Monday, 12 September 2011

Album Review: Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn Of Events

"After a few dramatic turns, Dream Theater still come out on top".

It’s almost a year to the day that co-founder, band spokesman, and legendary drummer Mike Portnoy was fired from prog-metallers Dream Theater. In that time, the remaining members of Dream Theater have auditioned 7 drummers, have been on the summer festival circuit and have written and recorded a new album, just released, titled ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’.

Many fans were in doubt after Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater, as he was often considered the heart and soul of the band. Portnoy had certainly left an impressive legacy behind that would be hard for the remaining members of Dream Theater to walk away from. The politics of firing Portnoy and the reasons why were badly handled by the band and had almost left a bitter taste to their fans.

After doubts of where the band may go post-Portnoy, the announcement of new drummer Mike Mangini gave a sigh of relief to fans, that perhaps the post-Portnoy Dream Theater, although different, would be something to look forward to.

After giving ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’ a first listen, it was an immediate and overwhelming surprise that Dream Theater had crafted and captured something very spectacular on this album, especially after the mild disappointment of recent albums. The opener ‘On The Backs Of Angels’, which was released as a single at the end of June this year, is typical Dream Theater fare, often residing in the comfort of their sound that fans are most familiar with. However, it is from ‘Build Me Up, Break Me Down’, where the album really changes  gear and offers one of the heaviest songs to come out of this band since the ‘Train of Thought’ album.

The next song ‘Lost Not Forgotten’ showcases the first of Jordan Rudess’ beautiful piano arrangements at the start of this song. The track then goes into some very technical musicianship, of which the band have been widely recognised for. To those that had thought Dream Theater had rested on their laurels more recently or had passed the baton to newer, more technical bands, think again with this album. 

‘This is the Life’ is one of the more melodically driven highlights of this album, that makes singer James Labrie shine on this song particularly. ‘Bridges in the Sky’ again follows a more heavier formula, but shows at best here that this band can be heavy but also melodically catchy. ‘Outcry‘ continues this heavy theme whilst also being the main highlight on the album for technical showmanship. 

‘Far From Heaven’, is the perfect post-climactic song and at most just features Jordan’s Piano arrangement and Labrie’s very breathy, open and personal vocals. ‘Breaking All Illusions’ is again another of the melodically driven highlights of the album, whilst ‘Beneath The Surface’ is a wonderful closer to this album, which with its lush arrangements and short time is unlike the longer songs that you would expect a typical Dream Theater album to close on.

To summarize, ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ deserves to be up there with Images & Words and Metropolis Part 2 as some of this bands best work. The band seems to be at their most focused here than they have been for a long time, and the unnecessary or over-crammed ideas have gone. Mike Mangini offers some new and fresh technical flourishes to the band and he fits in almost perfectly as Portnoy’s successor. The band almost leave you wanting more with this album, even at close to 80mins and for a prog band especially of Dream Theater’s nature, this is rare. There is not a weak song on this album and is an utter musical pleasure to listen to from start to finish. 

This album is the perfect balance of well crafted songs, strong melodic hooks, beautiful arrangements, heavy riffs and pushing the envelope once again in musical showmanship.

For those that thought Dream Theater was just an excessive progressive metal band with over the top technicality, above all else with this release you will find it hard not to be singing these songs in your head for days.  

'A Dramatic Turn of Events' is out now!

Rating: 9.5/10

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