Sound — 9
Images and Words is the second studio album by the great progressive metal band Dream Theater. Despite it only being the band's second album, it is still amazing, and in my opinion one of Dream Theater's best ever. It is full of great, powerful songs that appeal not only to your typical metalhead but is also more accessible to the public, with many great elements of rock and other progressive music incorporated flawlessly. If you're familiar with Dream Theater's first album, When Day and Dream Unite, you'll soon notice the band has kept the same general style. This time around however, you'll be looking at something much more polished and professional. Just from putting these albums side by side it becomes apparent just how much these guys have developed as musicians. The album consists of a total of eight tracks (around an hour of music), and not many (if any) of these tracks are a disappointment. Full of great melodies, instrumentation, and an awesome blend of styles, even if you hate metal or hard rock there will still be something for you. Although this blend of different types of music will make it easier for others to adapt to the band, there are times it seems where putting emphasis on one style more than another will turn listeners off of certain tracks. In general though, most of these songs are nearly flawless and almost all of them you'll find wanting to listen to again. As a band, Dream Theater has definitely grown. Even just listening to the way each band member reacts to one another and how their parts fit together shows this. When they play, although you can pick out each individual instrument, instead of seeming like just a group of different musicians, they seem like one band. They're very tight, and it's apparent that they've spent a lot of time playing together. Overall the band as a whole has done a fantastic job with very little to criticize. Now, for the musicians as individuals. First of all, John Petrucci is an amazing, very technical guitarist. All of his guitar parts are great, and fit in perfectly with everything else thats going on. Although his solos are very fast and often amazing, often they're too much about the technical skill and less about the actual feeling and melodic lines. Mike Portnoy has shown himself as one of the greatest drummers in the world, and this album does little to prove that wrong. The drums are very complicated, very intense, and yet they don't overwhelm anything or take away from the attention of the listener. Virtually flawless. Next there's John Myung, the bass player for the band. For the most part, his bass is great at supporting the band and is still audible and moving. In particular, his bass solo in "Metropolis, Pt. I: The Miracle and the Sleeper" is great. Next, keyboard player Kevin Moore is wicked. The keyboard is very instrumental to this band in many ways, and on top of providing a large portion of the songs Kevin Moore throws down some amazing solos. Finally, Jay Beckenstein's soprano sax on "Another Day" also deserves some honourable mention. Overall, these musicians are some of the most technically skilled players, not just for this genre of music but for all music. They can all playing amazingly, and still know when to keep it simple and when to keep it intense. This album is not good. It's not even great. It's AMAZING. There are very small flaws here and there, true, but for a second album? Very few bands are capable of such an album in their entire career, let alone their second one. It's full of great instrumentation and lots of technical skill is involved in these songs. If solos were less shreddy and more emotional in some parts of the songs I feel it would be even better, but other than that I can't think of much else to complain about. Maybe make the transitions between styles easier to change with. But great job in almost every respect.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics on this album are great. They definitely suit the style of the music and add to the whole experience, but I feel like some of them could be slightly improved. There are a few cliched and cheesy lines here and there that could have been replaced, but I feel that for the most part they did a great job. "Metropolis, Pt. I: The Miracle and the Sleeper" in my opinion definitely has the best lyrics on the album, telling a story that's actually interesting while still being enjoyable to listen to. James LaBrie is the vocalist on this album and remains to be so to this day. This is the first album he was featured on, replacing the original vocalist Charlie Dominici. For the most part, LaBrie has great range and a fairly good voice. He's not perfect though, and sometimes when put next to the other musical virtuosos seems a little lacking. In general though, he is on no account a bad singer, and adds to this album in many ways.
Overall Impression — 9
If you've heard any other Dream Theater before and enjoyed it, this album is a good choice no matter what. If you have NEVER heard Dream Theater before, this is as good a place as any to start. Some of my favourites from the album include "Metropolis, Pt. I: The Miracle and the Sleeper", "Another Day", and "Take the Time". This album is great the first few times through, and does get old eventually, but you'll get a ton of usage out of it for sure. This is certainly in my top three favourite Dream Theater albums, and with very few flaws you can't go wrong with this purchase. If this album was stolen from me I would let the guy keep it just so he could be exposed to this awesome music, then buy another copy and a better home security system. Overall, amazing album. Check it out.