Sound — 8
This is Dream Theater's first record, and anyone listening can guess it's their Freshman album. The recording quality is typical of many bands' first albums - Metallica's Kill 'Em All and Symphony X's eponymous debut, to name a few, featured a distinctly poor recording quality compared to those bands' later works. However, I must praise that you can actually HEAR John Myung without trying too hard or breaking out the audio software. His bass is punchy and you can hear every note - this is how it should have sounded in every album thereafter! Portnoy's drums can sound a little odd, but that's also something people say about Images and Words (especially the triggered snare), considered by many as their best album. Another gripe people have about this album is Charlie. I feel his voice fits right in, and he has a very large range. Though they replaced him with LaBrie (I may get struck down by the DT Gods' thunder for saying this), they could have done well with Dominici also. In fact, I really didn't like his voice at first but it grew on me the more I listened to this album, and quite frankly that's what James LaBrie did too when I first got into DT. Don't let the rather 80's sound turn you off from the incredible music on this album.
Lyrics — 9
Their lyrics on this and the next two or three albums are more fantasy-based instead of reflective, as on their new albums which focus more on the band's personal experiences. I prefer the fantasy style of lyrics; it adds one more bullet to the progressive rsum of the album. The rhymes are never awkward and the words are never confusing. Often the tone of the lyrics will change with the tone of the music (such as in Light Fuse And Get Away). The meaning of each song is easy to decipher; there isn't a lyric on here which I don't understand.
Overall Impression — 10
I have to pump points into this category. The songs are incredibly complex, and the solos are among the most imaginative in their career - check out The Ones Who Help To Set The Sun and A Fortune In Lies. The unisons are classic - like the ones from Only A Matter Of Time and Afterlife, and the technical quality of the songwriting is very high - they knew what they were doing. The Killing Hand is an absolutely epic song. The riffs are memorable and never 'weird'. This is the kind of music I can only dream of being able to write. The songs are so varied from each other, as well as from one minute to the next. I recommend anyone who has heard their newer stuff to give this album a listen to hear what they started out doing, and anyone who is a fan of their earlier 90's works should buy it without delay.