20. On the Backs of Angels
I really can't say that I HATE Systematic Chaos or Black Clouds. I can't even say that I dislike them, because I really do like them – there are some great songs in those albums, many of those are in this list. And even the worst tracks in these two albums, while I might consider them some of the worst tracks in Dream Theater's discography, are still quite decent.
It's quite ironic, because I became a fan in the middle of Chaos in Motion tour. Despite that, Systematic Chaos was their last album that got to hear back then. I kinda heard the albums chronologically, with some exceptions here and there, and honestly I was quite disappointed with Systematic Chaos, and later with Black Clouds at first. It took them quite some time to actually grow on me but eventually, they did. Still, they're easily my least favorite DT albums, and it's been that way for ages.
My problem with these albums was that, while they did have some great moments, they didn't feel much like Dream Theater to me. The completely fictional lyrics in the former and the ridiculously realistic and unsophisticated lyrics in the latter, the instrumental sections that kept on going for so long to a point where I forgot that it's supposed to be part of a song, the gazillion of influences from other bands...
And the parts where it seemed like 3 instrumentalists told the 4th one "Okay, you're taking the lead for the next 40 seconds…starting…Now!"
Not to mention James trying to emulate certain vocalists and Portnoy trying to emulate others. It all felt like I wasn't listening to Dream Theater, I was listening to a great band who forgot how they usually sound like, so they took a few basic ideas from previous efforts, took some influences from other bands, wrote a moderately good song and called it a day.
Again, I don't hate any of these songs. But if anyone should ever ask me who are Dream Theater, what do they sound like – I'm not going to play The Shattered Fortress to him. Or Forsaken, or The Ministry of Lost Souls for that matter. And I'm damn sure not going to play songs like Repentance that I can barely see myself listening to most of the time.
So for that reason it was a really pleasant surprise when I first heard the "new single" (it's not so new anymore now is it?) back in 2011. My reaction was something among the lines of, "A Dream Theater song? In my Dream Theater album?"
When I hear this song, I can't think of any other band as I ridiculously try to imitate James LaBrie and sing "Tears fall from the shameless…". That awesome combination of clean, soft vocals with heavy riffs, the structure, the instrumental arrangement throughout the whole song. It's all Dream Theater. And I've been striving for that.
19. Take the Time
I'll always remember this song as the one time where I truly love DT's bizarre experiments with different genres and influences to death. At times I may appreciate or like other attempts, but here, it was just brilliant.
That weird thought of bringing a vocalist that would be immediately associated with Hair Metal by anyone who hears him to sing that section in the beginning of the song is just hilarious. But dammit, it works so well, to the point where it became one of my favorite moments in Images and Words (which is an album that is full of "favorite moments"!).
The intense vocal passage that they always seem to skip is also great, though I'm not EXTREMELY disappointed about that – The rest of the song is just as awesome. Also, the instrumental section is easily one of the most memorable moments in Dream Theater's catalog. Partially because it's just this great, mostly because they played it in many, many memorable shows and James just nails the whole interaction with the crowd at the end of it.
Just like On the Backs of Angels, one of the greatest surprises in the latest album, to me, was that James sounded like James, singing soft, and almost operatic melodies while the band played heavier sounding riffs, creating that sort of combination, or balance. The same balance that was created back in Six Degrees, where Mike's voice was used to balance James out and nothing else. The same balance that makes me love Static Impulse so much.
That is, easily, one of my favorite things about this song. Though it does so many things right. Whether it's the quiet start that's suddenly broken by the intense main riff, which kind of reminded me of Voices, the chorus, the outro, or the instrumental section…I just love this song.
17. Another Won
One of the two songs that I actually like from the Majesty demos, and now both appear on the list. That was the biggest surprise to me in Score, or the Octavarium tour altogether.
16. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
I've only met one person in my life who actually bothered to listen to a 40-minutes long track when I wanted to introduce her to the band. And when she did, she loved everything about it. This song shows everything that's good about this band, from the intense moments, to the crazy instrumental sections, and even one section that is probably one of my favorite ballads of all time. The lyrics, just like The Great Debate, are not just beautiful to listen to but also make up for a great read. Ironically, I find this song therapeutic and it's one of these songs that I always play when I'm trying to just chill. There's not much else to say about it, you all know this song extremely well, I just have to admit that I love all the sections of this song equally. Including Overture.