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Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
Artist: Dream Theater 
Tracks/Time: (2 discs) 13 Tracks / 96:20
Label: Elektra

Dream Theater’s last release, Scenes From a Memory, was easily their most cohesive.  They even performed the entire album as a rock opera on tour.  Yet few of the songs stood out on their own merit.

That shortcoming has been remedied in Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.  Another brilliant concept album, two discs actually, and almost every track more solid than a prison.  Not only is this the best album released so far in 2002.  It surpasses anything released last year.  No wonder it’s been the #1 seller on CD-Now for several weeks now.

The first four tracks are each phenomenal, and the shortest of these is nine and a half minutes long.  Musically, lead vocalist James LaBrie has never been better.  While his past performances have always smacked a little too much of ‘80s glam metal, LaBrie exhibits far more breadth, ranging from his classic style to Broadway musical techniques (I’ve got the Les Miserables soundtrack right after this one in my CD changer and it doesn’t miss a beat) to a bit of James Hetfield even within the single track, “The Test That Stumped Them All.”

Dream Theater starts the first disc off heavy, progressive and thrashing and begins its slow-down on the last track.  The second disc then opens with a track worthy of any Hollywood musical score and sets the stage for a mixture of more orchestral and guitar-rock sounds.

Lyrically, Six Degrees offers far more entry points for Christian listeners than did Scenes which was the story of a psychotherapist helping a man to come to grips with his past-life experiences.

Six Degrees tackles issues of escapism, will, faith and confusion, just to name a few.  On my reading, God gets a very fair hearing.  In the opening track, "The Glass Prison," a man cries for help, acknowledging that he can’t make it on his own, then concludes with:

Fell down on my knees and prayed
Thy will be done’
I turned around, saw a light shining through
The door was wide open
The third track, and I believe the strongest, “Misunderstood,” continues the theme of reflection and contributes the lines:
Playing a lion being led to a cage
I turn from a thief to a beggar
From a god to God save me
The next track is a brief tangent carefully weighing the issue of human cloning.  The song, “The Great Debate,” opens and closes with sound bites both for and against the practice.  My only complaint is that most of the sound bites don’t offer much content and say such things as “How did we come to be doing this?” and “We’re talking about this, we’re talking about that.”  The lyrics themselves, however, do an excellent job of getting people to think about the real arguments.
Miracle potential
Sanctity of life
Faced against each other
Have collided
And the chorus shouts a Toolish refrain:
Are you justified
Are you justified
Justified in taking
Life to save life
Life to save life
What more can I say?  Brilliant lyrics.  Brilliant musicianship.  I won’t be at all surprised if this album finds its way onto my Top 20 of all-time.  Even the French judge would have to agree, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence merits.

Dan Singleton 2/17/2002



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