On January 29, 2002, "Dream Theater" releases its most ambitious work to date - "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence".
This is the band's sixth album and the number "6" dominates it with great dominance. From the name of the album "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence", through the six tracks in it to the six characters that adorn the main musical piece, this album is 6-6-6.
The name of the album is based on the concept called "six degrees of separation". According to which every person in the universe is at a distance of at most 6 social circles from any other person in the world. Meaning, it is possible to connect any person on this planet to another person, through a maximum of 6 people.
Did we say ambitious work? So this is a double disc that includes about 100 minutes of music. The first of the two discs is divided into five tracks that have a cumulative length of 54:18. These songs deal with different struggles we go through during life: alcoholism, religion and faith, isolation, the sanctity of life and death. The second disc includes the epic theme musical piece that is divided into eight sections spread over 42:02 minutes, which tell the stories of 6 people who suffer from various mental illnesses.
There is no doubt that on this album the band tried to surpass the incredible creative achievement of the previous album "Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory". It was an exemplary concept album, where the band reached an artistic pick, so it was clear to everyone in the band that it would be almost impossible to recreate. Under these circumstances, the band members "concocted" this frantic piece of work, in their fevered mind - the band's only double album to date, which included only six tracks, one of which is a musical piece divided into 8 parts lasting over 42 minutes.
As part of the musical chain that the band started on the album "Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory" and will continue on subsequent albums, this album opens up with the static noise and the chilling bell rings that ended the last track from the previous album - "Finally Free". This is our hallway entrance to a 3-piece work - "The Glass Prison". A rhythmic, fast-paced piece that not only opens the album, but also opens Mike Portnoy's "Twelve-Step Suite" saga. A five-part series influenced by Portnoy's coping with his alcohol addiction. The saga will continue on the band's next four albums, with each album featuring one excerpt from the series, depicting the 12 stages of alcoholic rehab, according to Bill W's method applied to the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group. In this way, "The" Glass Prison "refers to the first three stages of the method, the track "This Dying Soul" from "Train of Thought" describes the fourth and fifth stages, the song "The Root of All Evil" from "Octavarium" refers to parts six and seven of the method, "Repentance" from "Systematic Chaos" represents its eight and nine parts, and the song "The Shattered Fortress" from "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" ends the saga with the last three sections of the story.
Mike Portnoy began dealing with his addiction problem, in the song "The Mirror" from the album "Awake", released in 1994. His addiction to alcohol and other chemicals increased over the years and it peaked during work on the album "Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory" and the tour Following it. Mike Portnoy said he would drink from morning to evening. Even during the band performances his stage assistant made sure to deliver him alcohol at his request. He claimed, it greatly affected his playing ability, until he decided that he had it. He needs to overcome his addiction. He started the AA rehab program and committed to it, attending meetings during the tour as well. The last drop of alcohol he drank was on April 20, 2000. As soon as he managed to overcome his addiction he decided he was going to write about it, and indeed "The Glass Prison" opens the story with a personal, moving and dramatic text depicting Mike Portnoy's mental distress. The fact that he was unable to overcome the problem on his own and his cry for help.
The lyrics for the second track "Blind Faith", were written by James LaBrie and they blend well with the mystical atmosphere that envelops the song in its opening, as the music changes and develops along with the question marks posed by LaBrie. The name of the song - "Blind Faith" says quite a bit about the content. LaBrie puts heavy issues of "faith" and "religion" at the center. It's the longest song LaBrie has written lyrics for so far, from there he will stretch it even further with the song "Sacrificed Sons" from the album "Octavarium".
The lyrics to the song "Misunderstood" were written by John Petrucci about the character of a man who always feels that those around him do not understand him, a man who feels isolated and abandoned. Petrucci uses a special technique in his solo. It was written and recorded then implanted in the song played backwards. John Petrucci later taught himself to play the solo as it sounded on the album (Backwards), is this crazy or what? By the way. The psychedelic monotonous riff at the end of the song the band improvises on, reminded us a bit of "King Crimson".
John Petrucci also wrote the lyrics to the track "The Great Debate". This is a kind of dynamic and complex work that lasts about 14 minutes and deals with the study of stem cells, a topic that made headlines at the relevant times. The original name of the piece was supposed to be "Conflict at Ground Zero" but after the September 11 disaster and the reference to the place where the Twin Towers were located as "Ground Zero", the name of the piece was changed.
The first disc is sealed with the song "Disappear", a kind of ballad for which LaBrie wrote the lyrics for. The song addresses the subject of death and it was supposed to be callקd "Move On".
The second disc is, as mentioned, a one long track, the theme work "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence". This long work is divided into eight parts and refers to 6 characters with different mental problems. John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy shared the words with each of them writing about 3 different characters. When the band wrote the piece, the intention was not to exceed 20 minutes, so the album will be released on a single disc. However, as the writing progressed, more and more new ideas came along and the piece stretched beyond the 40-minute limit. Although there is no connection between the 6 different characters on this track, it is still a kind of "concept album" inside a mega-album. The work has a clear structure. Symphonic opening - "Overture" which includes musical motifs that will be repeated during the work. The body of the work that is changing and dynamic and includes reference to all the characters. And an epic ending with the gong beat and the long open chord (which resonates for almost 2 minutes), in the song "Losing Time/Grand Finale" and serves as the opening chord of the song "As I Am" which opens up the next album: "Train of Thought".
"Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" does not match the masterpiece that preceded it, but it is definitely an album that deserves to be included among the band's greatest works. The downside of the album is precisely in its length, as it is difficult to listen to it continuously, and therefore it was also difficult for listeners and critics to "digest" it. However, if you see it as two different albums and listens to them separately, one can appreciate the band’s tremendous accomplishment more easily.