Dream Theater Wiki
Systematic Chaos
Length 10:43
Working title Fisheye
Release date June 7th, 2007
Lyrics Mike Portnoy
Music Dream Theater
First live performance Terminal 5, New York, NY, USA (Progressive Nation 2008), on May 22, 2008
Total live plays 1
Recorded Avatar Studios
Other appearances Progressive Nation 2008
Previous song The Dark Eternal Night
Next song Prophets of War

Repentance is the 5th track on Dream Theater's 9th studio album, Systematic Chaos, and it is the fourth song in Portnoy's Twelve-Step Suite. It is notable for only being played live once, duing the Progressive Nation 2008 tour with Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth on guest vocals.

John Petrucci recorded this song using a 7-string guitar in standard tuning (B-E-A-D-G-B-E).


  • Mike Portnoy - Drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • John Petrucci - Guitar, backing vocals
  • Jordan Rudess - Keyboards
  • John Myung - Bass
  • James LaBrie - Vocals
  • Corey Taylor, Steve Vai, Chris Jericho, Joe Satriani, David Ellefson, Steve Hogarth, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Steven Wilson, Neal Morse, Jon Anderson, Daniel Gildenlow - Guest vocals



Hello, mirror, so glad to see you my friend
It's been a while...

Staring at the empty page before me
All the years of wreckage running through my head
Patterns of my life I thought adorned me
Revealing hurtful shame and deep lament

Overwhelming sorrow now absorbs me
As the pen begins to trace my darkest past
Signs throughout my life that should have warned me
Of all the wrongs I've done for which I must repent

I once thought it better to regret
Things that I have done than haven't
Sometimes you've got to be wrong
And learn the hard way
And sometimes you've got to be strong
When you think it's too late

Staring at the finished page before me
All the damage now so clear and evident
Thinking about the dreaded task in store for me
A pit of fear at the thought of my amends

Hoping that this step will help restore me
To face my past and ask for forgiveness
Cleaning up my dirty side of this unswept street
Could this be the beginning of the end?

I once thought it better to regret
Things that I have done than haven't
Sometimes you've got to be wrong
And learn the hard way
Just when you're through hanging on...

You're saved.


[excerpts of fellow musicians' apologies]

[Corey Taylor]
"Until that moment, I'd never felt like I'd failed at anything...
And I felt like I failed her...
And I failed myself, and I failed my children...
It's still really hard to deal with."

[Steve Vai]
"I want to thank you for helping me to see my own selfishness
and to tell you how regretful I am it has hurt you."

[Chris Jericho]
"I'm sorry I didn't visit you in the hospital, Grandpa,
when you were on your deathbed.
I'm sorry I didn't come to your funeral...
I don't know if I was selfish or just too scared to face it.
It's one of the biggest regrets of my life."

[David Ellefson]
"I'm here to confess with you that what I did, was wrong...
And I'm asking for your forgiveness..."

[Steve Hogarth]
"The only unforgivable thing hauls itself out of bed,
looks over my shoulder at the bloody English weather..."

[Joe Satriani]
"I really regret not being able to see my friend Andy..."

[Mikael Åkerfeldt]
"One of my best friends who's the godfather of my daughter,
he asked me to sing or play something at his wedding,
and I turned it down because I was busy and too much of a chickenshit to do it...
And I feel sorry for that, because it was a very very close friend of mine..."

[Steven Wilson]
"So, I wanted to apologize to anyone that I've upset or offended...
they're just words, it's just an opinion,
but unfortunately, I tend to express it as a fact,
and that's kind of arrogant. Isn't it?"

[Jon Anderson]
"I think it's the betrayal...
it still haunts me."

[Neal Morse]
"I'm sorry for what I did back then...
I was a different person.
I really was and I'm so sorry.
I wish it wouldn't have happened, but it did, and I'm sorry.
Forgive me. I'm sorry..."

[Daniel Gildenlow]
"I guess I'm simply sorry for being me and not you.
I so often wish you could be here with me to show me the way..."

"Will you forgive me"?

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development,
we will be amazed before we are half way through.
We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
No matter how far down the scale we have gone,
we will see how our experience can benefit others.
That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
Self seeking will slip away.
Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us
what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises?
We think not.
They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.
They will always materialize if we work for them.

"You're only as sick as your secrets...
but the truth shall set you free."

"The truth is the truth.
It's all you can do, is live with it."


This song follows steps 8 and 9 of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps to recovery program, which the Twelve-Step Suite is based on. It deals with making a list of people the individual has wronged, and if possible, making amends with them. This is conveyed by the lyrics, "staring at the finished page before me... to face my past and ask for forgiveness", It includes a section where guest musicians are asked to record spoken word apologies, regrets and sorrows for their loved ones for having done wrong to them. Featured guests include Mikael Åkerfeldt, Jon Anderson, David Ellefson, Daniel Gildenlöw, Steve Hogarth, Chris Jericho, Neal Morse, Joe Satriani, Corey Taylor, Steve Vai, and Steven Wilson.


Repentance is incredibly sombre in tone, and it is the only song on the album, and indeed the Twelve-Step Suite that has this mood. It is used to reflect the regret in Portnoy's past and his sadness at accepting the wrong that he's done.