Sunday, June 11, 2006

An Image Is Worth A Thousand Words ...

Dream Theater is my favourite band. There I said it. And that's not easy since I already said that Savatage was. Seriously though, Dream Theater is up there in my list of all time fave's. When one hears of Progressive Metal, it will inevitably link to Dream Theater. They may not be the pioneer, but their influence is unmistakable in such acts as Symphony X and Pagan Mind to name just a couple. Today I'll talk about "Images and Words" Dream Theater's 2nd album and first with new vocalist James Labrie.

I bought this album for the song "Pull Me Under" which I caught on Much Music's Power Hour (I miss power hour) and it was my first experience into the world of Progressive Metal. After one spin in the old cassette player, I didn't listen to it again for like a year. I don't know why. I love "Pull Me Under" but I think I was daunted by the off timed epic-ness of the album. I found the tape again and decided that since I bought the dang thing, I should give it another shot. And it grew on me. So much that I'd eagerly anticipate new albums (up to 2 years at times!) and read up in all kinds of magazines about the band. Sure some will say that an album should hook you in right away and that's good, but there's something about listening to an album and discovering new and exciting bits that perhaps you didn't notice at first; Little nuances that let you experience the album for the "first time" with each repeated listen.

Images and Words opens with "Pull Me Under" which is one of my favourite tracks. "Pull..." has a catchy and killer heavy riff that just makes you wanna bang your head. The Keyboards add a very nice freaky feel and the song ends suddenly which gives the track an appropriate feeling of being pulled under. Nice touch. The signature Dream Theater sound is very prominent on the songs "Take The Time" and "Under A Glass Moon". And things are slowed down with progressive metal ballads (?) like "Another Day" with it's intricate melodies, great solo and a touch of Saxophone, though James Labrie's vocals feel a little strained on this track. "Waiting For Sleep" is a lovely piano driven piece, but my favourite ballad is "Surrounded". This song has a great intro with piano and strings and labries vocals shine out on this track. John Petrucci's guitarwork is phenomenal in the sense that he plays to the song and not to excess, though he let's loose with a beautiful solo. "Surrounded" plays out like a picture, very visually stimulating.

The 2 stand-out tracks for me are "Learning To Live" and "Metropolis pt.1 - The Miracle and The Sleeper". "Learning..." is the longest song on the album, clocking in at over 11 minutes, but it never gets boring. This song feels like a lesson in life as you listen, with dark elements and upbeat parts that all blend together to reminds us that life is worth living. At the 7:10 minute mark Petrucci blasts us with a heart wrenching yet uplifting guitar riff/solo that almost brings me to tears every time I here it, but I don't cry cause I'm a man and men don't cry, so let's say it makes my eyes water like there's something in it ... let's leave it at that.

My favourite track, if I had to choose, would be "Metropolis Pt.1 ... " simply because I consider it to be the most diverse track and also that it is a fine example of a progressive metal song that's both technically proficient and emotionally moving. The song has a doomy hopefulness to it that gives us an uneasy feeling before it bursts into a chaotic mind bending instrumental that Dream theater is famous for and would become there trademark feature. It's heavy yet doesn't compromise melody, thanks in part to Labries beautiful vocals. Metropolis part II would become album of its own (and a fantastic one at that! reviewed later).

I read somewhere once that if Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Wagner and I don't know (insert another famous composer here) were alive today , they would be Dream Theater an I believe that to be a very accurate statement. The musicianship of all the members is phenomenal. Kevin Moore and John Petrucci's simultaneous guitar/ keyboard solo's are awe inspiring. Mike Portnoy's drum work is staggering and Labries vocals soar. As with most bassists John Myung's guitar work goes unnoticed on the album (at least to the untrained bass ear) but watching him live you can see he's not just poses or a background player.

Though this is not my favourite Dream Theater album, I consider it a must have for any metal head whether you like Progressive or not.

Up next will be a post that's a little different, but something I'll probably throw in the blog every once and a while. Stay tuned!


Anonymous rockerchick said...

Ok..I don't automatically think of them when I hear of progressive metal, but that's probably because I don't know what progressive metal is! :)

11:52 AM  
Blogger Chana said...

i like coming to your blog...i don't understand it. i have no idea who any of these bands are but that is okay too. i figure i try to learn from different tastes...but i never have anything to say, i guess my comment is i'm here and got nothing...but you do very good.

thank you for your comment..pretty nice to hear from you...Joe ended up going to the docs, his rash/swollen/thing was growing and it itch like crazy...doc said it was an allergic reaction and gave him some cream..i hope it works..he is in pain and it looks worst than a beat up car, dents and scratches..

4:26 PM  

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