Dream Theater, Images and Words

----------------- blue separator -------------------

Reviewed by Paul W. Cashman in 1993

If any single band typifies a 'progressive metal' or 'art- metal' sound, that band would now be Dream Theater. Images and Words, their second album (and first with singer James LaBrie) is an uncompromising journey down the road of technical excellence and tight, practiced musicianship. Although the album is two years old now, it continues to sell by word-of-mouth, and the more recent live EP Live at the Marquee is a hot item at import shops. Atco may have recognized this steady build, because they've just released a videotape with live and concept cuts.

Now for a look at Images and Words. Long epics like "Metropolis Part 1" and "Learning to Live," each at over nine minutes, showcase virtuosity from all five members of this Long Island, NY-based band. The latter is over eleven minutes long, but it flows smoothly, and without looking at a clock it seems much shorter, perhaps six or seven minutes: it never seems to drag. Its subtle, uplifting lyrics about how a person with AIDS can cope with the disease are also a strong credit for bassist John Myung, on an album already marked by thoughtful, mature lyrical content. "Metropolis Part 1" has a long instrumental break in its middle and is a bit choppier, but musically it's the most challenging song on the album, with time changes and tricky fills galore from drummer Mike Portnoy.

Musical talent isn't limited to the two epics, of course, and many of the other songs are also distinguished by strong performances. "Under a Glass Moon," with its soaring intro and intricate guitar 'bridge' from John Petrucci, is another short-seeming track, even though it times out at over seven minutes. "Surrounded" features Kevin Moore's keyboard/piano work and lyrics with a strong fantasy element; it's an aesthetically beautiful piece. "Take the Time" is an uplifting near-epic, checking in at over eight minutes, but it never drags and seems more like six: its message, Find all you need in your mind / If you take the time casts a refreshing vote of confidence in the listener. "Pull Me Under" is a straight-ahead rocker chosen by Atco as the first radio single, but its simplicity disguises a song based on, of all things, Shakespeare's Hamlet. As the first song on the album, it's deceptively less intricate than most of the other tracks on Images and Words. The remaining two tracks, "Wait For Sleep" and "Another Day," are shorter and softer than the others, but feature intricate keyboard work from Moore and restrained elegance from stringsmiths Petrucci and Myung.

Committed thrash fans might find LaBrie's voice pitched a bit too high sometimes and object to the less-manic portions of the album, but those who appreciate technical brilliance, intelligent lyrics and seamless production will find much on Images and Words to feast on. An impressive release for Dream Theater, this is an album to grab and a band to watch.

----------------- yellow separator -------------------

Check out Paul's current fave vibes
Contents of Paul's CD changers, etc.
Return to Paul Cashman's home-page