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Train of Thought

An album by Dream Theater

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I've Been Working On The Railroad

  • Jul 18, 2008
Pros: Fantastic music that demands your attention

Cons: Not representative of the majority of their work, but still some of their best.

The Bottom Line: A deep dark album that shows Dream Theater at their best. A must have for any heavy metal fan.

“ALL ABOARD!!” A voice booms out from the front of the train. “This is your conductor speaking. We welcome you aboard the most unforgettable ride of yours, or any others lifetime.”

As the locomotive slowly begins to pull away the conductor continues his speech. “All of you are now committed to taking part in an excursion to the darkest recesses of the mind. Together you will all find different paths to take aboard the “Dream Theater express.” “To some this is a train of hope. To others it is the train of despair. To all it is the ”Train Of Thought!”

With a poof of smoke his is gone. Nervously the passengers look around wondering just what they may have gotten into. This does not seem to be an ordinary Amtrak trip by any means.

Looking outside there is nothing but bleak wasteland. Blood red scorched earth barren of any signs of life is the landscape as far as the eye can see. Hard packed clay, cracked from the lack of moisture and curling up from the constant beating of the now setting sun is the vista for the passengers to behold.

Suddenly, up ahead, silhouetted against the last remnants of the sun is a tree; a tree with no bark and as dead as its surrounding. Sitting beneath it as if this is the only place to be, is a man who you can see is dressed in army fatigues. He has something in his hand as he stands and slowly makes his way toward the train as it slows to a stop.

As he limps toward the train his features become clearer and you can see the scars that line his face. It becomes apparent that he has seen a battle or two. Also recognizable is a patch over the pocket with the name LaBrie.

Now facing the train he sets down the package he has been carrying and you see it is an old fashion record player. From under his jacket he produces a very old vinyl disc. Cuing up the record he sets the needle to play.

As if from everywhere, a heavy bass guitar fills the twilight. Before your senses can take in this phenomenon; a thunderous and heavily distorted guitar adds to the desolation that resonates in every bone of your body as the power of it blows out every window of the train car.

At this point Captain LaBrie snarls at the passengers and says to them all:

Tell me what's in
Tell me how to write
Don't tell me how to win
This fight
Isn't your life
It isn't your right
To take the only thing that's

Reaching into his coat once more, the Captain pulls out a copy of Catch-22 and hurls it at the train. Pages fly everywhere and a sudden rainfall of literary genius begins to cascade down upon this strange

”Proven over time
It's over your head
Don't try to read between the
Are clearly defined
Never lose sight of
Something you believe in

Takin' in the view from the outside
Feeling like the underdog
Watching through the window I'm on the outside
Living like the underdog

I've been trying to justify you
In the end I will just defy you.”

With these last words; the captain in frenzy, moves along the train, stopping at each window and says to all that are watching:

”To those who understand, I extend my hand
To the doubtful I demand, take me as I am
Not under your command, I know where I stand
I won't change to fit your plan, Take me as I am

As I am.”

With this, he turns and starts heading for the tree while still continuing his story of defiance and self assurance. As he passes the tree, the music becomes a riveting guitar solo that follows Captain LaBrie as he slowly fades off into the distance.

The passengers sit in utter fascination as the meaning of what they just witnessed creeps into their consciousness. It is not as important to gain the acceptance of others on their terms as is the realization of ones own self worth.

Leaving the first stop on this train ride, it is clear that one of the most important factors in becoming a whole person is the ability to like yourself and tell everyone else to take you ”As I Am!

The locomotive starts chugging along as the mesmerized passengers try to cope with what they had just witnessed. Silence permeates the passenger car as it rolls along.

Soon the barren terrain gives way to a field of wheat. The golden stalks waving in a slight breeze. Acres upon acres of rolling grain are the only sight out either side of the train. Then, as the train makes a gentle bend, a farmhouse comes into sight. All aboard feel the slowing of the engine as they approach, until they come to a stop right in front of the white picket fence surrounding the immaculate old two story home.

In amazement the passengers watch as Captain LaBrie climbs the stairs and enters the house. Over the loud speakers the booming voice of the conductor is heard. ”All passengers disembark for the next stop on the ”Train Of Thought.”

The passengers gather in the front yard as music fills the air. A crunching guitar assaults the listeners as a double time drum churns up the feeling of foreboding that all around feel. With a gust of guitar zeal the front door swings open and the music quiets and draws the passengers inside.

In a bleak room stands the Captain staring at a strange full length mirror that seems to be filled with a swirling mist. The Captain seems to be searching the mirror as he sings:

” Hello, Mirror - so glad to see you my friend, it's been a while
Searching, Fearless - where do I begin to heal this wound of self-denial?”

With a rush the mirror starts to clear and the face of Sigmund Freud appears and answers the question:

” Face yourself man!
Brace yourself and trace your hell back

You've been blinded, living lie a one way cold existence all the while
Now it's time to stare the problem right between the eyes you long lost child.”

The mirror suddenly changes and we see a woman sitting at the kitchen table a whiskey bottle in front of her. A young boy is sitting across with an invitation to a father/son picnic.

The captain sings:

”Born into this world a broken home
Surrounded by love yet all alone
Forced into a life that's split in two
A mother and a father both pulling you.”

The mother begins to weep and tears the paper up as she reaches for what she thinks is relief in the bottle in front of her.

This is the start of his decent into alcoholism. The life that he chose is cast upon the mirror in front of him as the frenzied guitar painfully recalls the terrible hell that he has found for his self.

As he realizes just how much he has fallen, Dr. Freud once again appears and reaches out to try and help this man:

” Come to me my friend (Listen to me)
I'll help this torture end (Help to set me free)
Let your ego go (I can't carry this load)
You can't go through this alone (I feel so hopeless and exposed)
You'll find your peace of mind (Give me some direction)
You can no longer hide (Break out of this isolation)
Let humility (Openness, honesty)
And become what you can be (A healing tranquility).”

With the boundaries broken the Captain realizes just what he needs:

” Help me
Save me
Heal me
I can't break out of this prison all alone.”

To which the Doctor replies:

”These tormenting ghosts of yesterday
Will vanish when exposed
You can't hold onto your secrets
They'll only send you back alone

Your fearless admissions
Will help expel your destructive obsessions
With my help I know you can
Be at one with God and man.”

For the first time we see the Captain smile as he tells the doctor:

”Hear me
Believe me
Take me
I'm ready to break right through this prison wall.”

With that the Captain raises his fist as if to use an axe and pummels the mirror. Glass is sucked through the mirror as is Captain LaBrie.

The crowd gasps as the powerful guitar continues to contribute to their feeling of despair but also there is a bit of hope, the hope that there is a way to overcome even the darkest moments in our life. Anyone can do it, just look at the Captain and how he was able to stand up for what he calls ”This Dying Soul.”

A mellow guitar emanates from another room and draws the train passengers like a magnet. As they open the door they are thrust into a tent where a battle is going on in the background. Our soldier LaBrie, younger than when we first met him, lies on a cot as in the background the fighting rages on. Bombs and explosions are seen but the music keeps us from hearing it.

The captain is looking at a picture of a very pretty girl. A tear is streaming down his face as he laments:

Lying in my bed
Staring into darkness

I hear footsteps overhead
And my thoughts return

Like a child who's run away
And won't be coming back
Time keeps passing by
As night turns into day

I'm so far away
And so alone
I need to see your face
To keep me sane
To make we whole.”

Jumping from the bed he angrily looks outside while still holding the picture:

”Try to stay alive
Until I hear your voice
I'm gonna lose my mind
Someone tell me why
I chose this life
This superficial lie
Constant compromise
Endless sacrifice

It saddens me to know
The helplessness you feel
Your light
Shines on my soul
While a thousand candles

Outside this barren room
The rain is pouring down
The emptiness inside
Is growing deeper still

You're so far away
And so alone
You long for love's embrace
To keep you sane
To make you whole.”

The captain drops the picture and picks up his gun. Running outside we hear as he charges into battle:

”Someone tell me why
I chose this life
This superficial lie
Constant compromise
Endless sacrifice

Moments wasted
Time escaping
Endless sacrifice.”

We see now where the scars come from, the visible ones and also those that are harbored within. They come from a person’s ”Endless Sacrifice.”

It is time to get back on board the train. The whole scene evaporates and the passengers find themselves standing in front of the train. Loading on, they are greeted by the voice of the conductor. “I hope that you all have seen the power of the Dream Theater express. Our next destination is only a thought away.”

As if by magic, everyone is plunged into total darkness and the train screams down a hill at break neck speed. Reaching the bottom the ride levels out and a crisp autumn day unfolds in the forest that surrounds the train tracks. We see a town up ahead and a simple sign that reads HOME.

Pulling into the station we see the Captain walking into the terminal. As if in a movie we follow him out front and see him hail a cab. Crunching guitar that is as heavy as anything yet heard on the trip sets the tone as the Captain takes off in the taxi.

Soon he passes through the town and we see the cab stop in front of a small bungalow where the woman he had the picture of is out in the front yard with a child in her arms. She smiles as she sees her husband exit the cab and make his way towards her.

As he embraces his love, a limousine pulls up front and you can see the rage that suddenly engulfs Captain LaBrie. As a tired old man is helped from the limo by the chauffer, our hero rushes the vehicle and confronts the man:

” We're taught unconditional love
That blood is thicker than water
That a parent's world would revolve
Always around their son or their daughter

You pretend I was your own
And even believed that you loved me
But were always threatened by some
Invisible blood line that only you could see.”

The old man gazes at the Captain with a look of distain. He pushes past and heads for the Captain’s wife. The old man lifts the blanket covering his granddaughter and says:

''Gimme time to re-charge my batteries,
I'll see her when she's older and I'll bounce her on my knee''

The Captain appears and spins the old man around. Anger is boiling inside as he screams at the old man:

”Well listen to me you ungrateful fool
Here comes a dose of reality
You'll go to your grave a sad and lonely man
The door is now closed on your pathetic little plan

On and on and on and on it goes
It's so easy to run away with nothing in tow

How can you ever sleep a wink at night
Pretending that everything is alright
And have the nerve to blame this mess on me

Never in my life have I seen someone
So ignorant to the damage he has done
You're the rotted root in the family tree.”

Visions of the days that he grew up without his father around fill the Captain’s head. The heartache and pain of a lifetime all come at him in a rush by seeing his absent father appear to his family after so many years. The hurt will not be something that can be allowed to be passed on to his family.

The old man looking scared throws a wad of $100 bills at the family and turns to his limo and a quick retreat. The Captain scoops up the bills and starts tearing them apart and tosses them into the window of slow moving car.

”I tried your 4 bill therapy
I tried to make amends
But nothing could lure you out of your selfish shell again
Expecting everyone to bow and kiss your feet
Don't you see respect is not a one way street
Blaming everyone for all that you've done wrong
I'll get my peace of mind when you hear this song.”

As the limo pulls away, the scene starts to blur as a kaleidoscope of guitar and keyboards highlight its departure. Maniacal music fills the air until the episode we have witnessed fades completely and once again we are just passengers on the Dream Theater express.

All who are on the train come to realize the importance of family. They see that some things done in life have a major impact later on. The lesson learned at this stop is one of honor and respect. How these things are earned and not just given. It is not right to just ”Honor Thy Father” if that person has done nothing to earn it.

With a collective sigh the passengers have another bit of their mind opened to another aspect of what we call life. Sometimes it is the hard realities that make us the stronger person.

The train starts rolling down the track once more. The autumn landscape starts turning bitter cold and the white of recent snowfall covers the ground. The passengers do not have long to wait as the locomotive already starts to slow in front of a small church.

The cross at the top of the steeple looks like a welcome site to those who are making this trip. Maybe a little peace awaits them inside. The group exits the train and is greeted with a beautiful melody that both soothes and comforts. The front door stands open and all of the riders head inside to see the Captain kneeling in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

”Hey you, Hey you
I'm right here
Conscience fading
Can't get through

Oh Lord
Head swayed
Eyes glazed
And mine teared

She's losing control
What can I do
Her vacant eyes
Black holes
Am I losing you?

With all the losses that the Captain has suffered so far, he is now feeling the loss of even his faith. This is almost to much to bear as this last shred of his humanity starts to fade and he realizes that his soul has become as hollow as that of his father’s and without a miracle his body will hold nothing but a life that is ”Vacant” of the emotions that keep us going.

The ground starts to shake and the church starts to crumble all around. The train riders scramble outside as the building collapses. They scramble back on board as they feel a final tremor and the earth seems to swallow what is left of the church and nothing remains to show that there was any structure there at all.

With the passengers safely on the train, it starts to roll down the track. Picking up speed and going faster and faster till all aboard are forced back into their seats by the tremendous velocity at which they are traveling.

A very light melody being plucked on a guitar stirs the passengers as suddenly the train leaps up from the tracks and hurls itself into space. Climbing higher and higher as the music swirls around them; they find themselves orbiting the Earth.

Looking down they can see the globe they call home below. As the train follows a path around our planet each passenger sees a different scene. They are all witness to their own lives flashing before them and the memories that each holds that coincide with what they have learned so far. Scary guitars combined with eerie keyboards add the depth needed for each to confront the demons that are buried within their beings. The guitar that is heard passes from heavy handed dark brooding metal to light melody that works as a guide to the many stages of life we all pass through. Awareness of what these different stages mean and what has been learned from them are the main ingredients to form this ”Stream Of Consciousness.”

The train takes a dive back towards Earth and we can see that it is heading somewhere in the Middle East. It approaches the ground, levels off on a set of tracks passing through a vast desert. As the train moves along we see men on both sides of the tracks in full battle gear. Bombs are exploding and planes are churning the ground as the soldiers scatter.

Continuing along we see another set of soldiers surrounding one man who is kneeling on the ground. The train stops at this scene and we see the Captain once more. He is the leader of the men that is surrounding the prisoner. The prisoner is yelling and seems to be praying. “Allah, Allah” he begins to chant as the Captain points his rifle at him.

”How can this be?
Why is he the chosen one?

Saint gone astray
With a scepter and a gun

Learn to believe
In the mighty and the strong

Come bleed the beast
Follow me it won't be long

Listen when the prophet
Speaks to you
Killing in the name of God.”

This the Captain yells at his prisoner, and then he continues:

Twisting faith into violence
In the name of God

Straight is the path
Leading to your salvation
Slaying the weak
Ethnic elimination

Any day we'll all be
Swept away
You'll be saved
As long as you obey

Tools of the devil inside
Written in Holy disguise
Meant to deceive and divide
Us all.”

Justifying violence
Citing from the Holy Book
Teaching hatred
In the name of God

With that he pulls the trigger. Then another shot is heard from a distance. The Captain falls on top of the man whom he just executed.

Is it worth it? Life is short and there are too many things we see happening every day that are so futile and meaningless. Who is right and who is wrong. Sometimes there is no answer to that question or maybe the answer is that sometimes both are right and both are wrong. But one thing is clear; it does not make it right just because you do it ”In The Name Of God.”

The sands start to turn dark and soon the train starts to move in this totally black environment. As it speeds away, we hear the voice of the conductor once again. “Thank you for taking a trip on the Train Of Thought. We do not hope that you have had a pleasant ride, but we do hope that this journey has enlighten you.” “Look inward first, before you reach outward. Have a life that is filled with knowledge that we have provided to you.”

With that the train lurches to a stop and we are back where we started from. Well, back physically but with a whole new outlook on life.

All music is what you make of it. This album is one that has the ability to not only carry you away sonically; it also takes you away by making you think. This is one of the greatest things about Dream Theater. They are so talented musically that you can forget about the messages that are being delivered. The guitar work of Petrucci is as always phenomenal. Mike Portney delivers, as only he can do, by turning the drums into another lead instrument.

Music can also be inspirational. Sometimes it takes you places you would not think of going. This is an album that will do this for you.

This is not the album that defines Dream Theater. It is their heaviest and darkest album by far. That is one of the reasons that it is one of my favorites.

Other reviews of Dream Theater:

Systematic Chaos http://www.epinions.com/content_378557533828


Great Music to Play While: Exercising

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Scott ()
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I am an avid music buff and write reviews for many sites. I have managed bands and frequent concerts in Michigan and photograph them. If it is good music, I will be there!
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This is an Enhanced CD, which contains both regular audio tracks and multimedia computer files. Dream Theater: James LaBrie (vocals); John Petrucci (guitar); Jordan Rudess (keyboards); John Myung (bass); Mike Portnoy (drums, percussion). Recorded at Cove City Sound, Pie Studios, Glen Cove, New York and Beat Street, New York, New York between April & September 2003. Limited Asian edition includes a bonus live disc with seven tracks. TRAIN OF THOUGHT continues the legacy of the progressive metal legends, with all the requisite superhuman metallic musicianship that their fans have come to expect. This outing continues in the heavier mode that began with 2002's SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE, reaching even further into darker, personal lyrical themes. Guitars are the dominant expressive voice here, with keyboards scaled considerably back from the signature Dream Theater sound. Band members Mike Portnoy (drums) and John Petrucci (guitar) continue their do-it-yourself production approach, opting for recording...
Song List: Disc 1
1. As I Am
2. This Dying Soul
3. Endless Sacrifice
4. Honor Thy Father
5. Vacant
6. Stream of Consciousness
7. In the Name of God
8. Overture 1928 (From Live Scenes From New York)
9. Strange Deja Vu (From Live Scenes From New York)
10. Home (From Live Scenes From New York)
11. Spirit Carries On (From Live Scenes From New York)
12. Just Let Me Breathe (From Live Scenes From New York)
13. Acid Rain (From Live Scenes From New York)
14. Caught in a New Millennium (From ...
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Label: Warner Elektra Atlantic Corp. (Japa
Artist: Dream Theater
Release Date: May 25, 2004

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