While nowadays DREAM THEATER may be regarded widely as one of Progressive Metal’s most talented, proficient groups, their debut effort has always seemed to evade attention and as much respect as the LaBrie Era material. However, put in context, it's a true powerhouse of ingenuity. One of the primary criticisms people usually have with DREAM THEATER is LaBrie's vocal style. Seeing as this is an album with a different singer, wouldn't people love it? Apparently not, but I do.
The song writing is very good, and is a lot more enjoyable on a musical level than some of their later works. Songs such as “The Killing Hand” demonstrate brilliance early on, and obviously “Ytse Jam” remains until this day a cornerstone of the band's repertoire. There is a strong keyboard sound on this album, more so then any of its successors and while it tones down the 'Metal' feel of the album, there is a feeling of a more classic Prog sound which is refreshing from the usual DT 'hardcore jam,' to say the least.
A lot of the songs conform to pretty strict song writing, which will be a relief to the detractors of the band; some who just dismiss the band's talents as 'music sports.' Here, there are tight melodies and more conventional song writing. As far as the singer himself is concerned, I actually quite like Dominici's voice. On a technical level, he's probably sharper than LaBrie himself! However, it was a good move that Dominici was ousted from DREAM THEATER, for the simple reason that he sounds too much like Geddy Lee from RUSH. This album (at the time of its release) was being called 'the best RUSH album RUSH never released' and the band probably wouldn't truly have come out onto its own had it been forced into the shadow of another band.
Overall, it's a fantastic album, and a surprisingly crisp debut from one of Prog's greatest bands. To those who think it's a poor album; I suggest to give it another listen or two. The stroke of genius in it will reveal itself in time. Recommended to all DREAM THEATER fans, and fans of technical heavy Prog.
(Online January 11, 2012)