Review Summary: Branded by majesty.The Long Island Sound: A Reflection on Suburban New York’s Musical History – Part 5
Kings Park is located on the north shore on Long Island’s easternmost Suffolk County, known for its tranquil environment, a now shut-down psychiatric center and the famous beaches and golf holes at Sunken Meadow State Park. Despite what it has to offer, it isn’t one of the most well-known places on Long Island, as aside from the presence of one of its biggest beaches, there really isn’t much to do there. Meanwhile, Long Beach is perhaps one of the most – if not the absolute most – famous places on the island. Firmly placed on the south shore of Nassau County, right next to the Atlantic Ocean, the city is known throughout the area for its beach and its boardwalk, recently rebuilt after its destruction during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Yet, despite their differences, they actually do have more things in common then one would think – both are located near large masses of water, both contain large beaches, and both were places that members of Dream Theater called home.
That’s right, believe it or not, there used to be a time when every member of Dream Theater was from Long Island. Before Canadians and Massachusites were thrown into the mix, the band’s original lineup consisted of three musicians from Kings Park (guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung and keyboardist Kevin Moore), one from Long Beach (drummer Mike Portnoy) and one from Brooklyn (which is technically geographically located on the island, even if it’s still within city limits, so close enough). With their all-Islander lineup, it took seconds for Dream Theater to conquer the world by storm with their world-acclaimed 1989 debut album, When Dream and Day Unite
. The lineup of Dominici, Moore, Myung, Portnoy and Petrucci were destined to fall right into their place in history as progressive metal legends, with plenty of fame and success to come.
Of course, we all know that’s not what actually happened.
Looking back at it twenty-five years later, it’s actually pretty hard to believe that the band actually, honest-to-God, thought that When Dream and Day Unite
was going to be huge. Here’s an album that generally regarded as Dream Theater’s weakest effort, and yet when it came out they all predicted that it would be their breakthrough simply because their Majesty
demos gained some praise? One could only imagine the bruised egos of Portnoy and Petrucci when it flew under the radar, who fired Dominici as a result of the repercussions, which included getting dropped by Mechanic/MCA and only playing a small club tour to promote its release. Yet through all the strife that they all went through after its failure, it was probably for the best since the Dream Theater we all know and love today wouldn’t exist had When Dream and Day Unite
become the smash success the band thought it would be.
First off, the main problem that the album suffers from (and this is a pretty common complaint) is Dominici’s vocals. While many people do like to rag on James LaBrie for his high-pitched squealing, he is still, without a doubt, the best vocalist that Dream Theater had ever had, even if the competition was never stiff. Most of the time, Dominici sings with such a shrill, off-key tone that easily becomes irritating – although this isn’t that big of an issue during the first few tracks, by the end of the album it just becomes a liability towards its quality. Tracks like “Light Fuse and Get Away” or “Afterlife” aren’t all that bad musically, but Dominici’s squealing just ruins it. On a side note, the production also isn’t all that great – it’s pretty grainy, although that was to be expected given the underground status of the album during its release.
With that said, the main highlight of When Dream and Day Unite
is easily the instrumental section. Dream Theater have always been known for the talented men behind their most praised aspect, and this album is no exception. The twin-axe attack of John Petrucci’s shredding guitar riffs and Mike Portnoy’s rapid-fire drumming are a highlight on any album of theirs, and it all started back here. While nothing is as overtly technical or wanky as later outputs, it’s still fairly enjoyable. “The Ytse Jam” is the sole instrumental on the record, and it’s one of the best songs here mainly due to the absence of Dominici. The dynamic track weaves through fast and slow tempos, with plenty of riffage to boast. Elsewhere, “A Fortune in Lies” features machine-gun tempo drumming from Portnoy and one of Petrucci’s best solos on the album, while “The Killing Hand” overcomes a sluggish start to end in fiery fashion.
Although there are moments where When Dream and Day Unite
gets a chance to shine, they’re limited to a few impressive instrumental highlights and nothing more than a couple of nice, rockin’ riffs. One could say this was because the band was young and had little experience, but the underlying reasoning was more than that. Charlie Dominici was just not that great of a singer, and his vocal style was way too light and soft for Dream Theater (that’s not even mentioning how off-tune he often is). With that said, the guitar performances and drumming were just a blueprint of the things to come, paving the way for Images and Words
, although they wouldn’t know that yet. The greatest success of When Dream and Day Unite
was its failure, and for that, it played a seminal role in the career and evolution of Dream Theater.
Part VI: 'Cuz I'm just a teenage dirtbag baby...