June 29, 2005

Dream Theater: 2005 Images & Words

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

5. Images & Words

It’s a testament to Dream Theater’s ability to move forward that this album is ranked so low. When this one was released in 1992 it essentially started the modern progressive music scene, which had been languishing after punk supplanted prog rock in the 70s. This is a towering of an album monolith of an album and, though I think it’s a little silly to tie music to tightly to the past, many prog fans still consider this the yardstick against which any new prog album is measured. When complaining about the state of new albums, many fans wish somebody could just makes something more like Images & Words. The album is just packed with great songs that typify everything Dream Theater has come to stand for, a tight blend of good tunes and complex music. This album established to goal of prog metal to take what some see as the overly cerebral prog rock of the 70s and show that music can be both cerebral and rock to; you can make something that you can just bop around to, sing along with, or sit down and think about.

Now, it did come out in ’92, so not all the songs have held up as well as others, which really accounts for where it is on the list. To me, however, this just shows how adept Dream Theater is at keeping their sound updated. They’ve never released an album that sounded like a throwback; never gotten so locked into one sound that they get passed by. Sure, metal may not exactly be popular these days, but that’s not what I mean. They’re not chasing the charts, they’re taking the style of music they’re in and pushing it forward, incorporating modern bits into the old formula to keep it from getting stale.

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