This Dream Theater album was my first from them, and it was enough to get me hooked. As time progressed, however, I realized that this was not exactly the right album for a beginner such as myself to get into this fabulous band. It is far darker and heavier than most of their other albums (except for SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE and TRAIN OF THOUGHT, which are exceptionally heavy). James LaBrie’s voice is a rather vicious snarl on many of the songs (namely “6:00,” “Caught in a Web,” and “The Mirror” and “Lie”), and while he frequently has sung this tone before, it is not his usual, marvelous singing that has become his trademark. John Petrucci’s guitars chug with a well-performed metal sense, and holy COW, Mike Portnoy’s drumming is insanely complex, but with frequent bouts of crashing and booming like thunder. John Myung’s bass keeps a steady rumble throughout, and Kevin Moore (on his last DT recording) has rather icy (but frequently warm and beautiful) keyboarding.Songs such as the aforementioned four are especially heavy, and somewhat short by DT’s standards. As well, the first song in the A Mind Beside Itself trilogy, “Erotomania,” makes an extremely heavy prologue to the other two songs, the far quieter “Voices,” and the acoustic “The Silent Man.” Other songs, such as “Innocence Faded” and “Space-Dye Vest” have more of a “traditional” DT sound (but there really can’t be such a thing, because this IS progressive music, after all), and this makes for a very eclectic, but well-organized, album.Lyrically, some of the songs are almost frightening in their contrast to Dream Theater’s normally more mystical (but not exactly “cheerful”) writing. Take, for instance, the lyrics to “6:00″: “So many ways to drown a man/ So many ways to drag him down/ Some of them are fast and others take years and years.” Wow. This is definitely Dream Theater’s heavier pinnacle in their earlier years that established them as progressive METAL.Then there are the lighter songs, such as “Innocence Faded.” This song is especially marvelous. It is highly melodic, and carries the listener on a gentle stellar breeze. Just listen to the keyboard-laden pre-chorus and be taken away. And just LISTEN to James LaBrie sing those higher notes in the second verse…what notes he hits! And John Petrucci’s outro picking is just fabulous. Marvelous song. As well, “Voices” is epic, sweeping, and yes, fairly heavy. Definitely one of my favorite DT songs.As I said before, this is not a Dream Theater album for beginners, because of how heavy it is, but even if it is a first, you may might like it in the end. It was, after all, my first, and now they’re one of my favorite bands. Regardless, this is a must for any Dream Theater fan. A dark, overlooked masterpiece.