First, let me say that I am completely new to DT and bought this album solely going on the reviews from this website. I've grown up listening to varying rock/metal music, my favourite acts including Dire Straits, GNR, Deep Purple, Slayer, Alice in Chains, Pantera, Skid Row, Type O Negative, AC/DC, Soundgarden to name just a few.
I must admit that to this day I'm still somewhat unsure of what prog rock/metal actually means, as apparently that's the genre of music that DT fits into. Therefore I had no idea of what to expect from this album. I also know nothing of Rush nor Alan Parsons who are supposed to be pioneers in the prog rock world.
Suffice to say upon listening to the introduction of the first track (and by far the best) 'Pull Me Under' the signs were extremely promising. The first minute and a half or so (before the vocals) are pure heavy metal, sublime 'pedal to the metal' riffage. The rest of the song, although never quite reaching the same dizzy heights as the intro, still really impressed. It was obvious that these guys knew what they were doing, the guitar playing of John Petrucci in particular catching my attention.
I thought that if the rest of the album could maintain the quality of the first track, then I had made a good purchase. Alas, it wasn't to be. It's as if 'Pull me under' belongs on a different album, none of the other songs seem in keeping with it. I find James Le Bry's (spelling?) voice is ok when singing normally, then really squeeky and frankly annoying when he starts to raise his pitch and shout.
I must also admit that I like my rock fairly pure and simple, so the use of the keyboard is at times jarring and does not complement some of the music (to me at least anyway).
Although I've got to like the album more with each listen, the impression I get is that the band is more interested in showing off their technical ability (use of different time signatures, synronised guitar/drum/bass rhythms etc) than actually creating top quality music, WITH FEELING! As I wrote earlier, there's no doubt that these boys are all awesome musicians, I just feel like they could produce so much better.
Dream Theater would do well to listen to Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' and note how a slightly more restrained and simple approach can be so much more meaningful than constant double bass drum abuse and million mile an hour guitar solos.
I know this review will upset a lot of DT fans but I only thought it fair that I give a perspective from a newbie who isn't familiar with their stuff. I'm fairly confident that anyone listening to DT for the first time who has the same taste in music that I have, will feel the same way.