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Dream Theater - Images and Words CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.29 | 2963 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars New force, new love, new wave.

Here's a review I've put off for too long. Dream Theater's second album could easily be considered their true debut since on the first album the band were mainly mucking around with their first singer and a bunch of ideas. On this album not only did they find a voice for the band in the form of James LaBrie (who these days has just as many haters as hard-core fans), but they also defined their sound and came up with a sound that would define the progressive metal genre to this day. While the band certainly had more under their belt as we would see on their subsequent masterpiece, Awake, this is where it really all took off for the band. The sound is heavy yet refined, as though Yes lost their minds and joined forces with Metallica in some sort of bizarro world where saxophone and keyboards fit in with heavy metal. While Dream Theater often gets attacked in the more ''minimalist'' circles for going on their extended 'wanking' solos, this album shows a bit more restraint in the band being that they seem to be a little hesitant with their abilities. Still, the musicianship on the album is impressive and shows that even a headbanger's band is capable of pulling off song writing skills on par with the 70s greats.

Somehow this album also had some success with the MTV crowd. This would be the album which would get the word of Dream Theater out to the masses, some of which would become their die-hard followers, thanks to choice cuts such as the breakout single Pull Me Under with it's chugging riffs and wailing voice, and the ever fast Take The Time, which exemplifies the use of an atmospheric buildup to a chaotic launch of guitars and power vocals. The saxophone and emotion laden Another Day was also released as a somewhat less successful single, although it seemed to have been structured for the job. Still the emotion portrayed in the song has aged well along with the performances to take the edge off of the pomp by being wedged nicely between the powerhouses that open the album. Surrounded finishes the first half of the album as a soft but powerful tune that's a little more sing-along and listener-friendly than the last 3 tracks with it's prominent synths care of Kevin Moore. An impressive solo from Petrucci accompanied by some quick drumming from Portnoy are a great sign of things to come later in the band's career.

What's to come is usually the section of the album which is of peak interest to the discerning prog fan. Most fans by now know about the band's highly successful album Metropolis Pt II, and so it should come as no surprise that Metropolis Pt I: The Miracle and The Sleeper is one of the album's standouts. A creepy keyboard atmosphere gives the song life as it moves through its more powerful sections, and LaBrie's voice is at the top of its game as it tells this chilling tale. Under A Glass Moon is no less impressive with its slightly more rhythmic approach. But then after the brief and chilling piano led Wait For Sleep, we're into one of the band's greatest achievements. Dream Theater has always been a band about mixing the melodic with the chaotic and the pomp with the subtle, and on Learning to Live they show off just what this mix is capable of. The song is absolutely sublime throughout it's 12-minute duration, mixing catchy hooks with impressive solos and sections that are sharply distinct without alienating the rest of the song. Progressive metal at its best.

Many people call this the most influential album on the progressive metal scene, and while this can be argued to be death there's one thing for certain, you have to hear it to believe it. Dream Theater may be a controversial band in some circles, but there's a reason why even the most rabid Dream Theater hater will occasionally spin this album. An absolute must, it would be a crime to end this review without having given the album a full 5 star rating. In the realm of progressive metal, this is close to perfection - although the band would truly achieve that with their next record, this one is more accessible. 5 Glass Moons out of 5 - Essential.

Queen By-Tor | 5/5 |


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