Love them or hate them, Dream Theater have been one of the most influential, and successful bands in modern progressive rock. On top of laying the groundwork style for every other progressive metal band out there today, this band has been the centre of constant debate between people that virtually worship them for their virtuosity as musicians and talent, and others that condemn them for what they perceive as needless showmanship at the sacrifice of real substance. Chances are that coming onto this review; you may already have a potentially strong opinion about Dream Theater, and what they are all about. For me, this was a band that- along with other legends like Rush and Led Zeppelin- got me big into music when I was first beginning to explore beyond what music is…..
A Dramatic Turn of Events is the 11th studio album by American progressive metal band Dream Theater, released on September 13, 2011 through Roadrunner Records. It is the band’s first recording to feature drummer Mike Mangini, following the departure of founding member Mike Portnoy in September 2010.
The album was written, recorded, mixed and mastered between January and June 2011 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long Island, New York. It was produced by John Petrucci and mixed by Andy Wallace. Its first single, “On the Backs of Angels”, was released via YouTube on June 29. A critical and commercial success, the album moved 36,000 units in the United States in its debut week, eventually charting at number eight on the Billboard 200.
Departure of Mike Portnoy:
On September 8, 2010, Mike Portnoy announced that he would be leaving Dream Theater, citing better relationships in other projects, burnout, and his desire for a break as reasons. Elaborating on the situation for MusicRadar, John Petrucci revealed that originally, Portnoy did not want to leave the band; he only wanted to take a five-year break. Only after the rest of the band rejected his proposal did Portnoy decide to quit.
Petrucci has called Portnoy’s departure one of the hardest things Dream Theater has had to face. Speaking of when he first heard the news, Jordan Rudess recounts, “You know, just to give you an idea of how deep this was to lose him, how difficult it was… after we got off the phone with him… I literally sat on the steps of my studio and cried. This is a guy who’s a friend of mine, who we all love and admire. We didn’t want to see it come crashing down.”
It’s impossible to not acknowledge the drummer-shaped elephant in the room: this is the first Dream Theater album without Mike Portnoy on it. Having been rather publicly replaced by the formidable Mike Mangini, the influential prog-metal masters made quite the show of having moved on from the loss of one of their founding members. The question, though, was: who would step up? Would Jordan Rudess slip in a few more keyboard solos? Would John Petrucci’s guitars solos shine even brighter? Would James LaBrie’s relatively one-dimensional vocals ever do something different?
Recording and Release:
On January 3, 2011, Dream Theater entered Cove City Sound Studios to begin working on a new album. According to John Petrucci, the band entered the studio with the goal of writing something “on a grand scale” that was “sonically interesting”. Although Petrucci brought in some demos, riffs and songs from home, the album was mostly written in the studio. Writing was completed on March 2 and done without Mike Mangini. The band made demos for all the songs with drums already programmed, then sent them to Mangini who learned the parts and “added his own stuff”. Reflecting on the writing process for Rock Your Life, Jordan Rudess explained that the band’s approach was more open to his keyboards than in the past, and that after Mike Portnoy’s departure, he and Petrucci “became, like, free”. James LaBrie and John Myung each contributed more to the writing than they had in recent years.
On April 14, LaBrie began tracking vocals and by June 28, the album’s mixing and mastering by Andy Wallace were finished. LaBrie recorded all the album’s vocals in Canada with Richard Chycki. Originally, LaBrie planned to only record the album’s first two songs away from New York City, but after flying there to finish the remainder of the vocals, decided to go back to Canada because “it just didn’t feel right”.
On June 8, 2011, the album’s title, track listing and United States release date were revealed. Its cover art was shown several days later, done once again by longtime collaborator Hugh Syme. On June 29, “On the Backs of Angels” was released as the album’s first single. Leading up to the release of the album, Dream Theater released various one-minute long snippets of new songs, including “Bridges in the Sky”, “Breaking All Illusions”, “Beneath the Surface”, “This Is the Life”, “Lost Not Forgotten” and “Far from Heaven”. On September 14, a music video for “On the Backs of Angels” was released.
Views About The Album:
I present some strong opinions about this Dream Theater album, although I am positive there are others – even fans of the band – who see things in a completely different light. ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ took little longer time from me before I started to fully appreciate it, rather than much of the other more recent material that Dream Theater has churned out and have been instant masterpieces. But after giving it the time it deserves, I’ve found it to be an incredibly strong, albeit a bit flawed album.
After the thoroughly metal opening chords of Build Me Up, Break Me Down, the song continues menacingly until an overly syrupy chorus which see LaBrie whine somewhat amongst the theatrics. The comforting pianos of Lost Not Forgotten give way to some outrageous solo battles between Rudess and Petrucci; but the keyboard contributions halfway through Outcry are absolutely ridiculous though. It’s one of those moments where you begin to wonder if Dream Theater haven’t jumped the shark somewhat.
There is still some cheese to grate off the edges of the band’s sound, and one less- than-satisfying track towards the beginning does tend to have me argue against this being labelled as a ‘masterpiece’, but does this stand its ground against other albums by the band? Yes, and more than that; it shows them taking some of their less tasteful aspects and injecting more thought into them, making the overall sound of Dream Theater all the more powerful. Agree with me or not, ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ has wowed me and impressed me more and more with each time I listen to it, and I can see myself giving it the same long-term appreciation as I do most of the band’s material.
In the end I suggest everyone who love music to give a chance to themselves and hear this album; it might be a somewhat different music to you, if you never heard Dream Theater before, but it will be a sure treat nevertheless.
Cheers and happy listening!!