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Dream Theater - Images and Words CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

4.29 | 2963 ratings

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4 stars Horrorshock! A myth crumbles... Renowned DT basher Ghost Rider reviews "Images and Words" and gives it four stars too! What is the world coming to?

Well, I may have many flaws, but I pride myself on being a fair person, who might not be the greatest fan of the New York quintet, but is nevertheless perfectly capable of recognising quality when she sees it. In my very humble opinion, "Images and Words" remains to this day DT's finest offering, one they've never yet managed to top. Yes, they've become more ambitious, in some ways more commercial, and they've reached planetary status among younger and even older fans. However, this album, now 14 years old, has a freshness and a novelty value that their later, more complex efforts do not possess anymore. This is the true act of birth of one of the most enduringly popular styles of Prog-Metal, in which the 'prog' component is noticeably stronger than the 'metal' one. Without I&W there would be no Symphony X, no Shadow Gallery, no Pain of Salvation, no Ayreon or other bands of their ilk. While this may be no great loss to many people (especially my contemporaries), I'm all in favour of variety, and I think there is a place for everything in the music world.

Though everybody knows I'm no supporter of technical prowess for its own sake (Prog's answer to Oscar Wilde's 'art for art's sake'), there's no denying that DT are masters of their instruments. This album also goes to prove that the band's greatest strength was the songwriting of keyboardist Kevin Moore,a more restrained player than the flamboyant Derek Sherinian, and a less technical one than Juilliard alumnus Jordan Rudess, though an undeniably sophisticated, tasteful composer. After him, the band's output became more over-the-top, with song lengths and instrumental complexity sometimes spiralling out of control. Here, instead, DT strike the right balance: even an overtly commercial song like "Another Day" does not disrupt the overall textural intensity of the album.

So far I've talked about instruments, not mentioning what is for many people the sore point of the band: James LaBrie's vocals. There's no denying that the man in question, like his band, has been the founder of a school of singing that numbers many followers; unfortunately, I only find him effective when impersonating that most unlikely of prog singers, Metallica's James Hetfield (check his performance on "Train of Thought"). When he reaches for the higher notes, I find him at best irritating, at worst positively unbearable. However, his performance on I&W is rather good, especially on the wistful mood piece that is "Wait for Sleep" (with great piano work by Moore); while on some parts of "Take the Time" I just wish he would shut up and let the others play.

With so many glowing reviews written before mine, I feel there's no point in doing a track-by-track analysis. "Pull Me Under", the band's best-known song, is quite catchy in its own way, though I find "Take the Time" vastly superior: the intro in particular is great. "Metropolis" is undeniably the most complex track from an instrumental point of view, with great performances from all the members of the band. On this album Portnoy's drumming sounds very clear and strong, though distinctly reminiscent of Neil Peart's in more than one instance (as a matter of fact, the Rush influences are startling at times). The album's standout track, though (especially from a lyrical point of view), is Myung's powerful, heartfelt "Learning to Live", where the bassist's remarkable skills can be clearly heard for once, instead of being swamped in the maelstrom of sound produced by the band. The song's coda is hauntingly beautiful, easily the most progressive thing on the record.

Even though I suppose I'll never become a DT fan, I&W deserves four stars for its undeniable musical quality - although, as I stated at the beginning, I feel its historical value is probably its greatest asset. Not really essential, but indeed an excellent addition to one's collection.

Raff | 4/5 |


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