After a very smooth and calm record called "Octavarium" DREAM THEATER tried out something new again on this new record. They were looking for a more technical approach, sounded very modern and also diversified on this album and concentrated more on a heavier approach than the stuff they had just done before.
The epic "In the presence of enemies" that is separated in two parts for no obvious reason at all shows us a typical, very technical but not very outstanding or fresh epic track that has its moments, especially concerning the introduction and the solo parts of the second part. But many times, the same vocal lines and main riffs come back and are only interrupted by smooth ballad passages and a few strange sound effects so that this song becomes very difficult and sometimes boring to listen to within more than twenty-five minutes. This song is finally one of the less convincing epic DREAM THEATER tracks.
Now, what can we find between the two parts of this overlong average epic song? We can find the usual ballad and commercial track with "Forsaken" that has a little Gothic touch and a catchy chorus but nothing outstanding and has to go down as a quite weak track. "Constant Motion" sounds like a more technical rip off of a METALLICA song. DREAM THEATER goes Thrash Metal but not in an original way like on some parts of "Train Of Thought". This song feels misplaced and even though it is a catchy and energizing track this just doesn't fit to the band's style and METALLICA have also done some better songs like these back in the late eighties. So this is another song below average.
"The Dark Eternal Night" is a very modern and technical song with weird vocal sound effects, a rather epic chorus and some very simple lyrics and harsh riffs. This song shows us a completely new side of DREAM THEATER's universe and doesn't copy any band or any style and that's why this song is at least outstanding. Personally, I like the style of this song even if it is a very particular one. It is definitively the highlight of this record for me even though traditional fans might have some problems with this experience.
But then comes "Repentance" where DREAM THEATER would like to sound like OPETH. This song is just too long, too boring and without the glimpse of a doubt the weakest part of the famous twelve-step suite. The idea of mumbling voices of different well known artists in the ending of the song to create a strange sound collage is original but executed in a rather bad way as this passage gets very long and annoying. After a METALLICA and an OPETH rip off comes now a MUSE rip off. Some parts of the previous album "Octavarium" had already been influenced by this band but this track seems to be entirely copied from the promising English Prog Rock band that also gained commercial success. But DREAM THEATER are not MUSE and even though they almost sound like the original and create an appreciable song without a doubt the song has the mood of an unoriginal copy and doesn't have exactly the same kind of magic MUSE are used to put in their songs and that's why "Prophets Of War" ultimately fails. "The ministry of lost souls" is finally a rather traditional DREAM THEATER song and has surely some musically interesting parts but it is way too long with a length of almost fifteen minutes and seems somehow endless to me.
To conclude, this album is DREAM THEATER's most unoriginal one. It is somewhat homage to their different influences. It is a very modern record where the band shows its technical skills but forgets to create something unique they were always used to create on all their records. And that's why this album is probably the band's weakest one. This record has the mood of a compilation album without an own soul and that's why it ultimately fails. This is a chaos without any rationally appreciable system.
(Online January 19, 2012)