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Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn Of Events CD (album) cover

A DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.90 | 1242 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is a brand new place......but I've been here before.

Although I should never contradict my previous opinions, hearing "On The Backs Of Angels" didn't remind me of "A Rite Of Passage" anymore. It felt newer, cleaner, clearer, yet, something was bothering me. It still felt like there was something lingering there from years past.

Like "Images & Words".

The entire band, like myself, will state that this is definitely one of their more melodic progressive albums. Less metal, but more rock (if you know what I mean). Now, I can't compare this to "Images & Words", but I hear a lot of it in here. Yes, LaBrie still is singing lower, but like in "Images & Words" the virtuosity is still present, but subdued, allowing the song to develop by itself, and then there's Rudess bookending the song. Damm, if he doesn't sound like Kevin Moore there and that haunting atmosphere, I don't know what the hell that is.

Or....what?

"Build Me Up, Break Me Down" instantly starts off to be a failure. Synthesized drums. Never a good idea when you're breaking in a new drummer. Yet, I'm going to believe that we're receiving more prog than metal in general.

So much for that theory.

After the cheesy rap beat comes a tidal wave of face-smashing metal, but not just face- smashing metal. Mangini isn't busting out a blastbeat or immediately using the double- bass out of the gate, so this isn't comparable to "Train Of Thought" or "Systematic Chaos" or "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". In fact, this song reminds me of no other but "The Mirror". "Awake" instantly comes to mind, even though there still is that haunting feeling, that ghostly synth from "Systematic Chaos". It seems like deja vu at first, but it still reminds me of "Awake", that old-school metal that Dream Theater began a revolution with. Yes it's still new, synthy, heavy, creepy (do I hear a black metal-ish scream from LaBrie?), oddly catchy, but I still feel like it's a salute to Kevin Moore and a salute to "Awake".

It's a strange combination of the heaviness from ToT and "Chaos", but still has that haunting atmosphere of "Awake". It's also an interesting segue to "Lost Not Forgotten", the change from minor to major as if nothing happened before. The intro reminds me of "The Best Of Times", while the steady riff harkens back to "Train Of Thought" and the atonal solo sections echo "The Dark Eternal Night" over and over again. Old but new. The intensity of the rapid fire riffs repeat the frantic-ness of "Systematic Chaos" but there's more attention to detail, to the music in general. This entire album is literally a summary of every single DT album every made rolled into one. The multiple sections and interludes throughout this track interchange with major and minor keys (similar, I believe to "The Glass Prison"), and of course the solo sections are pretty sweet as well ("Endless Sacrifice).

While "This Is The Life" starts out louder than most ballads (and in similar fashion to most songs from "Systematic Chaos" and BC&SL), the group keeps the verses mainly on the low-down in a typical ballad fashion ("The Answers Lie Within"). Yet Petrucci's solo almost creates a blues-y feeling towards the end, as the song is in 3/4, yet it's a ballad that ends in stunning fashion, as DT usually do with their softer songs (except "Wither").

As if this comglomeration of notable DT elements from previous albums wasn't enough, "Bridges In The Sky" adds another element to this talented ensemble; tribal music. Now it is a bit creepy to hear that weird droning sound from what sounds like a human bullfrog, but it's another atmosphere that this band creates that excels above everything else, and it continues with chanting (including a snippet of "Morte Et Dabo" for fans of chant, and "Asking Alexandra"). Yet, just as it's all ready to set in, Petrucci tears through a new one with Mangini laying down some decent beats (much like the Portnoy of olden days). Even though the core of this team is getting older, the music doesn't slow down, not a beat is lost and the metal is still prevalent in their music. The chorus is wonderful as always and the melody is simply superb. Definitely one of my favorites off this album. The ability to change gears so suddenly from a happy melody to chugging downbeats is a stark contrast to many mainstream groups, and many music enthusiasts don't like it, as it prevents them from grasping onto a certain melody, but progressive metal fans will tell the opposite, because change is good and everything else is boring! It's another crucial fact as to why Dream Theater is still one of the most beloved prog metal bands and one of the most popular metal bands today.

The heaviness from their recent discs is still very much alive, while there are traces of some funk and heavy prog (like in "Blind Faith") and the ever popular elements of Middle Eastern music (like "Home"). Unlike "Home", however, I wish those tribal drums and elements were repeated at least a few times in the piece, like the middle, instrumental section, but it's still a fantastic piece of music. Everything I love about this band combined into one seamless piece of magic.

"Outcry" continues a great song in stunning fashion as well with a great intro and, as usual, the loud, symphonic 4/4 beats (although some may tire of it throughout this album, I personally love it.) are still here. The presence of synthetic drums are a bit annoying at first, but once again, Petrucci, Rudess and Myung build around it to make it fit within the song's context. It seems like a heavy and constant track throughout, but it really seems more like a prolonged ballad, to my ears. I hear a little bit of "Trail Of Tears" in here, as well as "The Ministry Of Lost Souls", and Rudess' consistent symphonic playing reminds me of the power metal outfit Divinefire. Once again, the Middle Eastern influences are there (especially those note progressions. if you are a musician or have a piano, the note progression G, Gb, Eb, D, for example, should be familiar [as it's the main theme in "Rock Lobster] as that spacing between those four notes can be used with any four notes and be familiar to having that "Middle Eastern sound". try it at home!) and are still wonderful. The solo sections are phenomenal as always {you can never question the talent of these musicians (well maybe Mangini) as they're better than any of us}.

The solos are fantastic though. "Outcry" literally just screams "Metropolis, Pt. 3", as those solo sections (Yay, Myung gets a solo for once! All's right in the world again!) are so familiar to "Metropolis, Pt. 1" and "Images & Words" in general. Even "Octavarium" comes to mind towards the end, and the subtle soft section highlighting Rudess only intensifies the emotion pouring out of this album. This song actually is an "Outcry" to everything that is good in music. Absolutely wonderful.

"Far From Heaven" just screams "The Answer Lies Within", "Vacant" and "Wither" all in one. If I wasn't a manly man, I would be crying profusely over these last two songs, because both are amazing, yet they're both in typical Dream Theater style. Is this what we as fans expected? Most likely not. It's a fantastic ballad that rivals any that Dream Theater has ever made. Along with "The Answer Lies Within", "Far From Heaven" is one of the few DT ballads that anyone can listen to, prog metal fan or not.

Then we get the final piece of the puzzle comes together with "Breaking All Illusions". The intro is a two-step beat familiar to "Falling Into Infinity" fans, but also has that sort of humorous, jolly side seen in "The Count Of Tuscany". The soft prelude to the first verse is eerily similar to "Honor Thy Father". Finally, those soundbites are back! The one element that made "Awake" a truly special album returns with a vengeance. Many stop and start elements from songs like "Endless Sacrifice" and "Blind Faith" returns, as well as the many different voices Rudess uses (piano, organ, synth, etc). Petrucci rips, as usual, and the instrumental sections are fantastic. Once again, DT are going back to their roots, where LaBrie had his time to shine, and now it's time for the kids to play with their toys and destroy numerous houses (aka Petrucci and Rudess soloing up a storm [note: Mangini doesn't get a piece of the spotlight here]). Another fantastic song off this disc.

Finally, the album concludes with "Beneath The Surface". Truly no better way to end the album. It's very interesting that beat one always starts in unison with the falling water roplet for the first few seconds. Oh, wait, I'm sorry, did I say that "Far From Heaven" and "The Answer Lies Within" were the best ballads ever? I meant "Far From Heaven" and "Beneath The Surface". Not even "The Spirit Carries On", one of the few DT tracks ever that (i'll admit) brought one single tear from my eye at one point, can match up to these two songs.

And thus concludes the best Dream Theater album ever made.

Yes. I did say it. And I'll say it again. This is the best album Dream Theater has ever made.

Positives: Just about everything. Every single DT album (except their first and worst) is echoed at some point throughout this record. It's literally every single album (and THEN some) merged all into one sophisticated and elegant work of art. LaBrie's soaring falsetto even makes a return at the very end of "Beneath The Surface"! Everything we all know and love throughout DT's entire history is here in one phenomenal package!

Negatives: Mangini. I hate to say it, but in replacing my beloved drum idol Mike Portnoy, I feel he's taken a part in some sort of "rookie hazing". Meaning, no drum solo, no spotlight. No attention of anything, really. He hasn't deserved this spot yet, but he'll need time. If (and when) DT releases another new album (god, I'm already thinking about a new DT album), Mangini will slowly be acclimated to the DT way of life, and attention will slowly be paid to him, much like more and more people paid attention to Tom Brady when he began throw perfect passes to any human being with the gift of hands, or like the slow process of giving a teenager more and more privileges (in less in some cases).

Verdict: This is the best Dream Theater album I've ever heard. It has all the elements we've heard in every DT album to date. Metal? Check. Prog rock? Check. Epic symphonics? Check. Haunting synths? Check. Blistering guitar solos? Check. Wonderful ballads any girl (especially the hot ones) will listen to? Yep. Natural evolution of prog metal? Of course. Technical musicianship only capable by God himself? Sure. Atonal chords and note progressions only capable of being theorized by German twelve-tone composer Arnold Schoenberg? Yes. The extremely rare scream? Got it. Tribal drums, tambourines and the human bullfrog's vocal didgeridoo impersonation? Creepy, but yes. Medieval era chanting? Got that too.

Everything you could ever want in a Dream Theater album ever? Absolutely. Yes. This is the definition of excellence. (And of course it helped that I, even for a diehard Dream Theater fan had low expectations, only the be blessed with the best prog metal album in the world.)

Beat that, Europe.

Wicket | 5/5 |

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