Train of Thought


Train of Thought

was the seventh studio album by Dream Theater, released by Elektra Records (the final on this label before it was shut down and all assets transferred to Atlantic Records) on November 10, 2003. It is known as the heaviest album from Dream Theater thus far. The heavy nature of the album created a rift between the “metal” fans and the “prog” fans. Inspired by the response to Dream Theater’s heavier songs while on tour (in particular – the Bospop festival of 2002), Portnoy has stated that they wanted Train of Thought to be a “balls to the wall” album with heavier, darker riffing.


Dream Theater

  • Mike Portnoy – Drums
  • John Petrucci – Guitar
  • John Myung – Bass
  • Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
  • James LaBrie – Vocals

Guest Musicians

  • Eugene Friesen – Cello on “Vacant”


  • John Petrucci & Mike Portnoy – producers
  • Doug Oberkircher – sound engineering
  • Kieran Pardias, Brian Harding, Yohei Goto, Dan Bucchi – assistant engineers
  • Kevin Shirley – mixing
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering
  • Anita Marisa Boriboon – art direction
  • Jerry Uelsmann – artwork


  1. As I Am (Petrucci) 7:47
  2. This Dying Soul (Portnoy) 11:28
    1. IV. Reflections of Reality (Revisited) 6:31
    2. V. Release 4:57
  3. Endless Sacrifice (Petrucci) 11:23
  4. Honor Thy Father (Portnoy) 10:14
  5. Vacant (LaBrie) 2:58
  6. Stream of Consciousness (Instrumental) 11:16
  7. In the Name of God (Petrucci) 14:16

Length: 69:12

About the Album

Before entering studio, Mike Portnoy had one goal: to add a classic metal album to the Dream Theater discography. Not to create the best metal album of all-time, nor to create a ground breaking/genre breaking album. The goal was simply, write a several solid 7-8 minute songs, along the lines of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast”. Both of those were albums Dream Theater had recently performed in their entirity on tour.

Instead of going into studio, writing songs and then recording, Dream Theater went into a separate session for writing, spending three weeks writing the album and recording a demo (which as later been released on Ytsejam Records). They did find it hard to restrain themselves into 7-8 minute songs – here the songs are on average over 10 minutes long. The album was recorded at Cove City Sound Studios and Pie Studios on Long Island.

This album continues the “meta-album” concept where the last note/sound of the previous album starts off this album. This album has seven songs, which fits with the fact that the album is the seventh album by Dream Theater.

After the surprising and disappointing event of a very early leak of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence onto the internet prior to it’s release, extra precaution was taken to keep this album from beaing leaked early. This was a success, as the album was not made available on the internet until a few days before the release date (due to stores releasing the album early).

For the artwork, there were some proposals made by an artist that Dream Theater ultimately turned down. Instead, a fan had sent Mike Portnoy some pictures from an art collection. Mike Portnoy really liked what he saw, and wanted to commission the artist to create the artwork for Train of Thought. Unfortunately, Jerry Uelsmann had already retired. But Dream Theater was allowed to pick and choose from his collection of already published artworks. The cover art (seen at the bottom of the page) was called “Memories of Max Ernst”, published in 1997. When the artwork for the album leaked onto the internet early, fans were actually very skeptical that it was real precisely because the artwork already existed. The Majesty Symbol was put into the eye of the image.


Due to a much more restrictive promo period, not much was known about the album before release. A pre-release promo consisting of As I Am got a lot of attention, both positive and negative as it signalled the coming sound of the album. There was considerations of shooting a video, but the band decided against it for the reason of it being a waste of money due to it never being played on any mainstream TV-stations.

Train of Thought continued with the idea that song writing credits were given to the people actually being in studio and writing songs – and for the most part that meant James LaBrie did not get any song writing credits, other than lyrics. Vacant was composed only by Myung and Rudess.

The tour for Train of Thought set a new presedent – it had an extreme variance of setlists (almost no two setlists were alike), and most shows lasted over three hours. The final show of the tour (in Tokyo, Japan) was filmed and released on DVD, “Live at Budokan”.

Critical reception was positive, with much praise for the tight sound and concise themes, and being more focused (and less experimental) than the preceding album. Fans had much more diverse reactions though. A lot of people really hated the new direction of the band. But the “metal” fans were extatic, calling it the best album ever.

This Dying Soul is a continuation of The Glass Prison, the saga also continues in The Root Of All Evil, Repentance and Shattered Fortress. Commonly known as the “twelve step” saka, it is a personal story regarding Mike Portnoys struggle with alcoholism and substance abuse. Honor Thy Father was written from Mike Portnoy to his step father, stating “I’m not very good at writing love songs, so I decided to write a hate song!”.

Vacant was a personal song for James LaBrie:

“Vacant is a very personal lyric. 3 days before my daughter’s 7th birthday she had a seizure and went into a coma for 3 and half hours. The Doctors told my wife and I she might have had a stroke. While they were about to do a Catscan Chloe came out of it. It was a miracle and never again did she have incident with this type of situation. The Doctors never did give us a full diagnosis as to what really happen. Quite honestly I think they were just as baffled as us. Nothing before or since has ever left me feeling as distraught or helpless.  Good news, she is a perfectly healthy girl and singing her ass off.”

In The Name of God was a song inspired by atrocities made by people in the name of their religion. It’s not a criticism of religion itself, but of the people who do horrible things based on their misguided beliefs. The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” can be heard towards the end of the song.

Between 5:51 and 6:07 of the song “In the Name of God”, there was a hidden composition buried beneath the far louder sounds of the song itself which lay undiscovered for over a year and a half. The band did not tell anyone that a hidden “nugget” (as it became known amongst Dream Theater fans) was present in the song, and only when Mike Portnoy mentioned it in his Mike Portnoy: Live at Budokan Drum-Cam DVD over a year later did someone find it. The Mike Portnoy message board was rife with fans scouring the song looking for what it might be, until a fan going by the pseudonymous name “DarrylRevok” mentioned that from 5:51 to 6:07 there appeared to be morse code audible, which Nick Bogovich (user handle “Bogie”) isolated and discovered that when translated to English, the phrase “eat my ass and balls” (a Mike Portnoy catchphrase) was the result.

The last note of the album was played by Jordan Rudess using his nose.



Memories of Max Ernst, 1997 – Jerry N. Uelsmann.

Read more at Wikia and Wikipedia