C3X is proud to present...
Authored by Onyxite, Grinnz, and Mazegeek999
Train of Thought is an album released by long-running progressive metal band Dream Theater in 2003. It's an absolute monster of a work that combines DT's ever-present technical chops with a loud, aggressive sound, and darker lyrics focusing on themes of emotional pain, rage, and despair. They've explored a "traditional metal" sound on many songs before (e.g. The Mirror, Lie, The Glass Prison) and since (The Dark Eternal Night, A Nightmare to Remember), but Train of Thought is widely considered to be the culmination of the metal branch of DT's musical influences.
Train of Thought was the second DT album I listened to, after Octavarium. I remember hearing This Dying Soul, without really knowing the context behind the song, and noticing all the riffs from it that were later repurposed in The Root of All Evil, and that was when I knew that I had to start learning everything about the band from the ground up.
This custom release features full band with all difficulties, all harmony vocals, full lighting/camera/animation work, pro guitar and bass (expert difficulty), and Clone Hero/Phase Shift versions using open notes, tap notes, and extended sustains where appropriate.
= chart authors =
The foundation of this project is a complete set of drum charts done many years ago by Grinnz, who continues to be my primary inspiration as a rhythm game charter. If you're a drummer and not familiar with his work I highly encourage you to check it out. His chart style makes full use of the limited range of the RB drums to imply a much larger kit, and really is the reason I got into RB customs in the first place. All the tempo maps are also by him, as well as accurate drummer animations matching Mike Portnoy's video footage.
Mazegeek999 should, I hope, need no introduction. One of the top RB drummers, probably the #1 Pro Keys player, an exceptionally skilled charter, and a brilliant musician and composer all at once... I really don't know how he has time for it all! Mazegeek charted Pro Keys for Endless Sacrifice, Honor Thy Father, and Stream of Consciousness from official sheet music, and This Dying Soul by ear, and helped tremendously with QA and final polish.
= audio work =
As with the authors' previous work on Systematic Chaos, extensive audio work was done to utilize the separated drums audio on Mike Portnoy's Drums of Thought recording session DVD.
Cleanly removing drums from the full band tracks required an extra insight compared to Systematic Chaos; it turns out the two audio tracks for each song on the DVD run at ever-so-slightly different speeds, and matching the tracks up for subtraction required figuring out how to fix this. For example, As I Am's drums audio needed to be stretched by a factor of something close to 1.0000072230105572 in order to line up with the full band audio, correcting a drift of 136 samples (in 48000 Hz audio) over the course of the song. Audacity won't even let you specify a ratio to more than 3 digits of precision with its audio stretch tools, and Reaper only has 6 which still isn't sufficient, so I ended up writing my own code to do a very naïve linear interpolation of audio samples while supporting the full precision required.
= pro guitar/bass =
Pro guitar and bass are included for the whole album. I used a large amount of live footage, tabs, and covers to put these together. I definitely can't guarantee it's anywhere close to 100% correct, but I hope it's a reasonably close attempt at the real thing. None of it would've been possible without Seil's Pro Guitar pitch script for Reaper (http://customscreato...for-reaper-v10/).
Unfortunately, the official guitar tab book for the album is mostly useless. As I went through and tried to match up parts in the book to live footage I came to the conclusion that it is filled with serious errors and likely was not edited or verified by Petrucci in any way. This confused me because I know other official DT books to be extremely high quality. Sure enough, the transcriber who did ToT's book didn't do any of the later ones; everything from Octavarium's book onward (as well as transcriptions for Rudess and Myung) has been done by a different team (https://progressivetranscriptions.com/) who have done a superb job.
This Dying Soul is played on a 7-string guitar, so its pro guitar chart "shifts" between viewing the low 6 strings (B E A D G B ) and the high 6 strings (E A D G B E). I'm certainly not the first to use this technique; see Bloodline's 22 Faces and Alternity's Ka$cade.
= track by track =
Starting the album off is a bit of a "radio-friendly" song (whatever that means in the context of DT...). The song was released as a single before the album, and some fans were worried it signified a more mainstream direction, with a shorter length and comparatively little "DT wankery". Fortunately the rest of the album turned out to be not nearly as constrained
The major synth chord that fades in is the chord that faded out at the end of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, continuing a pattern of album-to-album connections that extended from Scenes from a Memory to Octavarium, ending with Octavarium looping on itself. This chord is abruptly cut off by Myung's haunting bass harmonics, setting the tone for the album to come.
The lyrics are primarily a rant by Petrucci inspired by a tour DT undertook with the band Queensrÿche. A fairly standard verse-chorus structure leads to the first of many blistering guitar solos, followed by a short but fun quad-filled drum solo.
Moving along with barely a break, This Dying Soul is the second song in the album-spanning "Twelve-Step Suite", a series of songs written by drummer Mike Portnoy about his struggles with alcoholism and his journey towards recovery. Stretching from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence to Black Clouds & Silver Linings, the 5 songs contain 12 movements which correspond to the steps espoused by the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery community.
The first movement (4th of the suite) is titled "Reflections of Reality (Revisited)", a reference to a lyric in The Mirror, a song considered to be a predecessor to the suite. Thundering drums with toms over double bass lead into the main riff repeated throughout the song, and then into a guitar solo featuring (AFAIK) the only guitar tapping on the album.
The second movement, "Release", starts with a variation on the chunky riff from "The Glass Prison", before settling into a much faster tempo for a more demonic-sounding set of verses/choruses, keys and guitar solos, and what might be the most face-melting guitar/keys unison in DT's discography.
The closest thing to a power ballad on the album, Endless Sacrifice is a song written by Petrucci about his relationship with his wife, and how they've survived extensive separation from his constant touring with the band. The first section of the song keeps a much slower tempo than much of the rest of the album, but alternates between somber, quiet verses, and raging, loud choruses.
The middle instrumental section immediately bumps up the speed, and introduces two key riffs that it will then alternate between. A tricky guitar/keys/bass unison section leads into one of Rudess' wackier keyboard breaks, and then a set of dueling keys and guitar solos, with a tense guitar/keys unison at the end. The final section of the song sees vocals returning in a modified format where the tempo of the first section alternates between normal and double time, and finally we end with the only Big Rock Ending on the album, one of only two on DT studio albums as far as I know (the other being In the Presence of Enemies, Part 2).
Continuing on, Honor Thy Father is an almost uninterrupted 10-minute barrage of anger, with lyrics by Portnoy directed at his stepfather. A short but tricky drum intro leads into the quick tempo kept for most of the song. Though guitar has some tricky parts throughout, it's one of the rare songs with a keys solo but no guitar solo.
Following the second chorus, the chilling spoken line "Don't cross the crooked step!" brings the song into the middle instrumental section, which starts with a slow buildup accompanied by samples of movie quotes related to family disputes and betrayals. Such quote samples were a regular feature of older DT songs, particularly those with lyrics by former keyboardist Kevin Moore ("6:00", "Space-Dye Vest", "Take the Time"). This is followed by one of Rudess' more elaborate layered keyboard parts, a melody pattern that builds up to eventually have 4 different voices in unison. The one followed by our pro keys chart, and the two used for keyboardist animations, are the ones Jordan does when playing the song live.
The shortest track on the album (and one of the band's shortest ever) at just under 3 minutes, Vacant is a song written by singer James LaBrie about a seizure and coma suffered by his daughter at a young age. The raw emotion of a helpless parent wondering if they're losing their child is matched by the stripped-down instrumentation, with no guitar and drums but with the addition of a cello part. Bass and cello, with similar frequency ranges, match each other in some places and split apart in others, enhancing the detached, "waking dream" feeling of the song.
Cello has been charted to guitar. I briefly considered using cello tuning for pro guitar but just went with "low 6 strings of 7 string" (BEADGB) which has the nice quality of matching the bass tuning.
Stream of Consciousness is probably one of my top 5 Dream Theater songs. It's a sprawling instrumental with sections ranging from tense, odd-time metal guitar riffs, to ludicrous guitar and keys solos, to sludge-filled bass/drums breakdown sections, finally building back up to a Baroque-inspired finish.
On the album, Vacant connects seamlessly to Stream of Consciousness. I've always imagined SoC to represent the racing thoughts and combination of anger and hopelessness felt by the speaker of Vacant. I considered joining the tracks into one for the RB chart, but decided it wasn't too helpful to have a song where vocals ends after the first fifth of the song, and drums has to wait a few minutes before any notes. If there's enough demand though, I'd be happy to add a combined version.
The song was the subject of a songwriting contest the band set up, where, without releasing the full title or any of the song's audio, they gave out the MIDI tempo map used by Rudess's sheet music, along with names for each song section, and invited musicians to create a song that fit those constraints. Among other entries, RBN/C3 fans will recognize Richard Campbell from his later Frankenstein rock opera album. You can listen to the winning entries here.
Departing somewhat from the album's theme of personal hardships, In the Name of God closes it out with a more general/societal topic of religious fundamentalism, with lyrics concerning modern religious terrorism, medieval crusades, suicidal cults, and theocratic societies. Being written in 2003, 9/11 was still fresh in recent memory, though the NYC-based band would write their more direct response to the attacks, Sacrificed Sons, on the next album, with a more somber but sympathetic message.
At 14:16 it's the longest on the album, though not even close to the longest DT songs. The vocal sections of the song have a unique structure that switches between two entirely different sets of keys, tempos, and time signatures, with the slow 4/4 verses in the C "Phrygian dominant" scale giving it a somewhat Arabic sound, and the choruses and bridge switching to F minor in a 6/8 feel. In addition, after the third chorus the song switches gears dramatically and starts building up from a bass/drums breakdown towards a climax with thunderous screamed backing vocals. All of this gives the song a feeling of being composed of several movements, even though none are officially listed.
= bass differences =
There's a lot I could talk about regarding the attention to detail we've put into these charts, but some great examples can be found in some of John Myung's bass parts. I think a lot of people have the impression that he mostly plays single-note versions of Petrucci's guitar parts outside of his few solo parts. In reality he's a hugely creative player, and in addition to plenty of smaller standout parts, what I discovered is that he almost never plays the exact same thing as JP, but makes his own version of every riff.
Here are some sheet music snippets to demonstrate:
myung-differences.pdf 212KB 1 downloads
These are all segments where guitar, bass, and keys are playing a riff in unison, but the consistent slight differences in bass give them a subtle extra dissonant quality.
Notice that on most of this album, guitar and bass are also in different tunings. Petrucci likes to use lower versions of standard 6-string tuning, such as C standard ("C F Bb Eb G C"), while Myung starts with standard 6-string bass tuning and moves only the lowest string, producing tunings like "C E A D G C". This Dying Soul is the only song where they're in sync (standard 7-string guitar and standard 5-string bass).
= special thanks =
- kueller's venuegen system, for making lighting/camera authoring immensely more enjoyable
- Many excellent venue authors whose work I studied for inspiration & tricks, including atupomaruru, Septekka, kueller, Atruejedi, TheWay123, and SynthStreaks
- Dream Theater Keyboard Anthology, Dream Theater Keyboard Experience, Dream Theater Bass Anthology, and the Jordan Rudess Online Conservatory for their invaluable transcriptions
- A long list of fan guitar/bass tabs, cover videos, and amateur concert footage
- Once again, Seil's Pro Guitar preview tool
- My wife Sara for her constant support 💙 and for making all the DT band member characters for the preview videos
Stay tuned for part 2 of this week's C3X releases!