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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dream Theater

Images And Words

Review by Gary Hill

Images and Words marked the debut of lead singer James LaBrie to the DT fold and his performance here showed him to be a powerhouse of talent. This disc is arguably the most metallic in the DT catalog, certainly fueling the prog versus metal debate in progressive rock circles. Still, there are plenty of examples present proving that the band are a prog one. Anyone questioning that fact really only has to give a listen to "Metropolis - Part I - The Miracle and The Sleeper" to get their answer. The disc provided a few DT classics and still holds up well to repeated listenings.

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Track by Track Review
Pull Me Under
Starting in dramatic acoustically driven tones, the cut begins building on this theme in heavy modes. The percussion here feels a bit John Bonhamish. This cut, after it really kicks in, could add fuel to the fire of the band being called "metal", the guitar sound really calling to mind Metallica. Still, there are plenty of progish textures featured here. This is a very strong and frantic number that still stands up as one of the band's best. The instrumental break has a definite fusionish texture at times.
Another Day
Piano based melodies start this. Then arena rock type guitar takes over for a time. It drops back to piano and voice to fully establish this one as a ballad. The cut grows on themes already begun as it carries forward. This is a good, but not exceptional piece. Jay Beckenstein's sax does add a jazzy texture.
Take the Time
This is the first full on prog cut of the album. It comes in tentatively, then a staccato pattern takes the number. Keys provide the icing and a metallic segment ensues and carries the track for a time. It drops to a sparser movement after a time. LaBrie's vocals are especially potent here. The cut runs through this movement for a while, interspersed with bursts of instrumental fury. A slower, more sedate segment provides strong contrast and is intensely evocative. The composition jumps back up from there into a triumphant sounding segment that feels a bit like a hard edged cross between Yes and Genesis. This element carries the instrumental break for a time before it changes into a riff dominated segment with blues textures. A keyboard solo dominates the next segment. This eventually leads out of the break and back into the song proper. After running through and crescendoing, this drops to a potent new, more melodic section. Then the chorus returns to serve as the basis for the outro.
Surrounded
Keys start this one, first in rather atmospheric ways, then a piano based balladic style joins. The vocals come in here, and the cut carries in this mode, building gradually. Eventually it breaks loose with guitar sounds that call to mind more classic prog. After running through for a time this changes to a new classic prog jam for a time, then a new verse in hard edged, but stylish ways enters to carry the cut. This one is one of the most classically prog-based numbers on the disc, and a very strong one. It drops back to the poignant balladic elements to end.
Metropolis - Part I - The Miracle and The Sleeper
A rather droning melody takes this from the keys that begin it, and start the slow building of the track. Suddenly metallic fury bursts forth. The band rework the piece in a rather prog metalish fashion for a time. Keys eventually weave lines of melody over top, but then a very metallic mode takes over to form the basis of the verse. Eventually a more melodic segment, incredibly powerful and even pretty in tone takes over and carries through, gradually working its way back to the hard-edged. The cut wanders its way through this building until a new keyboard dominated instrumental segment takes over, eventually bursting into frantic jamming. It continues growing, making its way through a lot of mini moments, and featuring some of the most prog oriented work of the whole CD, and certainly the most dynamic. This min-epic can be a bit hard to keep up with, but is certainly worth the price of admission all by itself. It is a bit Crimsonesque at times, and feels rather like ELP others. After this one you just have to say "Wow!".
Under A Glass Moon
This hard-edged prog cut is fast paced and dynamic with a lot of prog changes. It just doesn't stand out all that much.
Wait For Sleep
This is a powerful and evocative piano based melody that is quite brief.
Learning to Live
Keys begin this one, then a harder edged progression takes the cut. A keyboard solo runs over top for a time, then it drops to a more sparse element for the verse and begins building from there. It moves in organic directions for quite a while, becoming very powerful. Then it shifts directions to a mellower, almost Genesis or ELPish style. Then a series of changes takes the song, one of these is based on acoustic guitar stylings, and it builds its next elements on that basis. This works its way back up to the incredibly intense again after a time, then a new series of changing movements takes over for a while. It then drops back to mellower keys for a while, heralding in yet another new building process. This one is full of prog intensity, frantic jamming and is one of the true highlights of the CD.
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