Dream Theater: A Dramatic Turn of Events

Progressive rock masters, the almighty, Dream Theater have released the newest addition to their colossal back catalogue, making this the bands 12th studio album thus far. What’s significant about this album is that this is the first album to not feature founding member and drummer, Mike Portnoy. However, the shortage of Mike’s in the band was quickly remedied as Portnoy’s replacement, Mike Mangini, took the throne behind the kit. For those of you music fans who have been paying attention to the news will already know about the busy year that Dream Theater just had. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what happened, i’ll give you a very short version: Mike Portnoy went off to fill in for Avenged Sevenfolds’ drummer after he died and after completing the touring cycle with Avenged Sevenfold, Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater, the band that helped create back in 1985, in order to pursue his own musical expeditions. This obviously left a huge question mark over the future of Dream Theater, but they quickly made it clear that they didn’t need Portnoy in order to continue, and so the search began for a new drummer. They found Portnoy’s replacement in the form of Mike Mangini and that pretty much brings us up to date. Now we have a brand new Dream Theater album and an arguably appropriate album title. Yes things have been busy for this band and some changes have been made, but after listening to this new record, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s a “Dramatic Turn of Events”.

Listening to this record, it’s clear that the band really doesn’t need Portnoy, He was a major songwriter though, but the rest of the band are also master songwriters, so they really didn’t loose much with Portnoy. Don’t get me wrong though, as a drummer, I have the highest respect for Portnoy. He’s one of my favorite drummers of all time, but because I give credit where credits due, Mangini does a fantastic job stepping into Portnoy’s shoes and becoming the bands backbone.

Now i’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect with this new record, but I didn’t really expect this. If you were expecting Dream Theater to turn over a new chapter in their career and reinvent the wheel to some extent, then you are sadly mistaken because this is simply another Dream Theater record. I haven’t been impressed with a Dream Theater record since “Systematic Chaos” dropped when they first got signed to Roadrunner. Now I feel like being part of Roadrunner hasn’t helped the band out at all. “Black Clouds…”, which came out in between “Systematic Chaos” and this was a lot of filler and no killer in my mind and this is very much the same for me. Most of the songs on these past two records have been odysseys well over 8 minutes of the band members just disappearing up their own asses with their instruments. I feel like now that Portnoy is gone, the rest of the band took the opportunity to express themselves a bit more with their instrument without having to fight Portnoy’s massive backbeats. I’m not trying to shoot down the musicianship of these guys either. They’re all masters of their craft, but there are plenty songs that are good songs and good examples of the band members playing their instruments at their best performance (Panic Attack, Pull Me Under, As I Am, Forsaken, just to name a few). My point is, I’ve heard what all of these musicians are capable of, now channel them into decent songs with structure and prove that you truly are masters of your craft. I just don’t think the band delivered all that they were capable of with this record, especially because they could have easily made a drastic departure and most likely pull it off because the band are so brilliant.

So the moral of the story here really is, nothing gained and nothing lost. Production-wise the drums sound just as huge and bombastic as before even though it’s a new guy behind the kit. However, even though I didn’t know what I wanted from this record, I know what I didn’t want and that’s exactly what they gave me…another Dream Theater record. Thanks, but i don’t need another record where all of you guys battle each other musically for twelve minutes. So even though the cover says “Dramatic Turn of Events”, I’d hardly agree with that statement, and it may seem like i really hate this album. Please understand that i don’t hate this album. There’s a lot of really strong moments on this record and “Breaking All Illusions” is a killer track, but i’m just disappointed that I got the same thing…AGAIN.

Until next time, keep it real.

Luke Helker

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