Monday, February 25, 2013

Dream Theather - Images and Words (1992)

Whilst talking to my brother the other day, we were discussing the difference between American and European metal, and I realised there were very few USA metal bands that I really, really liked. At that point, the only one I could think of were Queensryche and White Lion/Freak of Nature but now after some more thought, I would like to add Dream Theater and Savatage to that list. I was first introduced to Dream Theater in the early 90s, when we stayed in someone's house in Nelson. There had been a Japanese student boarding there, and he had left some of his albums. Most were Japanese pop/rock (which was rather pleasant, even with the lyrics all being foreign) and this album. Well, not this actual cd, as I did not steal it! After hearing them, I was hooked and one day came upon the record (vinyl) in our local store-of-goodness, Echo. As this predated eftpos cards, I had to run to the bank to withdrawal the cash. I returned just in time to see someone else buying it. Yes, I know, I should have asked the shop assistant to hold it under the counter for me. Anyhow, I eventually purchased it on cd from Borders, from the look of things, some many years later! And since I cannot currently play my vinyl collection, I suppose it is better that way.

Dream Theater began in 1985 under the name Majesty and hail from Massacusetts, America. They are still active today and have 11 albums under their belt - plus numerous bootlegs. They are one of the early progressive metal bands, similar in some stylings to Rush, but rather heavier. Their sound is rich and dramatic, soaring and proud, filled with complex stylings, keyboards and elaborate structures. The vocals are of the higher register, but vocalist James LeBrie has a crystaline and glorious voice, never shrieking, never screeching.

The album cover is beautiful - a small girl with thick curly hair and a white nightdress standing in an elaborate bedroom - with four post bed, vase of flowers and, slightly offcentre, a floating heart wrapped about with barbed wire. Above, the ceiling changes from the decorative trim of the bedroom to a cloud-swept sky, as though the bed will snatch her away into another world of wonders. It folds out instead of being a booklet, and there is a panoramic photo of the band, standing before some sort of arch, all very purple. On the other side can be found the lyrics.

"Pull me Under" begins with the gentle guitar chords, giving way as the keyboards roll over them in glorious synthesized sound, rising in power. It is almost two minutes in before LeBrie's voice rises like a sunlit storm. A little repetitive, it draws to a very abrupt ending, cutting off mid word.

A slower and more melodic number, "Another Day" stirs the spirit and ignites within a small spark of bittersweet hope. The saxophone adds its melancholic voice to the melody.

The intro to "Take the Time" is rather more dramatic, as the keyboardist is given rein and the bass churns in. The vocal style is different: faster, lower whilst around it the keyboard swoops and soars, then the voice too soars reaching to the skies. The sheer diverseness of the music, the complex arrangements between keyboard and guitar, vocals and drums make you realise how truly difficult it must be to compose music and brings the piece into glorious life*.

Piano and keyboards dance together and we're "Surrounded" by their delicate sound. LeBrie's vocals are a gentle caress, building into something a little more lively and brimming with goodwill and positivity. This song, in particular, reminds me of Marillion. The rising keyboards, the celebratory rhythms.

"Metropolis pt 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper" is a spirited and energetic song, with complicated keyboard structures, creating an evocative and imaginative symphony. The lyrics are poetic and beautiful.
"Love is the Dance of Eternity"
Heavy bass brings us into "Under a Glass Moon", another complex and deftly weaven symphony of keyboards and guitar.

Another slower moment, "Wait for Sleep" is exquisite and gentle. The keyboards are vibrant and alive, their sound etheral.This continues on into "Learning to Live". It is quite a mellow, peaceful song, but an inner current of inspiration and the dramatic flairs through it.

In conclusion; a lovely, dynamic elaborate and beautifully woven album, definitely deserving of 7/10.

* If there is one thing I am learning from this listen-to-all-my-CDs project, it is how the combination of various instrumental "voices" and arrangements can truly create a mood - from the slightly discordant and unsettling (Confessor), to the tense and frustrated (Tad Morose), and also to the positive and uplifting (most of my other stuff). There is a lot more to music than I have really appreciated previously. It used to be that I concentrated mostly on the vocals, but there is so much more to music than the voice.

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