Dream Theater - When Dream And Day Unite
Mechanic
Progressive Metal
8 songs (51:30)
Release year: 1989
Dream Theater
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Many bands’ first albums are ignored in the face of later, admittedly better released, but few groups have their debut spurned quite so much as Dream Theater did, and do so still. My first taste of this band was with their sophomore full length, Images & Words, a classic undoubtedly. Yet so long has that album been seen as the mountain, the Reign In Blood to its predecessor’s Hell Awaits, that you’d be hard pressed these days to find a DT fan willing to acknowledge that When Dream And Day Unites is a great album.

Most complaints about it rest around the production, which is murky and dates the album as definitely being of the 80s, but is nothing like Black Metal, and is a darn sight better than a lot of bands from the era. What the production damages most are the guitar and drums. The guitar tone here is horrendous when it’s not soloing, and it’s hard to tell the difference between that and the bass (although you can at least hear the latter). Drums are relegated so far to the background that many of Portnoy’s technicalities will go unnoticed to the majority of listeners, which is a shame, as if there was one drummer that deserves to be handed the crown of The Professor as the spiritual successor to Neil Peart, it’s him. What saves the album is the excellence of the songs, the band’s skill coming across as obvious even then.

Back then the vocalist wasn’t K.J. Labrie, but one Charles Dominici, who can more than hit the high notes but sounds like your average Power Metal wailer (with a bit of later Geddy Lee) rather than the man who would come to front the DT sound as it is now known. As it was known in 1989, however, things were pretty good. The album opens in style with A Fortune In Lies; fast, almost Thrashy riffs interweaving with keyboard wails and typically excellent pounding from Mike Portnoy. There’s an excellent solo from John Petrucci, too; all in all this is probably the best track on the album. Not that it goes downhill, afterwards – following track Status Seeker has a nice 80’s Rush vibe (the Canadians were obviously a large influence) with more usage of Kevin Moore’s keyboards, whilst instrumental Ytse Jam (‘majesty’ backwards, the original name of the band before they changed it) is little short of excellent.

You can say the same for the eight-minute multi-parter Prog epic here, The Killing Hand, Dominici pushing his voice to its limits. Although it’s not instantly catchy, it moves along well enough and the time flashes by. Like most of the songs here, it gets catchier the more you listen – Light Fuse And Get Away is another good example. The Ones Who Help To Set The Sun is another eight-minuter, and is slower and more atmospheric than The Killing Hand, opening with keyboards and building up to be the most Power Metal track present – it’s not the best song on the album, but it’s not one that you’ll skip, sounding similar enough to the better ones to be worth a listen.

If there’s anything that I find really annoying about this album, it’s the artwork. It’s... well... god, just look at it! Only in the eighties... still, considering the underappreciated quality of the music contained, there’s no reason to dwell on the silly cover art. Dream Theater would go on to bigger and better things, but When Dream And Day Unite is worth the attention of all the band’s fans.

Killing Songs :
A Fortune In Lies, Status Seeker, Ytse Jam, The Killing Hand, Light Fuse And Get Away
Goat quoted 87 / 100
Thomas quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Dream Theater that we have reviewed:
Dream Theater - Dream Theater reviewed by Rob and quoted 79 / 100
Dream Theater - Live At Budokan reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events reviewed by Crash and quoted 73 / 100
Dream Theater - A Change Of Seasons reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Dream Theater - Black Clouds and Silver Linings reviewed by Thomas and quoted 82 / 100
To see all 17 reviews click here
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