Hello and welcome. I’m assuming that for the most part if you’ve stumbled across this review then you’re at least somewhat familiar with Dream Theater and their music. And most likely you’re curious as to what someone else thinks of the new album ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’. And with good reason. This marks the first ever album release without Mike Portnoy on drums. Not only is Mike’s proficiency at the drums gone but also one of the key songwriters of the band is also gone. So ADTE marks a new chapter of Dream Theater with new drummer Mike Mangini and songwriting left to John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess. Needless to say there are some expectations to be met and questions to be answered. Will the band’s direction change? Will there be some new things to look forward to? Will the absence of Mike Portnoy be a detriment or blessing for this album?
As I write this I haven’t given the album the sufficient listens to determine if there are clear answers to any of those questions yet. Like all Dream Theater albums you need multiple listens to really digest everything that is going on and not make knee jerk decisions based off of one listen. So I’m sorry if I’m appearing to be vague in some aspects but I will attempt to give off my impressions as best as I can in the couple of listens I have given it. When the album drops the hardcore fans can dissect it like they do everything else and over analyze the album to death. This will also be a great maiden voyage to the new review format I’ve decided to switch to. So here we go.
What you can expect: Well to put it simply, this is a Dream Theater album. Let’s say you were totally under a rock and never knew Portnoy left. You would not notice a difference with this album. Not much has changed. Four of the nine tracks are 10+ minutes as usual. And those songs have the keyboard,guitar, and bass noodling mixed in them as Dream Theater has always done. There are still alot of soft passages mixed in with the heavier orchestrations. Expect more vocals from Labrie then in the past and only him except for sound effects.
The Good: Frankly the music is great as usual. Terrible musicianship from these guys would still be superior to dozens of other prog/metal/rock outfits out there. There are more metal elements to this album it seems then on previous releases. ‘Bridges in the Sky’ has one of the most unique and heavy intros the band has done in years if ever. I’ve always like the more metallic incarnation of Dream Theater songs then the softer songs. These guys can rip when they want to and it appears on this album they want to more then before.
The Bad: There’s not a whole lot of bad to ADTE in the sense “of oh my god this part sucks ass”. If there is anything negative it’s purely based on personal preferences. For one I’ve always thought James Labrie was the weak link in the band. Some sections of songs are more suited for a vocalist with a powerful voice and better range. There are times where he’s ‘fine’. I’m also not a fan of Jordan Rudess keyboard tone. Some of my least favorite passages involves his throwback 60’s sound that at times are overdone and just don’t fit. And these overall elements are still on this album.
Final Impression: Once again it’s a solid disc from the guys. Mike Portnoy is not and should not be missed. There aren’t a whole lot of changes with this release and at times it’s a good thing and other times I wished that they would have really tried to do something different as a prog band should. The songs still follow the same pattern at times of heavy, soft, noodling, heavy. The songwriting is neither worse nor better then with Portnoy onboard. Would I recommend this to a Dream Theater fan? Of course.Is this a sufficient step in the new direction of the band? Not really. If you’ve heard and liked other releases then you’ll like this. If you’ve been away from DT since Image and Words this won’t make you come back. Overall it may or may not be a memorable installment in the discography and that could have been the intent. It’s possible the band wanted to maintain the status quo with this and then really try some new stuff for the next one. See ya in two years to find out if that’s the case. Otherwise Dream Theater could ultimately end up like Rush with a string of good but ultimately not classics like earlier stuff.
A Dramatic Turn of Events releases on the 13th.