Dream Theater: In the Presence of Great Musicians

L to R: James LaBrie, John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, John Myung, Mike Portnoy

Dream Theater, the reigning kings of progressive metal, return this month with Systematic Chaos, their ninth studio album. While other bands seem to get more mellow with time, it seems that Dream Theater are determined not to follow in those footsteps and, in fact, have become more aggressive.

Systematic Chaos features the existing lineup of James LaBrie, John Myung, John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, and Jordan Rudess, as they do battle against mediocre rock music and other naysayers who don’t believe in the virtues of progressive metal.

While some of the new songs hail more from a heavy Euro-metal place (complete with distorted vocal tracks), the majority of tracks, including the spectacular twenty-six minute long bookends to the album, “In The Presence of Enemies Part I” and “Part II” showcase some of Dream Theater’s finest progressive metal ever. According to guitarist John Petrucci, “If there’s anything we did on this record on purpose, it was that we left out more sensitive, softer material.”

Lyrically, the new album explores themes both real and imagined. While LaBrie’s “Prophets of War” makes a statement about the war in Iraq and Portnoy’s “Repentance” is the next chapter in his multi-album lyrical exploration of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program, songs penned by Petrucci explore worlds of fantasy, with “vampires, dark lords, [and] the internal battle between good and evil.”

Co-produced (as usual) by Petrucci and Portnoy, Systematic Chaos was recorded at New York City’s famous Avatar Studios by noted engineer Paul Northfield, whose credits include other prog-minded bands such as Rush and Queensryche.

During preparation for the Systematic Chaos world tour, we had an opportunity to catch up with John and Mike to talk about the new record, their latest gear, and much more.

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