Dream Theater’s new self-titled album on Roadrunner Records arrives tomorrow (Sept. 24), and to celebrate Billboard is hosting the exclusive U.S. premiere of the video for the song “The Enemy Inside.” The clip, which was directed by Bill Fishman (the Ramones, Steve Ray Vaughan), marks the first time in a long while that Dream Theater has created a strictly conceptual video to illustrate one of its songs. Instead of seeing the band, viewers will witness the torment of a soldier who’s struggling with reintegrating into his life back home due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Guitarist John Petrucci says the song was written early in the recording process for “Dream Theater.” “At the time we didn’t envision it being a single or a video. It just was kind of like this song that was in the technical vein that we love to do,” he recalls. He says that the lyrics and the choruses “grabbed a lot of people that heard it right from the beginning, so not only within the band but at Roadrunner, a bunch of people said, ‘Wow, I really like that particular song.'” Therefore, when it came time to decide which song would introduce the album, “The Enemy Inside” was one choice on everyone’s list.
He says the topic of PTSD seemed to really fit the song since it’s fast-paced and has “kind of machine gun riffs. It almost makes you feel anxious,” Petrucci says. “Also at the time that we were in the studio working on the album and I was writing lyrics, the Boston Marathon bombings happened. There was a lot of discussion of terrorism and PTSD as if affects people who witness traumatic events like terrorism, so it was just very on my mind. It linked very well with the mood of the song, and as we started to get into it, I watched some documentaries and things like that. I was like, ‘This is really something that needs to be written about.'”
But the band had no idea that things would evolve to the point that it would use footage of veterans discussing their PTSD experiences in the video and that the clip would be used to drive awareness for Save a Warrior, a foundation dedicated to helping veterans heal from the effects of combat. (According to the SaveAWarrior.org website, a 20-year study conducted by the Department of Veteran Affairs determined that a returning veteran takes their own life every 65 minutes.) Petrucci says it was an organic process that snowballed with the help of Fishman, who got in touch with the organization after Dream Theater discussed ideas for the video’s treatment with him. “That was a really great connection to have because it enabled us to interpret the video very literally, and then to have actual soldiers talking about that and have actual footage tied in with the conceptual acting I think really brought [the point] home,” Petrucci says.
Dream Theater also has plans in the works to partake in other activities to help support the troops, like visiting military bases. It saddens Petrucci that there are veterans who sacrifice so much for the country and then commit suicide because of the trauma they’ve suffered, so he’s very gratified that the track has evolved into a possible means of getting help for military personnel.
“They come home and they can’t adapt back into society because they’re so messed up from it,” he says of young soldiers on the front lines. “They’re having nightmares and flashbacks. They self-medicate, they’re detached from their family. It’s really sad. Then on top of that they’re committing suicide because it seems like their only escape and it’s all in their mind. It’s this invisible enemy, the enemy inside. It’s not like a wound on the outside you can see.”