A preview of coming attractions. Just like fine wine, prog music often takes time to develop and mature. This debut is no different. Yes, it is a very good album, but there is some underlying quality of the music that leaves the slightest bitter taste in the back of your mouth. On the fringe of the 80s, the influence of hair metal is blatantly obvious, which at time overpowers their "better" influences, such as Yes and Rush. The album serves as a pseudo preliminary to the music that the band will come to produce.
A Fortune in Lies is a nice hair metal song with some proggy spritzes along the way. Most of the riffing is that stereotypical fast-paced chugging of a distorted guitar backing the soaring vocals of an extravagant signer, in this case the talented Charlie Dominici. Some interesting instrumental parts keep this song alive and well, but for the most part this is just a hair metal song, fit for a Whitesnake or Poison album.
Status Seeker takes all of the above mentioned qualities, and mixes them with 80s pop too! Yipee! But, you must remember that spritz of prog is still present in this song in even more quantity. Compared to the previous song, it is all in all better. More creative instrumental sections that closely resemble what the band's music will soon morph into. This is the first punch Dream Theater gives into the prog metal world, although as of right now it is still small.
Ytse Jam is the quintessential pretentious Dream Theater instrumental. Ridiculously skilled soloing throughout, this song properly shows off the band's impressive skill. Although musically it is a bit cheesy, the pure skill required to play the solos of each instrument is impressive. So, this is a very cheesy, but necessary song to assert Dream Theater into the world of pretentious prog music.
The Killing Hand is a more traditional prog song, and one of only a few on this album. The mellow acoustic intro melts into some creative harmonization with the guitar and bass. Dominci delivers some great compassionate vocal melodies in this track, which really meshes nicely with the instrumentation. This is the second great punch of prog on this album. The superior instrumental transitions really accent the track with its great themes and lyrics. One of the better on the album!
Light and Fuse and Getaway was one of my favorite tracks on the album even when I got years ago when I was first getting into Dream Theater. The development of the music at this point on the album is superior, and you can tell that the compositional skill of this group of musicians is spectacular. The subtlety of vocal melody and instrumental quality is superior on this track. Really fun transitions and harmonies are the up points of this album.
Afterlife is another hair metal/prog rock crossover for the band, with fast guitar riffing mixed with proggy meter changes, instrumental harmonization, and creative melodies really meshing together nicely. The guitar solos are great on this song, as are the vocal-instrumental relationship, which on some songs kind of lacks at some points.
The Ones Who Help Set the Sun is, for lack of better words, odd. I like this song when they played it live far better than the studio version, which sounds overly distorted and scratchy. The intro I think is the biggest thing that alienates me from the rest of the song, which is good. That really odd keyboard thing is just peculiar. However, after that passes, the great bass harmonics used are really fun and creative, somewhat reminiscent of Jaco Pastorias. The meat of the song is a little boring, with too many similarities to the rest of the album. It does have some really uncanny similarities with future compositions, which is cool to look at the roots of Dream Theater's album. However, I feel like this track really pulls the album back from its full potential, which is sad.
Only a Matter of Time is a nice closer to the album. It basically sums up all the aspects of the album, good or bad. You get hair metal, thrash metal, prog rock, fun instrumental, creative melodies and harmonics, great rhythms, and everything else good or bad found in the rest of the album in this song. It sort of acts as a message: it's only a matter of time before Dream Theater emerges and totally dominates the Prog Metal scene, and by golly, they've done it!
ALBUM OVERALL: Song by song, this album is great, with some creative instrumental sections and compositional qualities, but some of the overbearing qualities of the album mar the album to a certain degree. The very large amount of hair metal present in the album is a little peculiar, making the music a bit cheesy to a point. However, the other side of that is the prog aspect, which keeps the hair metal in check, thank god. Overall, the album doesn't flow as nicely as some future albums, with song dynamics jumping from this to that and there again, which kind of makes your head spin. But, the album is definitely a real nice flashback to what Dream Theater was at its core, and how the music has progressed throughout the years. 3+ stars.