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Images and Words

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Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • “But anyways this John Petrucci is an awful guitarist, he should get lessons from Avril Lavigne or Brad Delson from Linkin Park. Theyre talented guitar players dat can pawn dis Petru$hit’s a$$ anyday!!”

    I’m speechless. Reading that made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. And then scream. And then scream again. What is wrong with the world today.

    Buy Images & Words. Then buy everything else Dream Theater has ever made. Then organize a protest in your hometown against MTV and all current pop music (focusing on Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan). Please.

    Posted on January 20, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I don’t think I can refer to the whole album. Many people think this is Dream Theater’s best album. I don’t think so, because there are a few songs I don’t like much (like “Another Day” which sounds to me as just a little song without grace… ). But, the thing is that this albun contains two of the best songs I have ever heard: “Metropolis Part 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper” and specially “Learning to Live”. Those two songs makes the whole album a very good choice. A thing to take into account, is that this was the second Dream Theater’s album, I think. So, you can’t expect the band to be really mature, there’s a lot of experimentation, trying to find “their own sound”. But, this experimentation is being taken by very good musicians, who knows a lot about music and that are very very talented at their own instruments (voice included). These guys know what they’re doing. I’ve read some reviews about the lyrics; some giving good grades to the lyrics and some just destroying them. Well, I don’t think lyrics is an important issue… I mean, the important thing is the music, the lyrics are just something that accompanies. I think it is very stupid to make a critic thinking about the lyrics. And the same thing applies for those who judge: “this is prog rock” or “this is not prog rock”… I mean, I think no one can tall what prog rock is, because you have lots of very different bands that are included under the “prog rock” label, starting from King Crimson and passing trough Yes, Queen, Rush, Pink Floyd, Queensr├┐che, Bozzio Levin Stevens, Gordian Knot, Transatlantic, Dream Theater… And those bands are very different, you can’t say “King Crimson is a prog rock band, but Queen isn’t”. Based on what? Progressive (not only progressive rock) it was a “movement” against the whole commercial thing, a movement that wanted to support and encourage the free musical experimentation with no limits or agreements. So… how can anybody judge what prog is? There are lots of “prog branches”. I think Dream Theater is considered as “prog metal”. Whatever, for those that are not that purists and just want to try things and enjoy music, I think this album is a very good choice. But, be prepared for metal and some heavy parts, as well as soft pieces such us “Wait for Sleep”.

    Posted on January 20, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I’ve wanted to write a review of Images & Words for the longest time, but have always been too intimidated by the prospect. I mean, how do you critique an album that totally changed the way you listen to music?

    I was just entering college when this album was released, and was at the point where I was trading in my Slaughter and Firehouse CDs for Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. Metal as I knew it seemed so trite and meaningless in the face of all that angst and flannel. Then one day I was hanging out with MTV on in the background when the video for Pull Me Under came on. I dropped whatever I was doing and was glued to the TV. It was obviously a metal song, but it was totally unlike anything I’d ever heard before. It took less than a minute of sampling Images & Words at the local CD store to convince me to buy it. This album just blew me away. I know Fates Warning and Queensryche had already started the progressive metal movement, but Dream Theater was the first band I had heard playing that kind of music. To me it was like the offspring of Rush and Metallica. The complex song structures, emotional lyrics, obvious technical prowess, and overall intensity of the album just hit me in totally new ways. I’d be 3 or 4 minutes into a song like Learning to Live or Take the Time when the style would shift and just yank me with it like it had a hold on my heart. It’s so hard to describe the way that album affected me. It’s not a perfect album, (I actually hate the song Another Day) but it is my favorite album and after hundreds of listens I’m still not tired of it. Their later works would never quite stand up to Images & Words (though Train of Thought came pretty close), but Dream Theater would still remain my all-time favorite band.

    Music fads have come and gone since then, but to me nothing would ever sound like Dream Theater. Of course I later found out that there were several bands, and indeed entire record labels (Magna Carta, I’m talking to you!) that made every attempt to sound exactly like Dream Theater, but they would just never measure up. Dream Theater set the standard for every other progressive metal band to try and live up to.

    The album is 14 years old now, so there are no doubt lots of people discovering it for the first time after hearing some of the newer bands like Symphony X, Vanden Plas, or Evergrey. It may not have the same impact as it did then, but it stands the test of time quite well.

    Posted on January 20, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I first appreciated Dream Theater only after growing into modern progressive rock, having been stuck in 70s progressive rock for more than two decades. The first Dream Theater album that I appreciated was the phenomenal “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.” Once I realized how incredible that album was I moved on to this album from 1992. I was stunned and fascinated by the difference between the two albums and think that both are enjoyable for completely different reasons. One of the biggest differences to me was that the later album seemed to show fewer and different influences from this album, which reminded me more of Rush and seemed a bit more derivative than “Inner Turbulence.” Regardless of the strength and number of influences, this album deals with less weighty topics than “Inner Turbulence” and is more of a “fun” album than “Inner Turbulence.”

    The CD begins with the fantasy song “Pull Me Under.” While the topic is the inevitability of death, the spirited guitars, percussion and vocals generate catchy hooks that make you want to sing along, or at least hum along when you are unable to remember the words. The locomotive bass drives this song filled with rowdy passengers, all of whom are along for the ride, and you have to wonder why anyone would worry about death with a song this good.

    “Another Day” is uncharacteristic of Dream Theater and most hard rock bands. The style of the song is strongly reminiscent of 80s hair bands, mellow with a mild beat. This tune features ear-friendly and even radio friendly hooks. While the style may be very different from Dream Theater’s more challenging works, this song is well performed and I enjoy the surrealistic feel to the lyrics.

    You can start rocking again with “Take the Time,” which speeds up and ramps up the power of the beat. The technical sophistication of Dream Theater shows in this technically and vocally complex song. While there remain elements similar to “Another Day,” Dream Theater’s future musical direction is detectable.

    The pace slows again at the start of “Surrounded,” speeding up about a third of the way into the song. The beat remains relatively friendly, the lyrics are poetic and fantasy based, and the general tone is upbeat. After the frenetic center portion of this song the song slows dramatically at the end and becomes briefly introspective, perhaps conveying regret at the end of the dream.

    “Metropolis – Part I” is a song that is nine minutes and thirty-two seconds of playful fun. The song was written by John Petrucci loosely based on Romulus and Remus from the “Aeneid.” Romulus and Remus were linked telepathically and the lyrical elements of the song infer that link. The song feels like a fantasy though the elements are mythology-based. The tone of the song is upbeat and complex. I keep wanting to use the word “fun” because this song combines the enthusiasm of Rush with the complexity of Yes in the unique style of Dream Theater. I call this song ear candy.

    The next song is a grinder; “Under a Glass Moon” growls, rumbles, churns and vibrates. The bass guitar grinds sound like a food processor and the drums frenetically punch you with their relentless rhythm. The fantasy lyrics, the seven minute length, and the ever-intricate rock instrument composition are all indications that you are in the realm of progressive rock that has aged well.

    “Wait for Sleep” is a lovely piano and vocal interlude that calls forth imagery of someone lost in their thoughts, perhaps trying to escape their thoughts, perhaps dreading their dreams. This pretty song indicates to the uninitiated that progressive rock is indeed one of the broadest of genres, capable of encompassing any suitable style.

    While much of this album is positive in tone, “Learning to Live” is more contemplative and somber. I have read elsewhere that the song is about AIDS. However, the lyrics may be more broadly read to cover any situation where your priorities have changed to surviving, perhaps from an incurable disease, but depression could be included as well. At eleven and a half minutes this song is the longest on this CD, but it moves briskly with a fast and intricate progressive rock beat. This song seemed to me to be the most Yes-influenced song on the CD, particularly during the middle portion, which contains wonderful instrumental variations, including acoustic guitar. Instrumentally this song contains some of the most interesting music on this CD.

    The music on this CD is very different from “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.” The compositions are closer to hard rock with more influences from groups such as Yes and Rush. It seems to me that the later album shows how much Dream Theater has evolved its own style in the last 10 years. Surprisingly, I also thought that this album contained more traditional progressive rock elements than the later album (perhaps read old-fashioned, if there can be such a thing in progressive rock). After listening to this CD several times, I think it would have made a great soundtrack to the fantasy movie “Ladyhawke.”

    I can understand how some listeners might prefer this album to later albums such as “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence,” which to my ear is musically current versus the strong 80s flavor of “Images and Words.” I like both CDs for very different reasons. The later album is very technically sophisticated and socially relevant, while this album focuses on fantasy and mythology imagery that Dream Theater tried to describe lyrically and musically. Both albums contain well-crafted and performed music that will challenge the ability of listeners to learn to appreciate the intricacies of Dream Theater’s music. This CD is surely a worthy addition to any progressive rock music fan’s library.

    Posted on January 19, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Where to start? SIMPLY THE BEST CD I’VE EVER HEARD. My review-actually no one person’s review–will do justice to I&W, so don’t wait for some ultimately persuasive words to click on the “Buy” button–just do it, IMMEDIATELY. You’ll thank me later.

    I hate reviews that are put in general terms, so here are a ton of specifics:

    For those who appreciate variant musical styles, this CD should be a no-brainer for your collection. The more complex charts will probably not appeal to a mainstream demographic, although some tracks (Pull Me Under, Another Day, Wait for Sleep) will catch the average listener’s attention with their riveting melodies. But no CD in the last decade–or perhaps ever–can touch Images & Words for its complete musicianship and epic-style storytelling. Dream Theater manages to fuse balladic lyrics and melodies with searing riffs and unusual technical complexity. Rare is the band that pulls off such a cacophony of stylistic nonconformity and makes it work. In Images & Words, DT not only makes it work, but makes it enjoyable to listen to.

    Each song is a bit different than the other, and they run the gamut of categories from a short vocal soliloquy accompanied by only a piano background (Wait for Sleep) to an 11 1/2 minute documentary (Learning to Live) tackling the topic of being infected with AIDS (released in 1992 when AIDS still scared the hell out of people). Most of the songs contain at least some passages in which the band is showing off its chops, but again DT showcases its talent without reducing the songs’ artistic value. For example, “Under a Glass Moon” is an in-your-face technical machismo-fest that retains logical musical progressions. “Surrounded” teases the listener with multiple time changes, but the seamless beauty of the music is uncompromised (not to mention intellectually stimulating religious undertones in its fantasy-world lyrics). And “Metropolis Part I” challenges both the musical and cerebral faculties of the audience by previewing a story about one man’s discovery of a past life through hypnotic regression. Think of it as a “Prologue” to “Act I” of an intellectual rock musical. What makes “Metropolis” even more impressive is how the tone of the music adjusts to match the widely changing 1st-person moods and 3rd-person perceptions of the story’s characters. It is brilliant work, continued in my 2nd-favorite of DT’s studio releases (behind only Images & Words), titled “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory.” In this album, the entire CD comprises 9 scenes from Acts I and II of the Metropolis “musical.” Stunning and definitely worth buying, but I digress.

    Why do I specifically enjoy this music so much? As the son of two music teachers who had classically refined musical tastes, I was exposed to a lot of opera and symphonic music while growing up. Oversaturation of the classics set in at an early age, yet through so much exposure I developed a mature appreciation for the fundamentals of musical technique. After experimenting with the Styx-Chicago-Journey-Supertramp-Kansas-Triumph genre and some hair metal in high school, my favorite bands emerged as Rush and Queensryche. These bands of course balance melodic hooks and technically difficult accompaniment very well, and bring meaningful lyrics into the mix. I enjoyed some harder rock in brief moments, but the likes of Pantera and pre-”Sandman” Metallica were a little too heavy for me at the time.

    When I was first introduced to Dream Theater through my college roommate’s Images & Words CD, I instantly knew it was the perfect unique mix of my life’s worth of musical tastes. I must have spun this CD literally thousands of times over the last 10 years–for the first year I played it 3 to 5 times a day, back to back, sometimes skipping class to master the lyrics or reverse engineer the time changes and syncopation. Impossible! Hypnotic! ADDICTIVE.

    If this were almost any other band, I would say that the almost-too-self-indulgent vocals of James LaBrie are supported by some of the world’s best chops on instruments. But Mike Portnoy on drums, John Petrucci on guitar, and Kevin Moore on keyboards all have lead roles in the musicality of the CD. While individualistic, these parts combine with a tour-de-force of power that somehow works extremely well together. John Myung’s bass part usually lends a supportive role rather than a leading presence, but his musicianship and technical mastery of the instrument are phenomenal as well.

    LaBrie is an exceptionally strong vocalist, and his part-time bravado / part-time pussycat approach probably would not have matched as well with the style of any other band I can think of. Each band member deserves a significant bio, but rather than having me take apart each of his tendencies in this meaningless text, one truly must experience the blend of talent in person to understand. SO BUY THE CD! After you’ve become hooked, check out some of DT’s other work. They are a band who have achieved a significant hard-core international fan base by doing things THEIR way, maintaining their dignity by avoiding the common and sticking to what makes them unique. No sellouts in this group!

    The bottom line? After spinning the CD a few times to get through the technical facade, the listener finds himself interactively engaged with the music, craving a deeper understanding of the lyrics, wanting to decipher the difficult musical passages, and trying to imagine himself as a character in the dramatic scenes that are playing out. Yes, the “images and words” brought forth by this music transports the imaginative listener to a “dream theater.” Like the near-perfect details in these songs, the names of the CD and the band were not chosen by accident.


    Posted on January 19, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now