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Dream Theater - Images And Words CD (album) cover

IMAGES AND WORDS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

4.29 | 2066 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Images and Words is one of the most significant releases in progressive metal history, whether or not you really enjoy the band at all.

This album is pretty difficult to look at for a rating because, though I recognize its significance and originality, it really doesn't rank up there for me. First off, still, it's a vast improvement over the original. The sound quality is excellent, the music has its own life and can exist independently of its influences, James LaBrie is sharing through the band his operatic and fascinating voice, and the general quality of the instruments are leagues ahead of the brief taste When Dream and Day Unite gave us. Now, instead of a classic Rush sound, the metal comes forth and greets us like Iron Maiden with serious intent to prog us to death. A very nice improvement. However, despite the success and popularity of this work, the band still feels a bit underdeveloped. Some of the songs are really impressive, while others are weak and drag the album down. So if it were entirely up to me, this would probably get three stars, but the importance of the album cannot be denied.

It opens with one of the most widely known prog songs from the 90s, Pull Me Under. This track is nice in the Dream Theater catalog because it's pretty straightforward, it's patient, and it doesn't spend three minutes noodling away. Moody lyrics built off Hamlet first showcase this voice that is James, and he fits very nicely with the dramatically heavy guitars. Another Day follows this, slightly less interesting and mellow. What we have here is a U2-inspired ballad with well-meaning, sad lyrics, but even still, the emotive guitar solo and the silly saxophone bit at the end (now, I like saxophone, but this is as stereotypically 80s as saxophone can come). Thankfully, Take the Time rides on that songs wake, bringing us right back to some energetic metal and excitement. The intro of the song is perhaps some of the strongest music on the album. It closes with a fading guitar solo that always makes me wish the song carried on a bit longer.

Surrounded wanders in next, a very nontraditional song in the Dream Theater catalog, being very gentle and moody and then fast-paced in the middle without being all heavy and metal-oriented. Rather, this is a kind of pop-rock with intelligence that makes it a fun and unique track. Right after that becomes the song that was to the prog community as Pull Me Under was to the mainstream metal community. Metropolis, pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper. This song almost perfectly anticipates the future of Dream Theater, especially when Jordan Rudess enters the scene. To those who don't like noodling and shredding and unisons and pointlessly odd time signatures and all that: look out. This song is almost entirely noodling. A perfect showcase for the band's talent, it somehow (actually, unfortunately) became the direction for the band's future. Nine minutes of incredible wails, ripping guitars, bass solos, whipping drums, and even lightning keyboards from the famously not-into-shredding Kevin Moore. Now, while this track certainly is mostly pointless, it's a fair bit of fun and a very important song in the band's history.

The next song, Under a Glass Moon, is a bit more atmospheric (though the band will never really delve into much atmospheric songwriting save for on Falling into Infinity) and less complicated, though the chorus is a multi-staged beast with some very high pitched singing by James. The guitar solo here, though really famous, is only considered a great solo because it's almost a compendium of the complete skill set of John Petrucci: look, here are each of the techniques he can do. It's neat, but very random and doesn't really go anywhere. Wait for Sleep is a nifty little piano bit with a catchy vocal line over the top, a break from the excessively thick metal (this is early 90s metal, by the way, not as heavy as they are now by any long shot) sound before the concluding track, Learning to Live. This song, featuring lyrics by silent bassist Myung about AIDS victims, really does get some emotion out of the listener, even though there's a very large amount of noodling here, too. The intro is a pretty neat bit, and the reprisals of it only get more progressive. It closes the album with a building and fading outro, which works very well as a way to end this record.

It's got some important flaws to it. The boys noodle a lot. Some of the songs are not that good. But in the end, this is a very important release to the genre, and so anyone interested at all in progressive metal should at least give it a try. Just a warning, though: you're expected to like it. If you don't, have a good reason why not ready.

LiquidEternity | 3/5 |

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