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A Drastic Turn: Dream Theater and Mike Portnoy Carry On

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Hello and welcome back. Thanks for checking in. We’re giving the business side of the industry a break for a bit to focus on two divergent paths that made important stops in the road earlier this week and where those roads have led since September 8, 2010. It was on that date that Mike Portnoy announced that he would be leaving the band he co-founded, Dream Theater. The world of metal flipped its wig when the announcement was made. What would happen to the band? What would happen to Mike?

Going back to before that date, Portnoy had implored the band to take a break along with him. Portnoy’s plan was to bow out for about a five-year period and come back recharged. The problems with that idea were plenty. Most acts operate on a three-to-four-year cycle in between albums. Dream Theater, on average, releases a new record every two years. Add to that the current climate in which stars disappear for extended periods and come back to a completely different landscape in which the attention span is much shorter than it was in years past (Hi, Axl!), and that obviously presents a problem.

Dream Theater is a different sort of band in that respect. Their fans are a pretty devoted bunch, and we’re not bothered by a longer wait between records. The rest of the band didn’t see it that way, however, and refused to take the hiatus alongside Portnoy. So, he left.

At first, it looked like Portnoy might become a new permanent member for Avenged Sevenfold after he sat in for deceased drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan. That turned out not to be the case, however—but now we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Dream TheaterSo, September of 2010 comes and Portnoy goes. Save for Portnoy continuing in Avenged Sevenfold, no one knew what was happening, and that was pretty scary in and of itself. This is, again, a band with diehard devotees. Seeing them throw in the towel would have been devastating, and many feared that may be the case—for about a month. That’s how long it took the rest of the band to announce that the search for a new drummer had begun.

And then came the documentary—or reality series, however you want to put it. This is the point when apprehension sets in. Why are they doing this? Why go the route of publicity stunts when your fans are anxious to hear what you have to say, play, and sing? The documentary revealed that Mike Mangini was the new drummer.

Mike Mangini comes with his own set of credentials that fit Dream Theater well. He’s lectured at Berklee College of Music and has set world records for speed-drumming. He’s played for Annihilator, Extreme, Steve Vai … and for Dream Theater lead singer James LaBrie’s solo band. Why was the documentary necessary again?

Anyway, the choice was made, much to the chagrin of Mike Portnoy, who parted ways with Avenged Sevenfold in December of 2010. His next step? To try and return to Dream Theater! Seriously! A Facebook post he put up revealed that he asked the band if he could be welcomed back. Their lawyer’s answer? Nope.

Portnoy revealed: “Fairly recently, I reached out to the guys to try and make amends and offered to reconcile for the sake of having peace back in our lives…(plus I know how much it meant to a lot of the fans…)”

“I figured it was still possible to try and save us because they hadn’t made any announcements yet or begun any public activity with another drummer…but sadly, they declined my offer (well, actually their lawyer did…they didn’t even tell me themselves….) […] I tried, and the door is now shut…the ball is now in their court, not mine. …”

They were all set. Thanks anyway, Mike. Kthxbai!

So, Mangini was on board with Dream Theater and the new record, to be titled A Dramatic Turn of Events (cute, huh?), was finished. The record is due out on September 13 this year—two days after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which the band was affected by. But that’s another story for another time.

A Dramatic Turn of Events was announced on June 8, 2011 with the following tracklisting:

1. “On the Backs of Angels”

2. “Build Me Up, Break Me Down”
3. “Lost Not Forgotten”
4. “This is the Life”
5. “The Shaman’s Trance”
6. “Outcry”
7. “Far From Heaven”
8. “Breaking All Illusions”
9. “Beneath The Surface”

Yes, there’s a reason the first one is linked – it’s the new single. Go ahead, check it out. I’ll wait.

Not bad, right? It’s reminiscent of the middle section of “A Change of Seasons” and also suggestive of Falling Into Infinity, which could be a blessing or curse, depending on how you feel about that record. Be that as it may, that single, demonstrating that Mangini sounds more than capable of helping the band carry on, was released earlier this week.

But, whatever became of Portnoy? He actually has two new projects in the pipeline. One with Neal Morse, Steve Morse, Dave LaRue and Casey McPherson, is still in the fetal stages. The second premiered this past week as well. Adrenaline Mob—Portnoy, Russell Allen, Mike Orlando, Rich Ward (wait, isn’t he with Fozzy?) and Paul DiLeo—played their first show on June 24 in New York. You can check out some of that here, as the band plays a cover of Heaven And Hell’s Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules.” Tight stuff. It’s also not bad. Being a cover song though, it’s too early to tell what the band may sound like, but they seem off to a good start.

Both Portnoy and Dream Theater seem to have bounced back rather well from what turned out to be a nasty split. At the end of the day, Dream Theater is still alive and well, while Portnoy has landed on his feet. Both of them are set to give music fans reasons to rejoice later this year, and keep the debate alive of whether they were meant to be without each other or if the split was a mistake. If you choose the former, which do you prefer now?

Be back here in roughly seven days for a preview of Nerdapalooza, the biggest nerd music festival in the country, happening June 15-17 in Orlando, FL. Until then, have a great holiday and take care.

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About Michael Melchor

  • Paul

    At least I won’t have to listen to Portnoy’s rediculous death metal vocal attempts on any more Dream Theater albums. Mike only needed an extended break from Dream Theater because he was doing so many damn side projects (Transatlantic, Morse, Avenged, etc.). The new DT song sounds incredible, by the way, and Mangini is a monster.