Ahh.... perhaps Images And Words is one of the most famous releases of metal history. Back in 1992, just before when this album was released, nobody knew of these guys except the ones that had heard their debut album When Dream And Day Unite. Their lineup changed as they swapped Charles Dominici for James LaBrie, to complete the quintet.
Images and Words propelled these guys way into the mainstream. Pull Me Under even received MTV airplay (DT doesn't usually get airplay, especially not where I live.) Suddenly everyone had heard of these guys. But what makes this album so popular that so many swear by it as the standard of prog metal? Is there, in fact, any prog metal album at all that can top this one?
The answer is: Sure, some albums are better than this one. In my honest opinion, Metropolis Part Two: Scenes From A Memory trumps this album with ease. However, it IS a very solid record, and a genuinely good one indeed.
Let's start with the opener and "hit single." Pull Me Under is a catchy song (DT write catchy hooks? Blasphemy!) and works excellently as a solid opener. The song drags on for way too long at the end, seeing as these guys don't know how to match musicianship with songwriting structure sometimes; but hey, it sounds awesome, and I can hear John Myung! (no really. I can hear the bass. But only because Petrucci isn't riffing the *** over it.)
James LaBrie isn't quite as annoying on this album as he can sometimes get on other albums. Yeah, sure, his high notes can suck sometimes, but really, I've seen a lot worse. He isn't a bad singer by any means, and I think he fits well in this band, because this album isn't actually so much metal sometimes as I feel it is prog rock (this album isn't very heavy musically.)
Another Day is sappy, yes, but I like the sax solo and especially Petrucci's tearing guitar work is awesome on this track. I used to like Surrounded a lot, but it's a bit of a throwaway song in my opinion; ok, the piano is cool and it speeds up... but like all other DT ballads, it sounds bland as hell and James LaBrie isn't as ace as he is on Octavarium so he sounds very whiny overall. It's a good song overall though.
Take the Time is the band's "let's go guys" song, with each of the members adding in their bits to make a comprehensive song as a whole; It's nicely orchestrated and the song fits like a corset; good job guys; musicianship and songwriting can go hand in hand!
Metropolis Pt. 1 is epic. No other words can describe this song. From beginning to end, everything fits (YES EVEN THE SOLOS), James LaBrie doesn't sound like a ***ing deflating tyre, Portnoy, is, well, Portnoy-style awesome, Petrucci underlines his qualities as one of the best guitarists in the genre and maybe in metal, Myung....is barely audible but does his work solidly, and Kevin Moore really shines in the jam section of this track.
Under A Glass Moon is another good 'un, not really the most memorable song from this album but pretty solid, definitely a good track.
Wait For Sleep is the best ballad on this album, and perhaps the best one DT have ever done with the exception of maybe Through Her Eyes or The Spirit Carries On. Featuring only piano and LaBrie, the Canadian doesn't choke this song with high wails that sound like nails on a blackboard, and Moore knows how to lay down a melody as we've seen before.
Learning To Live is the other epic from this album, and I don't like it as much as Metropolis, but it's still a very solid track that keeps the momentum of the album flowing from soft to loud to soft to loud. Petrucci's soloing stands out here again.
The sound and production of this album is flawless... but somehow the riffs don't sound like metal to me on this album. I know this is a nineties album, but it sounds like it's been recorded eight years before or something. The drums sound clicky and not bashy, as they do on later albums. The songs still sound excellent overall... it's just that this album has quite an old school feeling and is more reminiscent of their rock influences than their metal influences in my opinion.
Overall it's a very solid album; song-writing is top-notch, musicianship has never been a complaint with these guys, the production is weird but okay, and the lyrics (although ***ty in parts) are not as annoying as on other albums. I'd say that this is one of the better albums these guys released, and a good way to get into DT (although I prefer Awake or Scenes From A Memory because they're heavier.) Definitely a must-buy if you're a fan of this band, if you're getting into the genre get this: it exemplifies what the album is all about without being too long-winded (which DT can sometimes get.)