Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
by Rev. Walter Beck
Well this is it, the Dream Theater album that prog-heads were waiting for; their first one without drummer Mike Portnoy. Mike Mangini, formerly of Annihilator, Extreme, Steve Vai, and Dream Theater’s James LaBrie’s side project MullMuzzler, steps up to the plate to provide the drumming on this album.
The album begins with the first single, “On the Backs of Angels” and it’s standard Dream Theater prog-metal fare; strong time shifts, chaotic but concise instrumentals and very strong operatic vocals from LaBrie. It’s not a stunning intro, but it is familiar territory for DT fans.
“Build Me Up, Break Me Down” sounds much stronger as it kicks through heavier guitar riffs, keyboard noise and strangely distorted vocals from LaBrie in the beginning. It sounds much more “contemporary” than some of Dream Theater’s other work, like maybe they’re getting away from the Rush and King Crimson worship they’re known for. This cut should have been the first single in my opinion, it would have gotten some damn good radio play with its sound, which is solidly prog-metal, but not so complicated that people outside of the prog world wouldn’t dig it.
The third cut, “Lost But Not Forgotten” is what the fans of Dream Theater are looking for, a ten-minute epic full of time shifts and stunning instrumental proficiency, mixing prog, metal and jazz together seamlessly, particularly in the swirling guitars of John Petrucci. This record has several other epic length cuts in this vein, “Bridges in the Sky” (featuring some great effects from keyboardist Jordan Rudess and great choral effects), “Outcry” and one of the last cuts on the record, “Breaking All Illusions”. These four cuts are the real meat and potatoes of this album, strengthening Dream Theater’s stance as one of the epic metal bands of our time.
“Far From Heaven” is a more somber track, scaling back on the metallic end of Dream Theater’s sound and taking an almost ballad approach. It’s not all together surprising as they have cut songs like this before, but it’s a nice mid-album break from the harder sounding material on the rest of the album.
“Beneath the Surfaces” closes out this album and it’s a darker sounding piece, not in sound as the sound is very stripped down, but darker in its feeling, particularly in the vocals of James LaBrie. His voice cuts through most clearly on this song and it’s a great way for the band to end the record.
Dream Theater has delivered a good, solid album here. It’s not my favorite of theirs (that would probably go to Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence) and I’m not sure it will win any new fans, but if you’re already a fan of DT or prog-metal, this is a good album to pick up. It definitely won’t disappoint you.