Review Summary: A first step that leaves but a small footprint.
Dream Theater without James LaBrie. That's probably the easiest pitch one could make for When Dream and Day Unite
. Granted, one shouldn't necessarily use this statement to summarize Dream Theater's (formerly Majesty) debut and call it a day, as there's more to the overall picture. It's not a terribly big or interesting picture, but if there's anything Dream Theater went on to teach us, it's that they're far from a cut-and-paste group. Though When Dream and Day Unite
failed to be a pivotal chapter in the band's discography, it does contain some of the band's characteristic makings, just in an undeveloped form.
The immediate concern diving into When Dream and Day Unite
is the weak production, something that puts high beams on the album's trapped-in-the-80's identity. Everything sounds thin and tap-ey, cutting down what could have been a host of exciting moments. The music still functions on a technical level, and when one's ears finally adjust, the album's heavily synthesized music and eerie Spaceman vibe begin creeping out. This is when the seeds of talent in John Petrucci (guitar) and John Myung (bass) become most apparent. None of it is ever memorable, but there are bits to appreciate when analyzing the music less aesthetically.
One of When Dream and Day Unite
's other crippling issues is the lack of consistently engaging material. Catchy moments like opener "A Fortune in Lies" and "The Ytse Jam" are welcome, as are points when things pick up (see "The Killing Hand," about 5 minutes in), but for the most part, everything fumbles. This is especially so during the second half. Within fifteen minutes of ending, one grows weary of the entire experience and longs to move on to something different, something more fulfilling. Dream Theater are no stranger to comments of "bloated" and "overzealous" music; When Dream and Day Unite
unfortunately earns such remarks.
Another problem is original singer Charlie Dominici, who's seldom given the chance to actually shine. This stems significantly from the choice to emphasize the rest of the band in mixing. As a result, rather than steering the album's sound, Dominici is here to keep the album from being instrumental. He's not a necessary force, just a role player.
Other than a performance to commemorate the album's fifteen-year anniversary, Dream Theater have mostly ignored When Dream and Day Unite
, something any reasonable listener can understand. It never left an impression on audiences and the ultimate experience is completely blasé. Dream Theater hardcores may seek it for completion's sake, but even then it's a tough sell.