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Dream Theater - Images And Words CD (album) cover

IMAGES AND WORDS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

4.29 | 2032 ratings

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maani
Special Collaborator
Founding Moderator
3 stars Knowing that I will have CDs flung at me from all sides of the room, let me get this out of the way: this is NOT a prog album. In this regard, I am actually being somewhat generous with my rating (it probably deserves two-and-a-half stars). What this IS is a speed/power metal album with some "prog sensibilities" (some more well-realized than others) and occasional "true" prog elements. Within its own genre (speed/power metal), I would give this album four stars, since it is a particularly excellent example of that genre. But prog? As a whole? I think not. After all, there is more to prog than double bass drums, non-standard time signatures (and signature changes) and everyone playing fast at the same time. / I am also glad - very glad - that I heard "Scenes From a Memory" first, or I might never have gotten to it, failing to believe that a band could get from here to there in just four albums. Not having heard (yet) the "bridging" albums, it may be that their progression makes sense. However, at this point in their career, they were still relying way too heavily on Portnoy's double bass, Petrucci's speed-freak guitar-playing, and Labrie's high-register screaming to infuse the music with a "compelling" quality, or any sense of "urgency." They had not developed the discipline - or learned to "relax" enough - that would lead to the much greater maturity one finds on "Scenes." Yes, "Scenes" also has lots of double bass drum, speed-freak guitar and screaming vocals. But the band no longer RELIES on them to be compelling: they learned how to "relax" and write compelling material that speaks for itself. / As I review "Images and Words" song by song, whenever you see the elipses (the three dots after the word "but"), fill in the phrase "it's not prog." / The album opens with the extended "Pull Me Under," a very good speed/power metal composition (with a neat Def Leppard-y feel, particularly the chorus), well executed, but... "Another Day" is a reasonably good "power ballad" (with sax!), but... The second extended piece, "Take the Time," displays some prog sensibilities, especially in a nice jam from 4:40 to 6:00, but... "Surrounded" is an excellent example of speed/power metal, and has some intimations of where Dream Theater would eventually go, but... "Metropolis - Part I" is only a "shadow" of what "Scenes From a Memory - Metropolis Part II" would be, and has the first real "prog" jam at 5:50-8:05, with a particularly excellent section from 7:00 to 8:05. "Under the Glass Moon" opens with a nice proto-prog figure until 1:20; the rest is truly "screaming" speed/metal. But... "Wait For Sleep" is among the prettiest, most beautifully crafted ballads I've heard (with a wonderfully simple but marvelously effective piano figure by Moore), and Labrie's voice is particularly sweet here, but... "Learning to Live" is an extended (actually, over-extended) composition with some prog elements, but... / I was also very unimpressed with the lyrics as a whole. / As an aside, I did notice some interesting "thanks" from the band to: Derek Shulman (he of Gentle Giant, and one of the producers of this album), Slash (makes sense, given Petrucci's style of playing), and Marillion (among other bands). / When all is said and done, this album only "straddles" prog. However, because it is good, even compelling, for what it is - speed/power metal - I have lifted it above "collectors/fans only," which is where it would otherwise belong.
maani | 3/5 |

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