Dream Theater | ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’
Admit it – Dream Theater’s x-factor style search for a new drummer was a masterstroke.
Apart from giving a revealing insight into the dynamics of the band, it made for a great watch. It also landed them with one of the best (and seemingly most likeable) drummers in the business.
More than anything though, the experience has rejuvinated them creatively. It’s not just that Mike Mangini has given the band a much needed shot in the arm. Every single one of them has upped their game in this marvellous exposition of vivid, powerful, bona fide prog anthems.
Questions have hung over the band in recent years. Mike Portnoy’s departure looked briefly like a terminal loss, and their songwriting hasn’t exactly been stellar since ‘Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence’.
Yet they’re back – and my, are they back in style.
Such a cracking opener as ‘On The Backs Of Angels’ I haven’t heard in aeons. Without fear of going overboard here, it is just totally, totally spectacular. A validation of every reason this band are great contained in one fantastic, joyful metal anthem.
The riffs are sublime, full of punch, dynamic, variety, and every single thing that ever made Dream Theater essential. Jordan Rudess’ keyboard links in here have the composition of an expert, placed with laser beam precision and adding massively to the speed and excitement of this world beating track. I just couldn’t tire of it, and I must have played it 50 times already.
Then there’s LaBrie, who has really stepped up to the plate here, leading his band back to creative power from the front. He has his detractors. Screw them. He proves conclusively here that there’s life in the old dog yet. His high pitched screams in the walloping ‘Build Me Up, Bring Me Down’ show that he’s still got the bite that characterised ‘Images & Words’ and ‘Awake’, and his tone is still unmistakably his own.
Everything on here shines. Yet come the second half of the album, the pace slows. Ballads start creeping in, and a small ‘r’ romantic feel oozes around for a little bit. Pianos start to come out, and that sort of thing. Luckily it doesn’t last, and the effortless heavy metal power of ‘Breaking All Illusions’ brings things back to where they should be.
It’s grand – megalomaniacal in parts, to be sure. But isn’t that just what Dream Theater are there for? ‘Bridges In The Sky’ could well be one of the best things they’ve ever written, with its ascendant, epic pulse and horizon sized view of prog rock’s possibilities.
Dream Theater have been there, bought the t-shirt, wrote the book and rocked us out like crazy for twenty years. Of course they know how to write classic songs. The problem was they stagnated creatively. With Mangini in the fold they’re a band reborn. The results are staggering. They’ve remembered who they are.
Best of all, an early 90s metal feel permeates throughout. With not a trace of embarrassment or condescension the band play this forgotten and maligned style as perfect as it was every meant to be. As with all their best work, it opens and opens with every listen, revealing rhythmic intricacies that are astounding and addictive.
I dont know who to credit most: every one of them has upped their efforts and plays an audible role in making this the absolute stunner that it is. There’s no doubt. If you’re one of those people who think you hate this kind of music, and that this band are simply Not For You, cast that to the side and pick this up. You’ll be greeted with the kind of classic metal that feels like an old standard within moments.
If you cant love the end of ‘Lost Not Forgotten’ you’ve no blood in your useless heart. This is MUSIC, in all it’s vibrance and power, and you’ve got to sample it. You’re not going to hear a more ecstatic shower of riffs for long time in the wake of this beauty. More power to this amazing band: they’ve worked their balls off.
‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ could not have been more aptly named. The sense of a surprising turn, confounding expectations, forcing you to pay attention with arresting consequences. This album is all of that and so much more. It overflows with metal riches, and has proper, challenging prog rock atmospheres in abundance. What more could anyone want?
Portnoy going was clearly the best thing that’s happened to them in years. No matter who’s on the stool, it’s great to have Dream Theater make cool albums again, and that’s the best bit of all. Deny it all you like – Heavy Metal needs them.
4.7 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 12/09/11