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

A DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.89 | 1231 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

baz91
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Originality is so passé

A year has passed since that fateful day when Mike Portnoy announced that he had quit Dream Theater. Now, with drummer Mike Mangini on board, the band have struck out with a new album, ready to prove that Dream Theater minus Portnoy is just as good, if not better.

When I first heard the title of this album, I had to stifle a groan. While the band deny it, the title seems to clearly reference Portnoy's decision to leave the group. The album art seemed awfully similar to that of Supertramp's '...Famous Last Words...', one of the bands' ill-appreciated albums. With song titles like 'On the Backs of Angels', 'Build Me Up, Break Me Down' and 'This is the Life', I was preparing myself for tripe.

However, I am quite shocked and relieved to say that tripe it is not! Indeed, Dream Theater seem to have got their heads in the right place to make this album. In fact, I can safely say that every song on this album is enjoyable and interesting; a remarkable feat, given that there are nine tracks.

However, there is one detail about this album that boosts the enjoyment factor, especially for DT fans: more than a few songs here share an uncanny likeness to songs from the band's 1992 album 'Images and Words'. This opinion was immortalised when Thiago Campos made a post outlining some of the ways in which the two albums were similar on Portnoy's forum. In many fans' eyes, 'Images and Words' was the bands' breakthrough masterpiece, featuring classic song after classic song. If the band were indeed trying to 'rip off' one of their old albums, they couldn't have chosen better!

You see, whilst this apparent dearth in creativity may seem like a negative aspect, it actually works wonders! When listening to a new album, it can be a struggle to try and keep the songs in your head. However, being able to match the songs up and compare the structures makes listening to and learning this album an easy, entertaining experience. Also, the only thing the band have 'ripped off' are the structures of the songs rather than the melodies or themes, meaning that the influences are all quite subtle and clever.

The nine songs on the album can easily be categorised into A-tracks and B-tracks. The A-tracks are the heavier, epic songs, and the B-tracks are the shorter, more commercial sounding songs. Simply put, the A-tracks are longer than 10 minutes, and the B tracks are shorter. Strangely enough, this was the format of the band's last album! Since each track is quite unique, it's only fair if I comment on each one.

The album kicks off with the On The Backs Of Angels. This track seems to have the same function on this album as A Rite Of Passage did on the previous album, and Constant Motion on the album before that. This function is to be a typical Dream Theater song, with three choruses and a kickass instrumental, and is to be used as a single for the album. However, this song is a lot better than it's predecessors, because it is a lot less predictable and has a more diverse feel. I say it's less predictable, but when you compare it to Pull Me Under from 'Images and Words', the structure of the song becomes crystal clear. The guitar-based intro with keyboards on top, the quiet part after the second chorus - everything feels just like the bands' so-called 'Greatest Hit'. This is a really cool song, with a lot to offer.

Build Me Up, Break Me Down has to be one of the band's oddest songs. Beginning with a sampled beat that is reminiscent of Wheatus's Teenage Dirtbag, this is a track for the less progressively inclined. Although I would normally skip over a track like this, the bands use of chugging riffs and power chords is nothing less than exquisite. The production of this track makes for a very pleasant listen. The best part of the song is either the anthemic chorus or the unison solo that reminds me of the guitar solo towards the end of The Best of Times.

Lost Not Forgotten is the album's first epic track. This song has a 'Prince of Persia'-esque theme, and the first few guitar notes in the intro really reflect this. There are many allusions to other Dream Theater tracks: the heavy chugging notes that are similar to those in The Dark Eternal Night, the short bass solo at 4:44 that sounds very much like the one heard in The Mirror and the quirkiness of the instrumental offshoots during the chorus that remind me of The Darkest Of Winters. However, the strongest allusion is to Under A Glass Moon, because the structures of the two songs are very similar. To me, this is one of the best tracks on the album, because it has it all: brilliant verses, charismatic choruses and indulgent instrumentals. This track will not be lost or forgotten any time soon.

This Is The Life is this album's Another Day. Right down to the cymbal-play at the end, these two songs could not be more similar. The saxophone solos have been replaced with guitar parts, and the track has been lengthened somewhat, but the similarity can almost be tasted. Fortunately, the ballad-like nature of this song is still appealing, and makes for some good easy listening.

Bridges In The Sky is an 11-minute metal powerhouse. The track begins with a very strange effect that sounds like a person with a very deep voice, followed by an atmospheric choral section. Afterwards, the band pick up their instruments and play what turns out to be quite a standard Dream Theater song. As usual, the instrumental is quite extraordinary, with ubiquitous time signature changes and various solos.

There are certainly some similarities between Outcry and Metropolis Pt. 1, like the anthemic intro and the extensive instrumental, but none quite as profound as we have seen previously. This is a 'protest song': a song that seems to be protesting against something, but the subject is kept quite vague. The instrumental is definitely the highlight of this track, being very diverse in nature and, at over 4 minutes, quite a workout! The verses and choruses are very good too.

Far From Heaven is a strange song for Dream Theater. This is a sombre acoustic track in the style of Vacant. LaBrie's voice is wonderful here, which is not surprising given that these are his lyrics. A moving, thoughtful piece.

The simplest way to describe Breaking All Illusions is by saying that it plays out pretty much like Learning To Live (except without the outro). The lyrics cut out at 5 minutes, and we are left to wonder: will the band be able to cope for the next 7 minutes? Surprisingly, they do! The instrumental this time is 5˝ minutes long, and is the most diverse of all the instrumentals of this album. This instrumental ranges from complex time signatures on the keyboards to a beautiful guitar solo and finally to a dramatic build up leading us to the final chorus. What the band have created is absolutely wonderful: a perfectly realised piece of prog rock.

Music is surely the best when it makes you feel happy. The last song, Beneath The Surface is a feelgood song that really will cheer you up. The melody of the chorus is simply irresistable. There's an allusion to ELP's Lucky Man with the keyboard solo in the centre of the track. LaBrie raises his voice for the last chorus for added impact. This is a lovely end to what has been quite an eye-opening album.

As someone who knows the band very well, I could not have been happier with this album. Rather than sounding tired and out of ideas, the band sound full of life and passion! Alongside Symphony X's 'Iconoclast' (the other big prog metal album of the year), it's easy to see why most people agree that Dream Theater are the best band of the genre. It's a bit sad to know that Portnoy isn't there on the recordings, but Mangini handles the drumming skillfully, and I cannot wait to hear what this new Dream Theater will come up with next! Allusions to 'Images and Words' aside, 'A Dramatic Turn of Events' is an astonishing album that will keep Dream Theater fans happy for years to come.

baz91 | 5/5 |

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