Sound — 10
John Petrucci (guitar), Tony Levin (bass/stick), Jordan Rudess (keyboards) and Mike Portnoy (drums) make the perfect blend for instrumental prog-metal. John and Jordan trade solo for solo throughout the album. Petrucci's guitar-playing is astoundingly complex, fast and varied. In fact, the same can be said of Rudess's keyboard skills. I can't say that I always enjoy keyboards on an album (especially instrumentals), but on this album, they work perfectly and add a great extra dimension to the music. Tony Levin is an amazing bassist, and he always plays interesting, skilled basslines which also add that extra dimension many bands lack. And, of course, Mike Portnoy shows himself to be an incredibally talented drummer throughout the album. Each song is equally impressive, and they all seem to convey different emotions. The last 5 tracks consist of a fantastic 28 minute jam between the musicians, and this really emphasises the story behind the album and the musician's characters (the whole album was recorded in a week with 4 musicians who had only played as a group one or two times before in rehursals!)
Lyrics — 10
There aren't any lyrics in the album. Simple. But I'll give it a 5 anyway.
Overall Impression — 10
The stand out songs are Paradigm Shift, Universal Minds and the 28 minute jam (of course), but all of the tracks are highly quality musicianship with unique sound that they somehow master wonderfully well. If this were stolen, I would sell another CD and buy another copy.