Author Topic: Your Controversial Opinions on DT  (Read 669302 times)

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Offline Cool Chris

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10640 on: June 07, 2021, 10:07:34 PM »
DoT has not aged well for me. .... the songs just aren't there, except for a few, and JLB's limitations cannot be masked any more with studio magic, not to mention his vocals are drenched in effects like never before.

About where I am at (deleted the parts I didn't want to focus on). It is a good album. I just want more than a good album from my favorite band, even if we are up to 14 releases. It's an album I could listen to all the way through and not feel compelled to skip anything, yet would only have my ears perk up during At Wit's End. And James, despite age and limitations, has way more to bring to the table than this.
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Offline darkshade

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10641 on: June 08, 2021, 04:21:36 AM »
DoT has not aged well for me. .... the songs just aren't there, except for a few, and JLB's limitations cannot be masked any more with studio magic, not to mention his vocals are drenched in effects like never before.

About where I am at (deleted the parts I didn't want to focus on). It is a good album. I just want more than a good album from my favorite band, even if we are up to 14 releases. It's an album I could listen to all the way through and not feel compelled to skip anything, yet would only have my ears perk up during At Wit's End. And James, despite age and limitations, has way more to bring to the table than this.

His vocals just bore me now, and sometimes make me cringe at how bad they are. For all the drama, I think JLB needed MP to push him in the studio to put out a better performance. Every album since MP left, JLB just sounds like he's doing his job then going home. Maybe a little more effort was put in for The Astonishing, but that's because that concept required a bit more from him. Like Rudess, I think his ability to shine in a super metal context has passed. Both he and JR seem more inspired in less metal environments.

Offline ReaperKK

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10642 on: June 08, 2021, 06:08:44 AM »
Viper King is a Top 5 Dream Theater song.
I'm glad that someone finally had the courage to say it.

I don't know if it's top 5 but it's real fucking close. Fantastic song.

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10643 on: June 08, 2021, 08:01:02 AM »
DoT has not aged well for me. .... the songs just aren't there, except for a few, and JLB's limitations cannot be masked any more with studio magic, not to mention his vocals are drenched in effects like never before.

About where I am at (deleted the parts I didn't want to focus on). It is a good album. I just want more than a good album from my favorite band, even if we are up to 14 releases. It's an album I could listen to all the way through and not feel compelled to skip anything, yet would only have my ears perk up during At Wit's End. And James, despite age and limitations, has way more to bring to the table than this.

His vocals just bore me now, and sometimes make me cringe at how bad they are. For all the drama, I think JLB needed MP to push him in the studio to put out a better performance. Every album since MP left, JLB just sounds like he's doing his job then going home. Maybe a little more effort was put in for The Astonishing, but that's because that concept required a bit more from him. Like Rudess, I think his ability to shine in a super metal context has passed. Both he and JR seem more inspired in less metal environments.

It's not a popular opinion around here, but I've always thought this as well.  Even if it's not "pushing", or "telling him what to sing", just the presence and the interaction of having the performance be evaluated between the band in real time is, I think, important.  And credit to James, he's proud of his vocals and puts in the work, and so that competitive, sort of inspirational aspect of doing it face-to-face in real time is, I think, important.  It's the same reason that the Neal Morse Band ALWAYS gets together in Tennessee to create, as opposed to doing it remote.  I'm not, however, in the band, so what do I know?

Online Ben_Jamin

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10644 on: June 08, 2021, 08:37:17 AM »
DoT has not aged well for me. .... the songs just aren't there, except for a few, and JLB's limitations cannot be masked any more with studio magic, not to mention his vocals are drenched in effects like never before.

About where I am at (deleted the parts I didn't want to focus on). It is a good album. I just want more than a good album from my favorite band, even if we are up to 14 releases. It's an album I could listen to all the way through and not feel compelled to skip anything, yet would only have my ears perk up during At Wit's End. And James, despite age and limitations, has way more to bring to the table than this.

His vocals just bore me now, and sometimes make me cringe at how bad they are. For all the drama, I think JLB needed MP to push him in the studio to put out a better performance. Every album since MP left, JLB just sounds like he's doing his job then going home. Maybe a little more effort was put in for The Astonishing, but that's because that concept required a bit more from him. Like Rudess, I think his ability to shine in a super metal context has passed. Both he and JR seem more inspired in less metal environments.

MP is a great producer as he can envision and hear how the album should sound. He has a great ear for this, and it shows. He is a music fan at heart, and this helped him develop an ear that a producer needs to have, a diverse ear. He has so many albums and has heard different types of productions. MP also has a good ear for vocals because he likes to sing, and can sing the melodies enough to showcase what he has in his head. He's adamant about getting the album to sound like it does in his head.

JP is not that great of a producer. He's not bad, but not great either. He doesn't really have that ear, or personality to be that producer that MP is. JP let's his singer have more of the final say, because JP is not a good singer. He works with LaBrie, and let's him have a choice of how the melody should be worked out.

I do not know if they still have that Lyricist create the vocal melody rule anymore? I'm guessing not, as JP works with Myung to develop vocal melodies and rearrange his words to fit vocally better in the song and it's melodies.

But, in actuality, they're just producers with two different styles of producing.


Reminds me of how Arjen works with his singers, and how he is happy with what they give him, but sometimes the singers go the extra mile themselves and do some things Arjen wouldnt have even thought of...Mike Mills singing his layered 01's in The Day That The World Breaks Down.

And how Tobias Sammet got Geoff Tate to showcase just how good his vocals still are, and that he is more than capable of singing better. I feel, this have Geoff an extra boost and good kick in the ass about his vocals. The last time I saw him he was pretty good, not amazing like in his prime, but still great enough to tolerate now, for me anyways.

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Offline bosk1

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10645 on: June 08, 2021, 08:45:59 AM »
His vocals just bore me now, and sometimes make me cringe at how bad they are.

Bashing band members is and has always been against the forum rules.  The thread title inviting "controversial opinions" is not a license to break the rules.  If you aren't sure how far is "too far" before you have crossed a line, then I suggest keeping your opinions to yourself.  Further posts like this will not be tolerated.
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Offline Enigmachine

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10646 on: June 08, 2021, 12:26:49 PM »
D/T is pretty unique in how many effects are on JLB's voice, which I think is pretty much wholly down to production choices. I think he had a rough patch in 2017 recently, but I think performances since then have shown that was something of a fluke. I would've preferred JLB to have had a more moderate production on D/T but I don't think it was used to be a crutch. I also find it ironic that "I think his ability to shine in a super metal context has passed" is said, given that I don't think his performances are all that metallic these days on the studio albums, compared to the grit on something like Black Clouds. I think that since JP has been the sole producer, that element has definitely been dialed back, at least from what I remember. He doesn't give many performances like The Dark Eternal Night, Constant Motion or A Nightmare to Remember any more. To some degree I miss that, but I also don't really mind his current approach either.

Offline TM172003

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10647 on: June 08, 2021, 01:20:17 PM »
The amount of effects that are chucked on James’ voice is one of the only things that I don’t like about d/t. That and Room 137.

Offline ReaPsTA

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10648 on: June 08, 2021, 02:50:38 PM »
The amount of effects that are chucked on James’ voice is one of the only things that I don’t like about d/t. That and Room 137.

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Offline darkshade

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10649 on: June 08, 2021, 03:38:35 PM »
His vocals just bore me now, and sometimes make me cringe at how bad they are.

Bashing band members is and has always been against the forum rules.  The thread title inviting "controversial opinions" is not a license to break the rules.  If you aren't sure how far is "too far" before you have crossed a line, then I suggest keeping your opinions to yourself.  Further posts like this will not be tolerated.

My apologies. I didn't mean to break the rules, and I didn't mean to bash JLB. I do think he still has great moments as well. I think the best part of The Astonishing is JLB's vocals. His performance is just more captivating and he doesn't sound as over-produced.

Offline geeeemo

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10650 on: June 08, 2021, 03:43:47 PM »
I agree about the production of the vocals on D/T. I still love James voice and want to hear It. Of course funky stuff here and there is cool. But it doesn't sound right to me.

Offline Setlist Scotty

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10651 on: June 08, 2021, 03:48:03 PM »
MP is a great producer as he can envision and hear how the album should sound. He has a great ear for this, and it shows. He is a music fan at heart, and this helped him develop an ear that a producer needs to have, a diverse ear.

<snip>

JP is not that great of a producer. He's not bad, but not great either. He doesn't really have that ear, or personality to be that producer that MP is. JP let's his singer have more of the final say, because JP is not a good singer. He works with LaBrie, and let's him have a choice of how the melody should be worked out.
I think there is definitely some truth to the above statements. The first thing that came to my mind reading this post was when they were recording TDEN. JP had a vocal melody that he wanted JL to sing, but MP found that it didn't work, and pushed for the more rapping-style vocals that the verses ultimately ended up in. Would love to hear how JP originally had intended the vocals to be as I can't imagine them being anything other than what's on the album.
 
 
I do not know if they still have that Lyricist create the vocal melody rule anymore? I'm guessing not, as JP works with Myung to develop vocal melodies and rearrange his words to fit vocally better in the song and it's melodies.
Pretty sure the rule still stands. However, JM has *never* written vocal melodies. All his lyrics were (and probably still are) presented in poem form and need to be formatted into lyric form. Whoever formats them (probably JP most of the time) is the one who I would expect also would come up with the vocal melodies.


D/T is pretty unique in how many effects are on JLB's voice, which I think is pretty much wholly down to production choices.
I'd like to think it was just a production choice, but I do have to wonder if it was partly due to his vocal abilities not being what they once were. Guess we'll find out soon enough when the new album is released.
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Offline DoctorAction

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10652 on: June 08, 2021, 03:49:26 PM »
I think JLB's vocals on the albums still sound great. He has a unique tone and style that I continue to love. I could argue that his performances have lent the most relatable character to what have been been (mostly) stylistically uninteresting records following Octavarium.

(That doesn't include TA, obvs. I dislike it but it was unexpected in style)

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Offline KevShmev

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10653 on: June 08, 2021, 06:28:48 PM »
I think JLB has always a much better rock singer than metal singer.  Granted, Awake, which is pretty heavy at times, is my favorite DT album, and he is great on that, but that was before he had the food poisoning mishap.  The problem with JLB doing metal is that he tries too hard sometimes, especially live, and doesn't always come off well.  He was great on all of The Astonishing, which was mostly rock and not much metal, and he was great on a laid back tune like Out of Reach on the last album and still sounded great on the softer parts of Barstool Warrior and At Wit's End.  Live is another story, but he can still bring it in the studio, so long as the style fits what his strengths are, IMO (which I do not think are singing metal tunes anymore).

Offline HOF

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10654 on: June 08, 2021, 09:41:40 PM »
I think JLB has always a much better rock singer than metal singer.  Granted, Awake, which is pretty heavy at times, is my favorite DT album, and he is great on that, but that was before he had the food poisoning mishap.  The problem with JLB doing metal is that he tries too hard sometimes, especially live, and doesn't always come off well.  He was great on all of The Astonishing, which was mostly rock and not much metal, and he was great on a laid back tune like Out of Reach on the last album and still sounded great on the softer parts of Barstool Warrior and At Wit's End.  Live is another story, but he can still bring it in the studio, so long as the style fits what his strengths are, IMO (which I do not think are singing metal tunes anymore).

Yes, as much as I love some of the high moments on I&W and the more raw metal moments on Awake, I always felt DT did him no favors by going increasingly metal after SFAM. Since Awake at least he’s at his best when he’s going for a more soulful rock/pop approach (but that goes for the whole band really).

Offline Cool Chris

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10655 on: June 08, 2021, 09:53:01 PM »
MP is a great producer as he can envision and hear how the album should sound. He has a great ear for this, and it shows. He is a music fan at heart, and this helped him develop an ear that a producer needs to have, a diverse ear.

<snip>

JP is not that great of a producer. He's not bad, but not great either. He doesn't really have that ear, or personality to be that producer that MP is. JP let's his singer have more of the final say, because JP is not a good singer. He works with LaBrie, and let's him have a choice of how the melody should be worked out.
I think there is definitely some truth to the above statements. The first thing that came to my mind reading this post was when they were recording TDEN. JP had a vocal melody that he wanted JL to sing, but MP found that it didn't work, and pushed for the more rapping-style vocals that the verses ultimately ended up in. Would love to hear how JP originally had intended the vocals to be as I can't imagine them being anything other than what's on the album.

Personal preference I guess, but I don't consider TDEN a good use of James' abilities and strengths at all. I appreciate Mike's desire to push his bandmates, but also feel sometimes James got pushed in the wrong direction a few times. I likewise appreciate a producer letting a band member find their way, but understand everyone needs some direction.
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Offline Setlist Scotty

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10656 on: June 08, 2021, 10:45:59 PM »
MP is a great producer as he can envision and hear how the album should sound. He has a great ear for this, and it shows. He is a music fan at heart, and this helped him develop an ear that a producer needs to have, a diverse ear.

<snip>

JP is not that great of a producer. He's not bad, but not great either. He doesn't really have that ear, or personality to be that producer that MP is. JP let's his singer have more of the final say, because JP is not a good singer. He works with LaBrie, and let's him have a choice of how the melody should be worked out.
I think there is definitely some truth to the above statements. The first thing that came to my mind reading this post was when they were recording TDEN. JP had a vocal melody that he wanted JL to sing, but MP found that it didn't work, and pushed for the more rapping-style vocals that the verses ultimately ended up in. Would love to hear how JP originally had intended the vocals to be as I can't imagine them being anything other than what's on the album.

Personal preference I guess, but I don't consider TDEN a good use of James' abilities and strengths at all. I appreciate Mike's desire to push his bandmates, but also feel sometimes James got pushed in the wrong direction a few times. I likewise appreciate a producer letting a band member find their way, but understand everyone needs some direction.
Not disagreeing with your point that TDEN doesn't make good use of JL's abilities, but it's what the song probably called for - I say probably because having not heard the original way JP wanted JL to sing it, it's impossible to know whether it would be better or worse than what ended up on the album. But while I personally am not a big fan of the song, I can't say that I begrudge MP for the direction he gave for how the vocal lines should be presented.
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Offline darkshade

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10657 on: June 09, 2021, 04:40:39 AM »
I think JLB has always a much better rock singer than metal singer.  Granted, Awake, which is pretty heavy at times, is my favorite DT album, and he is great on that, but that was before he had the food poisoning mishap.  The problem with JLB doing metal is that he tries too hard sometimes, especially live, and doesn't always come off well.  He was great on all of The Astonishing, which was mostly rock and not much metal, and he was great on a laid back tune like Out of Reach on the last album and still sounded great on the softer parts of Barstool Warrior and At Wit's End.  Live is another story, but he can still bring it in the studio, so long as the style fits what his strengths are, IMO (which I do not think are singing metal tunes anymore).

Yes, as much as I love some of the high moments on I&W and the more raw metal moments on Awake, I always felt DT did him no favors by going increasingly metal after SFAM. Since Awake at least he’s at his best when he’s going for a more soulful rock/pop approach (but that goes for the whole band really).

I always thought "metal" was the weakest element in DT, overall, both in the old days, and post-SFAM.

Their strengths are rock, jazz-fusion, prog rock, pop, and softer elements. They seem to only want to include a little of each and keep the overall vibe METUL!!! for commercial reasons I assume.

But I did like JP's heavy tone from SDoIT - BC&SL.

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10658 on: June 09, 2021, 07:46:40 AM »
I always liked the juxtaposition.  I've frequently written that when I first "met" Dream Theater, it was like Rush and Iron Maiden decided to jam, and Steve Perry came down and sang on it.   And that's what I think is unique and what I love.  I'm not really interested in JLB trying to be like Jeff Scott Soto or Russell Allen.   Not only does that not suit JLB's voice, but I'm not the hugest fan of those singers, and besides, if I want to hear those singers, I'll get THEIR material. 

There are plenty of "heavier" songs in the catalogue that don't have JLB trying to be something that's not in his wheel house.

(And I'm being a little hyperbolic to make a point here, but I think you get which direction I'm pointed in.)

Offline bosk1

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10659 on: June 09, 2021, 09:31:29 AM »
Not disagreeing with your point that TDEN doesn't make good use of JL's abilities, but it's what the song probably called for - I say probably because having not heard the original way JP wanted JL to sing it, it's impossible to know whether it would be better or worse than what ended up on the album. But while I personally am not a big fan of the song, I can't say that I begrudge MP for the direction he gave for how the vocal lines should be presented.

I basically agree.  Is it what James is best at?  Nope.  Does it work within the context of the song?  Yup.  There are plenty of songs where the vocal melody and style is "standard."  Those are great.  But I also enjoy the times where they branch out and experiment with different things.  Sometimes, those experiments work better than other times.  But I'm almost always glad they find ways to make things fun and refreshing by trying different things.
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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10660 on: June 09, 2021, 09:38:07 AM »
I find it interesting that '6 Degrees,' an album widely regard as one of DT's best, also features loads of vocal effects, and no one seems to ever cite those.

For my money, a little flanger here ('Great Debate'), a little harmony there "Misunderstood') makes for an interesting listen. After all, live, it's all clean (for the most part).

I was a huge detractor of D/T when it first dropped, but at this point, some 20-30 spins later, I have really come around, and now consider it the second best (behind only ADTOE) of the Mangini era.

As far as James goes—I've been in his corner on these boards for years, so I'm obviously heavily biased, but I still think he's at the top of his game on record, and consider D/T to be a really strong performance.

To Stadler's point, the whole 'Steve Perry' meets 'Metallica' thing is what drew me to the band (Perry is my favorite vocalist all-time).

Offline geeeemo

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10661 on: June 09, 2021, 11:02:46 AM »
I agree with the comment about the "not metal" voice mixing with metal music.. and that having some effects, like on Six Degrees are cool. I like texture and not boring. Most metal bands get boring - even my old fave Metallica. Prog Rock bands to me are boring as I don't care for "light" music. DT's mix is perfect. That said, the effects on James voice on D/T is mostly just the same weird sound on the whole record.  I do like D/T, it's always an enjoyable listen.

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10662 on: June 09, 2021, 11:26:16 AM »
I always liked the juxtaposition.  I've frequently written that when I first "met" Dream Theater, it was like Rush and Iron Maiden decided to jam, and Steve Perry came down and sang on it.   And that's what I think is unique and what I love. I'm not really interested in JLB trying to be like Jeff Scott Soto or Russell Allen.   Not only does that not suit JLB's voice, but I'm not the hugest fan of those singers, and besides, if I want to hear those singers, I'll get THEIR material. 

There are plenty of "heavier" songs in the catalogue that don't have JLB trying to be something that's not in his wheel house.

(And I'm being a little hyperbolic to make a point here, but I think you get which direction I'm pointed in.)

I agree, but that's the direction MP was pushing towards.
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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10663 on: June 09, 2021, 11:51:55 AM »
I always liked the juxtaposition.  I've frequently written that when I first "met" Dream Theater, it was like Rush and Iron Maiden decided to jam, and Steve Perry came down and sang on it.   And that's what I think is unique and what I love. I'm not really interested in JLB trying to be like Jeff Scott Soto or Russell Allen.   Not only does that not suit JLB's voice, but I'm not the hugest fan of those singers, and besides, if I want to hear those singers, I'll get THEIR material. 

There are plenty of "heavier" songs in the catalogue that don't have JLB trying to be something that's not in his wheel house.

(And I'm being a little hyperbolic to make a point here, but I think you get which direction I'm pointed in.)



I agree, but that's the direction MP was pushing towards.

No doubt.  He seems to be enamored of both singers.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2021, 06:57:47 AM by Stadler »

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10664 on: June 10, 2021, 06:56:26 AM »
What does everyone think of Labrie "singing" the growled vocals section of A Nightmare to Remember live ?

I think it's interesting and i'm glad they didn't just pipe in MP's vocal track and try to pretend it was Petrucci doing it.

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10665 on: June 10, 2021, 07:03:02 AM »
What does everyone think of Labrie "singing" the growled vocals section of A Nightmare to Remember live ?

I think it's interesting and i'm glad they didn't just pipe in MP's vocal track and try to pretend it was Petrucci doing it.

Personally, I think this recent live version is amazing, and my definitive version of the song going forward. The final scream from James in that section is just so  :metal, and yes, I am happy he does 'his' thing there. I never liked MPs vocal part, and would have always preferred a sung section.

This is where demoing and rehearsing can help (as opposed to just writing and recording in the studio). I bet that if the band had given the song some time to germinate, they would have eventually modified that section. It's 'fine' as it is, but play it live ten times before you record it, and I'm pretty sure they'd have figured out a better vocal part there.

Offline bosk1

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10666 on: June 10, 2021, 07:51:47 AM »
What does everyone think of Labrie "singing" the growled vocals section of A Nightmare to Remember live ?

I think it's interesting and i'm glad they didn't just pipe in MP's vocal track and try to pretend it was Petrucci doing it.

I miss Portnoy's vocals there, but I agree that piping them in would have been lame.  But James singing that part is fine.  It doesn't detract from the song at all. 
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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10667 on: June 10, 2021, 08:20:07 AM »
JLB's scream at the end of that section is epic! :2metal:

Online WilliamMunny

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10668 on: June 10, 2021, 08:21:56 AM »
JLB's scream at the end of that section is epic! :2metal:

There's a live version of 'The Glass Prison' floating around on a Gigantour comp from about 15 years ago that's equally epic—James just slays that version.

Offline ReaperKK

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10669 on: June 10, 2021, 08:27:27 AM »
JLB's scream at the end of that section is epic! :2metal:

I think that is one of the worst parts of the ANTR live. I don't remember it when I saw it live but when I got the album and heard it really made my skin crawl.

Offline geeeemo

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10670 on: June 10, 2021, 08:33:33 AM »
JLB's scream at the end of that section is epic! :2metal:

I think that is one of the worst parts of the ANTR live. I don't remember it when I saw it live but when I got the album and heard it really made my skin crawl.

I also dig it. Every time I hear it I get a big smile on my face.  :D There is another good one I think, either on Beyond This Life or Finally Free.

Offline Dublagent66

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10671 on: June 10, 2021, 08:37:39 AM »
JLB's scream at the end of that section is epic! :2metal:

I think that is one of the worst parts of the ANTR live. I don't remember it when I saw it live but when I got the album and heard it really made my skin crawl.

I'm talking about the Distant Memories live version with JLB's scream at the end, not the studio version with MP.

Offline ReaperKK

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10672 on: June 10, 2021, 01:52:15 PM »
That's also the one I'm referring to, it's terrible IMO.

Offline RMGadelha

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10673 on: June 10, 2021, 04:02:35 PM »
I actually liked James singing it. Fun fact, I was at the concert in Rio de Janeiro, and when that part came up, I growled at end of it. Mind you, I'm a terrible growler, I can barely do Tuvan/Mongolian throat singing, but it came out alright to the point that this dude standing next to me  looked at me like: O_O

Offline Enigmachine

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Re: Your Controversial Opinions on DT
« Reply #10674 on: June 11, 2021, 10:49:14 AM »
I'd like to think it was just a production choice, but I do have to wonder if it was partly due to his vocal abilities not being what they once were. Guess we'll find out soon enough when the new album is released.

I must admit that the recent cover of Kickstart My Heart is cause for concern in how it's even more heavily layered with effects, but I do still think Holiday Spirit is a very solid performance.

They seem to only want to include a little of each and keep the overall vibe METUL!!! for commercial reasons I assume.

...Or because the members (John Petrucci in particular) generally like metal quite a bit. Not sure why there has to be a ulterior motive to it. Just because you prefer their sound one way, doesn't mean the band are deliberately trying to compromise it when they go in a different direction.