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Dream Theater - Images and Words CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.29 | 2963 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is Dream Theater's debut album. No, not their very first record ever released, but certainly the one that got them recognized by the general pubkic. The first single of the album, ''Pull Me Under'', became a huge success literaly overnight, and the five young men were launched into heavy touring, numerous record sales, and the first group of an ever-growing, dedicated fan base. Fast-forward to now, and you can see the many different directions the band has gone since this album, yet many of the Prog Metal die-hards out there still consider this to be Dream Theater's most influencial and crucial album to the genre as a whole. So, the question is, what makes this album so special? Furthermore, does it live up to all of the hype? In my view: yes, it does. This album is certainly good even now when compared to the five-piece's later efforts, and while it is still debatable as to whether or not it is their best, who can deny that it is the album that put Prog Metal into the forefront of the public for a whole new generation to discover?

''Pull Me Under'' is the album's opening track, and despite its length (over eight minutes), was the song that started it all for the DT boys in terms of fame and fortune. Unfortunately, it would be the only single and/or music video to really make it big for them for many years to follow. It begins with a very airy, almost surrealistic guitar riff provided by John Petrucci, and is soon accompanied by Kevin Moore's psychedelic keyboard sounds. The song continues to build, and after a short while, the distorted guitars come in full force, playing a truly metal riff, and Mike Portnoy then reveals his echoing, powerfull drumming for the first time on the record. Things go on like this for a little while longer, and already it is apparent to anyone with a half-decent ear for music that these guys are a very tight act, with some of the cleanest, most exact accuracy a metal band has ever displayed. The guitars are indeed distorted, yet you can still hear distingtively what chords he is playing without struggle, and then we hear James LaBrie's vocals for the first time ever in DT history, and let me say that this man can sing! I know many people have complained about his voice, but as far as I am concerned, he is the best Prog Metal vocalist of this generation (before and AFTER his vocal rupture, by the way). John Petrucci's solos on this song are very tasteful and don't go on too long at all. The music found on this entry really feels like it has a point, and instead of just being a really good technically-proficient act, Dream Theater proves on this album that they were, at least at one point, true ARTISTS, because everything on this song, and all the songs to follow, feels like it has a purpous for being there, rather than simply being drawn out to pass the time. The choruses here certainly aren't the strongest in their career, but the song is good enough to stand on it's own as a heavy rocker, without being considered a 'progressive' song, exactly.

''Another Day'' is a very mellow power-ballad, basically. Nothing wrong with it, really. In fact, it's quite nice, but the only thing really progressive about it I suppose is that it is suprisingly soft and maybe a little too 'pretty' for most traditional metal releases, but since this is prog metal, it doesn't seem out of place. The sax work on it is also very colorfull. The keyboards are also there to give the song some majestic orchestra work, and unlike what the keyboards would do later in Dream Theater's career, they simply create an atmosphere and aren't too out in front. This is almost surely do to Kevin Moore's inclusion in the band at this point, as the real key 'wizard' was one Jorden Rudess, who would not join the band until three albums later. Moore does a very good job of keeping the over-the-top nature of his instrument to a minimum, and while apparently the Dream Theater guys didn't like that, I find it much more fitting for them, since they already have a virtuoso amongst them with John Petrucci. Two of the same breed sometimes makes the music seem too busy, but luckily, since they had a much more reserved keyboardist on this album, the mood isn't lost. Great track.

''Take the Time'' Is the first real exhibition of the band members' playing capability, but once again, nothing seems to get too out of hand, and even the really fast virtuostic work fits within the context of the song as a whole. I rather like ther song's opening, which starts out with John Myung's short but sweet bass hits, then Kevin Moore's sounds compliment the odd time signature before the entire band comes blazing in. James LaBrie's voice on this song is especially nice, and he sings some of the best melodies on the record. There is a musical interlude, which features Moore's real first moment of fast- playing, and he keeps it tasteful, with an actual tune accomyning it, and not just mindless wankery of scales being played over and over at lightning speed. Following that, Petrucci breaks out some really great guitar rhythms that get stuck in my head for a long while after I listen to this track without fail. The song quiets down, but then comes back for one last burst of energy, bringing out the lyrics ''Find all you need in your mind, if you take the time!'' Petrucci then plays his fastest solo yet, but it still rocks without seeming like soulless speed-playing.

''Surrounded'' is the album's softest, and most beautiful song. Clean piano work backs singer LaBrie, starting slowly at first, then slowly picking up the pace, which introduces a very beautiful guitar melody plays artfully by Petrucci. ''Let light surround me'' James sings as his musicians produce incredibly moving music all around him. This song isn't much longer than it's mellow predecessor, and clocks it at a nice five minutes and thirty seconds.

''Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper'' is the only track on the album who's storyline is actually a 'theme' in the traditional prog sense, although I'm not too sure how much about it even the band members themselves knew at the time. It would be fully realized in the form of a complete full-length album later on in their career, SCENES FROM A MEMORY, but I will review that album at a later time. All you need to know at this point is this . . . the song is epic. Truly. However, I personally think the odd time sigs and unconventional lyrical structure is a bit too frequesnt in this particular track, and as a result always have a difficult time sitting through it all. That could change over time, though, as each time I listen to it, I appeciate it a bit more. (This is most likely due to the fact that I now know the full story from listening to the SCENES album, so can now understand this track better). Some things to note: okay, well, John Myung plays a very good bass solo in this song, and it is often referred to in high regard by the bass player proggers out there, and with good reason. Also, a really cool rhythm introduced here near 06:26 into the song that is reprised later on the SCENES FROM A MEMORY album. Well, others are as well, but that rhythm in particular always jumped out at me as particularly unusual and interesting. This song does tend to go on a little too long in my honest opinion, and this is really the closest to the later, more pompous Dream Theater stuf the album ever gets, but you can definately where the band is headed at this point in their career, and it only got more ridiculous and frilly as the album progressed. Overall, though, this is a very nice track, and if you like that kind of thing, then maybe later Dream Theater is right for you; it just doesn't always suit me particularly well.

''Under a Glass Moon'' - Really nice track, I like this track alot. Enough fast stuff to satisfy the elitists, but enough good old fasioned rhythm and beat to satisfy more straightforward metal fans. Myself leaning more toward the latter of the two forementioned groups of listeners, this is heaven for me to listen to. There is even some clean guitar work to be found here, which mixes things up a bit. Usually I have found with this band, it's either one or the other, so when a song has both soft and heavy in it, I am particularly pleased. At the four minute mark, the song becomes a battle between guitar and keyboard, resulting in a very head-boppy beat that always makes me smile. Petrucci not long afterward breaks into a really dreamy solo that once again shows that he is capable of more true artistic expression than he seems. I just wish he would do more real music playing like this nowadays.

''Wait For Sleep'' is pretty much an intro for the following track, ''Learning to Live'', but still has enough unique aspects to be talked about as a seperate track. Well, the piano playing is supurp here, and LaBrie's singing is top-notch as usual, with some really atmospheric strings being thrown in for good measure. Really moving song. Also the shortest track on this album, finishing up at only two minutes and thirty-one seconds.

''Learning to Live'' - Forget 'Metropolis''; THIS is the epic track on the album, taking so many interesting turns that it was what made me a Dream Theater fan. It was the first song by them I ever heard, and my jaw dropped when I first heard it, and it is still my personal favorite song of theirs. It begins with some epic keyboard work from Moore, then Portnoy comes in, and soon the entire band comes in stronger than ever. Everything here is very consise, and I get the feeling that this was the track the band worked hardest on to get 'right', but I could be very wrong about it. Whatever the circumstances, this song has the best vocals, melody, instrumentation, and lyrics. It's a true shame that John Myung no longer writes lyrics for the band, because he is by far the best at it out of the group. Truly a poet. I will give you a hint what this song is about: this causes everyday lives of people to completely turn on them, and ultimately becomes very cruel at times. The subject matter here is unusually deep for this type of band, but then again, Dream Theater would prove later on that they weren't just about the bright, sunny side of metal, and could crank out the heaviest riffs imaginable as well. Not on this record, however.

Once the first real shifting of gears takes place, we are treated to once again some truly beautiful guitar work from Petrucci, first playing very mexican-style diddies, then becoming almost a force of his own, building up the epic feel of the song. What happens next still gives me chills to this day: James LaBrie delivers his finest vocal performance ever, followed by John Petrucci's greatest guitar solo I have ever heard, and it always fills me with hope and pleasure as I listen to it. It is a true shame that (in my view) neither one of these men ever quite got to that point ever again, but at least they did get there at some point, for had they not, many people would have been missing out on one of prog metal's finest hours. The song once again dies down, and Myung delivers yet another great bass solo, leading up to the final encore of the song, which has Petrucci playing some truly haunting riffs on his guitar, while LaBrie sings open notes in the background. This continues, along with Portnoy's mammoth drumming, as the song fades out, concluding the album.

Please keep in mind that everything I have gone over in this review is merely a quick observation, and by no means gives away all of the goodies that are awaiting to be discovered on this truly milestone of a record. If you like either Yes, Rush or Sabbath, I would suggest giving this album a try, as it incoorperates elements from all three of those bands and more in a very successful way that was never quite matched again. This does not mean that it is Dream Theater's best per say, but it does mean that it had the best marriage of all of the different genres that could appeal to many different people. I think later releases of theirs should be avoided until after you have listened to this album first, because after this, the band became much more focused on the virtuostic side of their music, and much less focused on, well, the music. I will not tive this a five, because I think they have done better progressive work, but this is probably their most accessible (aside from FALLING INTO INFINITY), and serves as a great introduction piece for anyone interested in them.

JLocke | 4/5 |


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