Images and Words (1992)

Dream Theater

There are probably many Dream Theater fans who’d choose another title as the best album recorded by a band with 30 years at the forefront of progressive rock under its belt.  If we were to also focus exclusively on the figure of guitarist John Petrucci, a consensus would be impossible to reach. Image and Words, their second album recorded in 1992, is in fact their first with a relatively important label –a subsidiary of Atlantic-, served as the debut for James LaBrie, and MTV seized on it and helped to achieve sales figures far beyond what the band's own label expected. Above all, it's a great record, a wake-up call for a genre that was in dire need of fresh blood to reinvent itself. That's why it's probably best to steer clear of absurd debates over whether the band's superlative guitarist deserves the number 1 or 2 spot on the leader board of great guitar players.  His admirers have no doubts with respect.

What is worth discussing is who truly benefited from the crime, whether it was the progressive/ symphonic rock wing or the high voltage heavy metal of Metallica. The perspective of three decades allows us to declare a respectable tie for both genres. Dream Theater demonstrated that they could compose both complex symphonic suites to satisfy the perennial tastes of their hardliner following, at the same time making serious music in a thrash metal vein. Their influence has been essential in the appearance of new groups in both genres.

Their first big hit, Pull Me Under, kicks off Images and Words with all the power of a locomotive pulling a freight train where the brakes were at least working properly while following the song's twisting, turning path for more than eight minutes, a length of time we can say is standard for a Dream Theater  piece.
On Metropolis, halfway through the journey, the well-oiled machine seems to fly along with the double bass drum rhythm by Mike Portnoy stoking the engine.  Riding along in his wake, his bandmates invent something resembling jazz-metal. It is another of the indispensable great songs in the band's core repertoire.

John Petrucci
wasn't yet the living god of the six strings that he is today, the maestro of maestros with all due respect. Neither were the rest of the band, although the impressive instrumental contributions from each member were just a foreshadowing of the acclaim that would soon inevitably arrive.  It is a richly deserved story which their commanding live performances greatly contributed to, perfection achieved via jackhammer rhythms, catchy melodies and brilliant solos, not to mention absolute sincerity when performing their music live. This is not a band that hides itself behind walls of technology.

Such bare-faced sincerity probably explains so many ups-and-downs in their career, sacrificing fame to follow their creative instincts.  Or their desire to have a good time. Only Dream Theater are capable of staging a surprise live performance  the night before a major concert (in Barcelona) and play the Master of Puppets– and The Number of the Beast- from the first to last chord on the record without feeling like they were lowering themselves or robbing a single euro from the gig. Another bootleg for their legend and the huge parallel discography of live performances that the band themselves constantly feed into. Imagine if Iron Maiden were to…?