This is the best Dream Theater album IMO along side Six degrees of Inner Turbulence.
Every song on both albums is DT's best, although the editing is a little weak in spots. This never really kills the songs, though it is hard to miss the feeling that the solo on Endless Sacrifice could be about 30 seconds shorter, and Stream of Consiousness is about twice the length it should be.
Otherwise, James is at his best here. Anyone who snubs the mans singing should recognize that the vocals are written in the lower register here. james blew out his upper register a long time ago, and though it is coming back, he has taken steps to correct this problem.
The songs are all crunchingly hard here, as opposed to the lighter style of Six Degrees. Vacant however, is a tear jerking ballad, though I prefer the longer version. Also, if you look for them, you will find that there are alternate takes to:
This Darking Soul (Alt version is 8 minutes long)
Endless Sacrifice (Alt version is 9:30 long) and
Vacant (Alt version is a little over 6 minutes)
All three of these alternate takes are superior to the current album versions IMO, and you should seek them out. Throw them into your collection along side the existing 7 songs, and you will understand why I say this is the best Metal album of all time.