A Dramatic Turn of Events

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DREAM THEATER - A Dramatic Turn of Events cover
4.11 | 85 ratings | 21 reviews
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Album · 2011

Filed under Progressive Metal


1. On the Backs of Angels (8:42)
2. Build Me Up, Break Me Down (6:59)
3. Lost Not Forgotten (10:11)
4. This is the Life (6:57)
5. Bridges in the Sky (11:01)
6. Outcry (11:24)
7. Far From Heaven (3:56)
8. Breaking All Illusions (12:25)
9. Beneath The Surface (5:26)

Total time: 77:01


- James Labrie / Vocals, percussion
- John Petrucci / Guitars
- John Myung / Bass
- Jordan Rudess / Keyboards and Continuum
- Mike Mangini / Drums and Percussion

- Paul Northfield / spoken word on track 8

About this release

Roadrunner Records CD September 12, 2011.

Available as a standard single disc edition, a double LP edition, a special edition CD+DVD and a 2CD+2LP+DVD box set. The DVD contains a 60 minute documentary film of the search for a new drummer, entitled "The Spirit Carries On". The second CD of the box set contains instrumental mixes of the entire album. The box set also includes a Dream Theater branded custom turntable slipmat and a lithograph of the album cover. 50 random boxes had a Dream Theater ”Ticket For Life” and all pre-orderers received an mp3 copy of the album the day before the general release.

Thanks to andyman1125 for the addition and UMUR, Time Signature, adg211288, Pekka for the updates

DREAM THEATER MP3, Free Download/Stream


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"A Dramatic Turn of Events" is the 11th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Dream Theater. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in September 2011. This is the first Dream Theater album not to feature drummer and founding member Mike Portnoy who left the band in September 2010. He is replaced here by Mike Mangini (Annihilator, Extreme, Steve Vai).

Despite the quite significant lineup change (In addition to his drumming duties Mike Portnoy was active in the band´s songwriting as well as co-producing several of the group´s albums) not much have actually changed since "Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009"). Dream Theater still produce top notch progressive metal involving outstanding musicianship and well written material. What they fail to do on this album and actually haven´t done for a while is challenge their audience. "A Dramatic Turn of Events" is more or less Dream Theater by the numbers and at this point I really wish they would break out of the stylistic monotony they´ve been in for now too long. There are literally no surprises on this album and frankly I expect more from the world´s leading progressive metal act. After all the word "progressive" (in this context) means that you push boundaries and create something new/unheard of.

With that out of the way "A Dramatic Turn of Events" is of course still a high quality release on almost every other parameter and as such the album opens pretty strong with the trio of tracks "On the Backs of Angels", "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" and "Lost Not Forgotten". But from "This is the Life" and onwards my attention begins to wander. Especially some of the longer tracks like "Bridges in the Sky" and "Outcry" are rather tedious to my ears, but of course things aren´t helped along either with the inclusion of the saccarine and forgettable ballad "Far From Heaven". I don´t know why they keep insisting on including tracks like that on their albums ("This is the Life" also falls under that catagory).

The sound production is decent but the drums have an odd sound. Maybe they are not high enough in the mix or something like that. I can´t put my finger on it, but there is some kind of issue with them. Regarding the drums it´s interesting to note that Mike Mangini more or less completely imitates the playing of Mike Portnoy. I´ve read somewhere that the drum parts for the tracks were already written when Mangini entered the lineup, so maybe it´s not so strange. It´ll be interesting to see if he can bring his own style to the table on the next release if he decides to stay with the band.

Now I can understand that hardcore fans of Dream Theater find "A Dramatic Turn of Events" to be a great release but I simply have to point out what I see as weaknesses and potential signs of a band that have given up developing their music. To me "A Dramatic Turn of Events" is a kinda "middle of the road" album by Dream Theater and it´s far from the best output by the band. Sometime in the future when talking about Dream Theater´s discography this album will not be mentioned. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is warranted.
I have been a long time Dream Theater fan, as my username might suggest. Dream Theater, for me, is the band that expanded my way of thinking about music, caused the Progressive Rock addiction in me, and made me realize I was no longer interested in pop music. For over 10 years, my favorite Dream Theater album was Metropolis Part 2: Scene From A Memory. While I loved their albums that came after, nothing came close to the quality of this album, in my mind. During this time, I also believed that Images and Words was a very, very close 2nd place. I say this to show you that it is not a fickle statement for me to say that A Dramatic Turn of Events is now my favorite Dream Theater album. While I immediately, upon first listen, knew the album was amazing, I had to listen to the album, and the other two I have mentioned, repeatedly (and over the period of 8 months) to come to this decision. I truly believe this to be a necessary part in the collection of a Progressive Rock or Progressive Metal fan.
The Angry Scotsman
I try to avoid hype, (whether it's music, movies, video games anything) to keep a clear mind and form honest opinions, and do so by avoiding said item for a while. So I really waited a good bit to listen to DT's "A Dramatic Turn of Events" but have finally gotten around to it. After giving the album some listens and fully digesting it, I can safely say while it's not a bad album at all, it's not anything great either. Like all their albums since "Octavarium" I was left a bit underwhelmed. It was a bit disappointing since I heard this album was a turn back to their progressive, melodic days.

The band does accomplish just that: the keyboards are way up, the heaviness is a bit down, and while still present the famed DT shreddery and technical w**kery are reduced. These are of course part of DT's appeal, but you have to change it up sometimes. I applaud the change, just the music itself left some to be desired overall.

The opener "On the Backs of Angels" I actually quite enjoy. A good blend of riff based and melodic based prog. It has a good flow and strong songwriting. It has a bit of all and is just very well done.

"Build Me Up, Break Me Down" has a cool spidery riff, and some nice heavy moments. The power chord chorus is a bit eh, but what can you do? Not a bad song.

"Lost Not Forgotten" is more "standard" DT filled with more technicality, w**kery, and riffing. I'm a fan of this, especially when put in a nice 10 minute prog metal song so this is probably my favorite on the album. Again, another well done song and not just a "by the numbers" which tends to be my issue with DT.

"This is the Life" is a nice light song. Keyboard driven, light guitar and drumming that builds to a melodic and powerful part. Nice to get some feeling, which despite liking the previous songs felt a bit absent of it. Pretty good song, though for the first time LaBrie's vocals get on my nerves, especially in soaring parts.

"Bridges in the Sky" starts with a quiet intro, featuring an attempt at throat singing which works semi well in my opinion. The song kicks into a heavy riff, and like the opener has a bit of everything. Good song.

"Outcry" is more of the same though I really like the middle section. A bit sluggish at times, it's not bad overall.

"Far From Heaven" a very light, keyboard and vocal driven song.

"Breaking All Illusions" I'm running out of different words to describe "more of the same" but this is actually one of the better songs on the album. Another straightforward though well done prog metal song.

The album ends with an acoustic guitar, keyboard and vocal song. Light and melodic, it's quite nice.

So I've used a lot of "good" and "a lot of the same" but that's the best way to describe "A Dramatic Turn of Events". It's a good album. Not great, but not bad, no real weak songs but none jump out at you either. It is generally well done prog metal. Good but not great, textbook definition of 3 stars in my book.

DT fans should like this, haters will find nothing to turn them on to it, and moderate/casual fans like myself will probably find it decent, and it's worth a listen.

Three Stars

Dream Theater's "weakest" since 1997

Another speedy released album by pregressive metal's kings. It's called A Dramatic Turn of Events. And why not? When all these news around the band has flourished. The founder and leader of the band Mike Portnoy left in September 2010 and soon after Mike Mangini was bought in. There was a passionate reality in three part about the audition for new drummer. All these events was very exciting.

First of all I would notice Mike Mangini is wonderful talent, who replaces Mike Portnoy in such a great manner. But this album just doesn't come up to my expectations. This album is too long, without avoiding anoyance with requisite precise songwriting and structural essence. A definite step backward to band's previous works. The ambience is quite sterile and undeviating (in negative sense of the term), typical for band's early career. All the songs, except Outcry are too predictable and contain some jejune structural decisions.

The musicianship, as always, is of high quality and long song are the positive and distinctive Dream Theater. That's the salvation of this interesting, but quite disappointing release. 3+ stars by me.
Dream Theater's first album with Mike Mangini and without the founding member, Mike Portnoy, shows a return to their classic roots, especially 'Image and Words' era and combined with what they've done in the last four albums. I found them slowly trapped in monotonous circle after the highly acclaimed 'Scenes From A Memory' but this is a dramatic turnaround for them and suddenly Dream Theater became an interesting entity again for me to explore further.

'On The Backs of Angels', the first single is a good track but not the best here. A dynamic tempo with mostly in mid-paced, Rudess got more portion with his keyboard, and I saw it as a less-metal-more-progrock track. 'Build Me Up, Break Me Down' has a modern flavor verse and the center point of this song is brilliantly melodic. 'Lost Not Forgotten' hihglight is the complex guitar/keyboard duel, the instrumental show is magnificent but kinda lack of memorable hooks. 'Bridges in The Sky' has an ultra-weird intro and freaky choir, sounds very old school with massive galloping rhythm, but it's a decent track overall.

'This Is The Life' is a beautiful small piece of piano ballad, I love this one, and also the other ballads here, 'Far From Heaven' and 'Beneath The Surface'. Although it's totally unusual for a prog metal band to introduce 30% ballads in their album but perhaps they think it's necessary to opt for a safer path to reach an even wider audience, especially the first time without Portnoy.

The second best song of this album is 'Outcry', a complex verse with chugging rhythm, the tempo is slowing down in the middle and they put up some Middle-Eastern passage, a great prog metal tune, but the true champion of this album is 'Breaking All Illusions'. Started with a spectacular intro, this long track is a melodic epic, pay attention to the battle of heavy riffs and killer keyboards before it slows down with some bluesy feel, what a song!

I still think the Portnoy saga is a big Dream Theater conspiracy to revive their dying image and reclaim the prog-metal throne before the original Portnoy came back to the fold in 3-4 years, but I might be wrong though. Whether that's a true prediction or not, 'A Dramatic Turn of Events' is still a pleasant album by the band, not enough to beat the classic 90s era, but I haven't been this excited with this band since 'SFaM', so that's a great sign.
Conor Fynes
'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' - Dream Theater (8/10)

Love them or hate them, Dream Theater have been one of the most influential, and successful bands in modern progressive rock. On top of laying the groundwork style for every other progressive metal band out there today, this band has been the centre of constant debate between people that virtually worship them for their virtuosity as musicians and talent, and others that condemn them for what they perceive as needless showmanship at the sacrifice of real substance. Chances are that coming onto this review, you may already have a potentially strong opinion about Dream Theater, and what they are all about. For me, this was a band that- along with other legends like Rush and Led Zeppelin- got me big into music when I was first beginning to explore beyond what my parents showed me. Their classic albums 'Images & Words' and 'Scenes From A Memory' have had an indelible impact on my development as a musician and listener, and I've loved a fair bit of what they have done since then. Admittedly, I found myself a little weary of Dream Theater's indulgent style around the time that the band's 2011 single 'On The Backs Of Angels' was announced, but all the same I went into listening to it, and was immediately impressed. The appropriately titled 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' has been met with a great deal of anticipation from alot of people, first considering that it is a Dream Theater album, but also because this is the first album that their lifelong drummer Mike Portnoy does not appear on, after being given the boot by the rest of the band. With one of their founding members gone, it was natural to expect that his departure- and the arrival of Annihilator drummer and Dream Theater newbie Mike Mangini- to have an impact on the band's direction. Portnoy was the one that pushed for Dream Theater to have a heavier sound, so I had been expecting a more progressive edge this time around, and that is exactly what 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' is about; the same proggy excellence that first got me into them. While I can imagine the legions of detractors using the seemingly unchanged sound of the band against them, I for one have been greatly satisfied by this new batch of band material, and even with one of their vital organs missing, Dream Theater is far from dead.

As was the case with the past two albums of Dream Theater, sitting down to give my first listen to the material was a very important, almost somewhat spiritual experience, especially considering that I believed only a few months before that Dream Theater was all but dead. Both fans and haters should know that there is very little that will surprise them here necessarily, but the music here is easily distinguishable from other albums, especially what they have done more recently. While I did love 'Systematic Chaos' and 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings', the removal of the contrived heaviness and Gothic darkness that Dream Theater unsuccessfully tried to evoke on previous records is a refreshing change. Dream Theater are still definitely a progressive metal band, but of that formula, the emphasis here is on that of the 'progressive', rather than the thrashy Metallica, or pseudo-death metal that Mike Portnoy kept thinking was a pretty cool and hip thing for Dream Theater to do. Besides that, this is a Dream Theater album, complete with cheesy album artwork, epic songs, virtuosic musicianship, and the apparent effort to see how much of a CD's space can be used up without making it a double album.

After my first listen to 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events', I was silent for a few minutes, trying to figure out what I thought of it. This was Dream Theater alright, but I wasn't exactly sure whether I liked it or not. Although my general impression of the album has vastly increased since first listen to this album, some of the things I noticed on first listen have stuck with me. First off, the instrumental sections here no longer have the needless sense to them, and as far as the 'technical' elements of Dream Theater go, this may be the best I've ever heard them. With the handful of longer, ten minute plus tracks, each goes into some sort of departure from the regular songwriting in order to blow the listeners away with the talents of each member. Keyboardist Jordan Rudess really shines here, and I find myself replaying these instrumental parts. What I used to consider 'noodling' from these guys doesn't sound too different on first impression, but the band has put a much greater sense of complexity here into the instrumentals that I haven't quite heard from the band before. Suffice to say, haters of Dream Theater will probably still hate Dream Theater for these instrumental 'battles', but for someone who has loved them for almost a decade, the technical instrumentation here has never sounded more thoughtful. 'Bridges In The Sky', and the album's epic highlight 'Breaking All Illusions' both have the go-to elements of this.

The other aspect of this album is the melodic, songwriting side. I was never anything short of impressed by the familiar talent and skill exerted on the instrumental side of Dream Theater's material here, but as far as the songwriting went, 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' took a few listens to warm up to me. This is largely because half of these songs are quite long and complex. 'On The Backs Of Angels' is the most instantly memorable track here, although there is much better to hear on the album. 'This Is The Life' is a brilliant mid-tempo prog rocker in a somewhat mellow vein, with a gorgeous chorus to boot. 'Bridges In The Sky' (originally given the less promising title 'The Shaman's Trance') has a real 'Glass Prison' vibe to it, but the dark progressive metal moments are contrasted with vibrant melodies and feeling. 'Far From Heaven' is a gentle piano piece that may very well hit me harder than any of Dream Theater's ballads. Here, James LaBrie's vocals and the gorgeous violins make my heart bleed rainbows. The only song here I really do not care for much is 'Build Me Up, Break Me Down', which has a similar sound to 'Caught In A Web', from 1994's 'Awake' album. It is not a terrible track, but there's nothing about it that really jumps out at me; a single bump in an otherwise awesome experience.

The true highlight here is 'Breaking All Illusions', which I can see Dream Theater fans idolizing throughout the coming months. The song has every element of an 'epic' to it, except that it is only a relatively brief twelve minutes long, as opposed to well, you know, a 'true' long song. We have one of John Petrucci's greatest guitar solos towards the end, prog metal freakouts, slower, almost Floydian mellow segments, and some of their most memorable riffs to date. Also of great importance to note is James LaBrie's performance on this, and on all other tracks on the album. He- like much of Dream Theater's sound- is another point of contention that people will argue about until breakfast time, and while he has had his moments where even I question his abilities, his vocal performance here shows him in his element. He is definitely not the sort of singer that he used to be with 'Images & Words', but he is no longer trying to sound like he is in Metallica, in other words, being something he is not. Here, he is trying to sound like James LaBrie, and his voice here is warm and full of feeling, especially on the gorgeous 'Far From Heaven' and closing ballad 'Beneath The Surface'. I would have like to have hear him pull off a few more high notes throughout the album, but I'm not disappointed. Also- lest I forget to mention- is Mike Mangini's performance, another thing that Dream Theater fans will continue to debate 'til past noon. Sadly, as the newest member of Dream Theater, he seems to get the newbie's treatment in terms of mixing, and his drum performance is less audible to me than Portnoy's work; hell, even bassist John Myung can be heard playing on this album now finally. While the drum recording could have used a little more life to it, Mangini's performance fills in the shoes of Portnoy very well, although I would be hard pressed to say he does more than that. There are techniques here where I could have sworn it was Portnoy playing, and I do not think this is coincidence; maybe Dream Theater is trying to warm up their fans to a new drummer, but I think it will take until the next album to hear what this new drummer is truly capable of.

As with all Dream Theater albums, this is an album I have some strong opinions about, although I am positive there are others- even other fans of the band- that will see things in a completely different light. 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' took me a little longer to fully appreciate than much of the other more recent material that Dream Theater has churned out, but giving it the time it deserves, I've found it to be an incredibly strong, albeit flawed album. There is still some cheese to grate off the edges of the band's sound, and one less- than-satisfying track towards the beginning does tend to have me argue against this being labelled as a 'masterpiece', but does this stand its ground against other albums by the band? Yes, and more than that; it shows them taking some of their less tasteful aspects and injecting more thought into them, making the overall sound of Dream Theater all the more powerful. Agree with me or not, 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' has wowed me and impressed me more and more with each time I listen to it, and I can see myself giving it the same long-term appreciation as I do most of the band's material.
A new Dream Theater and one surrounded with much ado about a certain line-up change. It also followed a string of albums that weren't exactly received with universal praise. So obviously this album was much anticipated and luckily for DT this album has been met with much enthusiasm. Well, after 20 years with this band I think it's safe to say I will never fully like them, their shredding tendencies as well as their average vocals and sticky pop vanilla are a too dominant feature in their sound. Too bad as there is plenty of good stuff here, some of it easily reaching a Prog Metal master degree.

After the strong opener, also 'Build Me Up' starts excellently, but the cheesy chorus reminds us Dream Theater apparently can't do without bringing down their own songs with lame pop melodies. And it gets worse further down in the album: 'This is Life', 'Far From Heaven' and ' Beneath The Surface' are dreadful sugar-sticky ballads, exactly the kind of stale fake-emotion pop you can hear on any commercial TV during prime-time. Good, enough nagging, I hope the fans are into this for the lavish 10+ minute metal epics on this album and not for the pop ballads.

Dream Theater filled the 76 minutes of this CD to the brim and I'd wish they hadn't. I'm too lazy and obnoxious to go through all the trouble of skipping all these questionable ballads to come to real treats. I expect bands to have enough self-scrutiny to do that selection themselves. A potential 4 star album leaving me with a foul after-taste. One for the fans.
Breaking all illusions

Dream Theater is a band that needs to introduction. They are the single most popular progressive metal band in the industry, selling millions upon millions of records and playing shows to thousands of die-hard fans. They almost single-handedly forged the path of one of the most prosperous genres in modern progressive rock. They have some of the most dedicated fans of any band as well as some of the most dedicated haters of any band. They’re signature sound can be heard from miles away and has been imitated by countless bands. Their mix of “melody, metal, and prog” has become the standard for near all prog metal bands in their echelon, and the band’s incredible amount of virtuosity has made them gods among technical-loving musicians everywhere. However, the past year has been the most tumultuous time in the band’s entire history. Dream Theater has had its share of “drama.” In 1994-95, the band’s first keyboardist Kevin Moore left the band, and lead singer James LaBrie ruptured his vocal chords due to a food poisoning incident, all right before the band’s second world tour. In the band’s 2010-11 season, however, something eternally more shocking occurred - DT’s driving force and founding member Mike Portnoy announced his departure from the band. Of course, this created an upheaval of reactions from the band’s legions of fans, and much discussion, bittering, and outright arguing occurred between the fans. The band had decided to continue on as a band, which was contrary to what Portnoy had wanted. So, the band stayed in secrecy about their new drummer, announcing they had gone back to the studio in January, and that their new album was to be titled A Dramatic Turn of Events (an aptly, but perhaps a bit too aptly, titled title), before announcing in April of 2011, near 6 months after Portnoy had left, that legendary drummer Mike Mangini, former holder of the fastest single stroke player (over 1200 hits in a minute) was the band’s new drummer. They also announced in documentary form that they had auditioned 7 drummers: Mangini, Virgil Donati, Aquiles Prester, Marco Minnemann, Thomas Lang, Peter Wildoer, and Derek Roddy. In June, the band excitedly released their first single off the new album, “On the Backs of Angels,” which displayed a less metal-dense and very typical progressive Dream Theater sound, which, for the most part, excited fans. The progressive world then patiently waited until September 13 (or, for some, a wee bit earlier due to some less than legal activities) for the release of the band’s new album.

The 77 minute album was a treat for most. The band seemed, despite popular belief, to still be able to write music without Mike Portnoy. In some cases, it seems Portnoy’s insistence on metal seems to have lightened a bit, as there are more ballads and more of a balance between the guitar, keys, and bass (I’ll get to the drums later). Although the metal aspect of the music is still very much present, it seems the album has a heavier emphasis on progressiveness and melody, rather than simply riffs, riffs and more riffs. Rudess and Myung both seem to be much more present (Myung especially) on this album as well, giving a more dynamic approach then just Petrucci’s constant dominance over the music. The entire album is brimming with signature Dream Theater songs - with Rudess’ interesting use of silly keyboard voices, Petrucci’s virtuoso riffing and soloing, and now Mangini’s mechanical and precise drumming, it seems this is the band’s true return to form, and easily the band’s best since 2005’s Octavarium.

Now I’m well known around these parts as a massive Dream Theater fanboy, and that really any opinion of a new Dream Theater album will be slightly skewed based on nearly every prog fan’s natural bias towards the band, good or bad. However, despite my undying love of this band, my opinion of the album seems to have evened out after eleven or so listens. My first listen was skewed by an excitement-high that had me nearly writing a perfect 5 star review. I stopped myself, though. My second listen wasn’t as grand. I seemed to think the album was just another Octavarium with a little Images and Words mixed in; good but nothing special. However, with the third, fourth, fifth, and so on listens, I began to hear the little bits of true greatness the band seemed to have baked into the album. The metal tracks were aggressive, epic, and progressive. The ballads were sincere, intimate, and well played. The longer tracks were arranged well, although not as well as they once were (arrangement was Portnoy’s strong suit). The instrumentation was spot on, with Petrucci’s solos as good as they’ve ever been. Myung’s bass lines are masterful and also, amazingly, audible (at least with a subwoofer :-P). The lyrics weren’t anything to write home about, but they were typical to Dream Theater - seemingly political, ambiguous, and with an overuse of the words “soul” or “life.” Not every song is perfect, with the second track “Build me up, Break me Down” seeming like a cheesy James LaBrie solo career ripoff radio attempt, which seriously drags the album down. Mangini’s drumming seems to have been forced to take the back seat in the mix, which is a daunting contrast to Portnoy’s ever-present drumming in former mixes. LaBrie’s singing, which is usually a sore spot amongst fans and haters alike, is wonderful on the album, and he does an excellent job especially on the album’s 3 ballads.

Each track on the album seems to have a little something special to it, even the lesser ones of the album. The opener, “On the Backs of Angels” is the cozy song for fans, a kind of “hey, we’re still Dream Theater!” that retains the band’s classic sound in a very traditional and signature way. The track is a fantastic showcase of Rudess’ skill, with a great keyboard part really shining in the song. “Build me Up, Break me Down” is easily the weakest song on the album, yet still has a distinct quality to it. It is the album’s “radio friendly” song, although it’s quite the traditional metal song; it is similar to Systematic Chaos’s “Constant Motion” in its intent, methinks. “Lost not Forgotten” is the album’s first “long song,” clocking in at around 10 minutes. Lyrically, it is about the fallen kingdom of Persia, and musically, it’s just as epic as that ancient kingdom. Vast, emotive, and powerful, it is certainly a high point on the album. It is followed by the first ballad on the album, the emotional and moving “This is the Life,” which has a potent dynamic of near-AOR-esque guitar riffing and truly beautiful piano and vocal work. It is easily one of the band’s better ballads in their discography, and it adds a really nice touch to the album. “Bridges in the Sky,” originally titled The Shaman’s Trance, is the second 11 minute epic of the album, which is full of interesting dynamics, intense riffs, and very strong instrumental and vocal performances. It features a classic Dream Theater instrumental section, with precision synchronization, Petrucci/Rudess switch off solos, and an overall incredible virtuoso show-off session. “Outcry” follows suit with “Bridges…,” with an 11 minute length and an epic dynamic metal Dream Theater-fest. Much in the same way of “Bridges…,” it features an epic instrumental section, full of technical mayhem and progressive epicness. “Far From Heaven” is by far the most melancholic song on the album. It features tender vocals by LaBrie, emotive piano work from Rudess, and a very well placed string quartet. “Breaking All Illusions” is the album’s true epic, clocking in at over 12 minutes, and containing all that the album has been building up to. Epic riffing, intense instrumentation, powerful vocals, and even very well written lyrics by none other than John Myung make this easily the best song on the album and a treat for all progressive metal fans. The album finally ends with the guitar-led ballad “Beneath the Surface,” which has a very similar approach to “Far From Heaven,” except in a major key. The song is uplifting and calming, with the subtle strings and Petrucci’s laid back guitar work meshing beautifully with LaBrie’s vocals. It ends the joy ride of an album on a truly spectacular note, wrapping the entire album up in a pretty plush blanket that makes you feel all nice and fuzzy on the inside. Overall, the album has its ups and downs, but it certainly makes for a wonderfully enjoyable roller coaster.

Although this may seem like an over-long and verbose description of how I love this album, I think there’s a little bit of reason behind my 1600+ word review. It has been established time and time again that Dream Theater seems to be in a slump in their creative careers. Needless to say the last few albums have simply been decent, average modern Dream Theater material, with nothing truly outstanding about it. Post-Scenes From a Memory, Dream Theater seemed to be going downhill, and downhill fast. However, it seems that perhaps they have turned their noses up slightly. The album is the band’s true return to form in my opinion. Vast, dynamic progressive metal that’s not drowning in metal riffs but rather floating on a sea of well-developed and carefully chosen riffs is truly what makes up this album. It’s sad that it took a truly dramatic turn of events such as their drummer’s departure for the band to wake up and produce such a masterful album such as A Dramatic Turn of Events. I believe this is the best thing Dream Theater has created in the past 6 years. 4+ stars.

Phonebook Eater

"A Dramatic Turn Of Events" is the best Dream Theater album since "Six Degrees".

I wonder how many people thought this was going to be awful. After the departure of drummer Mike Portnoy, who was the spinal cord of the band, many didn't know what to expect with new drummer Mike Mangini (Annihilator), and with the naturally different direction, since the former musician always led DT to a heavy sound, thus the sound would perhaps be or more rockish/straight-forward (my biggest fear), or more experimental. I must admit I was one of those people who wasn't excited, even if I liked "On The Backs Of Angels", the single to drop out the album, and I probably wasn't even going to bother getting the album immediately. But I did, and I got surprised big time. "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" could be the best DT album since "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence", released nine years earlier. This to me was a relief, and I was glad.

Luckily, the band opted with the more experimental approach, so the ambition of this album is immense. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most rich and ambitious albums the band has ever done. So many textures and layers of sound can be heard, and you hear new ones you've missed the previous listens every new listen. aDToE is a much more keyboard- driven, progressive LP, tons of effects, samples, and very interesting ambient moments, especially in many intros here. It can be heavy too, thanks to Petrucci's amazing guitar playing. His riffs here are mostly very well written and almost always pretty mind-blowing. But the two shining stars of the album for me are Jordan Rudess, who gives some of the most impressive performances I've ever heard by a keybordist, and Mike Mangini, who does an awesome job in my opinion and is a more than decent substitute of Portnoy.

But the thing that bothers me about this album is something that is present in all Dream Theater albums but here it is magnified to the extreme: technical musicianship, and the solos. On this album they are pushed to the very extreme, and end up sounding cold and, after a while, a little boring too. The musicians have written "Oh look how good I am" all over them, and I'm sorry to say that. It is almost too complex, too ambitious, or at least for my taste.

There are however moments that blew me away completely starting from the opening track "On The Backs Of Angels", that builds up epically and has good hooks. But my two favorite tracks here are the following "Build Me up, Break Me Down", which looks like it is becoming subject of controversy because of it's apparent cheesiness and really straight-forwardness, and "Bridges In The Sky", that has an awesome intro and aggressive feel overall. Other moments here are quite good: "This Is The Life" is one of the most beautiful ballads Dream Theater has written in a while, and "Beneath The Surface" is another calm and likeable tune. I always am satisfied when I like a DT ballad, because usually I don't enjoy them. "Outcry" is fun to listen to, but it does incarnate the excessive technical nature that this LP has; do I really want to hear almost ten minutes of crazy keyboards? "Breaking All Illusions" is another track I enjoyed a lot, it has a sort of layered down feel, and it's a good thing after more than an hour of Dream Theater madness.

"A Dramatic Turn Of Events" is so much better than I thought; It might not be as good as other releases this year, but 2011, as we can all see, is a year where music blossoms very well. If you like extremely technical music, you'll have a blast with Petrucci & company's last effort.
The spirit carries on with passionate lyrics and virtuoso musicianship.

New Dream Theater! Normally I would be excited. I will be the first to admit that although I have all of Dream Theater's albums and love their output overall, I did not have high hopes for this album at all. I guess the infighting of the band and the headlined shock loss of one Mr. Mike Portnoy had put a damper over the release of this album for many listeners, including myself. I wondered if it would sound too different and would it be too commercial, or worse, would the songs be medicore. Would it feature Rudess and Petrucci trading off incredible solos, with LaBrie crying out from his soul amazing vocals, and Myong hammering out pulsating basslines? Well, that is what Dream Theater usually do so it is an expectation they must always live up to if they do not want to alienate their huge fanbase. Finally would Mangini actually be able to live up to the high standard perpetrated by Portnoy. In this case I have to say a resounding no, in fact Mangini is quite pedestrian in his approach, though it is good enough the percussion does not shine through.

So it was with a degree of trepidation that I ventured into the unchartered waters of a Portnoy-less Dream Theater album. The first thing I noticed about the drums is that I did not notice the drums. This in fact shows what a great drummer Portnoy is as his rhythms and wild metrical shifts were one of the key features of the band. It took me a while to get used to it as it will for many listeners. On my initial listen to the album I was disappointed with the first 2 songs. There was nothing new on offer and it was a rather lacklustre feeling. By the time I reached the incredible Bridges in the Sky I was relieved that the DT magic was well and truly engrained on this album. Then after hearing Breaking All Illusions I knew I had experienced one of the most mindblowing tracks of the band's repertoire. This is a very personalised album with a lot of heart and it is also replete with a plethora of astonishing musicianship and instrumental virtuosity. So here are the tracks as I heard them.

On The Backs of Angels begins the album with a quiet interlude of acoustics setting the scene for the sombre textures and thematic content of the album which centres on loss of self and broken relationships, searching for direction and finding it. The tranquillity is soon followed by a blast of metal guitars, it is loud and layered with Rudess relentless keys. The lyrics are forcefully sung by LaBrie, evoking a sense of anger and remorse: "we spiral towards disaster, bleeding us to death the new American dream, you're blinded by your hunger beware your days are numbered" . The music is quite aggressive with Petrucci riffing solidly over a layer of keyboards and bass. After the words are heard "Leading me like a lamb to the slaughter" there is a lovely piano solo, followed by a lead break showcasing the skills of Petrucci. This song was the first one leaked online and it is fairly typical Dream Theater. Strong melodies and skilful musicianship with LaBrie sounding exactly as he does on the more recent albums. A good song for sure but there is nothing here that is outstanding.

The next track is Build me Up, Break me Down with a spacey effect intro then very dirty distorted guitars riffing. LaBrie's vocals are underplayed at first sounding phased. The build up to the chorus is melodic and sounds typical of what the band churns out regularly. It sounds dark with some pain ridden lyrics about falling apart, "I crash and burn, I never learn, I know more than obsession"; perhaps it is talking about a recent member who left? I particularly like the keyboard break on this, which is well executed. Overall this one grew on me, especially the vibe of dark emotional trauma provided by blasts of chilling keyboard and sustained pads, sounding almost electro industrial.

Lost Not Forgotten begins with rain falling, a storm that is interjected by very peaceful piano strains. Guitars crash in over the choral voice effects, the majestic feel is unmistakeable. The drums get faster building up pace to the verse. A metal chopping riff blocks everything out until Rudess is heard playing speed motifs on two keyboards. Eventually LaBrie sings phrases such as "I am not immortal, men have come to fear me, known across the desert I am known as the one who will not die, feared and respected living among the gods, leading the empire, spirit as black as coal, lost not forgotten king of the deathly soul." The riffs are excellent on this track and it is the most progressive song to this point on the album, though nothing like some tracks to follow. It sounded to me like an outtake from Black Clouds and Silver Linings, which is not a bad thing. Although I wanted to hear on this album something more adventurous for a band who has traversed this territory many times on previous albums. Eventually the band detour onto an adventure of soloing finesse. Admittedly this track features some of the best musicianship of the album but the song itself, verses and chorus, are rather forgettable and tuneless. The real drawcard is the structure with its detours and time sig shifts. As usual the band are incredible when allowed to release their talents into lengthy instrumental breaks where band members take turns almost out classing each other. Rudess and Petrucci trade off in true DT style and the overall effect is breathtaking. It is just a pity the actual song melody does not back up the amazing passages of guitar and keyboard.

This is the Life is a power ballad with tones of sadness that may be reflecting the sombre mood of losing Mike Portnoy over the past year, which must have affected the band deeply. It is the first of many times that LaBrie will sing in quiet reflection on the album. The pianos and acoustics are beautiful. The lyrics are about the hurt of losing someone who has lost their way: "When your souls turned inside out, have you questioned all the madness you invite what your life is all about, some of us choose to live gracefully, some can get caught in the maze, and lose their way home." This really sounds like it is sung about Portnoy although it is hidden as afar as actual meaning; "have you ever wished that you were someone else, trading places, what will they say after you've gone." The song will grow on you as all DT ballads tend to do. The feeling of dejection is also felt in the lead break, one of DT's most heartfelt songs no doubt. There are no death growls on this album, be assured of that.

Bridges in the Sky is the first track on the album that made me sit up and take notice as something truly outstanding. It features an unsettling Gothic chanting intro sounding like something from the cult scene in Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut'; very weird and off kilter. The time sig of the metal ferocity to follow is great, falling in and out of sync with the drums. This has one of the more interesting structures on the album. The riffs continue to chop with complex rhythmic meters. LaBrie sounds excellent with some of the more tantalising lyrics "whisper a word of truth, I trusted you, sun, come shine my way, make healing waters bury my pain, wind carry me home, the fabric of reality is tearing apart the piece of me that died, will return to live again, I will not go in the light until I pass thru the darkest caverns of my heart, dance with fire, spirit guiding the world outside, messenger of truth I trust in you transform me now". Some excellent instrumental finesse on display especially the Rudess keyboard solo trading off mith Petrucci's relentless guitar fingering patterns. He uses wah wah later and high screaming string bends that are exhilarating. The crunching staccato keyboards are classic Emerson like sounds. The trade offs even sound like the mystical Egyptian style at times reflecting the mystique of the lyrics, about the journey to the sky, calling on an ancient deity to take the hand of the protagonist. This one truly is a showpiece of the album and one of Dream Theater's best.

Outcry features very strong riffing with Rudess' keyboard flourishes. It begins with piano and weird echo effects reminding me of the industrial dark sounds on Gary Numan's "Pure". There is an ambience layered underneath and emotive power in the vocal performance of LaBrie "I hear the battlecry, bullets fall like water raining from the sky, my freedom has a price, the cost is buried in the ground". The music feels decidedly Middle Eastern, and the song maybe about the war on terrorism.

The really fractured time sig in the instrumental break is astonishing, with powerful breaks in the riffs and Rudess has an insane finger melting solo. Once again the music is incredibly skilful and complex, and this is where Dream Theater never let themselves down in their music. They are now stalwart genius musicians, and it seems they attempt to outdo past triumphs with these moments on this album. The break on this track is certainly as good as it gets for Dream Theater, and one can easily imagine how incredible this will sound in a live performance. The lengthy solo throws everything in with a passion that I wish other bands would adopt who go under the banner of prog metal. The chaos ceases for a moment here with a beautiful piano motif and LaBrie chimes in softly "you can walk the other way or you can face the light, although it seems so far away freedom is worth the fight". There is a kind of uprising against injustice injected in the lyrics with strong phrases such as "wait for the outcry, resistance is calling tonight" and "stand strong and unite, the world watches on while we risk our lives, as our children die". This is not the first time DT have used the lyrics to inflict some kind of anti-war message against political infraction or resolute determinism against the mistreatment of the innocence in war; Sacrificed Sons from "Octavarium" blatantly focussed on the 9/11 crisis.

Far From Heaven begins with gentle piano and softly crooned vocals. The lyrics may be telling the tale of losing Portnoy, either way there is melancholy at its deepest point here: no one truly has the answers, everyday I struggle through it once more, keep things bottled up never speaking words, messing up but I am doing just fine, every day I put a brave face on, I have done what you asked of me, coming undone way too high a price I should pay, you keep your pride while I die inside, everyday, no I can't lie anymore, won't pretend I've done all I can, you can't imagine the hell I'm going through." The song really exudes a sombreness I have rarely heard with DT, but it is nice to hear the soul and passion of the band. The melody is soul stirring and will perhaps be a fan favourite on the live stage to wave lighters to over the next years to come.

Breaking All Illusions has a killer riff that shifts in and out of rhythm and takes over the song, with sporadic drum patterns and very melodic keyboards. This is one of the more progressive tracks and it settles into Myung's quiet bass driven passage before LaBrie begins to sing quietly; "with the sun in place, new realities, singularities, breaking all illusions, changing my direction, live in the moment, breathe in a new beginning, wisdom revealed, as I unlock the key, life's biggest battles, my strength leads me home". Once again the lyrics are heartfelt and full of angst of changes and directions, perhaps the changes and direction of the band are being channelled. LaBrie has a bitter tone in his voice in places. There is a voice over narrative heard further augmenting the seriousness of the song content. The song changes direction too, with a very infectious little keyboard hook before it returns to the choppy chord structure. There is a Jethro Tull flute sound at one point, and some blues riffs, ELP Hammond sounds, then a power metal distorted riff locks in. The organic instrumental is fantastic and once again one of the best moments on the album. Petrucci launches into a scorching lead solo, with beautiful harmonies and arpeggios. The clean guitar sound balances perfectly afterwards, creating a dreamy ambient tranquil soundscape. The lead guitar solo then drifts into a peaceful beauty, followed with accomplished fret melting finger work and sweep picking. The melody is enhanced then by powerful guitar tones. Eventually the faster pace returns with a driving drum and bass under Rudess' and Petrucci's virtuoso playing. The band launch into full flight here and it is a joy to listen to it. This is why DT have become one of the most popular metal bands over recent years; they simply create mesmirising, brilliant music. When LaBrie returns with "Searching out, reaching in" the tracks has become so momentous that I am convinced that this is one of the high achievements of the band. The finale is bombastic but so powerful in its progressive execution that it is the fitting way to end this triumph. This 12 minute mini epic is astonishing and I would go as far as to suggest it is one of the top 10 DT songs of all time.

Beneath the Surface begins with a tap dripping, seamlessly from the previous masterpiece. There is a slow acoustic feel allowing room to breathe after the previous bedlam and LaBrie quietly sings about the sad subject of losing a loved one; "A shell of what could have been, sad to think I never knew you were searching for the words for the moment to emerge, yet the moment never came, you couldn't risk my fragile frame, until one day you stopped caring, and began to forget why I longed to be so close, I disappear into the darkness and the darkness turned to pain and never went away, until all that remained was buried deep beneath the surface". I like the moderate feel of the song, and it's melancholia enhanced by uplifting surges of keyboard and minimalism of acoustic. The balance of tension and release in the music is as emotionally charged as the lyrics. A nice ending to the album and one that may ring true for many listeners.

So at the end of the album I can comfortably rate this the full 5 stars. There is a certain degree of sadness and reflection in the lyrics and it may be the most emotionally charged album for the band in a very emotional year for them. The album delivers excellent prog metal by any standard and it does have some adventurous moments, with at least 4 tracks that are DT at their most outstanding. The album almost reaches the full 80 minutes and there is not a moment where it is not captivating. It grows on you like osmosis and after hearing it I am compelled to play it again and again. It is better than "Systematic Chaos", and although it is not as consistently heavy as "Black Clouds and Silver Linings", it is a pleasure to hear DT without death metal growls and malevolent lyrics so I actually prefer this new album. The lyrics are absolutely amazing in their honesty and really struck a chord with me, and I could hear in the album a certain thread of starting a new chapter, saying goodbye to the old and welcoming in the new era. There is a saying in the rock industry that you are only as good as your last album, and Dream Theater have proved with "A Dramatic Turn of Events" that the magic definitely remains; the spirit carries on.

Members reviews

Honestly, I didn't have very high expectations for this album. With Portnoy leaving and the sub-par quality of their previous album (along with the awful album art), I bought the album expecting it to be passable at best. How wrong I was... After a few listens, like complex music tends to do, the album began to grow on me immensely. A Dramatic Turn of Events shows Dream Theater at a career high in terms of musical complexity and songwriting. The album is certainly metal, but it's less heavy than their previous two albums, focusing instead on (what is this??) emotion in the music again! Not "Another Day" or "Hollow" emotion, but genuine progressive metal emotion more along the lines of Six Degrees. Anyways, A Dramatic Turn of events shows Dream Theater having a strong comeback. The music is top-notch, catchy, complex, progressive metal with plenty of eclectic influences. The music isn't overly worried about being heavy, just being top-tier progressive metal. A Dramatic Turn of Events is on the same level as Dream Theater's classic albums like Metropolis and Six Degrees, and is a welcome return to form from the masters despite losing one of the greatest metal drummers of all time.

Rating: 9/10
Only two years after the amazing last release "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" Dream Theater are back with a bang. They got a lot of media attention because of their split with founding member and drum workaholic Mike Portnoy who now tries to sue the band and doesn't only scrap his professional career but also his image, his friendship with the other members and finally his credibility. Thumbs down for Mike Portnoy but thumbs up for the other guys of Dream Theater who were able to write a very strong record even without the controling influence of Mike Portnoy. Most of the songs on here are written as a team. Jordann Rudess did an amazing job and sound stronger than ever on this record. Lets notice that he also wrote the drum patterns for the record that the new and very sympathetic drum monster Miek Mangini copied in his studio. He is the only new member who didn't have a writing credit on this record and I'm looking forward to see what this guy is able to play and write in a bright future with Dream Theater. Of course, John Petrucci is once again an important corner stone of this record and had many great ideas. James LaBrie gets some more credits on this record than before and his vocals sound more effortless and amazing than ever before. Even they shy guy John Myung got back on track and wrote a lot of music and also some lyrics on this album. Everything seems equilibrated on this album and Portnoy's departure seems to be a relief and released a lot of fresh creativity within the different band members. These are the reasons why this album turns out to be so strong.

Enter "A Dramatic Turn Of Events". I described the previous record as a great compilation and mixture of styles from albums such as "Six Degress Of Inner Turbulence", "Train Of Thoughts" or "Systematic Chaos" and this new record is the equivalent force to it. It touches calmer and more progressive sounds that made me adore records such as "Images And Words", "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory" or "Octavarium". The opener "On The Backs Of Angels" needs some time to grow but ultimately convinces with beautiful guitar harmonies and atmospheric keyboard section. Especially the calmest and most progressive tracks on this album are amazing like the catchy and yet epic anthem "Breaking All Illusions" or the touching and introspective ballad "Beneath The Surface".

But the band is even more diversified than this and has added some thrash orientated and modern sounds into a couple of songs that could come straight from "Train Of Thoughts" or "Systematic Chaos". The greatest example is the brilliant "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" that has many heavy and modern sounds but a catchy and beautiful chorus that contrasts the stunning beginning of the song. The great thing about this album is that it touches many different styles, ideas and genres but the choice of the track list still glues the nine songs coherently together. Every song has something different to show us even if we have heard bits and pieces of the diversified styles in many other Dream Theater albums before. This record presents us nothing new but it stagnates on a very strong level and is an important transitional album and new beginning after the departure of Mike Portnoy. This record should unite old and young fans and as I recognized, this album pleases as much to those who cite "Awake" as their favourite album as to those who would put "Train Of Thoughts" on the top of their list. That's a rare and stunning effort. With the last record, the band seems to have been able to develop away to catalyze their different styles into a well mixed melting pot of genius.

Every Dream Theater album has one song that truly stands out in my opinion and even though all songs are pretty great on this new effort, this is still the case on here. I talk about the amazing "Bridges In The Sky" that has almost made it as the title track of the album. The song mixes haunting shaman chants with atmospheric choirs, keyboards passages and even new age influences that lead to heavy and almost thrash orientated verses and beautiful choruses. Every instrument plus the vocals shine in this masterpiece that I would put slightly in front of the other stunning epics "Breaking All Illusions", followed by "Outcry" and finally "Lost Not Forgotten". This song contains everything Dream Theater is still about in 2011. I don't like stupid general comments but I would make an exception here and say that you don't like Dream Theater if you don't like this song.

In the end, the only reason why this record isn't my favourite one of the band and only placed second behind the previous "Black Clouds And Silver Linings" is that there are maybe one or two ballads too much on the record with "This Is The Life" and "Far From Heaven" and that the band doesn't try out something completely new yet. But I feel that the best is yet to come and that this album will also still grow on me. This album is definitely in my top ten of the best metal releases of the year and a must have for any fan of progressive music of any kind.
After the shocking departure of drummer Mike Portnoy, who had been with the band since their formation 25 years earlier, Dream Theater rally back with their first new member in eleven years and show that they can still deliver the goods.

Once the dust had settled and Portnoy's departure had been accepted, Dream Theater fans eagerly anticipated the unveiling of the man who would have the impossible task of replacing one of the greatest drummers in the world. And who better to fill those shoes than Mike Mangini?

With the excitement of hearing what a rejuvenated band with a new member could compose together, I was saddened to hear that this album had already been written before Mangini gained his position. Even more by the fact that the drum parts had been 'written' by John Petrucci. The album is still incredible, but I was pumped to see what Dream Theater could produce with a new drummer and songwriter making contributions to the music.

Musically, this is Dream Theater, so people already know what to expect. Virtuoso musical displays, big, epic songs, heavy, crushing riffs, beautiful melodies and haunting ambience. Petrucci, Rudess and Myung are on top form as ever, and James LaBrie's voice sounds as good as always (though if it holds up in a live setting is an entirely different story). With the inclusion of Mike Mangini on drums, this is a band who clearly haven't missed a beat, and have not let the drama of the previous years events distract them from doing what they do better than anyone else.

Highlights from this record include the single 'On the Backs of Angels', and the epics 'Bridges in the Sky' and 'Outcry'. The more metal tracks such as 'Lost Not Forgotten' and 'Build Me Up, Break Me Down' show that Petrucci can always be relied upon to write riffs that put most metal bands to shame, and ballads like 'This is the Life' and 'Far from Heaven' soften the mood to give listeners a chance to catch their breath.

With their eleventh studio album comes something fans never thought they'd see; a Dream Theater record without Mike Portnoy. As intense and incredible as any of their previous efforts, 'A Dramatic Turn of Events' is proof that the members of Dream Theater are still the best at what they do.
The Truth
They haven't done anything this good in a long, long time. Too long as a matter of fact, this is the best thing since Images & Words, the band's best record. It's not an exaggeration to say that this album is quite possibly Dream Theater's second best record ever.

Enough with all the rambling and onto why the record is good. Bottomline is Dream Theater does metal really badly and I think that Mike Portnoy tried to force feed a metal sound into the band's chemistry. What Dream Theater is really good at is progressive metal and with Portnoy gone it really sounds like the band came together and explored their sonic capabilities. We see that they're very much capable of greatness.

A Dramatic Turn of Events contains from start to finish material that rivals parts of Scenes From a Memory and is almost on par with Images & Words. The band sounds much more original than they have the past decade and you can sit back and listen to this record without any regrets.

Let yourself experience the true rebirth of a metal great, let Rudess and Petrucci take you on a ride completely free of the metal limitations they previously had. See for yourself how good this record is.
Dream Theater of late has been known more for the drama between ex-drummer Mike Portnoy and the band, first with the departure of Portnoy, then the dramatisation of the auditions for drummers, with the band posting videos of the entire audition process online (which honestly, left a bad taste in my mouth, with the videos almost feeling as if the band were out to make a quick cash-in on the attention) after that, finally naming Mike Mangini as the new member of the band. It is incredibly apt then, that the band name their new album A Dramatic Turn of Events, with a new member replacing the role of one of the band's former and founding members.

While Dream Theater's recent albums, namely Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds and Silver Linings have gained much critical acclaim, they did not particularly leave much of an impression of me, with the numerous recycled ideas (in particular the 12-step AA-themed songs) and the heavier direction that the band seemed to be going. Personal favourites of the band's releases have been Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory and the softer Octavarium. Therefore, on first listen to A Dramatic Turn of Events, it was indeed pleasantly surprising, with the band once more heading towards the form that they have crated with Octavarium, though managing to retain the element of heaviness in their music.

Opening track On the Backs of Angels begins promisingly, with a soft intro that almost reminds listeners of the epic Octavarium, before the acoustic guitars of John Petrucci come in and it does not take long for the listener to recognise the band to be Dream Theater as the band soon breaks into some technical, progressive passages, with Petrucci and Rudess taking turns taking over the lead instrument, like they do as before. It is nice for once to hear Petrucci putting some emotions into his playing (even his shredding), especially on songs like This is the Life, compared to the usual mechanical style that he utilises, making past heavier material sound as if his only goal is to squeeze as many notes as possible into a solo. Rudess, as usual, incorporates his neoclassical-style of playing on his keyboards, along with quirky moments that he has come to be known for on songs like Lost Not Forgotten. He plays a role at times in providing the symphonic elements in the music on tracks like Bridges in the Sky as well. LaBrie's vocals are also strong, though on this record he does not really push his vocal range as much as previous releases, instead choosing to focus on the emotions and the melodies that are present in the music, though on songs like Build Me Up, Break Me Down he does do some screams and shouts here and there.

As already mentioned, the songwriting style on A Dramatic Turn of Events has taken a turn to a softer and more melodic style, and this can be seen on songs like Build Me Up, Break Me Down, with the big hooks in the chorus and the overall melodic songwriting style, despite the song containing some of the heaviest riffs on the album, along with Lost Not Forgotten. The inclusion of the ballads on the album like This is the Life and Far from Heaven also seem to signal the direction that Dream Theater is heading towards with this album, and I, for one, am not complaining about it being a sucker for their softer stuff right from the start. This is not to say that the band has forsaken heaviness and technicality though. Heavier songs like the first half of Bridges in the Sky also manage to get listeners headbanging along with the band easily, and Petrucci displays his chops on the face-ripping guitar solo on Outcry, and the song sees the band bringing listeners on a technical ride, reminding them of moments taken off Metropolis - Part 1.

This album is not without complaints though. For one, the drums of Mike Mangini sound somewhat restrained, with few moments that really give him a chance to display his talents even though the odd time signatures and transitions are still present, but the drums were mixed to somehow sound weaker compared to the rest of the instruments, and this is no fault of his since the band mentioned that the drums were written before the place of the drummer was confirmed, and Mangini's performance on the auditions display his true abilities. And of course, while contentious, not hearing Mike Portnoy's backup vocals felt slightly weird, with moments that could have seen his vocals fitting in perfectly, but things like this blow over quickly. Myung's bass is also hardly audible throughout, and it seems that little attention is given to him, and while replicating riffs that Petrucci is playing already displays his technical capabilities, it would have been nice to listen to his improvisation once in awhile. Then there are the cheesy song titles, like Build Me Up, Break Me Down and Lost Not Forgotten, which could make fans of the band slightly hesitant.

Overall though, A Dramatic Turn of Events has been an extremely pleasant and soothing ride, and sufficiently proves the band's tightness as a songwriting and performance unit. The large melodic and catchy moments on the album are sure to attract any fan of melodic, yet technical metal, and suffice to say, I would personally take this over Systematic Chaos or Black Clouds and Silver Linings any day.

Consider this musical lease renewed.

For Dream Theater, there's a lot riding on their first album without Mike Portnoy. The leading up to the release, the questions loomed large: Can they hold to a cohesive vision? Will the production quality be up to snuff? Can Mike Mangini handle the material - let alone offer his own contributions?

When I finally was able to listen to the album for myself, the answer was an enthusiastic "YES" on all accounts! Any worries that the band would follow in the footsteps of the post-Neal Morse Spock's Beard are completely assuaged.

The band certainly has stepped it up in this release, with material that reflects the reality that their careers are riding on its success. The clear creative forces behind the music are John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, who have a long history together of weaving complex and compelling musical storytelling. Both also offer a strong ear for great production value, which is evident from the very first listen.

Of course, the wild card was Mike Mangini. In this reviewer's opinion, that card turns out to be an ace. He does way more than mimic Mike Portnoy's meticulous and frenetic drumming, bringing a sound that he owns. His chops don't just keep up, but blaze new territory with some of the most original and intricate drumming we've ever heard from Dream Theater.

Every song on the album is strong, with my personal favorite being the anthemic Outcry. All the music is at once accessible and deeply complex, offering something for every level of prog-appreciation.

Dream Theater has turned over a new leaf. Is it because Portnoy left, or just because they had to renew themselves in his absence? Whatever the answer, the result speaks for itself--and bodes well for the future of the band.

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