I guess it had to happen one day. Dream Theater have always been slipping close to the auto parody edge. Finally, the kings of prog metal, or whatever you call it, have turned into a caricature of themselves. If, on “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” (2002), they managed to balance their distinguishing marks better than could have been expected, on their last work they take the metal way and, talking about Portnoy and company, that means excesses. The whole CD is disproportionate; all musicians are so busy showing they can play faster and harder than ever that, in the end, they forget what it's all about (or should be): music. There are moments of anti climax on “Train Of Thought” that turn out to be unmusically.
Now more than ever, tracks look more like a collage of solos than structured songs. In this particular case, the star is John Petrucci, absolutely relentless on his showcase of guitar solos, frantic and ultrasonic, of course, but emotionless and ridiculous. Mike Portnoy also overplays but, well, we're used to it.
Who get the worst of it are the supporting actors; you can hardly hear John Myung or Jordan Ruddess. In the first case, it's the usual thing, but then there's Ruddess' surprisingly scarce contribution, almost reduced to "guest" appearances. About James La Brie, well, I think his role on the band is increasingly debatable. Take as an example the track called "Stream Of Consciousness" (what a pedantic title!); it's exactly the same kind of track we can find all along the album, but it's an instrumental. Despite this, you hardly miss James' voice.
Certainly, there are good moments on the CD. "This Dying Soul", a sequel to "The Glass Prison" is, in spite of its excesses, a fascinating and devastating composition. "In The Name Of God" features a good melody, but finally loses its way in a tangle of tricks, changes and variations. The most accomplished is, paradoxically, the short and simple "Vacant", a sad and deep ballad which, at least, shows some emotion. Pity it barely takes three minutes from a total of almost 70. "Endless Sacrifice" and "Honor Thy Father" are mere pale photocopies of what was already displayed on "Blind Faith" and "Misunderstood". "As I Am" could be a good single if it didn't sound shamelessly like Metallica's “Black Album” (1991).
In conclusion, Dream Theater will sell thousands of copies of “Train Of Thought”, and their shows will be sold out but, if they're true and honest with themselves, they should rethink their situation, as their infallible formula is running down.