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Dream Theater - Images And Words CD (album) cover

IMAGES AND WORDS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

4.29 | 1974 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I have to admit that I've been systematically discovering Dream Theater's music pretty much bass-ackwards since finally experiencing the excellent "Scenes From A Memory" almost a year ago. But after being somewhat disappointed in their 1994 release "Awake" I was reticent to go back any farther into their catalogue, thinking that it was probably just more of the same (especially the shrill vocal work). However, my son gave me "Images and Words" for Christmas and I am completely blown away by it. I now deem it to be one of their best albums due to the incredible amount of thoughtful creativity and the high level of musicianship and production involved.

Deep guitar notes and Portnoy's rolling drums start "Pull Me Under" and instantly lay down a gargantuan atmosphere that sets the tone for the entire CD. A heavy metal wall of sound takes over as the beat doubles twice, leading up to a fantastic chorus that features an infectious cascading vocal. The song, like the album, never gets predictable. "Another Day" starts out beautifully and then lo and behold it's a soprano sax! How cool is that! I love it. The catchy melody and accompanying harmonies steadily build the tune without it ever becoming the stereotypical and hokey "power ballad" that was popular at the time. A truly noble song. "Take The Time" doesn't age well, though, and despite the interesting harmonies and hot guitar licks it tends to mimic the sound and textures made popular by groups of that era like Whitesnake. It's only a minor bump in the road, however, and "Surrounded" makes you forget it ever passed through your ears. The eerily haunting intro spills into a crisp, bouncy melody that drives us upward to a fascinating guitar break that can best be described as unique. The song comes full circle to the way it started with a deep, mysterious atmosphere. "Metropolis" is a monster. A true epic. The middle section is a well thought out series of drum-fueled riffs that create a kaleidoscope of musical colors that make your head spin in an effort to keep up. It is a highly energetic but incredibly tight and precise composition. "Under A Glass Moon" has a heavy Pink Floyd feel in the opening chords but soon amps up to a powerful, mechanical rhythm. Halfway through the band takes the listener along a twisting path of fascinating syncopation that is breathtaking, paving the way for some colossal guitar by Petrucci and stunning keyboards by Moore. After that sprint one can use a breather and "Wait For Sleep" is perfectly placed here. It's a simple but gorgeous ballad and LaBrie's voice is terrific and effective when he relaxes like he does here. "Learning To Live" finishes out the album and is one of its best cuts. Myung's moody bass lines shine, laying down an enigmatic foundation before the drums enter with a metallic shuffle. A very inventive chord progression draws us inexorably farther until reaching a sheer drop back to the initial feel once again. An acoustic guitar passage changes over to fierce electric riffs before a striking staccato piano draws us into an unexpected jazzy swing interlude. Then the song fades out to Portnoy's frenetic drum patterns as a chorale of vocals overlays everything. I know, it sounds rather crazy, but it just may be their most adventurous song ever. All I can tell you is that it works quite well.

I had no idea these guys were so good from the get-go. It seems a travesty that I didn't even hear of this album until fourteen years after its release but I guess these boys have just always been forced to fly under the music biz radar. Hopefully this review will convince others who might have been put off by the unrelenting ferociousness of some of their earlier works (especially LaBrie's screamy vocals) to invest in this album. It is, in a word, great. 4.4 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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