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Dream Theater - When Dream And Day Unite  CD (album) cover

WHEN DREAM AND DAY UNITE

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.23 | 910 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

CCVP
Prog Reviewer
4 stars When Dream and Day Unite: an album difficult to swallow, but not as bad as it looks like

Debut albums are always eccentric and almost always primitive, and When Dream and Day Unite is no exception. What we have here is a totally different manifestation than what Dream Theater is widely known for. I say this because the band does not yet have the controversial James Labrie to tackle singing duties. Charles Dominici is the vocalist on this album and he's living proof as to the drastic effect a vocalist can have on a band and/or album and why they are held in such high regard and called 'frontmen'.

Dominici is remarkably inferior to Labrie, in my opinion, despite Labrie having his issues. He's not as resonant, doesn't have as much conviction, and can't nail high notes as effectively, since his vocal amplitude is not a big thing, specially for high notes. He would be more effectual if he tried a different genre of metal, prog or music, such as pop or alt rock because he doesn't have the depth and chutzpah to pull this off. If Dominici had remained Dream Theater's vocalist throughout their career, it only leaves me to wonder if the band would have been as successful and popular as they are today. Sure, guitarists, drummers, bassists, and keyboardists are essential, but when the vocalist isn't adept, it's very grating and makes everything else happening in the music a nonentity. That's why SO many otherwise good albums on this website have lost points---it's because of the sub-par/terrible vocals; Dominici sounds like your average clean power or traditional metal vocalist: there's nothing distinguishing him from the vast crop of other singers out there in the progressive genre and in metal in general and that is another grade loss for him.

Unfortunately, When Dream and Day Unite is somewhat sub-par musically speaking as well. The overall tone of the guitars is somewhat muffled and soft, unlike on later albums where each instrument booms with confidence and charisma, burying itself in your subconscious. On a similar token, the riffing is quite competent, but not the soloing. Everything is presented in a much more primitive, compact package here, which is stifling for listeners thoroughly acquainted with the band's later work.. Also, the keyboards play a far lesser role here and don't have that squealing, spacey tone we're all accustomed to. Still on the keyboards, for those used to Rudess's way of playing (usually together with Petrucci and his guitars) and late Moore's keyboards (usually playing different, but related melodies / harmonies), here Moore plays a much more team role, being the glue holding the band's sound together and making the bridges needed on the harmony side.

One of the few highlights is the instrumental Ytse Jam, a tune that has gained a peculiar amount of fame in the Dream Theater universe, even spawning a website bearing its name, and the final piece of music on this album, the song Only a Matter of Time, which is, together with Ytse Jam, the most solid and developed piece of music here. It's not their greatest work, but it's very aggressive, something typical for a new metal band with a lot of things to say (luckily they left most of them for Images and Words and Awake). In keeping with the overall songwriting layout of the album, it cuts straight to the chase, not opting to enthrall the listener with unwarranted grandeur.

Basically, what we have here is the groundwork for much classier, less opulent offerings from a band who is continually evolving and adapting, yet trying to keep their sound and image intact. Often I wonder if all players involved with this intentionally held back to pique fans' suspense as to what comes next and to totally blindside everyone with Images & Words, possibly their best work and absolute milestone for prog metal. Ability is never and has never been something that people question about Dream Theater, but how exactly is the band choosing to present its ideas to listeners? What are they cutting and pasting?

Potential for excellence is written all over the instruments on this record and Dream Theater has impeccable consistency, but we'll never know if the band could have pulled off something more defining. That sense of wonder in itself is enough reason to buy this album. Personally, at least, I find all the 'what-ifs' of the world to be very gratifying and know that from day one these guys have pulled their best to surprise us all with whatever innovation they can make.

Rock on Dream Theater! and may the good winds of prog metal always be with you for ever

CCVP | 4/5 |

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