There's also a vocal production effect that they're doing that's just really obvious. On the slow emotional songs, you can tell that they overdubbed LaBrie whispering the words, and then mixed his breathy whisper sound in over top of the normal vocals. This is a common practice in the music industry today to get really emotional sounding vocals. But they fucked it up here, and it literally sounds like, "Oh, it's a person whispering along", which it's NOT supposed to make you think of. Bad Bad production error, destroys the realism.
Outcry is pretty good too. Doesn't it quote a melody from some previous DT album? like something off of Systematic Chaos or Octovarium (I don't know, those two run together for me). Bridges in the Sky isn't very good... too bad because it's a REALLY cool title. I don't remember Lost Not Forgotten being very good either.
But Breaking All Illusions... possibly the best DT track since 6 Degrees. I mean, Count of Tuscany had some amazing stuff, but it had a lot of fluff too. These Walls and Never Enough off Octovarium were pretty good too, but the latter was SO close to Muse: Stockholm Syndrom (which is better), that it's really difficult for me to really enjoy it.
But fuck, what happened? 6 Degrees was just amazing (though everyone hated it at the time), and had so many different stylistic ideas, but after that, it's like they chopped out half of their stylistic repetoir. Solitary Shell, Blind Faith, Missunderstood, Disappear Test that Stumped Them All... upbeat neoprog, high energy fusion, moody builds, outlandish vocal fun... Peter Gabriel, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Queen, Talking Heads, Radiohead, Iron Maiden, all rolled into one. What happened? They used to be so diverse. Now they're just pigeonholing themselves into a corner. Diversity MADE Dream Theater special... their ability to meld distant styles. Breaking All Illusions has it, but it's pretty much absent everywhere else.
That brings me to an interesting observation. So many artists talk about finding "your own voice"... but at the same time, I think that doing so is what KILLS many artists. The exploration and mad search for ones own character is often what makes music interesting. Many of my favorite bands, if you asked me what they sound like, it's not that they have one particular sound, but it's the way in which they bring different material together that makes them unique. I'd like to count myself among that tendancy too. But it's not a question of age, but of group mentality, either your band memebers or fans or producer think they've got "your sound", and you're stuck. Fire your producer, respectfully disagree with your fans (they'll thank you for it in the end), get new bandmates, and keep searching. I should have seen this was coming when, during the Drum auditions, they were looking down at drummers trying to come up with new material for old songs.
I hope I never find my voice. The day that I feel like I know who *I* am is the day I need to stop writing music.