Dream Theater: James LaBrie (vocals); John Petrucci (guitar, background vocals); Jordan Rudess (keyboards); John Myung (bass); Mike Portnoy (drums, percussion, background vocals).
Additional personnel: Howard Portnoy (percussion).
Recorded at Bear Tracks Studios and Little Bear Studios, Suffern, New York between March & August 2001.
On this, Dream Theater's seventh studio effort, the heavier elements of the band's music come to the forefront. Although the masterful balance of rhythmic interplay, jazzy arrangement, and catchy melodies is ever-present on this two-disc offering, the strong, crunchy guitar sound and powerhouse percussion are pushed more into prominence, helped along by the crystal clear production of drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci. The first disc is comprised of five tracks, averaging about 10 minutes each and the second disc is a 42-minute opus complete with overture and finale. The length of the songs, rather than being a hindrance, allows for both a sense of completeness and an improvisational element to the tracks, making them fun to listen to.
The virtuoso skills of each instrumentalist are shown in running keyboard lines, pounding bass lines, and finger-twisting guitar solos. This mastery is expressed even more through the control heard in the slow, moving moments, especially the disc one closer "Disappear." Vocalist James Labrie solidifies his status as one of progressive metal's finest voices, hammering home strong, mid-range vocal lines with comfort and feeling. Definitely a worthy listening experience.
Entertainment Weekly (2/8/02, pp.74-5) - "...Their most grandiose creation ever....True prog nirvana..." - Rating: B