Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events

A dramatic turn of events, indeed.


Ah, Dream Theater. You've been rockin' it pretty hard for more than twenty years now, haven't you? Most bands don't survive that long, especially bands that aren't really that lucrative per release. It's too bad, because you really are quite good, but I guess your prog-metal styles just aren't very commercial. And now you've gone and lost your founding drummer, too! What are you to do? Get a new one, of course.

And so they did. Portnoy left after twenty years of being with Dream Theater. I guess he was tired of it or something, but it's alright, because their replacement, Mike Mangini, isn't all that bad. Fans sore for the loss of one of their favorite drummers should find solace in his replacement, as he fills the hole almost completely. They will miss Portnoy, but at least they can live with Mangini.

Acquainting themselves with Mangini did not stunt the steady flow of new releases, either, and right on time, two years after Black Clouds and Silver Linings comes A Dramatic Turn of Events, likely named so for their slight change in lineup. That said, not much has really changed since their last album. Dream Theater are still the same heavy metal prog band they've always been, though they've definitely leaned more towards metal since the beginning of the 21st century. One neat change seems to be the occasional use of drum machines. Whether this was the idea of Mangini or not, I can't say, but it certainly doesn't conflict with anything. In fact, it gives whatever it accompanies a more modern sound.

The track lineup is just like any other Dream Theater album as well. They've got their over-long super tracks ("Bridges In the Sky," "Outcry"), their 8-minute single, ("On the Backs of Angels"), and their token ballad ("Far From Heaven"). The only thing that's missing is a "monster" track. Most DT albums have had this super-long epic song at the end of the track list, like "Octavarium" on the album of the same name (24:00) and "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" on the album of the same name (approx. 42:00). But not here. Well, not compared to the tracks that are already very long. The closest thing they have to something like this is "Breaking All Illusions," (12:26). Though it is the longest track, it's not much longer than "Outcry" and it isn't at the end either. Maybe I'm just a traditionalist, but this is a pretty old tradition for Dream Theater as far as I can tell.

Of course, none of that really matters compared to the actual music. Most of the tracks are rockin' as hard as any other DT release, with the exception of "Far From Heaven," which kind of sucks even for a token ballad. The under-10-minute songs are almost certainly going to be more popular than their over-10-minute songs. The only time I ever regularly listened to their epic tracks regularly were "The Count of Tuscany" from their last album and "Octavarium," both of which I've already talked about. "On the Backs of Angels" will likely remain at the top of the popularity chain for this album, though I think "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" is a much better example of how they can rock at under 10 minutes.

Overall, another great Dream Theater album is among us. It's not the best, but DT fans like myself will eat it up and make it last until their next album.

UPDATE: Sorry, I forgot to add the key songs the first time. Here they are.

"On the Backs of Angels"

"Build Me Up, Break Me Down"

 "Bridges In the Sky"


"Beneath the Surface"

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