Dream Theater

Album Review: Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events

Perhaps unfairly, the focus of Dream Theater’s eleventh album is undoubtedly whether or not the band can still function without Mike Portnoy. Portnoy’s drumming is rivalled by very few in the rock world (a friend once summed it up as “he plays like he has eight arms”), and it was a core feature of Dream Theater’s prog-metal meanderings. He contributed lyrics, had his own suite of songs, and then decided he wanted a break after being in one of metal’s most complex bands for over 20 years. It was widely regarded that Dream Theater had lost a limb.

While that may be true, new drummer Mike Mangini is more than just a prosthetic arm. Given the quality of musicianship already found within the band, obviously they weren’t going to let just anyone replace Portnoy (what is Meg White doing these days, anyway?). Mangini is a different beast from Portnoy, but change can be good for a band, especially a well-seasoned one such as Dream Theater. Perhaps losing a founding member has given them a new energy?

Yes and no. There is nothing here to match the opening of ‘Panic Attack’ or the solo of ‘Constant Motion.’ There is also nothing to suggest that the trademark DT sound has changed in any way. The intro to “On the Backs of Angels” is instantly recognisable. Elsewhere, four songs out of nine extend beyond ten minutes. Same old, same old.

However, something special happens about two minutes into mid-way point ‘Bridges in the Sky.’ Suddenly, Mangini no longer feels like a replacement and starts to develop a swagger. It almost feels as if he is setting the pace and everyone else is following him. If there is a defining moment on ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’, it’s this. Everything comes together – the drums are interesting, there are twiddly-widdly solos, soaring choruses, and it’s uncommercially long.

There are few surprises. An 80s inspired intro to ‘Breaking All Illusions’, an unexpected tribal-sounding guttural howl (you’ll know it when you hear it), and even a pleasant power-ballad in the shape of ‘Far From Heaven’ which is less than four minutes long.

Apart from those moments it’s business as usual, but ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’ is Dream Theater’s most coherent and consistent body of work for a few releases. Lesser bands would have crumbled without such a prominent figure, but the band have carried on to create a successful album which they, and their fanbase, will be proud of.

Rating: 7/10


About Scott Wilson

Having spent the last twenty years of his life telling his friends his opinion of the latest release by every band he has ever heard of, Scott is an enthusiastic journalist and keen writer. A fan of every genre of music, though his heart firmly belongs to rock, he has been spending far too much money on gigs and not enough on digs. Reachable by either email or Twitter where copious amounts of commentating and general excitement can also be found.

5 Responses to “Album Review: Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events”

  1. The album is great. The mix isn’t right for this kind of music. M Mangini is a good teacher but I’m afraid he wasn’t creative enough on this album. He played it safe… I’ sorry, there is nothing safe or conventional in the world of Dream Theater.That why we love Dream Theater!!! you need a monster like Thomas Lang to cover up the absence of Mike Portnoy. unless, the band is moving to the next chapter of the life where they want to be more like Rush or Yes and appeal to older crowd .Then, I understand the release of such album.

  2. After several spins of this disc both as background music and paying close attention to every note, lyric & drum fills I have come to a few conclusions.
    The Lack of Mike Portnoy’s influence is apparent in the compositions and the mix. The keyboards are more prominent in the songs, as well as John P’s. solos.
    Mike Mangini plays well as he always does. I don’t think it’s his best performance as he is the new guy, and hasn’t found his voice in the band yet. He also wasn’t well represented in the mix. Not as in your face as the drums were when Portnoy was producing.
    I like the album more with every listen. At this point, I give it 3.75 out of 5. Looking forward to the tour and the next disc!

  3. Just thought you guys should know that the drum parts were written before Mangini was on board, if you really want to hear his creativity then just wait until the next album.

  4. That’s what I was implying when I wrote,”as he is the new guy, and hasn’t found his voice in thecband yet.”

  5. Some dumb comments here I am sorry. Ask Portnoy to play half the licks on this album and he’ll throw his sticks away. Portnoy would even admit this. Fanboys are fanboys but to even pretend this isnt top of the line progressive rock drumming is insane. Portnoy never had “eight arms” hence countless youtube videos show garage band drummers covering Dance of Eternity. Find one covering anything on this album note for note…you wont. Please be more realistic in the future.