Dream Theater is a name that’s familiar to many enthusiasts of heavier sounds. The prog metal titans’ career spans over 25 years and has just reached a new point with their eleventh studio offering, ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’. It all started with a friendship between lead guitarist John Petrucci and bass player John Myung back when both were still in middle school. Then drummer Mike Portnoy joined the duo to form the essence of Dream Theater. Vocalist James LaBrie was introduced on the gold-certified second album, ‘Images and Words’. Once the keyboard player Jordan Rudess joined the band on ‘Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory’, Dream Theater was complete. The group enjoys a lot of popularity both in progressive and metal circles and sold over 10 million albums worldwide. Their latest release comes after a time of turbulence, following a search for a new drummer after the band’s co-founder Mike Portnoy’s departure. Portnoy played with acts such as Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mob and Liquid Tension Experiment, among others. As for Dream Theater, they return in style with the new record, and the new drummer Mike Mangini (who previously worked with Steve Vai, Annihilator, Extreme and many others).
The album has a lot of interesting sounds that will capture attention of both long-time fans and brand new listeners. In nine compositions the group explores the progressive sound while remaining heavy and melodic. The enthusiasts of band’s signature high-speed instrumental passages and peculiar time signatures will not be disappointed either.
On the Backs of Angels lets the listener know that Dream Theater are just as good as ever. The mysterious and steady-paced intro followed by a speedy keyboard segment will sound familiar to group’s fans, while giving new audience a pre-taste of their music. Despite a line-up change, the band is in great form and Mangini seems a perfect fit for their creative and vigorous musical style. Build Me Up, Break Me Down is a rather emotional piece. It talks of personal struggles and the dynamic of the song reflects those changes. The piece is driven by heavy riffs and dark keyboard backing, while the chorus turns more melodic and lyrical, with intense passages between the two. The song has a contemporary sound, and the distinct melodies make it a memorable piece on the album. Another notable composition is Outcry. As explained by Rudess, it’s the piece where the band was “going full tilt and turning on the progressive maximum”. And while the vocals are still noteworthy here, with some pleasant melodies, the lengthy (and heavy) instrumental parts come to prominence. Although instrumental mastery of Dream Theater members is not really a matter of dispute, it is still an impressive composition. In a similar realm is Lost Not Forgotten, which contains numerous fast passages and some elaborate solos, while Bridges in the Sky is an all-round masterpiece. Breaking All Illusions starts as a faster song, comparing to the rest of the album. Although it still has slower segments, the interesting instrumental sections add a lot of energy to this piece. At around 12.5 minutes, there is a lot of time for variety and numerous solo parts. Again, the instrumentation is quite impressive, but also creating an atmosphere, making this song particularly captivating. There are also a few ballads on the album: This is the Life, Far from Heaven and Beneath the Surface. With instrumental parts being relatively toned down, the slower songs bring back focus to LaBrie whose vocals are just as characteristic of the group’s sound as the instrumental efforts.
‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ is without a doubt a great album. A variety of sounds ensures that every listener will find something to enjoy here. Whether it’s heavy metal, fusion and progressive sounds or subtle melodies you’re after, it’s all here, together with rich arrangements and complex (if at times difficult) instrumentation. The lyrics are not neglected either, heading towards poetry rather than just simple rhyme. Dream Theater are a group that aims for excellence, and does not disappoint. This record is ambitious, clever and entertaining – it is simply flawless.
Written by Natalia Gronowska