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“Solitary Shell” is the sixth track from the second disc of Dream Theater’s sixth full-length studio album “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”. The album was recorded from March–August 2001 at BearTracks Studios in Suffern, New York and released on January 29, 2002. Excluding the “A Change of Seasons” EP, it is the first Dream Theater album to feature a title track. It is also their second longest studio album to date, after The Astonishing. All songs from it have been played live to date.
Though the song Six degrees of Inner Turbulence is essentially broken up into eight movements on separate tracks, it lasts 42 minutes in full and takes up the entire second CD of the album. The song was conceived when keyboardist Jordan Rudess wrote what would become the “Overture” section, and the band took various melodies and ideas contained within it and expanded them into segments of the complete piece. The song explores the stories of six individuals suffering from various mental illnesses. Particularly represented are bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, post-partum depression, autism, and dissociative identity disorder. The song contains influences of the classical, metal, folk and progressive genres and weaves through many time signatures, including 4/4, 5/4, 6/8, and 7/8. To ease scrolling through the song, Mike Portnoy gave each movement their own track, and split the full song into eight tracks.
“Solitary Shell” is part six of the title track Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence which makes up the entire second CD (albeit split into eight separate tracks), is the longest song Dream Theater have recorded to date. While recording, they wanted to keep the song at 20 minutes, but more and more ideas came which resulted in the length doubling. Realizing that they would have to cut “Disappear” and “Misunderstood” to keep the album at one CD, their record label was now open for the idea of a double album, something the band had previously been denied when recording Falling into Infinity for former label EastWest. Despite this, the cassette edition reduced “Misunderstood” to its radio edit version and omitted “Disappear” entirely.
The boy in Solitary Shell has autism (perhaps more specifically, Asperger’s syndrome) or possibly schizophrenia (due to the “catatonic” reference), and shows that the affliction has been going on for his whole life, “As a boy … as a man”. This song also uses the recurring 7/8 time signature. The tone of this section is more upbeat and poppy, with John Petrucci using a double-necked 12-string guitar, which he only used again on “Someone Like Him” from Octavarium.
James LaBrie – Vocals
Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
John Myung – Bass
John Petrucci – Double Neck Guitar, Guitar
Mike Portnoy – Drums
Lyrics: John Petrucci