The last time I listened to an album repeatedly, I mean twice a day for a stretch of two weeks, began the day I picked up Black Sabbath’s 1973 album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. It became a permanent resident on my turntable and drove my parents crazy. History does repeat itself and for many reasons I could not stop listening to Dream Theater’s most recent release Systematic Chaos. I have long wondered if they could possibly release an album as good as Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence; now I am elated to discover they have surpassed that 2002 release for consistency and overall excellence in production, musicianship, lyrics, and storytelling - this is their best effort to date.
It may have something to do with the fact that last year offered the band their first vacation in 10 years. They were obviously in dire need of a break, and it probably saved them from self-destruction. Additionally, following their emancipation from Atlantic records and a brief stint with Rhino, they have found a home at Roadrunner Records - a label that I would consider a major indie with a very independent attitude and approach. A band of down-to-earth gents like Dream Theater can finally thrive with a label like this and they deserve to. They returned to the studio, reinvigorated, in 2006 and began recording this dazzling session.
I have never had any doubt about this band’s ability to perform with excellence at all positions on stage and in the studio. Incredibly, they feel they have more to prove to themselves and to the world of music, as James LaBrie comments on the 90-minute bonus documentary on the included DVD. LaBrie is the consummate showman and his vocals, as always, are incredibly strong on this release. He reaches deep within himself to bring each character to life on every track, and he makes it all real in your mind’s eye. Then when you see him do it all in a live performance you find yourself falling into his overpowering web of influence. He mentions in the documentary he has not had this much fun since the band recorded their 1994 release Awake; that’s a long time to wait to get that euphoric feeling back - doing what you love in the studio.