Sound — 10
Why oh why am I the first to be reviewing this album? Does anyone else have ears and fingers? This is, without a doubt, the best metal album ever made, one of the best rock operas ever, and just one of the best albums ever. Here's the sound in a nutshell: take the general song structure of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, add some David Gilmour guitar tone, a few quiet moody breaks like Floyd with some twelve string guitar and keyboard, mix in one of the best vocalists ever (Geoff Tate), and back it up with constant awesome drumming. That's the formula for making a nearly unequaled album. Highlights are so hard to chose because almost every song is someone's favourite. They are all so good that there's no way to pick the best. For me, the highlight would be The Mission because no one has delivered a vocal performance that good in any song I have ever heard.
Lyrics — 10
Quite simply, the best lyrics on any album, with the possible exception(s) of Dark Side of the Moon and/or The Wall. As far as the rock opera story goes, it's about on par with the wall. I won't give anything away because it is too epic. Like I said before, Tate is one of the best singers ever. Very few songs/albums can come close to his vocals and the lyrics on this album.
Overall Impression — 10
It's, along with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, my 2nd favourite album ever after Dark Side. I can't begin to explain how good it is. And if it were stolen, I would not stop until I found and ended the person who took it. Well, maybe I'd be forgiving. After all, I don't think anyone in their right mind could resist this album.