Images and Words is the second album by progressive metal band Dream Theater. Released in 1991, it is the first DT album where the vocals are done by James LaBrie. Dream Theater neatly avoids the second album problem and delivers an album that is engaging from beginning to end.
- Pull Me Under (8:13):
Synthesisers open the album, before the rest of the band joins in with a surprisingly laid-back opening for a metal album. The sound slowly becomes heavier leading into the first verse. The verse is soon followed by the pounding chorus and one of the short solos which form the backbone of many Dream Theater songs. This pattern repeats several times, while tension slowly builds. The song ends abruptly.
- Another Day (4:23):
Melodic piano leads into this light, almost poppy song. The focus is firmly on the lyrics, which urge someone to keep on living despite everything happening to them. Saxophonist Jay Beckenstein joins the band to add a more varied texture to the piece. A good contrast to the opener that shows Dream Theater's versatility.
- Take the Time (8:21):
Firmly back in heavy metal territory for now, Take The Time still has a number of quieter interludes to break the tension. The bright, optimistic tone of Another Day continues here, proving that a heavy song does not need to sound dark.
- Surrounded (5:30):
A slow, reflective beginning disguises this song's true form, which intercedes after about 1:30. After this point, it becomes a rather busy song, driven by synths and drums. The acceleration continues through the song until it returns to the mood of the introduction for the last minute.
- Metropolis Part I: The Miracle and the Sleeper (9:32):
Dream Theater's first truly great extended composition, this song was originally called 'Part I' as a group in-joke. After much pestering by fans, the band began a Metropolis Part II, which would eventually evolve into their 1999 masterpiece concept album Scenes from a Memory. Heavy and filled with stunning instrumental work, this is one song that must be heard to be experienced. It would have remained a good, ordinary sized song were it not for the stunning, 3:45-long instrumental break beginning about four minutes into the song. You almost forget that it is a vocal song until the familiar melody from the opening returns and along with it the lyrics. Things then flow to a suitably grand finale.
- Under a Glass Moon (7:03):
Another heavy metal song, this is one of the lesser songs on the album. The style of the song foreshadows much of their later work, especially "The Glass Prison" from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.
- Wait for Sleep (2:31):
This calm, reflective ballad serves as an effective introduction to the next song. It is probably Dream Theater's best soft song.
- Learning to Live (11:30):
The second epic on the album, Learning to Live is not as focused as Metropolis Part I, but remains a good song and an appropriate album closer. The main melody from Wait for Sleep returns, and is woven into several other melodic elements to create a textured and varied song that does not lose the listener's interest despite its length.
Although the synthesiser tones are rather dated, the rest of the album has aged quite well and it forms a good introduction to Dream Theater's catalogue. Many of their later albums would focus on the heavy parts almost to the exclusion of lighter moments, but this has a good balance of heavy and light music. Well worth listening to.
This writeup is copyright 2003 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.0/ .