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These guys basically had the right idea, the right formula, at the right time to really be a substantial force within the progressive scene in Europe, jumping on the Dream Theater train a good couple of years before it became fashionable to do so. They have the adequate skills and the right blend of jazz, rock and metal influences to put together a fairly solid set of extended songs. But the problem is that the band never really seemed to get beyond being adequate and actually putting out something that takes one’s breath away.
Every song on this album is catchy, charming, and full of beautiful sounds. The problem is that they really don’t jump out at you and tend to coast through a variety of differing styles in a fairly safe manner. “In Search” is probably the best example of this problem, as the thing goes for 7 minutes and never really seems to hit any sort of climax. The guitars changeup between soft sounding sections, pounding distorted chords and even a few fairly charming melodic solos, but everything around it is just utterly stagnated. It’s 7 minutes long and overall feel of the song, along with the vocal performance, remains flat and subdued. Indeed, Mathias Sandquist extremely plain sounding vocals are what hamper a lot of this. He doesn’t sound like a James LaBrie or a Ray Adler, nor does he have a unique sounding powerful voice, it’s simply a voice that stays well within the standard comfort range of most Rock singers, utterly devoid of character and emotion.
Sometimes the keyboards put out a charming theme that is fairly reminiscent of Aryeon’s more recent material and mix it to an atmosphere that flirts with a “Perfect Symmetry” sound, but just drags things out. Whenever Arjen puts something together like this he puts in about twice as many ideas of this, all of them far more intricate. Stylistically this is basically stuck in 1990 and doesn’t even attempt to break out of the mold. Songs like “Alone” and “Four Seasons”, the latter of which does have a fairly interesting introduction, are entertaining enough, but don’t cross over into that mystique of wonder and technical prowess that made “Images And Words” the classic that it remains as to this day.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a fairly entertaining listen if you like progressive rock with a slightly more aggressive tendency than usual. But it falls more into the lines of Empty Tremor, minus the exceptional vocalist, than anything else and even that particular band isn’t very well renowned next to the better known acts. If you’ve gotten all of the first 4 albums that Dream Theater put out then you’ve likely heard 90% of what is on here, minus maybe the lead guitar sound which is a little closer to Tommy Shaw than John Petrucci in character. Not something that is essential, but a decent collection of songs for someone with extra money to blow.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-oberver.com) on November 29, 2008.