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The Progressive Metal band Dream Theater came with their debut album in 1989 when they dropped "When Dream And Day Unite", and made their first real impression on the Metal world. Coming fairly soon after being re-named (after previously being called 'Majesty' and working mostly from material from the likes of Iron Maiden and Rush), it sees them showing what they are about with fresh, original material that would initially be ignored until they found more mainstream success on their sophomore release three years later.
1. "A Fortune In Lies"
They kick the album off with this one as they come in with an empowering number and one that grabs your attention from the moment it begins. The tune really shows off their influences, and sounds bang-on for a Metal track in the late eighties, but still has them pushing things ahead with the 'progressive' approach that makes them sound original through their freaky changes with the percussion set and how the thing flows in general.
2. "Status Seeker"
Here they come out with a tune that I felt sounded much more representative of the softer side of Metal during the time. You see that they do lots of experimentation here with the frequent changes in direction of the music, but once it has standardised and you can feel the general direction which they are pushing for here, it becomes something that you would have expected from an act of the time (not really my thing).
3. "The Ytse Jam"
We have them moving on into a little more of the kind of thing that I found it quite hard at first to get into. Here there were syncopation issues which made it difficult to engage with at first, but as it progressed with some darker guitaring and a steady rhythm, it became something that I simply had to fall for as we see the Long Island, New Yorkers do their thing and show how this point of their career is about being themselves on this exciting instrumental piece
4. "The Killing Hand"
An epic one (lasting nearly nine minutes) we see that on this one they try out a little something where the experiment with just how much they can put over listeners here as they come out with one that has them telling a dark tale and forcing you to connect with all of what they do with it. I have to say that it really wasn't my kind of thing at all, and having it so long just gave me less reason to enjoy it.
5. "Light Fuse and Get Away"
As they come off a pretty significant one on the album, I found that I was once again able to get down with what they were offering here as we see they rush in there with much more grungy-sounding material and the kind of thing that is quite open to large audiences (and tastes) and with it they form another long one, but one that I felt was a much more impressive composition, but was just held back by the vocals (as most on the album).
Here the band just go hard on it and makes sure that there's no room for you to really complain as they power out with a fast-paced joint and one that feels as though its recovering from a pair of lengthy cuts which may have slowed things down a little for them. It was a nice time to bring in a tune such as this one, and although I'd say that I enjoyed it, it wasn't really anything that impressive and is merely an average one here.
7. "The Ones Who Help To Set Up The Sun"
We move right into another track that lasts over eight minutes and so it seems to undermine the purpose of the last one and so forces you right back into a tune that requires you, as the listener, to follow their movements closely every step along the way if you want to appreciate all that they do here. As it took so long for it to get underway, I simply couldn't say I felt too much for it really and it didn't really seem to go all that far as a result
8. "Only A Matter Of Time"
This one ends the album off and finds that we are able to get the band powering-through with a final burst of all the sorts of things that have been heard through the album. There ways of composing the music mean that you can't judge the whole song from any one particular section of a tune and much hear it all the way through to get the full feel, and so it makes it quite interesting, but it didn't flow in my opinion and so made for another that I couldn't hate on, but also couldn't big up.
This is an original album and one that finds a lot of variation within the thing as they ensure that no track sounds monotonous through consistent riffs and such and so you are kept on your toes throughout. I thought that it was generally strong, but I was put off by the lack of flow in some tunes.
For their debut 1989 album, Dream Theater had Charlie Dominicci fronting them in the vocal department, and over the years James LaBrie's absence from this debut line up has greatly detracted too many (newer) fans from When Dream and Day Unite.
Dominicci is certainly a different kettle of fish although he does an excellent all round job and his ability to hit the high notes without breaking wind is apparent too. As for its style, When Dream and Day Unite is still a highly recognisable Dream Theater record, and it set the mould for many future successes with The Ytse Jam (Majesty spelt backwards) being an important and defining track (along with the likes of the five part suit The Killing Hand).
I've always found 'Dream to be one of those albums whose quality always blows me away - to think this is nearly 20 years old and it doesn't sound a bit dated or even that retro (OK maybe the vocals are a touch 80's).
Dream Theater's first album is unfairly overlooked in the band's overrated discography, presumably for sounding so different from their later releases, and containing a vocalist other than the frequently irritating James LaBrie, as if that's a bad thing. With a great instrumental performance that doesn't descend into needless masturbation too often and emphasis on creating catchy, almost shamelessly pop-oriented melodies and choruses, this is perhaps Dream Theater at their most accessible and their most distinctly 1980s.
Songs like the cheesy 'Status Seeker' with its game show keyboards will perhaps prove an embarrassment to fans who appreciate Dream Theater's more experimental side, but the majority of the album is solid early progressive metal comparable to the band's contemporaries Fates Warning and Crimson Glory, albeit more indebted to Rush overall, particularly in Charles Dominici's high vocals. The lengthy 'The Killing Hand' is needlessly split into five sections ala Rush, but this at least encourages it to be that little bit more progressive, and along with the classic 'Ytse Jam,' forms the essential central section that fans of the band's later material can extract, leaving the rest behind, enjoyable though it is.
John Myung's bass guitar is more clearly audible here than ever, and even though Kevin Moore's keyboards are unbearably glitzy and eighties at times, his emphasis on atmosphere over twiddly solos makes him my favourite of Dream Theater's keyboardists, though more for his work on the subsequent 'Images and Words.'
1. A Fortune in Lies
2. Status Seeker
3. The Ytse Jam
4. The Killing Hand
5. Light Fuse and Get Away
7. The Ones Who Help to Set the Sun
8. Only a Matter of Time
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Fortune in Lies
2 Status Seeker
3 Ytsé Jam [Instrumental]
4 Killing Hand
5 Light Fuse and Get Away
7 Ones Who Help to Set the Sun
8 Only a Matter of Time