth the extra few bucks for the album. If you like what you hear I recommend listening to some of DT's other albums. Awake and Train of Thought are probably slightly better albums than this latest installment.
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post #2 of 7 Old 10-28-07, 11:09 PM
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Re: Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos 5.1 Mix Review

Nice review Mike...

I thought this group disappeared back in the 80's. I had no idea they were still around.

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post #3 of 7 Old 10-28-07, 11:57 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos 5.1 Mix Review

Thanks! Yeah, they're still around and I think their following is growing each year. I liked them a lot in the 1990s when they had only a handful of dedicated fans. They reached a new group a few years ago when they played with Megadeth at Gigantour.
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post #4 of 7 Old 10-31-07, 02:46 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos 5.1 Mix Review

One more thing to add. If anyone is interested in Dream Theater, but doesn't want to buy an album, here are the songs to check out on iTunes, for example:

1) The Ministry of Lost Souls (Systematic Chaos)
2) The Test that Stumped them All (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence)
3) Metropolis - Part I (Images and Words)
- This is the song on which they built their fan and musical foundation.
- The instrumental section in the middle if phenomenal.
4) Fatal Tragedy (Scenes from a Memory)
5) As I Am (Train of Thought)
6) The Glass Prison (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence)
- Warning: It's long

If you don't like these songs, then you will definetly not like the other ones
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post #5 of 7 Old 04-10-08, 09:06 PM
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Re: Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos 5.1 Mix Review

DT Rocks
Images and Words is a very jammimg cd...

Great stuff.

Buying more cheap stuff to get better sound is like challenging a dragon with a pocket knife.
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post #6 of 7 Old 04-10-08, 09:27 PM
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Re: Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos 5.1 Mix Review

Hey, I absolutely got hooked on DT late and am going back through their catalogue recently.

I agree with most of the original post. One exception to pick up on is in the first track, ""In the Presence of Enemies Pt.1" there is some subharmonic dubbing used to VERY good effect at the point just before James LaBrie's vocals start. It's almost an impending doom kind of an introduction, likely in the 18-20hz range.

My favorite tune from a rock out and sing perspective is Forsaken.

From a make your system earn it's keep perspective, you've gotta go with The Dark Eternal Night, but make sure your subwoofer is VERY capable before you turn it up on that one. Whoa. Really.


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post #7 of 7 Old 04-10-08, 10:32 PM
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Re: Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos 5.1 Mix Review

Thats a good review dude! DT isnt for everyone but I really like them and I know 2 of their biggest fans, one guy is in our Audio club so he burns me alot of goodies.......great band!
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