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Images & Words

An album by Dream Theater

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A defining moment in progressive metal

  • Dec 18, 2000
Dream Theater is typically scorned or adored by progressive rock fans. They certainly have their critics; there's no shortage of people derisively accusing them of overindulgent musicianship and pompous compositions. Concurrently, they have a fiercely devoted legion of fans who praise them as the torchbearers of progressive metal. Their definitive brand of progmetal spawned a good number of copycat bands, none of which can equal the preeminent originality and overall musicianship of Dream Theater.

With a ton of new material and new vocalist James LaBrie, Dream Theater hammered out an incredible piece of work with Images And Words, their breakthrough album, often lauded as their best. LaBrie was the ultimate choice to replace former singer Charlie Dominici; his operatic training, tempered with the aggressiveness of metal, was perfectly suited to DT's theatrical and soaring compositions. Whereas Dominici could not support the band's intensity, LaBrie's powerful tenor and ability to change notes on a dime surpasses all but the greatest singers in the metal genre.

I&W's predecessor, When Dream And Day Unite, was merely a vague indication of where this band was headed. By way of comparison, Images And Words is more complex, engaging, unique, and sincere. The myriad style influences, lengthy and elaborate instrumental passages, deep lyrics, curious meter measures and shifting time signatures imbued the band with a quality infrequently experienced. John Petrucci is incontrovertibly the greatest guitar virtuoso to emerge in the 90s; Mike Portnoy's drums clearly mark him as the next Neil Peart; John Myung's impossibly complex bass lines are unmatched in their intricacy; Kevin Moore's weaving keyboard dynamics support the heavy guitar focus, but sometimes his lyrical piano leads take center stage, and he proves that just how emotionally powerful that instrument can be. Independently, they are incredible musicians. Together, they form a single, cohering unit whose rapport is unmatched.

And the songs? Complex enough to dazzle, but not enough to sacrifice engaging melodic elements, this album is simply replete with good songs. Every song is indubitably superb, but special mention goes to "Metropolis Part I," a mesmerizingly complex track that establishes the foundation for "Metropolis Part II - Scenes From a Memory," the mind-blowing concept album that would be released seven years later.

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Clayton Reeder ()
Ranked #434
Rogue capitalist in search of all that is interesting, weird, or beautiful.      Collected here are my hundreds of reviews from Amazon.com, covering mostly music that is offensive … more
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Proof positive that one can be a virtuoso musician and also have heart, Dream Theater are in impressive form on this album, arguably their best. They do it by never allowing technical flash to overwhelm their songs; there's substance under the style, in the form of ear-catching riffs and aggressive rhythms. The opening "Pull Me Under" is, quite simply, a great song, from its sparse introduction to its heavy-duty main riff to its memorable lyrics. Dream Theater, as its name implies, is an introspective band, exploring the complexities of the human heart and bringing them to life with songs like "Learning to Live," "Take the Time," and "Wait for Sleep". Unlike many metal bands, they favor an optimistic outlook, as with "Another Day" and "Surrounded," and even the dazzlingly complex "Metropolis, Pt. 1" is an entertaining listen.-- Genevieve Williams
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Label: Atlantic, Wea
Artist: Dream Theater
Release Date: July 7, 1992

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