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


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.84 | 1539 ratings

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4 stars Well who'd have thought it would ever happen, a Dream Theater album without Mike Portnoy. However, as everything's pretty much been said that can be on this subject I won't expand any further on it other than to simply say that Dream Theater have proved with A Dramatic Turn Of Events that not only can they exist without him but they have actually bettered anything they've done for years. How much of this is down to Portnoy's absence is difficult to say but my suspicion that his previous firm hold on the band, which included some mistakes like his attempts at death growls, wouldn't have allowed this album to happen the way it has.

A perusal at my reviews for the last couple of Dream Theater albums would reveal a rating of 4 stars for both, the same as this one. So how's this one better then? Well, I've made a deliberate effort to live with this one longer than the last two before committing myself as while Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds.... were both decent albums, I found their shine wearing off pretty quickly and my initial excitement being replaced by apathy. Despite some exciting musicianship, a lack of strong melodies affected their long term appeal. This is where A Dramatic Turn Of Events triumphs big time, the band replacing bludgeon with a more melodic sensibility more akin to Images and Words era. That's not to say that ADTOE lacks power, there's no shortage of metal riffing, but the more tuneful approach works far better than previous attempts to compete with the new metal kids on the block. This is immediately apparent from the off and whilst On The Backs Of Angels is not my favourite piece it's nevertheless a useful statement of intent of their return to more melodious days.

Of course a review of the new Dream Theater album would be incomplete without mentioning Portnoy's replacement Mike Mangini. The guy undoubtedly has the necessary chops and follows all the twists, turns and complexities with ease. Where he differs and whether you consider this a good thing or not are down to personal preferences, is in his less frenetic approach. Rhythmically he has all the double kick stuff down to a fine art but is content to ease back on the amount of fills. Where his predecessor rarely went a couple of bars without throwing something in, Mangini, whilst more restrained, nevertheless has plenty to offer in his more considered approach.

Getting back to things on a musical level, whilst this album may on the face of it appear to be stepping backwards, which in many respects it is, it nevertheless does offer some progression, at least for Dream Theater like on Build Me Up, Break me Down with a Porcupine Tree-esque verse before entering more traditional DT territory for the chorus. The slow pace and grinding riff that appears from time to time is a killer. Jordan Rudess seems to have benefited from the new approach, having more space to not only shine but heard more too, not least with some fine playing on Lost Not Forgotten, incidentally, one of the highlights for me mixing strong hooks with some fine instrumental work.

There's the obligatory ballads - Beneath The Surface, Far From Heaven and This Is The Life, which are fine but much better are the longer pieces such as Bridges In The Sky which after a beautiful choral intro has a killer John Petrucci riff and John Myung seems to even be heard to better effect too, not just here, but overall. I'll be the first to admit that James LaBrie has not been one of my favourite vocalists, but I can't say I've ever heard him better than on ADTOE, Bridges In The Sky being a particular high point for him. The cinematic feel of the intro to Outcry leads into more pedestrian Dream Theater territory, but on more recent outings would still be considered above average, but in more illustrious company doesn't quite hit the mark until moving into instrumental mode where it really takes off. Most of the best material here breaks the ten minute barrier, Breaking All Illusions being no exceptions, once again mixing memorable melodies with some strong instrumental work including one of Petrucci's best solo's on the album.

Whether Dream Theater and Mike Portnoy will ever make another album together or not remains to be seen. Without insulting the guy and I'm a great admirer of his playing, I believe he's done the band a favour by leaving which has appears to have given them a new found freedom and a good kick up the ass. A Dramtic Turn Of Events is undoubtedly their best album for years, since Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence in 2002.

Nightfly | 4/5 |


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