A Dramatic Turn of Events
A new drummer does not necessarily make a new band. For fans, this is great news, and for detractors, this still probably won’t impress too much. However, for the disheartened fans of earlier material, simply frustrated with the stagnation of the recent three albums, Dream Theater’s newest release, “A Dramatic Turn of Events” is quite promising. In my mind, it was never a question of if Mike Mangini could keep up with Mike Portnoy’s talents. It’s not like Dream Theater played “The Dance Of Eternity” all that often anyways. More important was if Mangini was going to provide the creative spark to make Dream Theater a respectable progressive metal band again or not. What’s really encouraging, just from the track listing, is that they finally started to figure out song lengths. The longest song on "A Dramatic Turn of Events" is twelve and a half minutes, and four songs are in the four to seven minute range. If there was one thing that absolutely tanked "Black Clouds & Silver Linings", it was deciding that “The Best of Times” needed to be THIRTEEN MINUTES LONG. The only parts of that album that were interesting enough to go past 10 minutes were the bookends. So certainly the band more mature on this release. However within the record, there are still a few points where they delve into completely unnecessary displays of technical proficiency. If I never hear another 10+ minute ballad from Dream Theater, it will be too soon.
Another frequent criticism of recent work had been that although the heavy material was cool to listen to, Portnoy’s “rough” vocals destroyed the song. My own issue had been that the heavy stuff was closer to mainstream metal like Metallica, than heavy progressive like say… Evergrey. Fear not, removing Portnoy’s influence has helped quite a bit in this category as well. Petrucci carries the majority of lyrical duties, but like a light from the heavens, John Myung contributes his first lyrics in over a decade. I’m not quite sure what “Breaking All Illusions” is about, but that’s because it doesn’t make some blatantly obvious and stupid point like pretty much every song on "Black Clouds..." If this album had a lyrical theme, I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was, or even tell you what most of the songs are about, and for progressive metal, I’m really pretty much fine with that. Especially when the alternatives are songs about vampires or car crashes. While I really enjoyed the lyrics to “In the Presence of Enemies” off "Systematic Chaos" (That whole song really) I’ve discovered, for the most part, the less I can figure out DT’s lyrics, the more I enjoy the music.
Labrie’s vocals are much less strained. I think through a lot of coaching and stylistic adjustments, they’ve finally figured out how to make him stop sounding like a complete prat. This does hold them back from some of their previous material that I really enjoyed, because when LaBrie’s voice was in the right condition, songs like "Beyond this Life" or "In the Name of God" really completed their albums.
Everything is here to identify this with DT albums like "Train of Thought", or that not terrible version of "Falling Into Infinity" that I keep being told exists only in demo versions. I’m still not taken off my feet by the music, but it’s a definite improvement. While the loss of Portnoy has saved the band from some of the unnecessary excesses of songs like “The Ministry of Lost Souls” or “The Shattered Fortress”, the band also loses the aggression that led to masterpieces like “The Glass Prison” or “Home”. This album I think will change very little, the fan boys will be fan boys, and the band is still pretty intent on showing off all sort of technical wankery, but it IS an improvement.
Dagg’s rating: 3.75/5