23 September 2013
by Raziq Rauf
A Dramatic Turn of Events was only superficially spectacular. It sounded like a Dream Theater album, but little else. It felt like they were going through the motions somewhat and as they were adapting to a new drummer in Mike Mangini, having written the bulk of his drum lines before he joined, it wasn’t surprising that a little of the dynamism that comes from the ease of familiarity was lost.
This is the first Dream Theater album the (five-time) World’s Fastest Drummer has had a chance to fully sink his teeth into, but is that even newsworthy any more? Is it really worth further discussion? It’s clear that Mike Portnoy isn’t going to be welcomed back into the fold. They’ve moved on and have quite pointedly self-titled their twelfth album. They feel this is their definitive work. It might be.
Starting with the short, instrumental ‘False Awakening Suite’, the album captures that famously galloping sense of progressive metal melodrama that their previous effort never quite managed to. That they then jump straight into the Megadeth-oriented razorblade riffage that was so distinct on Systematic Chaos with lead single, ‘The Enemy Inside’
is a statement of intent. Portnoy’s departure has certainly allowed Jordan Rudess’ personality to shine across Dream Theater – so evident in this huge song with his even huger keyboard solos.
‘The Looking Glass’ is another huge song, this time with enormous, poppy guitars that hark to their heroes, Rush as well as their own biggest-selling album, Images and Words. Of course DT have arranged the album so that a big sing-along hit-in-waiting is placed directly next to a jaunty instrumental. ‘Enigma Machine’ indeed, but Rudess is back in driving seat with ‘The Bigger Picture’ as he tinkles the ivories before James LaBrie’s gentle vocals – which are somehow less cheesy on this album – glide in and then gain power in this heartstring-tugging power ballad.
Watch the video to ‘The Enemy Inside’ by Dream Theater:
They leave the five-part 22-minute epic, ‘Illumination Theory’ til the very end but, as ever, it’s worth it. Flowing from grand bombast into bass-driven metal arpeggios before slowing through a percussive section and building back up to LaBrie’s familiar wail. There are strings, effects, numerous solos and a full gamut of exhausting prog metal excellence. If kitchen sinks made songs… hang on. You get it.
With nine tracks clocking in at 68 minutes, it looks like a Dream Theater album, but does it sound like the Dream Theater album? Yes and no. While it doesn’t (and could never) have the same surprise of innovation that those aforementioned pioneering albums had within them, there are tracks that are reminiscent of Dream Theater’s very, very best moments. The album is certainly up there in terms of execution, variety and balance and they sound like a band again. They sound like a great band again. It’s simply a return to normal, excellent form from the prog metal powerhouse that is Dream Theater. They’re back and they’re going absolutely nowhere, but they’ll tell you that in as unwieldy a manner as is possible. Celebrate it.
Sounds like: Dream Theater is still more than one man.
Top tracks: The Looking Glass, The Enemy Inside, Illumination Theory