It is pretty rare for an album’s title to be quite so relevant to a band’s situation, but A Dramatic Turn Of Events really is the only way to describe Mike Portnoy’s decision to leave the band. The blow of Portnoy’s departure has since been dampened by a combination of time and a series of fantastic live performances from new sticksman Mike Mangini that have proven he was hired for his considerable talent, not just because the rest of the band didn’t want to learn a new name.
The first thing to say about A Dramatic Turn of Events is that it is very much a Dream Theater album. Whether that is a hearty endorsement or a criticism is very much up to you, but this is definitely a continuation of what has come before which is full of long songs with plenty of technical noodling thrown in. ‘On The Backs Of Angels’ is cast from the same mould as ‘Pull Me Under’ and while it isn’t quite as good, it does make a fantastic start to the album. My personal favourite track is ‘Outcry’, a frantic call to rebellion that contains both shredding that Jeff Loomis would be proud of and a series of incredible leads that are shared between guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. However, it does have symptoms of the band getting just a bit too experimental in the form of a weird section that sounds like 30 seconds of the soundtrack from a random Thunderbirds episode was accidentally dropped into the mix.
In general the album seems to be a bit heavier than Dream Theater’s average; there definitely isn’t any flirtation with the band’s U2 loving side. An exception to this is ‘Beneath The Surface’, but this song is worth a special mention for managing to both close out the album nicely and triumph over cliché to become an incredibly emotive ballad. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve avoided comparing New Mike and Old Mike, mainly because I have nowhere near enough knowledge of drumming to fairly compare them. For what it’s worth, the main appeal of Dream Theater to me has always been that they are a group where every single member is one of the most technically able in his field. We’ll have to wait until next album to see how Mangini is at writing drums that fit in with the band’s style, but without a doubt this is still true.
There was much speculation before the release of A Dramatic Turn of Events that the band wouldn’t be the same without Portnoy and would suffer the split fanbase that bands such as In Flames and Nightwish have had to put up with. For me, this album contains some of the strongest material they’ve released recently and is a vindication of the band’s decision to continue without Portnoy.
Dream Theater’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dream-Theater/7677942180
Roadrunner Records’ website: http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/