was the ninth album by Dream Theater, released by Roadrunner Records on June 5, 2007. It is notable for being the first album on the Roadrunner Records label by Dream Theater. It is also notable for being the first (and thus far only) album released that contain recordings of fans for certain shouting parts. It was also the first album to break into the Billboard top 20.
- Mike Portnoy – Drums, Percussion and vocals
- John Petrucci – Guitars and backing vocals
- John Myung – Bass
- Jordan Rudess – Keyboards and Continuum
- James LaBrie – Lead Vocals
- John Petrucci & Mike Portnoy – producers
- Paul Northfield – sound engineering, mixing, vocal track co-producer
- Chad Lupo – assistant engineer
- Hugh Syme – art direction, design and illustration
- Daragh McDonag – photography
- Guest spoken words on “Repentance”
- In The Presence Of Enemies: The Heretic And The Dark Master Pt. 1 (Petrucci) – 9:00
- I. Prelude – 4:15
- II. Resurrection – 4:45
- Forsaken (Petrucci) – 5:36
- Constant Motion (Portnoy)- 6:55
- The Dark Eternal Night (Petrucci) – 8:51
- Repentance (Portnoy) – 10:43
- VIII. Regret – 5:43
- IX. Restitution – 5:00
- Prophets Of War (LaBrie) – 6:01
- The Ministry Of Lost Souls (Petrucci) – 14:57
- In The Presence Of Enemies: The Heretic And The Dark Master Pt 2 (Petrucci) – 16:38
- III. Heretic – 6:10
- IV. The Slaughter of the Damned – 3:07
- V. The Reckoning – 3:27
- VI. Salvation – 3:54
About the album
The album was recorded from September 2006 till February 2007 at Avatar Studios in New York City, after the first summer break the band had enjoyed in ten years with no festival dates. Notably, in interviews before the album release, Mike Portnoy stated that the chemistry in the band was the best it had ever been. They hired Paul Northfield to engineer the album. Northfield had previously worked with bands such as Rush and Queensrÿche, both important inspirations to Dream Theater. The album was written and recorded in the studio.
The album saw a return to highly fictionalized lyrics. Whereas the last few albums were very rooted in political and personal issues, this album contained lyrics firmly rooted in the fantasy realm, with vampires and dark masters in the centre of the story telling. The album name comes from the word chaos in “The Dark Eternal Night”, and the phrase “random thoughts of neat disorder” from “Constant Motion”. This morphed into “Systematic Chaos” – following a similar structure of album naming as the albums Images & Words, Awake and Falling Into Infinity had?
The album cover artwork for Systematic Chaos was created by Hugh Syme (who also did the artwork for Octavarium), an artist most notably known for being the creator of all of Rush’s artworks since 1975 and also appearing on Rush albums playing the keyboards. He has also created artwork for Iron Maiden, Fates Warning and many others.
The first piece recorded was the 25 minute long epic “In The Presence of Enemies”, known as “The Pumpkin King” in demo form. The band felt having a 25 minute song open the album would have been too much, and ending yet another album in a long epic would probably be a mistake (seeing as both Six Degrees and Octavarium just had long epics as album enders). Therefore the song was split in two equal pieces, set to bookend the rest of the album. The story was based on a Korean manhwa (comic book) called Priest. Petrucci summarizes it in the making of video as “a story about somebody who loses himself and end struggles with the darkness, symbolized by the Dark Master. And the story ends up really being the darkness within and goes through the different phases where he has to fight demons and things like that.”
Forsaken was a story told in a short song, about a person visited at night by a vampire or a succubus. While the man is led to believe that he’s being taken away and being shown wonderful things, he doesn’t realize this is all an hallucination while he’s being sucked dry by this creature. An animated music video detailing this story was released in january 2008, produced by Gonzo (a japanese animation studio) and directed by Yasufumi Soejima. The song was temporarily titled “Jet Lag”.
Constant Motion was the first single from the album, released on April 27, 2007. Released as a free download, it was also made available for use in the video game Rock Band – quickly becoming notable for being one of the most difficult songs available for the title. The working title was “Korma Chameleon”.
The song, being one of the more aggressive and driving songs on the album, was written to be a metaphor for Mike Portnoys own self-prescribed obsessive compulsive disorder. Ever working, ever active with new projects, his “wheels are always turning”, trying to juggle the responsibilities of business deals, projects, bands, and other things in life. A music video was also released, the first the band had made in a decade. Recieving considerable airplay during MTV2’s headbangers ball, it surely is the most popular video since “Pull Me Under” in 1992.
The Dark Eternal Night is a song about a pharao returning after lying dormant, as a monster to haunt a town. The lyrics are heavily influenced by the short story Nyarlathotep by American horror fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft, even borrowing a lot of specific phrases from this story. The song was originally called NADS.
Repetance was the next song in the AA series which was started with The Glass Prison and was continued with This Dying Soul and The Root Of All Evil. Discussing step eight and nine of the AA twelve step process, dealing with making a list of people whom one has wronged and making amends if possible. Several friends of Mike Portnoy recorded spoken apologies and regrets of their own, featured in the song. The song was called “Fisheye” during the writing.
Prophets of War had lyrics written by James LaBrie, and was a political song loosely based on Joseph C Wilsons book “The Politics of Truth”. The lyrics talk about people having possible ulterior motives to go to war, making a word play on “prophet” and the homonym “profit”. On Friday, January 26th, Dream Theater let fans into Avatar studios to record chanting vocals for “Prophets Of War” using the lyrics “Time for Change/Fight The Fear/Find The Truth/Time For Change” and shouts of “Hey” for “In The Presence Of Enemies, Pt 2”. The vocals were done in both “clean” and “death growl” styles and the fans also shouted “Ass and Balls” and assorted random words, although these were not used. 400 fans showed up outside the studio, but only sixty could be allowed in.
The Ministry of Lost Souls is the second longest song on the album, clocking in at almost 15 minutes. The lyrics is a story of a person who dies in the process of saving a woman from drowning. But the woman is filled with regret and sorrow and is filled with a need to reunite with her rescuer. “The Ministry Of Lost Souls” was known as “Schindler’s Lisp” during the writing phase.
The album was released in two version, the single disc normal version with just the album, and the special edition containing a DVD with a making of documentary of the album.