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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
5 stars This is the true milestone where progressive metal finally kicked off, the record that sparked a movement, an album that revolutionized the way prog and metal would forever be played.

But it is not Dream Theater's best album.

The creation of this album was an extremely bold venture after dumping the deadweight in Charlie Dominici and hiring James LaBrie from the band "White Rose". Obviously Petrucci's songwriting skipped the popularity of the rising 90's at the time and went straight to power metal-esque vocals, stratospheric guitar solos and complete obscurity, starting with the track DT is most famous for. Hell, MTV aired it once (when they actually showed music videos)!

Yes, it's a great song, the song the band will forever be known by. We all know that. Yes, even Petrucci once stated that he hoped the fanbase would also appreciate their newer albums. But at one point or another, every DT fan comes back to this very track, and who wouldn't? The chorus is catchy, Petrucci is spot on, the chords are recognizable, and it made 8-minute long tracks popular! It makes sense, when you dig deeper into this album...

"When Dream And Day Unite" shot the gun in a typical straightforward metal approach. Of course, the entire way the album was approached was terrible, so Petrucci, Portnoy and Myung scrapped the old formula and went for a more "poppy" approach. The band will admit they never expected "Pull Me Under" to become a big hit like it did. They expected songs like "Another Day" and "Surrounded" to be more popular, and when you listen to them, you'd agree. Both songs immediately demonstrate the popular "ballad" that many hair-metal bands in the late 80's (and many metal bands in general) would take pride in. In fact, these songs provide almost nothing in terms of advancing the progressive metal brand!

However, coming off from the dreadful thrashing "When Dream And Day Unite", you could tell off the first two tracks that the band took two steps forward instead of two steps back. No, it's the best album in terms of the genre, but it proved that this outfit did, indeed, have a softer side in them (comes naturally when you have a sweet alto sax on any song ["Another Day"]).

Contrary to popular belief, "Pull Me Under" wasn't even the most groundbreaking track on the album. It was another (by today's standards) 8 minute song that Dream Theater used. If you look at many of their songs today, some of their "singles" (using that word lightly; metal bands like these rarely release true singles) are within the 8-8:30 minute range. In fact, it was songs like "Take The Time" and "Metropolis, Pt. 1" that truly broke ground on something special. Musicians finally had the foundation to create songs with catchy lyrics and chorus' that stretched beyond the typical 4 minute pop song.

While "Take The Time" was more lyrically based (Petrucci didn't really shine until the end of the album, even though there was an instrumental break in the middle), it was the proof that this band wasn't afraid to make long songs, and long songs that kicked ass! Sure, it all seems commonplace today, but 19 years ago, it would've been a million-dollar suicide attempt to release an album like this! Luckily though, it was the combination of hits like "Pull Me Under" and "Surrounded" along with the technical prog epics like "Metropolis, Pt. 1" and "Learning To Live" that allowed this band to live another day (no, that was NOT a pun on the song).

Digging deeper into the album, it's clear to see "Metropolis, Pt. 1" as the true forefather into this genre. Conventional wisdom was forgotten, the stereotypical pop song format was thrown out the window, the instrumental sections were given steroids, and instantly Boston's high-pitched singing and Rush's time-signature changes and Yngwie Malmsteen- esque arpeggio's were on display. It erupted as a mass conglomeration of elements both progressive and commonplace in other genres today. It was the ultimate musician's nightmare. This was now turning into a type of music that not only was directed towards accessibility and good songwriting, but now this was turning into technical, demanding music that only the most gifted, talented and trained musicians could even grasp the slightest complexity behind this song. 7 minutes into the song, additional 2nd's were being added onto the main notes, and twisted, atonal chords were being formed, and key signatures were being altered. Finally, Dream Theater would begin to take shape.

And MTV would never be the same again. That's why they're now making reality shows.

Dream Theater's "Metropolis" is the modern day equivalent to The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". It completely re-wrote the book on progressive music. It would be a standard that would (attempted to be) duplicated and improved as time went on (as evidenced by DT's "Metropolis, Pt. 2" released 7 years later.

"Under A Glass Moon" begins in a sort of epic fashion, something that the band members always took fancy to. In fact, you could easily mistake it as "Metropolis, Pt. 2" if it were just for the intro! Then LaBrie begins to sing some wonderful verses and the band revert to their "pop" form (even though it was nothing near the pop of the 90's ["Thriller", this was not]). But as this track begins to end and into "Wait For Sleep", the final interesting fact comes in. Looking back on Dream Theater's history, the outfit has gone through three different keyboardists, each more interesting than the last.

This album would showcase Kevin Moore, quite possibly the most ambient and haunting of all of them. It was quite hard to tell on this record, as he mostly played in the sounds of a keyboard string section. However, "Awake" would unleash his true nature, and the haunting soundscapes and elements he would bring would soon translate to his solo work and OSI, something DT didn't want for all of their albums, so he was dumped. Next came Derek Sherinian, known only for his infamous "squeal", as he always played a "synth-y" type of prog (on DT's second-to-worst album). Of course, that all turned to a s***show real quick, and Sherinian was show "das boot" to the door. Finally, in came Jordan Rudess, the classically trained keyboardist whose improvisation, talent and wonderful improvisation techniques fell in line with the band's demands.

But back to this album. Moore's ticket to fame (so to speak) was the ability to create an environment so real, so emotional. It seems like the environment he created was the true key to the success of "Pull Me Under" and "Surrounded", but it was on "Awake" that the haunting nature of his plans were revealed, highlighted by the most overlooked of any Dream Theater song, "Space-Dye Vest" (which was actually written by Moore himself)

Yes, there was also the real "epic" on the album in "Learning To Live", but by now it seemed old at as it followed the footsteps of "Metropolis" and Under A Glass Moon". Yet by now, true progressive enthusiasts and musicians (such as myself) can tell that this was the groundwork for the future; Dream Theater stuck one foot firmly into the ground of progressive metal, but it would be their future work that would build a future of its own and create music like no other, music that will no doubt see this band into infamy (and in my dreams, the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame).

There might have been a few "80's-90's" sounds thrown into the album (seeing as the disc was released in 1992), but it doesn't really deter listeners from the album at all. The one problem I myself have is the fact that some DT fans praise this album's groundbreaking and innovative element for their more popular songs like the aforementioned "Pull Me Under". No. That song by itself has done nothing to elevate the genre of progressive metal to the upper echelons of instrumental deityism (yes, I just made that word up; sue me). It's the rest of the album that shines in ways that no band had ever invisioned music to be played before, and it eventually became the jumping off point for the Dream Theater we all know and love (and hate) today.

Wicket | 5/5 |


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