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An early Prog. Metal classic. - 89%

hells_unicorn, January 8th, 2007

The end of the 80s was a period of intense realignment within the metal community. Like the progressive rock acts of the 1970s, their work was defined by growth rather than the stagnation of the punk rock scene that they drew some of their more aggressive influences from. Bands such as Queensryche and Fates Warning were riding high with a series of solid releases, inspired by the dark music of Black Sabbath and the later NWOBHM, as well as the intellectualism of Rush. It is primarily from this grain of the metal genre that Dream Theater came into being, a band which managed to both survive and prosper in the aftermath of Metal’s fall from the mainstream a few years later.

Like all progressive bands, Dream Theater’s most innovative work did not occur on their debut, but what was done on the debut set the tone for the remainder of their career. They have always carried the introspective and philosophical aspects of Rush’s music, as well as their tendency towards complex song structures and blazing technical displays. The heavier part of their music screams out a large amount of influence from Fates Warning, particularly the later work done with John Arch such as “Awaken the Guardian”.

The lyrical content of “When Dream and Day Unite” touches upon a variety of differing experiences and original stories drawing out questions of society, introspection, and even metaphysics. From the sort of unconventional self-realization encountered on “Fortune in Lies”, a song telling the story of an acquaintance of the band who spent time in prison, to the self-irony of “Status Seeker”, seeing the band writing a commercially friendlier song that pokes fun at itself, the band has this sort of heightened awareness to their sound that matches the words. “Light Fuse and Get Away” and “The Ones Who Help to Set the Sun” are thematically a bit less obvious subject wise, though they continue the tradition of bending the boundaries of metal music.

The music on here is highly technical, but successfully balances out the virtuoso sections with catchy melodic sections. “Fortune in Lies”, “Status Seeker” “Afterlife” and “Only a Matter of Time” are the most memorable in the bunch. Although they all have quite drawn out intros and some sizable changes in feel, they still manage to function primarily as listener friendly songs with well defined sections. “The Killing Hand” showcases the Rush influences, and reminds me a bit of the “2112” song cycle, while lyrically presenting one of the most bizarre stories heard. “The Ytse Jam” is among the more well-known instrumentals put out by this band, and draws a bit from Rush’s famous instrumental “YYZ”. “The Ones Who Help to Set the Sun” and “Light Fuse and Get Away” contain some impressive keyboard and guitar work, the former containing my favorite John Petrucci solo on this release.

One of the drawbacks of this album is that vocalist Charles Domenici does not appear again in subsequent Dream Theater releases, and this tends to marginalize this release from the rest of the band’s back catalog. His voice is very similar to Geddy Lee’s, although clearly lacking some of the quasi-feminine quirks that he has at times. All in all, he is a good singer and it is a bit of a shame that he waited more than 15 years before resurfacing, and ultimately challenging his former band’s status as the throne holders of the progressive metal style. But this is a solid progressive release that came into being very early in the genre’s evolution. It still carries some remnants of the 80s, particularly in the presentation of the keyboard work. Fans of Fates Warning and mid-80s Queensryche will probably enjoy this one, although this particular release will probably appeal more to fans of Rush’s 80’s music. I still listen to it every few months and after owning it for 8 years and it hasn’t lost any of its freshness or intrigue.

Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 9, 2008.