Dream Theater Wiki
The Killing Hand
When Dream and Day Unite
Length 8:42
Working title (Unknown)
Release date March 6, 1989
Lyrics John Petrucci
Music Dream Theater
First live performance Sundance, Bay Shore, NY, USA, on Sept. 3, 1988
Total live plays 146
Recorded July 18–August 12, 1988, Kajem/Victory Studios
Other appearances Hollow Years, Live at the Marquee, When Dream and Day Unite Demos, When Dream and Day Reunite
Previous song Ytse Jam
Next song Light Fuse and Get Away

The Killing Hand is a song by Dream Theater. It is the fourth track on their first album, When Dream and Day Unite. The song is very popular when played live.



[I. The Observance]
An Angel's kiss now fallen
Descending scarlet cuts the sky
Faded names left on the wall
Honour the fighting, leave life to die

Remembered is the sacrifice but
No praisal of blood still flowing
Who were the leaders?
What controlled the Killing Hand
that caused this mourning?

Crossing over...

[II. Ancient Renewal]
Lowered deep into the sea
Being awaits to cleanse his soul
senses weakening time is still
Motionless by stiffening cold

The wheels race back and
Scorch his mind
Travelling all to find the land
Revelation warms a touch
And now he will begin to understand

[III. The Stray Seed]
Extended a view to yesterday
Manifestation for none the same
Walking amidst a frightening still
No sound, no smoke, no scorching flames

He is risen...

Sipping his poison the raven sings
Yet another to add more bodies fallen
King from below this one controls
The Killing Hand that caused this mourning

Is it all over?

[IV. Thorns]
Evil genius this secret plan
Mercy dealt with the losing hand
Will he ever fall?
Can he end it all?
Our savior must make his stand

Only a Prophet of years to come
Wanting mortality I'm all alone
He heard my voice
It was my choice
I've stopped the Killing Hand

[V. Exodus]
When I go back again
Will it be the same?
I've stopped the cries
But now they know my name

The sea is calling me
my spirit must return
As I get closer,
was it really worth
what I have learned?

I'm in the valley
And the saddened chimes I hear
Race towards the wall to find
one more name appears

No one is left now
my one and only land
I laugh at what I've done
I am the Killing Hand


The Killing Hand is one of the band's earliest forays into science fiction. The story is rather abstract, and Petrucci admits it doesn't make much sense but it "sounded cool at the time." The song is about a man facing a memorial for several hundred people who have died in the past. He travels back in time (which Petrucci interpreted as swimming to the bottom of the sea [hence the lyric] and through to the other side), though he is intangible and unable to affect the past. Eventually, he discovers the deaths were attributable to a despot, whom he dubs "The Killing Hand" The character begs the Gods above to become tangible and assassinates this person. The character returns to the present and returns to the memorials described at the beginning of the song. He suddenly notices that one more name appears as the last victim of the massacre - his own name (implying that the reason he was by himself in the beginning is because he was the person killing everybody so in effect the character travelled back in time and killed another version of himself).


As a longer track, The Killing Hand is an almost textbook example of progressive songwriting. The song has an extended length and is broken in to several sections, with instrumental passages and solos as well as a multi-part storyline.

Live Performances[]

As with many of the songs on When Dream and Day Unite, The Killing Hand is not performed very often, though it enjoys a higher level of popularity than many of the songs from that album. Unusually, hearing the song in it's original state live is quite rare. Early versions of the song had Dominici playing the intro guitar, though later the acoustic section had been removed and replaced by a new intro the band refers to as "Another Hand". Live performances of the song without the "Another Hand" intro are rare, though they did perform the song in its original form for When Dream and Day Reunite. Live performances are also notable for the extended instrumental sections, occasionally including other songs such as "Carol of the Bells" during Petrucci's solo.