This is some of the strongest material from Dream Theater in a long time, and with the new virtuoistic keyboardist -Jordan Rudess- joining the band, it is arguably the strongest line up of the band in it's history. They went for the 'concept album' approach, so this may not be the best album for a new fan to get introduced to a band because of the complexity of it, and the lack of the 'single song' approach. Each song is connected, telling a story and revealing more about the plot, split up with amazing instrumentals, and having a wide variation of musical styles shown throughout the album. It takes a few listens to understand and appreciate where they are going with this album, but once you are familier with it, it's a true masterpiece. It is one of the few albums I can listen to from start to finish many times and not get bored of it.
Musical talent is one of the stand-out points of Dream Theater, with each member being incredible on their instrument, and this is shown throughout this album. A great thing about this band is they not only have the talent in terms of musical ability, but they also have great song and lyric writing talents.
Full marks for this album, although probably not the best CD to get 'started' on Dream Theater. I would reccomend Images & Words or Awake over this album for somebody not familier with this band, but for a fan of Dream Theater, or progmetal in general, this is a must-have album.