Let’s start by saying that Dream Theater has had their fair share of ‘controversial’ news coverage over the past year with the departure of founding member/drummer Mike Portnoy. Rewind a few months: Dream Theater members didn’t appear to waste any time looking for a replacement when they were hit with the news about Portnoy wanting to leave due to differences he felt were not going to be solved.
After Mike Portnoy withdrew and then later attempted to come back to Dream Theater, the members had said they already began the search for a replacement. Bringing him back would not be the correct move on their part. Hence, Mike Portnoy is no longer a member of Dream Theater, and Mike Mangini has taken over percussion duties.
The album—yes, I still say album—starts off with a very melodic, mellow intro which quickly escalates into the technical groove beats and riffs that make Dream Theater post – Metropolis so great. Just two minutes into the album within ‘On the Backs of Angels’ already got my blood flowing with a great off-beat rhythm overlayed by some great double-bass kick to keep the momentum going. James LaBrie’s vocals kick in with high and low octaves, and steady paced leads.
Mike Mangini gives a great introductory performance on drums and keeps up, with what seems no difficulty whatsoever, with the other technical playing of the band. With a resume like his, I didn’t expect any trouble. ‘On the Backs of Angels’ finishes off back to the original groove riff and layers on some synth and operatic vocals to complete this first track.
Onto track two: ‘Build Me Up, Break Me Down’ starts off with an unexpected dance vibe, but quickly turns into another heavy base riff to keep us listeners interested. The first verse shows more of the great vocal effect changes that Dream Theater has been experimenting with over the last four albums, which is a refreshing change.
John Petrucci’s guitars are amazing as always, and I especially enjoyed the fact that he’s not laying down pinch harmonics every two bars, but rather, places different guitar highlights at just the right time, so it’s not overdone or boring. Something even Zakk Wylde would commend. (*insert pinch harmonic here*)
We begin track three, ‘Lost Not Forgotten’, with slow piano, and a calm, yet moving piece which quickly adds guitars, percussion and bass into a forming rhythm line of unity. Almost as though they were all marching into a black lit room ready to battle, then like an extreme twist in a M. Night suspense movie, we’re taken through a grind of technical acid jazz-like arrangements of Dream Theater old. Then we get right back into the main verse section and 4/4 timing. If you check out anything in this album, listen to the coordinated attack on riffs at 4:25-4:30 of this third song and call me in the morning.
The release continues in great form, and as usual, takes you through a couple of moving emotional ballads, with beautifully arranged piano. This may be personal taste, but I rather enjoy when albums are arranged in a way that they give you a good kicking, then progress into mellower material around the middle of it, and finish off with another boot to the side of the head. But that’s just me.
It reminds me of the way a good novel or screenplay is put together. You see the intro in Act I, then Act II gives you the problems and dilemmas of a story as the plot thickens, and Act III finalizes it all in fantastic form, leaving you wanting more. I think Dream Theater has had this process mastered since going to Roadrunner Records, but ‘Act III’ on this album stayed depressing, and never really escalated again after track five (‘Bridges in the Sky’).
I particularly enjoy that Jordan Rudess has left some of the late ’80s synth effects out of this album for the most part. He did add them in track nine, ‘Beneath the Surface’ at the 3:27 mark (thumbs down). He also added many more standout sections that build the composition rather than copy and duel John Petrucci’s guitars. Well done!
John Myung’s bass compositions are as perfectly played as ever, and works in synchronizing with Mike Mangini’s bass drum kicks, which is exactly what any metal band’s rhythm section should do more than anything else. Myung’s bass parts could stand out more in mellower sections and songs, such as ‘Bridges in the Sky’, but make no mistake, he’s solid as ever. The mix on the new album seemed a little ‘compressed’ to me, but that may be simply relative to my own ears, and may be different to everyone.
As we make our way to the end of the album, we pretty much stay in a mellow-dramatic state carried through from track six to track nine, with the exception of a few faster tempo guitar riffs in track eight. I was hoping for a fast heavy technical finale, but never got it.
If you’re a Dream Theater fan, regardless if you prefer Portnoy in DT or not, you should give A Dramatic Turn of Events a serious couple of spins in its entirety. You won’t be disappointed. The album is not a Dream Theater masterpiece, but it’s a firm standing in the new age of Dream Theater with Mike Mangini on board. It would be nice to see just what he can contribute on the next album, as Mike Portnoy had a large hand in writing DT songs. You can pick it up via the Amazon.com link below the article and at other popular music stores.
A Dramatic Turn of Events Tracklisting:
1. “On the Backs of Angels”
2. “Build Me Up, Break Me Down”
3. “Lost Not Forgotten”
4. “This is the Life”
5. “Bridges in the Sky”
7. “Far From Heaven”
8. “Breaking All Illusions”
9. “Beneath The Surface”