Dream Theater was redeemed. Their previous album “Scenes From A Memory” renewed their fan base while also satisfying the existing fan base.
I was interested at what was next.
A double album. This is something the band tried to do with “Images And Words” and “Falling Into Infinity” however the label both times said “no”. But this time around, they said yes.
With the same personnel of James LaBrie, John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, John Myung and Mike Portnoy locked in, the band released “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” on January 29. 2002. The first disc is made up of 5 songs that total 54 minutes and 18 seconds. The second disc is one song, which clocks in at 42 minutes, however that one song has 8 sections in it, which are sequenced as individual songs.
On the Wikipedia page for the album, it tells me that the influences for the album’s writing and recording, according to the authors, include Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”, Radiohead’s “OK Computer” (and also a Radiohead bootleg Portnoy brought in), Pantera’s “Far Beyond Driven” and the song “Mouth for War”, Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace”, U2’s “Achtung Baby”, Tool’s “Ænima”, Nine Inch Nails’ “The Downward Spiral”, Soundgarden’s “Superunknown”, Alice in Chains’ “Dirt”, Kevin Gilbert’s “Thud”, King’s X’s “Faith Hope Love” and Galactic Cowboys’ “Space in Your Face”, Béla Bartók, Rage Against the Machine’s “The Battle of Los Angeles”, and Maria Tipo’s “Chopin Nocturnes”.
As a fan of the influences mentioned, I can definitely hear their sounds and textures.
The Glass Prison
The opening track.
It’s 14 minutes long, consisting of three parts called “I. Reflection”, “II. Restoration” and “III. Revelation”. The lyrics are written by Mike Portnoy and it’s the beginning of his “Twelve-Step Suite”. This song covers the first three steps of the AA program. The other steps would appear on subsequent albums.
The static phonograph noise that ends “Finally Free” on “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory” (1999) begins this song. Then the arpeggiated bass riff starts the song. Press play to hear it. It’s essential listening, especially when the band starts to crash in and build it up.
At 5.487 million Spotify streams, the track is forgotten. But there are so many good bits in the song, like the thrash metal riff in the Verses which reminds me of “Disposable Heroes” by Metallica, or the Groove Metal riff at 5.55 which reminds me of Pantera or the riff at 11.10 which reminds me of King Crimson.
Lyrics are written by James LaBrie. For a vocalist, he doesn’t get a chance to write the words he sings for the band. John Petrucci does most of em these days. Previously he shared this duty with Kevin Moore and then Mike Portnoy.
1.802 million streams on Spotify. Another forgotten track, however its dreamy Pink Floydish meets Marillion vibe gets me interested. The verses are a cross between Pink Floyd, U2 and Marillion.
Pink Floyd is a band that people either get or don’t get, hence why they come up in a lot of overrated lists.
For a song that’s almost 11 minutes long, the riff at 5.45 is to be heard.
Lyrics are written by John Petrucci.
It percolates slowly until it explodes. Just over 9 minutes long, check out the acoustic guitar intro, which again reminds me of Pink Floyd and you need to stick around for the Chorus distorted riff at 4.08.
As part of the solo, Petrucci played the guitar solo, and then reversed it with the DAW software. He then learned how to play this reversed version, and recorded it that way. The listener gets a very unsettling effect.
The Great Debate
Tool immediately comes to mind. Lyrics are by Petrucci and at almost 14 minutes long, the song has a lot of great movements.
A bass guitar riff starts the song off, with Portnoy building it up to a crescendo while voices from various news reports talk about stem cell research while the keys/guitars decorate.
Then it cranks into the Tool riff and for about 5 minutes it follows a Verse/Pre/Chorus structure. Make sure you stick around for the riffs when Labrie is singing “Are you justified” and “Life to save life”. It’s basically Tool without Maynard, then again, Fates Warning released a Tool meets Porcupine Tree sounding album in 2000 with “Disconnect”. Jim Matheos showcased then that he can groove and decorate with the best of em.
It’s rare that LaBrie gets two song writing credits. But here it is. The original title was “Move On”. The piano riff in the Intro hooks me, but man, that section from 4.37, it’s so heavy with depression and sadness, which I suppose goes with the “death” theme lyrics.
Disc two is the entire song “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”. Thank god Portnoy decided to sequence the CD so you can skip to the desired part.
The song explores the stories of six individuals suffering from various mental illnesses. Particularly represented are bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, post-partum depression, autism, and dissociative identity disorder. The “Unbreakable” trilogy from M. Night Shyamalan comes to mind here.
It all starts here, the Jorden Rudess composed instrumental, clocking in at 6.50.
While listening to these orchestral piece I find it boring, however when the band heard it, they took various melodies and ideas contained within this version and expanded them into segments of the complete piece. So what you hear here end up in the songs to come. But I still don’t like it.
For “Overtures”, I will take “The Titanic Overture” any day.
About to Crash
Lyrics written by Petrucci. This section clocks in at 5:50 and it’s very Genesis like.
“War Inside My Head” and “The Test That Stumped Them All “
They go together as the heavy/thrash metal pieces of the song with lyrics written by Portnoy.
Together the songs clock in at 7:11 in length. It has to be a special Portnoy nugget to have these two songs come in at 7/11. Press play to hear the Main Riff of “The Test That Stumped Them All”.
It’s a skip for me.
How good is the major key strummed intro from Petrucci who also wrote the lyrics.
About to Crash (Reprise)
The intro riff is a favourite. The first words I said were “fuck yeah”.
Lyrics are written by Petrucci and the song also has this Celtic section at 2.20 that I like along with the piano riff after it.
Losing Time/Grand Finale
A forgettable ending.
It’s never forgotten to me how Dream Theater carved out a career in a musical hostile label and promoters environment between 1992 and 2003.
When they broke big with “Images And Words”, Seattle was the scene. 10 years later, “Nu-Metal” and its various offspring’s like “Post Grunge” and “Alternative Rock” were a thing and acts like Creed, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, Offspring, Disturbed and Nickelback were getting platinum albums thrown at em from every corner of the world. And yet they never abandoned their style. While they would incorporate some of the mainstream sounds into their music, they still kept their Dream Theater identity.
And this album was the springboard for bigger and more metallic things to come.