DREAM THEATER — Images and Words (review)

DREAM THEATER — Images and Words album cover Album · 1992 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The early 90s caused a lot of turmoil in the music industry as everything 80s was pretty much swept away by the alternative rock and grunge invasion that was pretty much solidified by Nirvana’s phenomenal success of its album “Nevermind,” but the metal world too was completely transformed as glam metal went the way of the dodo as more extreme acts like Metallica and Megadeth established metal as a more technical and serious genre for the masses. Add to that changing of the tides the massive explosion of not only the prog rock revival but something completely new and that was progressive metal. DREAM THEATER had already been around a few years but didn’t capture a lot of attention with its debut “When Dream And Day Unite” which IMHO was an excellent album but suffered from a dismal album cover and emerging a little too soon for the appetite of the public to shift interest into the complexities that prog metal had to offer.

DREAM THEATER itself underwent a huge change when lead singer Charlie Dominici left the band and was replaced by James LaBrie who had remained with DT ever since. After joining the dream team of guitarist John Petrucci, keyboardist Kevin Moore, bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Portnoy, the band was ready to conquer the world with its second classic release IMAGES AND WORDS which was released just at the right time for a glam metal weary public to move on to something with a bit more heft and together with Fates Warning and Queensryche, DREAM THEATER launched the progressive metal invasion that hasn’t stopped since this album was released in 1992. The album pretty much caught the world’s attention immediately with the release of the first single “Pull Me Under” which featured the heft and bravado of classic 80s metal but featured hitherto unthinkable progressive rock crossover effects which most of the world had never experienced despite bands like Watchtower developing the prog metal world in the underground as early as 1984.

As DREAM THEATER’s most successful album of all time, IMAGES AND WORDS is regarded as one of those classics that launched a whole new revolution in the metal world with complex proggy composiitons that adopted symphonic prog touches from bands like Kansas, pastoral moments of classic Genesis and knotty compositions that exuded virtuosic instrumental interplay in the vein of classic Yes but with the energetic overdrive of 80s power metal with neoclassical references. While regarded as an all time classic, i personally can’t say i find IMAGES AND WORDS to be a perfect album by any means. No doubt that “Pull Me Under” was not only the perfect single to bring DT to the world’s attention but also the perfect track to begin the album as it delivers electrifying atmospheres, dynamic songwriting skills performed by seasoned veterans of the metal trade with an energetic bombast and vocal octave range that put this band well over the talent range of the average metal band of the era. However some of the tracks just flounder a bit such as the rather sleepy AOR inspired “Another Day” with Kenny G sax sensualities and sounding something like Styx on a very uninspired day.

While the first half of IMAGES AND WORDS may sound a bit restrained as the band was trying too hard to appeal to melodic metal bands of the 80s that featured too many sappy ballads, the second half opens with the highlight of the album the outstanding “Metropolis—Part I: 'The Miracle and the Sleeper,’" a massive sprawling near 10-minute track that busts out all the prog goods with all the bombast, pomp and awe one could hope for including Keith Emerson keyboard wizardry, tricky speed-of-light time signature frenzies and some of the best musicianship that the band members have ever conjured up. The track proved to be a popular live number with variations changing each performance and by popular demand carried on until an entire album “Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes From A Memory” finally emerged down the line.

Luckily the album continues the prog workouts with tracks like “Under A Glass Moon” and even takes the beautiful ballad “Wait For Sleep” into turbulent prog workout territories culminating in the album’s lengthiest track the 11 1/2 minute “Learning To Live” which ultimately leaves a satisfying experience that leaves IMAGES AND WORDS resonating high on the metallic prog-o-meter. When all is said and done this album really does deserve its status as one of the best prog metal albums of all time however as i’ve already stated i find the second track “Another Day” to be a throwaway track and even “Surrounded” lacking in compositional fortitude. If these two tracks had been modified or replaced altogether then i would could perhaps deem this a perfect album but since they appear early on sort of dampen the overall experience. But i shouldn’t be too harsh as they aren’t gawd awful tracks either. They just don’t live up to the quality of the others therefore they can be overlooked as a small blemish that doesn’t detract from the overall magnitude that the album brings forth as one of prog metal’s magnum opus. After all the remaining tracks have a staying power some thirty years later after IMAGE AND WORDS’ initial release and one of DREAM THEATER’s finest moments for sure.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
5 months ago
I'm the same. I prefer other prog metal bands to Dream Theater but when i listen to some of the earliest album there sure is some magic there. Unfortunately they usually had a silly poppy ballad sounding song or two which rubs me the wrong way . Still though you are are right! This album launched an entirely new style of metal into the mainstream!
UMUR wrote:
5 months ago
I´ve lost interest in Dream Theater over the years, but the early albums will always stand as something special to me. Being there when this album hit the shelves and Pull Me Under was played on MTV´s Headbanger´s Ball gave me an understanding of how important this album was and the prog metal scene it initiated. Sure there were other progressive metal acts in the 80s, who came before Dream Theater, but no other band had such an impact or was as influential. This is the album which started it all...

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