Album: A Dramatic Turn of Events
Artist: Dream Theater
Track Listing: 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 6) Outcry 7) Far From Heaven 8) Breaking All Illusions 9) Beneath the Surface
Arguably the most anticipated Dream Theater album in quite some time, A Dramatic Turn of Events is the aptly named product of a shaken band. Co-founder, drummer and songwriter Mike Portnoy infamously departed last year on the back of the group’s most successful album in search of a more metallic venture with Avenged Sevenfold. Once he was surprisingly shown the door from that project he was justifiably denied his place back in Dream Theater and the band (after a long drawn out process) recruited former Extreme and Annihilator powerhouse Mike Mangini. Recent reports that Portnoy is now looking to sue his former band mates is casting yet another shadow over the Dream Theater camp, but if not more so over the ex-drummer himself. For this new album is the result of a band bravely marching on, leaving the past behind and embracing a new future. Perhaps their strong defiant approach has left Portnoy more than just a little bitter.
Eager fans will already know the opener On the Backs of Angels since it was released as an early album teaser. Our first glimpse of the new outfit is most impressive. A technically advanced yet musically enjoyable track, the opener proves to be one of the most satisfying Dream Theater tunes in recent years. Beautiful chiming clean guitars marry with the atmospheric keyboard pads and chugging riffs. Build Me Up, Break Me Down is also a success, presenting brutally heavy memorable riffs and catchy chorus lines.
Lost Not Forgotten sees the band return to the technical exploitation that they’ve become renowned for. The complex sections are perfect opportunities for Mangini to prove his worth, complementing shifting rhythmic patterns with his likeable, if not Portnoy-inspired style. Despite the instrumental virtuosity, the track fails to deliver on the melodic side. At ten minutes in length it falls victim of a tried and tested formula that the band have been milking to death over the last decade. Outcry and Breaking All Illusions contain further examples of this.
Bridges in the Sky is a more inspired musical venture. With an intro that contains Tibetan throat singing, harps, oriental chimes and a choir, the track sets itself up to be nothing short of epic. It doesn’t disappoint with the eleven minutes packing in quality riffs and melodies to make it easily one of the most playable tunes on the record. The inspiration is also found on the tender ballad Far From Heaven. The single-length song contains a believable performance from James LaBrie accompanied by piano and strings. A much more stripped-down song, it proves to be one of the album’s most enjoyable. Beneath the Surface has the same approach, the band proving that they can do just fine without a drummer at all.
If fans had any doubts that Dream Theater would struggle without Portnoy then they can breathe a sigh of relief. A Dramatic Change of Events contains some great material and much promise for where the band may grow with future releases. This is one of their more enjoyable records in recent years and a strong one at that.
1) On the Backs of Angels
2) Far From Heaven
3) Bridges in the Sky
Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 22/09/2011