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Dream Theater On the Backs of Angels album cover
3.58 | 126 ratings | 11 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, released in 2011

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. On the Backs of Angels (8:40)

Total Time 8:40

Line-up / Musicians

- John Petrucci / guitar
- John Myung / bass
- Mike Mancini / drums
- James LaBrie / vocals
- Jordan Rudess / keyboards

Thanks to Phenomenoumenon for the addition
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DREAM THEATER On the Backs of Angels ratings distribution

(126 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (8%)

DREAM THEATER On the Backs of Angels reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'On The Backs Of Angels' - Dream Theater (Single)

It's finally happening. Earlier today, Roadrunner Records released the first single for the upcoming Dream Theater album, entitled 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events'. With Mike Portnoy having left the band late last year and a new drummer taking his place, there is great anticipation to hear what this new incarnation of Dream Theater sounds like. Although fake leaks aplenty were circling the internet, 'On The Backs Of Angels' is the first we get to hear of the real thing, and coming from someone who has been a huge fan of the band for the better part of a decade, the single has not disappointed. At nearly nine minutes in length, 'On The Backs Of Angels' really isn't what I would normally think of when it comes to a single. And going with the territory, there are plenty of instrumental sections for the band to really strut their stuff with the new drummer, Mike Mangini. Although the music here is nothing new for Dream Theater, I have not been disappointed; this song is excellent.

It begins with some proggy mellow guitars that lead the song into something much heavier; a nearly symphonic progressive metal that really underlines the dark sounds the band has started gravitating towards in order to compete with other bands. Instrumentally, the band is in top form here, and its much what one would come to expect of this band. The real focus here is on Petrucci and Rudess, who have quite a few moments to the two of them where they really shred, but it all feels intentioned and composed, rather than shallow technicality like many of the band's detractors would attest to. Coming as a bit of a disappointment is Mike Mangini's drum performance here. Although the drums were written by Petrucci, Mangini's performance doesn't feel like anything particularly excellent here, save for some interesting accents he makes towards the introduction of the song. Vocally, James LaBrie's voice begins somewhat blandly, but it makes up for it later in the song where he takes control of a brilliant chorus, and some very effective harmonies here and there.

'On The Backs Of Angels' is a very promising start to the upcoming record, and now that the time is getting so close, I'm really beginning to feel excitement for this.

Review by Starhammer
2 stars Exit the drummer...

The first single from their 2011 album, A Dramatic Turn of Events.

The Good: Clearly the loss of founding member Mike Portnoy has put a lot of fans on edge, wondering if the replacement found in Mike Mancini would meet their high expectations. I on the other found find this matter to be incredibly trivial. Sure Portnoy is a fantastic and influential drummer but by the end of his reign his output was becoming incredibly derivative, and so a breath of fresh air might be good for the whole outfit. Equally, his influence over the musical direction the band took seemed to be fairly strict, and so his loss might be everyone else's gain. That seems to be the case here as On the Backs of Angels is one of Dream Theater's most progressive tracks for years. I'm hearing Learning to Live, Stream of Conciousness, The Great Debate and a generous serving of Ruddess/Morgenstein project. The riffs are abstract and unpredictable with plenty of room for instrumental exploration. We can also hear John Myung clearly for what is probably the first time this millenium!

As for the new drummer, its impossible to make a judgement at this stage as all he has done is peform the tracks pre-programmed by John Petrucci. I look forward to hearing his creative output on future releases.

The Bad: The production is weak, especially the drumming, and the song itself isn't all that memorable. It would have also been nice to see artwork specific to the single.

The Verdict: Interesting.

Review by Andy Webb
4 stars Take me away...

The past two years have probably been the most tumultuous in Dream Theater's history, surpassing even the hectic 1994-95, where beloved keyboardist Kevin Moore departed the band and then LaBrie ruptured his vocal chords in a horrid food poisoning event when he was vacationing in Cuba - all right before the "Waking Up the World" tour. 2010-11 will be forever remembered by Dream Theater fans as the year when Mike Portnoy - a founding member and influential drummer of the band, departed from his 25-year old love child on September 10 of that year. This shocked essentially everyone in the progressive world; I myself was in denial for a few days (/end fanboyism #1). The band proceeded to conduct auditions in October, and then proceeded to keep their choice a secret until April of 2011, keeping the pressure at boiling point. When they finally announced it, we learned that Dream Theater had chosen Mike Mangini, the famed drummer most well known as the fastest drummer on the planet and as a professor at the band's (would be) Alma Mater, Berklee University. In the studio, he had worked with the band's very own James LaBrie, Steve Vai, Extreme, and various other acts. Other than that, no one had truly seen the drummer full potential.

The band went into the studio in January of 2011 to begin work on their 11th studio album. No one had any true information on it until around late May 2011, when Roadrunner Records announced the name of the album, A Dramatic Turn of Events, and the tracklisting. To be honest, I was scared for my favorite band of all time (/end fanboysim #2). The title sounded pathetic and the tracklisting stupid. However, I couldn't contain my enthusiasm when the label announced the release of a new single, the opener of the album "On the Backs of Angels," the day before its release, June 29, 2011. I patiently awaited until 11 AM, when the label released the 8 minute song onto their youtube channel. I had no reason to be scared.

The track is opened in a very traditional Dream Theater way, with ambient keys work by Jordan Rudess which slowly transitions into some really awesome guitar work from Petrucci. Some progressive synth work build the song into the metallic wonderland that Dream Theater is known for, accompanied by crunching riffs, glorious string/choral work, and some truly wonderful drumming by the new guy. The song, which may seem long for a single, progresses beautifully along in what seems like no time. The vocals come in after a 2 minute long instrumental section, introducing some great subtle harmony and traditional late-Dream Theater era lyrics (slightly dark, but not as deep as early DT lyrics). The song displays some really intimate composition while still possessing the verbose musical style of Dream Theater's music. The song has a beautiful Classical-esque virtuoso piano breakdown, which introduces the typical Dream Theater solo section. The song continues in a very progressively metal way, with more chugging and virtuoso keys work. Overall, the song presents itself as a very strong Dream Theater offering, making me quite excited for the new album! 4 stars.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Dream Theater in Prog. Mr Portnoy made BIG mistake.

I fully believe that music is emotion - so is the case when I first listened to this single from the upcoming Dream Theater album. This single stirs my emotion really well for two reasons. The first one is that the overall composition of this track is really wonderful and I would say it's a masterpiece as it combines beautifully the melody, harmony, changes of styles and bits of complexities into an excellent music. The opening part is basically an exploration of guitar fills by Petrucci. But when it flows in crescendo I can feel the soul of the music that has successfully blended symphonic prog into the music unlike most of recent compositions of DT that tended to be metal. I would say this song focuses more on progressive rock music without forgetting the roots of Dream Theater music which was metal. Musically I can sense the nuances of FORSAKEN in this single but in much more progressive style. I really enjoy this single especially it's good to see Rudess' inventive keyboard work throughout the song while the music still maintains excellent guitar riffs as musical roots of DT. If you observe this song in its subtleties you can sense that this song is based on progrock scheme augmented with heavy riffs. I keep listening this track over and over because I feel this track suits my taste.

Second reason is more on leadership issue around what's happening recently with the band with the departure of dominant drummer, Mike Portnoy. This song proves that his departure does not impact negatively to the band. This was what I predicted as I said in my blog, that his departure would not make significant negative impact to the band. Even the band is getting stronger, I believe. From leadership perspective, his departure was a great lesson for the rest of the band to take a better and stronger emotional bonding and revenge it with a positive result: a very good (read: better?) music composition than when MP was there. MP is now aware that actually he is not the best drummer and composer on planet Earth. We all knew that MP ruled the band so much and very dominant in the direction of the band. A friend of mine commented that from this single we can enjoy the tight basslines by Myung because in the past it was dominated by MP bass drum sounds. This mixing is better because Mike Mangini drumming (which sounds at par excellent with MP - no difference at all!!!) is balanced so that other instruments can be heard clearly. From this single we know that Dream Theater is still excellent without Mike Portnoy. Mr Portnoy made a BIG mistake to leave the band he founded.

Hope the full-length album has tracks as solid as this single. Keep on proggin' ...!!!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW.

Review by Wicket
3 stars One step forward or two steps back?

I, as any Dream Theater nutjob, got all excited with the announcement of the new album "A Dramatic Turn Of Events". As a drummer as well, I was a little saddened by the departure of Mike Portnoy, but on first listen here, Mike Mancini seems to be in great position for Portnoy to pass the torch down to, but the song in general sounds....familiar.

The intro seems to start where "Count Of Tuscany" left off (coincidence?). The massive intro with Rudess' chords blasting got me all excited, and then LaBrie began to sing....and nearly killed it for me. This reminds me way too much of "A Rite Of Passage" (hell, it's only a 10 second difference for crying out loud!). LaBrie absolutely rocks the chorus as usual, and the instrumentation and solo sections spot on as usual, but for some reason, I was left wanting more, something I hadn't felt since 2006.

Obviously 2006 was the year between "Octavarium" and "Systematic Chaos". "Octavarium" specialized more in the progressive epic and the emotion of music (exemplified in "The Root Of All Evil", "The Answers Lie Within", "Sacrificed Sons" (most epic ending ever), and "Octavarium"), while "Systematic Chaos" was more focused on instrumentation rather than the former ("Constant Motion", "The Dark Eternal Night", "The Ministry Of Lost Souls", although "In The Presence Of Enemies" could easily fit both categories.

I applaud Dream Theater anxious and ready to write more music (while Portnoy was not), but this just reminds me way too much like "A Rite Of Passage". It seems like the 8-and-a- half minute, 2-verse, 3-chorus, instrumental interlude and intro/outro scenario is like their version of the 3 minute pop song heard on radios everywhere. Yes, it's a great track, and the rating should not steer you away from it, but I'm afraid that this pattern will become a trend in the remainder of their music to come.

Sure, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" made up for it as a whole with their "hit" song ("Wither") and more traditional prog ("The Best Of Times"), but they also bookended the album with two masterpieces of music, songwriting and instrumentation, of course ("A Nightmare To Remember", "The Count Of Tuscany"). Will the same set-up be said for "A Dramatic Turn Of Events"? One can only hope (me), but then again, I was worried when "A Rite Of Passage" was released and thought BCSL would be "Systematic Chaos, Pt. 2". Surely it was not to be, and I doubt the new record will disappoint anyone, but longtime fans like myself have reason to worry. However, as a faithful fan, I have never been truly upset about their albums and doubt this will turn me away from their music as a whole for the rest of their careers to come.

Review by baz91
4 stars On the Back of Pull Me Under

Now redundant, this was the single that Dream Theater released prior to their eleventh studio album 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events'. This was the first time that fans would get to hear Dream Theater with new drummer Mike Mangini.

Surprisingly enough, this new version pull through with a very strong composition! Don't let the 'single' title throw you: this is a perfectly progressive song at nearly 9 minutes in length. Time signatures abound and powerful riffs make this a brilliant number. Perhaps the strangest thing about this song is it's similarity to 1992's Pull Me Under, Dream Theater's so-called 'Greatest Hit'. The song structures of the two are too similar to be a coincidence. Listen to one after the other, and you'll see what I mean!

'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' is an incredible album, and I strongly encourage people to hear this album. On The Backs Of Angels is just a small part of what makes this album so magical.

Latest members reviews

3 stars "On the back of angels" makes me nervous to consume the next release of the best progressive metal band of all time. They never let me down, and looking for that song, I will not be this time (if all other songs have this quality). It is indeed unfortunate that Mr. Portnoy, the best drummer in th ... (read more)

Report this review (#488044) | Posted by voliveira | Thursday, July 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Don't let the rating fool you - I think this is a great piece of music. Definitely the most progressive music Dream Theater has created in a while under ten minutes. It's almost surreal thinking ten years ago today I got into DT, and this is probably the first song from them i've heard that ... (read more)

Report this review (#473264) | Posted by Sacrilege | Thursday, June 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This was definitely something useful in keeping the fans optimistic, including me. The mix is a little off, but doesn't bother me. Mangini proves that Portnoy needn't be missed, and Myung hasn't been more present since Falling Into Infinity. Petrucci plays with his best tone in ages, and deliv ... (read more)

Report this review (#473157) | Posted by DisgruntledPorcupine | Thursday, June 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars First sample,Positive! This is a pretty good song and its been quite awhile we've heard something really good by Dream theater... Mike Mangini's drums are pretentiously hidden under this pre-production sample but his technique and passion is clear throughout the song (I m o he is more of a musi ... (read more)

Report this review (#472918) | Posted by Silent Knight | Thursday, June 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Alright so first the good: Its nice to have a Dream Theater album that doesn't open up with Dark and Cheesy thunder clouds and cheesy "Metal" melodies with crappy "metal" puns like a nightmare to remember. That's refreshing at the least. It is absolutely phenomenal not hear Portnoy's terrible, ... (read more)

Report this review (#472712) | Posted by Phoenix87x | Thursday, June 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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