The beginning of it all.
Some despise it, some adore it, and some think it's just alright, but I, Andyman1125, contributor to MetalMusicArchives.com, say that this album is one of the best albums ever produced in this millennia, butt up against Selling England by the Pound and Close to the Edge. Albums like these encompass everything that makes humanity good, skill, passion, desire, self-knowledge, and overall joy of being alive. This album started everything for the now "famous" prog rockers Dream Theater, whose technical ability and passionate devotion to their fans has rocketed them up through the everyday prog band that just doesn't cut it compared to Dream Theater. Certainly Dream Theater can't stand up to the legends such as Yes, Pink Floyd, or King Crimson, but they are certainly the best of their bunch: the leaders of the progressive metal movement.
In the very late 80s and the very early 90s, Dream Theater lost their first singer, Charlie Dominici. His voice led the band for only a few years, and he only appeared on the mediocre debut When Dream and Day Unite. The band began to audition for a new singer in 1991. After sifting through dozens of singers, even including John Arch of Fates Warning, the band called James LaBrie all the way from Canada, the current singer in the glam rock band Winter Rose, to audition. Flying down from Ontario, the young LaBrie (although he was the same age as the rest of the band) auditioned and blew Petrucci, Portnoy, Myung, and Moore out of the water. His incredible range, his melodic tone, his compassionate timbre and vocal strength, he was the perfect fit for the prog metal band's soaring harmonies and instrumental masterpieces. To the fans, LaBrie was the best new singer in the entire progressive scene, and he was.
Images and Words remains the band's only real commercial hit. The song Pull Me Under remains the only song that Dream Theater has released that has had major radio commercial play and even appeared on MTV and other networks. It had won them international acclaim and countless fans from every corner of the globe. But often one might forget: there are 7 other absolutely perfect tracks left on the album. It's easy to rate your "favorite" album 5 stars, despite insignificant flaws that should lower it to a 4, but on this album, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the 8 tracks. Each is creative, exciting, compassionate, melodic, heavy, beautiful, rhythmic, and every single other desirable trait of music that one can imagine. Well, now we can start to analyze each track for itself.
You could probably get away with rating this album 5 stars by just saying three words: Pull Me Under. That opening progressive riff somehow even caught the attention of the corporate giants at MTV, a feat in and of itself among the (at that time) pop stars Tupac and other rappers. The music video aired in late 1992, sending ripples throughout the music community. It reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Heartseekers chart, and this song rocks! The opening instrumental section breaks into LaBrie's vocal debut, an epic show of melodic mastery. Vocals mesh with instruments into a beautifully done embroidery of musical genius. The slow and tear-jerking beauty of the keyboard solo flows effortlessly into a sweeping guitar solo, synonymous with John Petrucci. The chorus opens yet again, and a creative and abrupt ending transitions perfectly into the next track.
Another Day is a ballad among ballads. But it's still progressive, don't you worry. This song really allows LaBrie to show off. Moore's beautiful piano backs LaBrie's supreme voice. Some of the most beautiful melodies I've heard in my entire life are heard on this one track. Every note is perfect. Every harmonized second is perfect. The saxophone fits perfectly into the music, which flows in between melancholy beauty and sweeping power. The lyrics are poignant and creative. After absolute beauty ala James LaBrie, John Petrucci takes over with a spectacular solo of his own. Every single transition throughout the song fits beautifully. From vocal to instrumental to vocal to instrumental, the song is definitely a classic Dream Theater ballad.
Take the Time is one of the more fun songs on the album. This song breaks way from the traditional metal sound and incorporates a strong sense of funk. The opening is a creative and rhythmic and sets every listener up for a joy ride of funky bass lines and popping guitar work. LaBrie's exercises his extensive pitch range with piercing heights throughout the song. The bopping fun of the funky verses transitions perfectly into a slower melodic interlude exploring LaBrie's softer and more compassionate side. The soft quickens right back up into that swinging fun of the funky song with a strong (oh so very strong) instrumental section. Each instrument gets a part, even if it is a small one. The band sets the stage for their legacy as a great force of harmonic synchronization, with every instrument playing the same thing at the same time that just infects you with a joy so great you have to fight yourself viciously not to jump up and start dancing around. The instrumental section slows down to a short vocal piece before yet another guitar solo opens up, which ends the song on a great note.
Surrounded is the second ballad on the album. The delicate beauty of the intro could easily make one cry with its melody. But fret not, yee of dour emotion! This sad sound soon sweeps into a explosion of major scales and beautiful polyrhythms! This is definitely one of the happiest songs on the album, despite that sadder intro. Even standing up to the bopping and fun Take the Time, the solos, vocal harmonies, and overall composition of the meat of this song can slap a smile onto the most depressed's face. After all that fun, however, the song beautifully transitions into (a very short) reprise of the intro. Overall, however, the happy body of that song still makes you bob your head and happy satisfaction every time.
Yes, here it is, the fantastic Metropolis Part 1. Nearly no song under 10 minutes can even slightly compare to this song's overbearing epicness. Everything, not specifically the transitions or the melody or the rhythm is perfect about this song, *everything* is perfect. Not one thing is wrong. Not even a millisecond of flaw could be found in this song. This song is the prelude to an entire album, Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory, which is my favorite album, without a doubt. To say that a meager 9 minute track can be a predecessor to one of the (if not *the*) greatest progressive metal album in history is preposterous to most, but not anyone who knows Metropolis Part 1. The song opens with a different sound ?Jingle Bells! But continues on with one of the greatest keyboard progressions I've heard in my entire life?the "na na naaaa?. Na na nuhhh?." This breaks into a rhythmic-melodic perfection known as John Petrucci. After a short riff-solo, LaBrie enters? in perfect harmony with himself and everything the instruments are playing. This song is like jazz?everything communicates. The drums talk to the bass, which talks to the guitar, which talks to the keyboards, which talks with the vocals, which talks with everything all over again. Everything is in its rightful place, right where it should be, as it should be. The lyrics address everything from love to death to politics to the environment. And then, after the vocal piece, the instrumental section opens. It's hard to even think while this instrumental section plays. Everything that has been right with music for the past 700 years is exemplified in perfection in this piece. Rhythm, harmony, melody, technique, compositional superiority, and I can think of a list a mile long of other excellent traits. Complex time signatures, polyrhythms, technical solos, varying tempos and dynamics, this is like a perfectly composed music theory final composition. Everything good is in it. Myung's solo blows every other bass solo ever out of the water, Moore's creative keyboard parts keep even the most experienced pianists interested, Petrucci's solo defeats any other guitarist ever (well, that's not new), Portnoy can keep time no matter what (even the time signature was 471/67. Yes, they can play in 471/67 =P), and just the overall band performance is absolutely breathtaking. Everyone knows exactly what the other is doing, even if he is playing a solo with a half a million notes in the span of a few seconds. After this rhythmic instrumental beauty, the song transitions ever so slightly back into the vocal section with a crescendoing synchronization piece that could spin the heads of harmonized orchestras (well, maybe not. But still.). LaBrie comes in with his sweet melodic voice. The remaining minute of the song is one of the best in the song. The final touches on Moore's beautiful lyrical poem are put into the song, and this is the true lyrical prelude to the Metropolis Part 2 album. The song ends with some simple instrumentation, seeing as no complex cadence could possible appropriately end this song.
Under a Glass Moon is the next song. This song's heart lies in its guitar solo, but we'll get to that later. The shorter intro sets up the backing instrumentation quite nicely. The vocals come in on a very nice beat, keeping this steady rhythm afloat. The lyrics paint some of the most vivid images of the album, even the title is beautiful thought. The vocals are the most present theme in most of the song, accompanying the beautiful rhythm and backing instrumentation nicely. When the instrumental section, you know something is coming. The guitar sound tightens, and his playing gets more precise. Then it happens. Most certainly the best on the album, the best in the Dream Theater catalogue, and one of the better guitar solos?? ever...starts. It just up and slaps you in the face. It's absolutely exhilarating. Every note and measure is like an adventure of progressive proportions. The use of the guitar's accessories, most notably the wammy bar, is fantastic. Overall, that is one of the best guitar solos I have ever heard. The keyboard solo is great too, but nowhere near the beauty of the guitar solo. Still, however, the track is fantastic. The track follows a similar form as the rest of them, where after a lengthy solo section there is a short vocal reprise and then an instrumental outro. What a track, what a solo. Damn.
Wait for Sleep is the shortest track on the album, clocking in at a mere 2:31. This song is essentially a duet between Kevin Moore and James LaBrie, and what a job they have done! It is definitely the most beautiful and tear-jerking song on the album. It isn't even a ballad, just a beautiful duet showing LaBrie and Moore's passion behind their instruments and not just their incredible skill with their instruments. Most people could play those individual notes, but very few people could play those notes with the passion that LaBrie and Moore show whilst playing the music.
Learning to Live, the final track, is certainly an appropriate ending to a musical joyride. The guys can ride a bike with no handlebars?and win a race. The creative keyboard intro breaks into a sweeping melodic vocal section with some poignant lyrical themes. I can't say this enough, also: the instrumentation is just superb. Everything harmonizes perfectly with what LaBrie is signing, and every note transitions perfectly into the next. As with every other song, the vocal section transitions into a fantastic instrumental section. This is the closest one to come close to Metropolis'. Its instrumental section is just superb; each solo has something special to say to the listener. Each instrument also gets a chance to express itself fully. Whether it's the piano solo's yearning to be free, or the synthesizer's soaring sound flying into the sky, or maybe the guitar solo's ability to do what it wishes among the other instruments. These solos transition beautifully, as always into a short vocal section, that transitions into (oh boy) another instrumental section! Oh joy!!! (Not sarcastic) In this act, the bass gets a moment away from its cage of low frequencies that keeps all the music harmonized and gives his statement of complaint. The drums join him in his parade, before the guitar joins him in an epic backtrack for yet another impressive guitar solo. No, a guitar solo does not have to be 700 BPM with 3,000 notes per measure to be incredible. A s simple (even repeating) riff that is catchy and creative can be incredible too. This small solo fades out into eternity, the same amount of time that I will be listening to this record, over and over again.
ALBUM OVERALL: This truly is the beginning of the legacy that is Dream Theater. Some people spit on the band's name, but in most cases that is purely based on bias. When truly looking at this album for what it truly is, I can't fathom not liking Dream Theater. Certainly someone could say in turn that my rating is based on my own bias, but Dream Theater was the first progressive band I ever heard, which opened up a world of music that 80% of the world has never even heard of. This gate that Dream Theater opened for me has led me to respect them as much as a classic prog fan respects Yes and Genesis. Their technical ability, compositional skill, musical genius, and overall epicness has led me to the conclusion the Dream Theater is and always will be the ultimate prog metal band of all time. No, they are not symphonic prog, and no, they are not from the 70s, but they certainly have not tainted the progressive genre, but rather have added a new chapter in the certainly long book of progressive music.
Images and Words is an album that any musician can look up to. Whether your pride is mellow acoustic riffs reminiscent of Harmonium or thrashing intensity similar to Meshuggah, every aspect of music can be connected to this album. Musically, it is genius, commercially, it was a smash hit. Overall, this is just a fantastic album. I can't even think of an adjective in my expansive vocabulary to describe the overbearing beauty and monstrous amazingness of this album. Well, here ends my 2,447 word review! 5 ++ stars!!!!!!!