Since I was intrigued by Anthony’s new series Infamous Albums, I decided to contribute a fourth installment. Here I will explore the album that Dream Theater created before giving us their first progressive metal masterpiece in the form of Images And Words.
Before I begin my analysis on this album, I would like to point out a few facts on Dream Theater’s early years. These early years pertain to the era before the entrance of well-established frontman, James LaBrie. John, John, Mike, and former keyboardist Kevin actually began their band in the mid-80s under the name Majesty. Their singer back then was Charlie Dominici. They were highly influenced by Iron Maiden and Power metal bands like Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. More than anything though, the band brought a progressive edge to their style of music, alá Rush and Queensrÿche. After legal action was threatened by another band named Majesty, their name changed to Dream Theater, a suggestion by Mike’s father. Once the new name was established, they signed to a division of MCA Inc. for a debut album. When Day And Dream Unite ended up not being financially backed as much as originally promised, resulting in severely limited touring in support of. It is for that reason as well as the limitations of Dominici as a singer, why Dream Theater’s debut album paled in comparison to their sophomore album. From time to time, the band incorporates a track or two from this album into their live show. But to the average fan, the true era begins in 1992. So now, I will see if this debut really deserves the obscurity it has faded into.
The first thing I notice is that typical 80s reverb. It makes sense, this came out in 1989 after all. Also, John Myung’s bass guitar sounds a lot thicker than on other DT albums. Right from the opening track, “A Fortune In Lies” the Yngwie and Iron Maiden influence is as clear as day. When the chorus kicks in you notice those classic tempo changes the band utilizes. My first criticism is that during the rhythm sections, Petrucci’s guitar is often drowned out by Moore’s keyboards. Luckily that’s not the case when it comes to the leads and guitar solos, but still it isn’t worth it, drowning out the rhythm guitar. Track 2, “Status Seeker” begins the Rush influence. While the single version of this song was indeed produced by Terry Brown (produced Rush), the album version reminds me of Signals-era Rush already. Of course, it also has heavier drumming provided by Portnoy. So far, these first 2 songs are keepers in my book. The instrumental jam of the album occurs next, “The Ytse Jam”, another opportunity to experience John Myung’s thick bass lines. The fourth track is an 8 and a half minute epic entitled “The Killing Hand” written in five parts. The introduction sounds like something out of The Elder Scrolls games. The main sections of the song sound like traditional metal riffs with backing symphonies.
Past the half-way point now, “Light Fuse And Get Away” is instrumental for the first 130 seconds, then the track begins to remind me more of Queensrÿche. Next track, is the other Rush-influenced single, “Afterlife”. I notice again that the rhythm guitar sounds weak, overshadowed by the keyboards. While “Status Seeker” sounded like a pure Rush tune, “Afterlife” sounds like if Adrianne or Dave from Iron Maiden joined Rush as a second guitarist. After that track is another long song, “The Ones Who Help To Set The Sun”. It’s two and a half minutes of atmosphere and weather, then goes into the usual power metal. The concluding track, “Only A Matter Of Time” can be considered the title track containing the lyrics When Day And Dream Unite. It has a great start with it’s keyboard track. There is also a folk vibe to this song, that most power metal bands at the time didn’t display. And the conclusion to this song is very similar to how the tracks on Images And Words concluded, amazing instrumentation that just built and built.
So here is my verdict; Underrated. 3 out of 5 stars.
While you can certainly argue that Dominici is not a distinct singer like LaBrie, he managed to sing well on this record. And while there may be some minor production issues, it doesn’t stop the album from being enjoyable and telling a story. I would even argue that it’s just as enjoyable as some albums from the mainline of Dream Theater’s discography. It certainly is a solid bridge between the band’s early days of 80s power metal and their later days of progressive metal giants. If anything, When Day And Dream Unite proves that it doesn’t matter how talented of musicians you are; without proper financial backing and a strong marketing team, your band can only go so far. Luckily with the albums that came after, it didn’t matter.