Each Dream Theater album had touched on the sounds that I would class as Thrash Metal and Heavy Metal. But on “Train Of Thought” they decided to live in this metal/thrash world. And I liked it.
It begins with an album cover that has Black as its main colour screaming Metal. Then again, Pink Floyd did have a black cover for an album that sold multi millions and it had nothing to do with metal, more like dreamy acid rock.
“Train of Thought” was released on November 11, 2003 through Elektra Records before its parent company Warner Music Group decided to merge Elektra Records with Atlantic Records to become Atlantic Records Group in 2004, only to give the Elektra name a new lease of life in 2009 as an independent entity up until 2018, when WMG relaunched Elektra Music as a stand-alone, staffed music company, with labels like Roadrunner Records, Low Country Sound, Fuelled By Ramen and Black Cement under it.
As I Am
This song is a balls to the wall metal classic.
It starts off with the Black Sabbath riff to kick it off. Yes, it is that Black Sabbath riff.
Then it goes into an “Enter Sandman” like groove for the verses. It gets the foot tapping, and the head banging.
Dream Theater toured with Queensryche in 2003. At this point in time, Queensryche’s commercial zenith was in the past and Dream Theater’s star was still rising. Mike Stone was the guitarist in Queensryche, carrying out the Chris DeGarmo role. And Stone decided he should give John Petrucci tips on playing guitar.
Every time you hear the lyric line “Don’t tell me what’s in, tell me how to write”, just think of Mike Stone giving Petrucci tips.
I like the lead break. It is old school and it burns. There is no rhythm guitar track, just bass, keys and drums. Exactly what EVH did when he soloed on a lot of VH tracks.
Vocally, LaBrie is at his metal best. His voice might strain in the live arena, but in the studio, LaBrie is a master.
This Dying Soul
The feedback from “As I Am” segues into the fast groove metal of “This Dying Soul”.
Here, Mike Portnoy continues his “Twelve-Step Suite”, which started with “The Glass Prison” on “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”.
For those who don’t know, “The Glass Prison” has the following sections; “I. Reflection”, “II. Restoration” and “III. Revelation”. “This Dying Soul” has the following sections; “IV. Reflections of Reality (Revisited)” and “V: Release”. All of the sections are steps in the Alcohol Anonymous Recovery program.
After the thrash-a-thon in the intro, the song gives way to a Tool like groove and vocal melody in the verses. And I like it.
There is this “Blackened is the end” vocal melody in “V:Release”. Once you hear it, you will recognise it. I can’t say I am a huge fan of the loud speaker rap like verses, but I do give full marks for incorporating new elements into their music.
And since these songs are part of the same universe they do share some of the lyrics and melodies.
The acoustic intro.
It can remind you of Pink Floyd or Pantera depending on your listening history. They touched on these kind of melancholic riffs in “Peruvian Skies” from “Falling Into Infinity”.
But, it is the Chorus that brings the energy.
Then at 4.56, all hell breaks loose as they make their way into the solo section of the song. It’s got this “Creeping Death” meets “Disposable Heroes” palm-muted patterns.
For 8 seconds between 6.28 to 6.36 it sounds like it came from a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon.
Check out the harmony section from 8.58 which gets em out of the solo section and into the final part of the song.
Honor Thy Father
My favourite song for the riffs and melodies. It’s a metal tour-de-force.
The subject matter about Mike Portnoy’s stepfather didn’t resonate with me, but man, the riffs and melodies are fantastic.
After the heavy intro, press play to hear the first verse. And how good is the arena rock Chorus.
When the second verse rolls again, the original riff is played with distortion and man, it works so well. But at 3.51. instead of going into the Chorus again, they go into a verse with the riff tweaked a little bit more to make it sound different and unique.
And like all the songs on the album, from the 5 minute mark they go into a lengthy solo section.
It’s the shortest song on the album, at 3 minutes long. It’s a haunting piano riff (which sounds like the bass riff to start of “Stream Of Consciousness”), with a little bit of an orchestra and LaBrie’s vocals.
The lyrics to “Vacant” were inspired by James LaBrie’s daughter, who fell into a short coma after suffering a sudden, unexplained seizure three days before her seventh birthday.
Stream of Consciousness
The DT instrumentals always have memorable sections via a lead or a riff. This song is no different especially the first two minutes. Essential listening.
The title had been around for a while in the DT world.
Of course, the solo from Petrucci is Guitar Hero stuff. Yes, there is flash and some fast picking, but it’s so melodic as well. If you like the playing of people like Steve Morse, Al DiMeola, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert and Joe Satriani, then you will like what Petrucci does here.
And at 7.30 that fantastic intro music comes back in, more ferocious with a few little tweaks.
The whole is the longest instrumental on a Dream Theater studio album to date and was the intended title for Falling Into Infinity.
And one of the YouTube comments on the song still cracks me, “LaBrie never sounded better”.
In the Name of God
The closer at 14.15 about religion and how it indoctrinates people to kill in its name.
The acoustic intro sets the tone, before the distortion crashes in. It’s a slow groove by Portnoy before they pick it up and play it double time.
The verse riff is head banging and it reminds me of “As I Am”. Petrucci drops out and lets Myung roll with it on the bass, while Petrucci switches to decorating.
LaBrie is a monster on the vocals here. Listen to him between 4.46 and 5.30. Throat ripping stuff.
As is the theme of the album, they then go into a long solo section in the middle of the song.
Press play to hear Petrucci wail between from the 8.40 mark.
The album did exactly what it needed to do. It put them on tour again, it got them into large metal festivals, something which they couldn’t do before and it renewed their fan base with metal heads.