Well it's a beautiful morning of September 13th,2011. An exciting day for fans of Progressive music.
Yes today is the day when the most anticipated album of Dream Theater "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" has come out into the stores world wide. I just bought my digital copy of the record last night and now I shall share with you my experience of listening to this record but before I delve in to that,here is a little history of the band and how this album came about. This album is the first one without the architect and co-founder of Dream Theater,drummer Mike Portnoy.For those of you who don't know this,Mike Portnoy left the band on September 8th 2010. His main reason to leave the band was to take a break from the Dream Theater engine because Portnoy was not just their drummer but was also the band's co-producer,co-lyricist,
backing vocalist,set list maker,bootlegs and DVDs director,and he also ran the fan club of the band. In fact Mike Portnoy's father came up with the name for this band and Portnoy was the most active member of this band in terms of interacting with the fans and doing all sorts of interesting stuff during his time in Dream Theater. The band did not come to terms with his decision for a hiatus from the band and chose to continue their journey without him. 25 years plus in to their career Dream Theater had to reinvent themselves and re figure out the role of each band member with the loss of an integral part of this band.
An audition process for a new drummer took place,which later turned into a documentary. 7 world class drummers were invited for the auditions,which included Mike Mangini,Derek Roddy,Thomas Lang,Virgil Donati,Marco Minnemann,Peter Wildoer,and Aquelies Priester. Finally after the entire audition process Mike Mangini was chosen to continue Mike Portnoy's legacy. Mike Mangini is famously known for playing with artists such as Extreme,Annihilator,and Steve Vai. Mike Mangini was also teaching at the "Berklee College Of Music" in Boston before he got his position as a drummer in Dream Theater. Things were quiet different now in the Dream Theater world and this album could have gone in either a bad direction or a really good one. So did this album really stand the test of time for a huge Dream Theater and Mike Portnoy fan,such as myself? Let's get into it track by track.
1.On The Backs Of Angles (8:43)- Well this track actually came out as a single on YouTube a few months back. My first impression of this track wasn't very satisfactory. Don't get me wrong ;it's a fantastic track but I actually had to give it many listens to finally appreciate it. This sort of process of listening never happened previously with any of Dream Theater's track so I didn't have a very positive vibe of the record as a whole because this was the first piece of music they were exposing from the new record. Now the main problem with this track was actually the mixing. The drums on the YouTube release were quiet low;even though I am a guitarist I noticed that instantly. I listen to every instrument while listening to my music and in a band the drums are the strong foundation. Now I have the album and the drums are a lot more audible.This is a great track,it's got a very catchy chorus to it. The song is about the corrupt elites and all those people that use power for the wrong reasons and wear a mask of being good and pure,yet they aren't. I think the lyrical concept is fantastic.The intro starts off with open and clean chords going into a keyboard melody,and then a whole dramatic entrance of the bass and drums. The first thing that really struck me was how this track has immense similarities with "Pull Me Under" from "Images And Words". Not in terms of notes or orchestration but in the sense of its arrangement. Even the time frame is pretty much the same as "Pull Me Under". As a whole it's a good song but certainly not my favorite from the record. I think for a single this track works great and I can see why Dream Theater released this as their first single. Even though the drums are quiet audible I still would say they should be a little louder in the mix.
2.Build Me Up,Break Me Down(6:59)-This track is really interesting! A new idea of using electronic synths and drum patches was finally introduced in Dream Theater which would get the listener to really put his/her attention into the song. The track is heavy but very well balanced. This could have also been introduced as a single in my opinion. The track has an attractive hook and a really catchy chorus and verse. The track speaks about people that you know would put someone on a really high pedestal but quiet easily degrade them when needed,for their own selfish reasons. The track speaks about how people generally enjoy someone else's misery. This behavior is very common in the society today. You first give someone importance but then you degrade them to the point where they are extremely hurt. The title describes it all -James Labrie's vocals are very powerful on this track. The section where Labrie sings "You build me up,you break me down.Until I fall into pieces",really would hit the listener hard. It has this effect that would make you feel the pain of someone who is in misery and is being laughed upon. The guitar and keyboard unison is not a shred fest,it's more like a very melodic and musical section. I think this is a unique track with interesting synth sounds,heavy 7 string guitars,strong lyrics,and catchy verses and choruses. If any of you have heard James Labrie's solo albums,then you would certainly enjoy this track. It's in the lines of that material but with a Dream Theater stamp on it.
3.Lost Not Forgotten(10:12)-Now this is one of my favorite tracks on the record. It's got that signature Dream Theater sound that I fell in love with years ago. This song would take you back into history if you listen to it with a good amount of concentration. The track describes the history of the Persians,how they were such a strong and powerful force many years ago. They have been lost for a while now but their legacy is not forgotten. I think Dream Theater did an exceptional job on this track describing the glory of the Persians. Right after the second track you would hear the winds of the desert and horses charging with speed towards something. You can easily tell it's on the Persians and their mastery of being exceptional warriors. The track starts off with a beautiful piano intro,which I remember Jordan Rudess playing after the track was recorded. The new added intro is in the style of pianist and composer Schopan. Rudess being a master of the piano and keyboards displays his chops with extreme control and beauty. The listener's ears are bound to be hooked to this track from the very beginning. When the guitars,drums,and bass enter this track it will give a feeling of surprise and amazement to the listener. If I had to describe this track to a Dream Theater fan then I would say this is the 21st century version of "Under A Glass Moon". Again I am not saying the notes are like that but the arrangement very much is. The guitar intro riff,the build up,the verses,and choruses,the bridge and all. In terms of arrangement it speaks"Under A Glass Moon" to me. The unison of the keyboard and guitar on this track is probably the most melodic and technical thing John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess have done. John Myung sounds extremely groovy on this track. Mike Mangini is totally locked in to the groove. The part at 3:56 is insanely good going into another section of awesomeness at 4:22. Those ideas and riffs starting at 4:27 are just epic. They would totally give you the vibe of "Fatal Tragedy",and "The Dance Of Eternity". Some of the most intricate and mind boggling parts are played on this track. The vocal melody at 4:52 is beautiful; James Labrie is really shining on this track as well. A beautiful guitar melody playing at the back supporting Labrie's vocals really gives this track an amazing effect. While the track is heavy,it has so many amazing melodic break downs. The balance of technical musicianship and heavy and melodic parts displayed on this track are just world class. The riff starting at 6:22 is such a fun riff to listen to,it is building right in to an epic guitar solo by John Petrucci. A lot of people say Petrucci's most unique solo is on "Under A Glass Moon" from 1992's "Images And Words";well they are in for a treat. John has finally found the Nemesis of that guitar solo in this solo. So beautiful,unique,intricate,technical,and melodic. Probably one of the best guitar solos on this album. The change of progressions at 8:07 is so perfect! The timing,the usage of techniques,the choice of notes are just golden. From there it builds right into Jordan Rudess's solo,which is probably some of the best stuff I heard from Rudess in a very long time. 8:22 the epic factor of keyboards begins! It's so well thought out and is not just fast but it was well thought out. 8:52 marks the beginning of a chaotic idea going into the chorus of the track. Mangini showing his technique at 9:23. He seriously has some phenomenal movement in his limbs. 9:46 it goes back to the intro riff,which marks the ending of this progressive epic. This track is a real treat for all true Dream Theater fans.
4.This Is The Life(6:58)- Many would agree on this that Dream Theater's classic ballad has been "Another Day". Well I believe finally we have a modern age "Another Day" in front of us. "This Is The Life" talks about a very common yet deep topic. People of today don't look at the life that they are blessed with,rather they would look at everybody else's than dwell on their own life. It gives a beautiful message to appreciate the life that you have been given. So many people in this world don't have a life like ours,imagine those folks that don't even have a roof on top of their heads,or a loaf of bread to get through the day. Many of you reading this review have a computer,a home,three meals daily,a phone,car,an education,and all the basic yet integral amenities of life. Yet a lot of you would not dwell on your life and look at someone else's,which might be the life you want. But look at it from a suffering person's eye and you'll notice how blessed you are. Look around you and see the blessings that have been bestowed upon you. This is what this beautiful track describes. It starts with an epic clean chord progression just like in "Another Day" going in to a beautiful lead guitar line,topped with bass,and drums. James Labrie's voice on this is just outstanding,it's like he is singing right into your ears with extreme sweetness. John Petrucci's lead guitar melody at 1:44 is a true example of his beautiful feel of the instrument. The drums on this track remind me of the drums on "Damnation" by the band Opeth. It has the sweet and heart warming groove to it topped with balanced and well thought out bass lines. At 2:02 Jordan Rudess comes out with a soaring keyboard line and the patch/effect he is using is also a very fresh one.Rudess's patch gives this track a totally new feel and sets it apart from all the other Dream Theater ballads. If I had to describe this track as a whole,then it would be a merger between "Yes" and "Marillion", with a sprinkle of the softer side of "Opeth". At 4:23 John Petrucci comes in with an absolutely melodic and beautiful solo. It's really warm and would touch the heart of the listener.At 5:50 the track becomes really cinematic.An absolutely beautiful ballad with beautiful melodies,musicianship,vocals,and lyrics. Certainly a very dramatic track which would leave the listener in a state of deep thought. I think it has a very strong and positive message for everyone all around the world.
5.Bridges In The Sky(11:01)-Wow this track has such a unique and ethnic introduction.Jordan Rudess gave it an awesome start with these epic voice samples portraying the shaman and some really cool synth patches. This song describes the experience of being a Shaman in a temple. It's kind of a religious experience in many ways. The track was initially called "The Shaman's Trance" but then the name changed to what it is now. Indeed if you listen to this track while being in the zone you'll feel a trance and surge of energy. It's such a moving experience in all honesty. At 1:36 the guitars and drums kick in and then everything else enters. If you love epic 7 string guitar riffs then this track is for you. Absolutely heavy and in your face. The mapping/arrangement of this entire song reminds me of "Take The Time". None of the notes are similar but the mapping of the chart for this track is pretty much the same. The track has the heavy vibe of Dream Theater's classic,"The Glass Prison". At 2:14 you'll find the interesting ideas of the band,which are a signature to their sound. 2:55 James Labrie comes in and his vocals are just tantalizing. While this track is a perfect example of a Dream Theater Progressive Metal epic,it has these beautiful melodies at the same time. A good example is the melodic change that takes place on the section at 3:53. Dream Theater have proven to keep a perfect balance between the melodic aspects and the heaviness of the song. Balance is a good thing and this effort is certainly worthy of applause. John Myung is just grooving on this track,the man isn't one of the best bassists in the world just like that. 4:58 has this really cool section of bass,guitars,and drums. The part is intricate and moving,and Jordan Rudess adds his haunting keyboard parts there as well. I really love the flow of this track,all the key changes are so smooth and flowing. A good example is the change that takes place at 7:08. The unison section between Petrucci's guitar and Myung's bass is a perfect example of what I am talking about. At 7:14,another really cool change that felt effortless,it is really a beautiful section. 7:38 the beautiful unison amongst all the instruments is just beautiful. Has the whole ethnic Arabic music vibe to it.At 7:55 John Petrucci plays a very cool solo,fans of "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence" would certainly enjoy it. At 8:19 Jordan comes in with a very cool keyboard idea and it sounds like something from "Awake",going in to a very cool "Train Of Thought" type of movement.Then Labrie comes back with his vocals setting the perfect mood for the track to end. I absolutely love this track. The track ends with an absolute bang! Dark melodic,and heavy is my cup of tea certainly.
6.Outcry(11:24)-This probably is the most technical track on the album. The beauty about this track is that while it's technical it doesn't throw you off. Every part and section on this song is well thought out. It stands head to head with all of Dream Theater's technical progressive anthems. I found the arrangement to be quiet similar to "Metropolis Part1". The intro with a keyboard,going in to an epic guitar riff. This is more of a modern version in terms of orchestration and choice of notes. The electronic sounds in a Dream Theater setting sound really good. The beautiful guitar riff at 0:45 is just going to put a smile on your face. The keyboards,bass,and drums supporting it give it a very strong and dramatic effect. 1:31 shows some really cool electronic sounds being used,the bass is very prominent on this track. James sounds really strong on this track as well.his performance has been virile throughout. I love how he is using his midrange mostly on this album; it displays his beautiful timbre quiet well. The song has beautiful lyrics,which talk about corrupt societies,governments,agendas,and the cruelty that mankind is facing. The message of this song is to take a stand against such groups that cause so much unrest all around the world. 4:50 the instrumental beauty beings. Jordan Rudess really plays some amazing notes out here. 5:17 Mangini plays some really cool drum parts. All instruments in unison sound epic and beautiful. I think this section is like a unison between the instrumental section of Metropolis Pt.1 and Octavarium. 6:16 has this phenomenal keyboard and piano section that lasts till 6:37. If you miss the "Six Degrees Of Inner turbulence" Keyboard sound,then look no further it's very much back. 6:58 displays the instrumental intricacy between John Myung and Mike Mangini.7:21 Petrucci comes in with a beautiful soaring lead that really sets the bar really high.Another big change takes place at 7:43,and wow, to my delight, this is one of the most amazing progressive instrumental sections I have heard in a long time. Mangini does some interesting stuff at around 8:30 and then a beautiful clean piano part at 8:44 sets the mood back in for Labrie's vocals.9:08 displays a beautiful melody over all. This is definitely the most progressive and technical track on the album. A strong song in terms of technicality,musicianship,and lyrical content.
7.Far From Heaven(3:56)-I call this the modern version of "Wait For Sleep"in terms of the mapping of the song. Jordan Rudess showing his beautiful melodic musicianship on the keys and piano. James Labrie's voice calm and warm,he really sets the mood of this song and beautifully represents the lyrics he wrote for this track. All the string sounds are being played via the keyboard during the same time as the piano parts. This is just an absolutely beautiful collaboration between Jordan Rudess and James Labrie. The lyrics are beautiful,they are based on people that just at times do so much to be understood or accepted but they are never understood. A good example is how parents want their kids to just get really good grades at everything.They may not be even interested or be good at certain subjects but the parents have exceptionally high expectations,without thinking what's good for their child. It keeps them away from the sense of acceptance,security,and encouragement. Basically they are far away from that feeling of joy,comfort,and acceptance. So they are basically far from heaven. The track beautifully describes such situations. I just gave an example of parents and kids but this track can be used in any situation or relationship. Basically it's a beautiful message and plea to accept someone as they truly are and to basically understand them,for their own good in the future.
8.Breaking All Illusions(12:26)-This track is a continuation of "Fram From From Heaven" and the final Progressive epic of this album. It's also a very special track because it's been written by John Myung the bassist of the band. The last time Myung wrote a song was on 1999's "Scenes From A Memory" called "Fatal Tragedy". If you listen to this track carefully you will actually realize that it is a modern version of "Learning To Live" that John Myung wrote in 1992's "Images And Words". The mapping/arrangement of the song is pretty much the same. The song is about how people have preconceived notions about a situation or a person and they are under the illusion of something that's not really there. It describes beautifully on how to break stereotypes,fads,and the general perception that people have about something. It's all about breaking the illusion and showing reality,or the other side to a stereotype.Learning to live starts off with keyboards,so does this track,then the drums enter,then the guitars,and bass. 0:33 has a beautiful idea displayed,the melody of this track is full of surreal harmonic quality. There is a lot of cool instrumental interaction until 1:35. Then John Myung's bass lines are heard and the piano enters at 1:45. At 2:04 James Labrie comes in with his harmonious voice and there is a key change. If you listen to "Learning To Live",you'll find a very similar thing going on in there. 2:43 Petrucci plays a beautiful guitar lead melody with Labrie's warm vocal melody. The verse of this track is really emotional,the words are perfectly fitting the melodic content of the track. 3:41-an amazing instrumental section is presented.4:22 presents a beautiful key change,representing the original key again. That beautiful section where Jordan shines leads us in to one of the most beautiful choruses Dream Theater wrote. At 5:00 there is another epic instrumental section,where Jordan is using a totally new sample on his keyboard. The clean glossy guitar sound combined with Rudesse's new patch gives a really amazing vibe to the listener. When I heard it at first it sounded something that the band "Scale The Summit" would do. 5:10-6:08 the unison between the guitar,bass,keyboards,and drums is just platinum. I love Mike Mangini's drum patterns on there! On this track Mike Mangini really shines in his performance. Finally at 6:09 another epic change in melody takes place. It's like Dream Theater really thought about their music on this record. The movements are phenomenal to say the least. John Petrucci playing a beautiful guitar lead section starting at 6:09 and ending at 6:39. 6:41 those chord progressions are probably some of my favorites that Dream Theater have done,the percussion at the back,and Jordan's Piano give it a dramatic effect.There are also these interesting electronic samples being played at the back while all this is going on. Yet it doesn't seem like any part is overshadowing another part. It all seems to be gelled perfectly. At 7:12 Petrucci plays one of the most heart felt solos . I was really missing that fusion based sound of John Petrucci;he has certainly brought it back on here. I can seriously say that the solo on this track is one of my favorites for sure.8:10 all the instruments come in as John is soling,the effect is just beautiful! I believe this is also the longest guitar solo on the album. 8:51 another amazing key change takes place. John Myung playing the perfect notes at the perfect time. The drums and keyboards come in as well and there is some dark phrygian based type of interplay going on amongst Petrucci,Rudess,and Myung;while Mangini keeps the groove strong and firm. This section reminds me of Dream Theater's track "Home" from "Scenes From A Memory". the build of the riff from 9:07 till 10:36 is just phenomenal. There is so much interaction between the musicians that I can't just write it in words. You just have to actually sit and listen to it by yourself,to appreciate the beauty of the instrumentation. 11:01 another beautiful movement is presented which leads to the end of this beautiful progressive epic.
9.Beneath The Surface(5:27)-The final track on the album begins with water drops falling down. You can tell this is a beautiful ending track,as soon as the guitar comes in. John Petrucci has penned most of the lyrics on this record,including this one and it's just beautiful. This is an absolute cool down,it's something you can listen to with your eyes closed and just sit back.This song was initially not going to be on the album. Petrucci came up with it on his own,after the completion of the writing process. It's got these beautiful guitar chordal sections,background strings,and keyboards. James Labrie is singing it beautifully once again.I haven't liked Labrie's performance this much since "Scenes From A Memory". He is in total shape and form.The highlight of this track is Jordan Rudess's synth effect at 3:20;it's just beautiful. An absolutely phenomenal and moving solo. The song describes a common yet interesting situation. It's like when you care for someone so much and they are just indifferent to your feelings. Then there comes a point where you need to pour out your frustrations about it to somebody but you look around yourself and there is no one. Eventually it comes to a point that you don't know what will happen,you want to scream,you want someone to hear what you have to say,and you certainly want that person who you care for to care about how you feel. Eventually all this turns in to pain and then you just bury it deep inside yourself,to the point where you don't even think about it. The song describes how a caring person can transform into a person that is indifferent to their surroundings. A great album closer in my opinion.
To conclude this album I would simply like to say a few things.
1.This album certainly stood the test of time.
2.It's some of the best stuff Dream Theater have created in the past 10 years.
3.I don't know if Dream Theater would ever come out and reveal this,but I certainly feel they revisited their classic album "Images And Words". Now that does not mean they copied it,no not at all. But you know how arrangements of tracks are outlined right. Like pop songs for example have a certain common outline or road map to them. Well I truly believe Dream Theater used their Images And Words charts to create some phenomenal piece of music. There is nothing wrong with what they did. They clearly knew what they were doing and they wanted to make a very strong come back with a modern and refreshing approach to the legendary Dream Theater style.
4.Initially the mix didn't appeal to me but then I heard the record on my JBL Studio Monitors and I could totally see where the mix was going.Andy Wallace did a phenomenal job on the mix,although I wouldn't have minded if the drums were higher up a notch.The balance of each instrument was captured beautifully.
5.I think over all John Petrucci did a great job in the production of this album. For the first time without Mike Portnoy,Petrucci managed to work the entire production himself with finess.
6.About eight or nine years ago a Dutch magazine "Aardschock" did an interview with Mike Portnoy and asked him who he would see as a proper replacement for himself in Dream Theater.Mike Portnoy said it would be Mike Mangini.
In conclusion to me this record is the 21st century Images And Words. In fact A/B this album with Images And Words and notice the similarities in the arrangements. The timing of the album however interestingly clocks around the same time as "Scenes From A Memory".
Scenes From A Memory Metropolis pt. 2 length 77:12.
A Dramatic Turn of Events length 77:05.
Both these records are revolutionary albums for Dream Theater,so it's really interesting how they sort of took such a concept for this new record,as it's also a big move in their career.
Facts about these 3 albums:
1.Images And Words-The album that set the strong empire for Dream Theater and also introduced James Labrie as their new vocalist.
2.Scenes From A Memory Metropolis pt. 2- The resurrection of Dream Theater. One of the greatest concept albums of all time,and Jordan Rudess becomes their new keyboardist/pianist.
3.A Dramatic Turn Of Events-One of their most anticipated albums in a long time. Mike Mangini becomes the new drummer for Dream Theater.
My rating for this album is a straight 10/10.
Written By: Aman Hassan.