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


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.84 | 1780 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars I've been a Dream Theater fan since 2003 when one of my guitar students told me that he had heard of this band that was "supposed to be really good". He bought Train of Thought, their brand new album at the time, and Awake, and burned them both for me.

My life changed forever.

Dream Theater is, by far, my favorite band. That makes me biased in some cases, but it also makes me harder on them in other cases. As each album comes out, I listen with excitement and awe as each song begins, and often that excitement grows as face-melting solos, haunting melodies, or killer riffs pound their way into my brain. Sometimes, though, the excitement wanes as a song loses its luster over a short period of time.

When Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater, I had two immediate reactions... The first was an intense sick feeling of grief, as Mike Portnoy is clearly one of the best drummers ever to grab a pair of sticks and has been the genius behind so many essential aspects of Dream Theater as a band. Portnoy's dedication to his fans is absolutely unparalleled in the music industry and he has my full respect for everything that he's done, though Adrenaline Mob's CD left me with raised eyebrows and many questions...

My second immediate reaction was "Now we get to see what Petrucci, Rudess, and Myung can do without restrictions!". I love Mike Portnoy. He's unbeatable in the progressive metal drumming scene. But I feel like it was, to quote "Prophets of War", time! for! change! Things were getting TOO heavy metal, TOO in your face, TOO extreme. While I love heavy metal, I missed greatly some of the lighter aspects of Dream Theater found in Images & Words through Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. So while I was sad to see Portnoy gone, I was excited to hear what the guys could do without their forceful leader.

The first time I listened to Systematic Chaos, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was going to be a pretty awesome album... A few weeks later I changed my mind about that. Because of that, I refrained from reviewing this album for a month because I wanted to see how much staying power it had and how much it could truly catch my interest.

Overall, this album is a really solid effort. It's not Dream Theater's best album. The "classics" are still better. It's not even Dream Theater's best album in the last decade. I loved Black Clouds and Silver Linings. It is, however, a very good album worth buying, listening to, and enjoying.

On the Backs of Angels


This is a pretty good opening song. As people have mentioned, it is nearly identical structurally to Pull Me Under, but it's most certainly not a rip of of Pull Me Under. It has a nice heavy riff that drives the verses and the chorus is pretty catchy. The first thing that jumped out to me, though, is Jordan Rudess's playing on this song. The keyboard synths and leads fit the music really well, and add to it rather than being thrown in as pure shredding. The piano parts really bring a lot to the song as well. Petrucci's solo is short but of course really fast and really good. It falls in line with the types of solos on Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds.

Build Me Up, Break Me Down


The very first thing I thought when I heard this song, like many others, was "James LaBrie solo album!?!?". It has a VERY similar vibe to James Labrie's Elements of Persuasion album, due mostly to the effects on the vocals, but the music is similar, too. Think "Oblivious" or "Alone". With that being said, there's a big difference between Marco Stfogli on guitar and John Petrucci on guitar, despite what Stfogli, who is a very good guitarist in his own right, might want to believe. This song is really well-done, and though you may not like the in-your-face style of metal that it brings, it's still a very listenable song. The chorus is one of my two favorite choruses on the whole album, if that means anything to you, which it probably doesn't, but whatever. The slow heavy type riff with the eerie keyboards in the instrumental is absolutely phenomenal. The solo is tastefully done, though, not one of Petrucci's best in terms of technicality or catchiness.

One thing that would have been amusing would have been a traditional break down in the middle of a chorus... "You build meee up, you break me doooowwwn,..... dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah. Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah wooo". It would have been completely terrible and completely amazing at the same time. I can hear LaBrie trying some metalcore screams now...

Lost Not Forgotten


Piano riff intros can be awesome. Here's a good example. The melody is beautiful enough to be calming and soothing, but then Rudess throws in that one dissonant note to throw you off for a second. As the guitars kick in slowly, the song begins to build up (But it doesn't break down of course).

Then the madness begins.

The shredding insanity that commences will blow your mind and make you want to quit your job and listen only to it for the rest of your life. This is honestly one of the best instrumental breaks I've heard before, and it's not even all that long and it's definitely not drawn out at all. It's perfect.

Anyway, the verse is really well-done with a riff that would be at home on Train of Thought. The lyrics, in my opinion, are interesting and add to the song. The chorus is going to make a great live anthem when I see Dream Theater in Atlanta next week.

What comes after the second chorus is a really really cool sounding section that I assume would be called a refrain... The guitars kind of remind me of the verses in "Surrounded" off of Images & Words. I love it. Then it heads back into another chorus before hitting another instrumental section that is extremely good and very memorable. It's the kind of progressive metal instrumental that makes you want to dance, but you can't because you'd look like a fool dancing to the rhythm of the music. The solo is fantastic, containing enough elements of jazz fusion while shredding your face in half at the same time... One of Petrucci's best solos to date, and you know that's saying a lot.

This Is The Life


The 5/4 timing of this song makes it a lot more interesting than it would otherwise be... The intro is soft and relaxing, builds up into a quick melodic lead, and then fades into just piano and vocals for the verse. The verse is thought-provoking as Petrucci throws some really light lead fills far in the background. John Myung's bass can actually be HEARD on this song and it's very tasty.

Petrucci has a very tamed fusion sound on this entire song... Lots of lead lines but not over the top at all. They all fit perfectly... Rudess follows in suit with Moore-like keyboard melodic solos. The chorus, IMO, is not very strong on this song at all, but the rest of the song saves it. The refrain is dramatic and builds tension into a wonderful jazzy Petrucci solo. Again, this is one of Petrucci's better solos of his career... Think a mix between "The Spirit Carries On" and "Lost Without You" off of his solo album Suspended Animation.

Bridges in the Sky


The intro raised my eyebrows at first with the guttural droning, but that apprehension was quickly erased by the awesomeness that followed. Honestly I could've done without the first minute and a half of the song, but whatever. The opening riff is very intense and pounding. This song is very riff-driven and because it produces some very awesome riffs, it's an awesome song. The verses are killer on this song... The pre-chorus makes me immediately think of "Awake" the way the vocal melody is placed on top of the music behind it... The 12/8 chorus is enjoyable though not amazing. It has a hard time competing with the greatness of the verses and the pre-choruses.

The "Until I pass through the darKEST caverns.." part in the second verse sounds really cool. I'm really just throwing that out there out of nowhere, but it's true. The instrumental section reminds me of "Sacrificed Sons" at times and the entire "Scenes From a Memory" album at others. Not a bad combination. It's a pretty solid instrumental section, though not the best on the album.



This song starts slowly with a soft, lullaby-type keyboard melody. The guitars then slap you in the face with a slow, driving, melodic riff that employs chords and melody lines interspersed with one another. The keyboard synths in the background fit this perfectly. The drums are a little "Eh" as they sound like something meant for a gangsta rap song, but the guitar riffs on this song are absolutely top notch. I'm not sure why, but I really love the guitars on the entire song. The verse is awesome... Then everything gets quiet and reflective for a second. James Labrie declares that "We will not be ignored anymore, any longer..." and then BOOM! the chorus hits hard, with those searing guitar lines in the background. Resistance is calling tonight! But you won't be resisting this song. Resistance is futile. The instrumental section is VERY middle eastern but mind-blowing. I was going to make a 9/11 joke here, but then I realized that doing so would probably be in bad taste, so instead I'm just going to say that the instrumental section is varied in terms of the drum feel and is excellent. The quiet, bass-driven section after the shredfest is very easy-going and very good... Myung doesn't have to do much to completely dominate the mood here, and Rudess's piano accompaniment fits perfectly as well.

This song is structurally more complex than most of DT's songs have been in recent years and it's well-put-together all the way around. One of my favorites on the CD.

Far From Heaven


Very soft, very melodramatic, and very awesome. This is a song that I, as a teacher, can use in my 9th grade Literature class because it goes pretty well with the novel "Tears of a Tiger" by Sharon Draper. The lyrics are something that teenagers in general could quickly relate to, dealing with depression, inability to be understood or express ones feelings, and feeling alone, like nobody can help or save you. While the subject of the lyrics may seem cliche, it's done maturely, and the somber mood of the lyrics is reflected in the music.

Metal heads probably won't enjoy it, and the song isn't impressive in terms of its technicality, but it's a good song.

Breaking All Illusions


What? An upbeat Dream Theater song?? A driving beat opens the song up, followed by a TAH tah tah TAH tah tah TAH tah TAH tah (That's the best I could do to describe it!?!?) 5/4 transition into a masterfully crafted first verse... The first verse alternates in timing from 7/4 to 6/4 to 5/4 to 7/4 over and over again, lead mostly by a cool bass riff but accompanied lightly by keyboards and then in the second half some electric guitar leads. The song then goes into a chorus part that is melodic and catchy before heading into a really cool aggressive second verse that is mostly guitar-driven. Then one of the opening riffs is revisited before going back to the chorus.

After that, it's time for instrumental insanity! The instrumental starts off with some electric organ doodling before shredding in harmony for a bit. Then things slow way down and John Petrucci rips a tame jazzy and pleasant electric guitar solo. After that, things feel like they've slowed down more while Petrucci plays a few acoustic arpeggios before giving way to a soulful bass line beneath a pure jazz-fusion electric guitar solo. This is honestly my favorite minute or so on the entire CD. Every note is just exactly where it's supposed to be, with exactly the right inflection and tone. The solo then continues as a building melody, dropping some of the jazz feel and changing over into another proggy riff.

Oh, did you think that the instrumental section was over? Sorry, it's not! From here the bass and keyboard take over for a good minute before going into more riffage between the guitar and keyboard.

Finally, the chorus comes back in and the song closes dramatically with a dramatically slowed-down tempo.

Beneath the Surface


This is not a bad song, despite only getting a 3/5. It's just that the first 3/4ths of the song aren't really all that special. It's mostly layered acoustic guitar with either a cello or violin in the background (Maybe both?). The verses are very mellow and the way they lead into the chorus builds pretty nicely. After the second chorus, keyboards come in for a synth lead, the tone of which reminds me vaguely of "Solitary Shell". The refrain that follows slowly builds up tension before going completely quiet for a moment, and then... LABRIE!! He hits the high notes of yesteryear. It's all... "Until ooone day I stopped caariing... AAANNND BEGAAAAAN TO FORGEETT". I had a huge grin on my face the first time I heard this song and it got to that part because it was unexpected and yet somehow such a perfect way to end not only the song, but the entire album... Throughout the whole song I kept thinking that Far From Heaven or Breaking All Illusions would have been a better album closer, but those thoughts were annihilated. This song broke that illusion and I felt so far from Heaven for being so wrong about it. Lame pontificating and time-wasting aside, while the song itself didn't completely wow me, the way it ended was definitely a 5/5, and the PERFECT closing to the album.

So why does the album get 4 stars as a whole? It's an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection. Can't you read the description of what the stars mean? Kidding, of course. Actually I'm not kidding about it being an excellent addition, though. It's a very solid, good album. It's much more melodic than most of Dream Theaters albums are, especially the more recent ones which have been mostly riff-driven. None of the songs are irritating or disappointing to listen to, and several of them are an absolute delight every time I hear them.

So why not 5 stars? It doesn't quite deserve them. After a month I've already found myself skipping a song here and there as I listen... I still listen to all of the songs, but sometimes I'm impatient and want to get on to a new one a little early. This happened after a few weeks with Systematic Chaos, too, and we all know how well-received that album was...

Comparing it to recent efforts, I think it's a good two steps above Systematic Chaos and a step below Black Clouds and Silver Linings. It has elements you'll recognize from Images & Words, Scenes From a Memory, Train of Thought, Awake, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, and there's even a part of Build Me Up, Break Me Down at the end of the chorus that reminds me of Falling Into Infinity.

If you like Dream Theater, buy this album. If you like progressive metal, buy this album. If you like good music, buy this album.

TheMasterMofo | 4/5 |


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