Only two years after the amazing last release "Black Clouds & Silver Linings," DREAM THEATER are back with a bang. They got a lot of media attention because of their split with founding member and drum workaholic Mike Portnoy who now tries to sue the band and doesn't only scrap his professional career but also his image, his friendship with the other members and finally his credibility. Thumbs down for Mike Portnoy but thumbs up for the other guys of DREAM THEATER who were able to write a very strong record even without the controlling influence of Mike Portnoy.
Most of the songs on here are written as a team. Jordann Rudess did an amazing job and sound stronger than ever on this record. Letís notice that he also wrote the drum patterns for the record that the new and very sympathetic drum monster Mike Mangini copied in his studio. He is the only new member who didn't have a writing credit on this record and I'm looking forward to see what this guy is able to play and write in a bright future with DREAM THEATER. Of course, John Petrucci is once again an important corner stone of this record and had many great ideas. James LaBrie gets some more credits on this record than before and his vocals sound more effortless and amazing than ever before. Even they shy guy John Myung got back on track and wrote a lot of music and also some lyrics on this album. Everything seems equilibrated on this album and Portnoy's departure seems to be a relief and released a lot of fresh creativity within the different band members. These are the reasons why this album turns out to be so strong.
Enter "A Dramatic Turn Of Events". I described the previous record as a great compilation and mixture of styles from albums such as "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence", "Train Of Thoughts" or "Systematic Chaos" and this new record is the equivalent force to it. It touches calmer and more progressive sounds that made me adore records such as "Images And Words", "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory" or "Octavarium". The opener "On The Backs Of Angels" needs some time to grow but ultimately convinces with beautiful guitar harmonies and atmospheric keyboard section. Especially the calmest and most progressive tracks on this album are amazing like the catchy and yet epic anthem "Breaking All Illusions" or the touching and introspective ballad "Beneath The Surface".
But the band is even more diversified than this and has added some thrash orientated and modern sounds into a couple of songs that could come straight from "Train Of Thoughts" or "Systematic Chaos". The greatest example is the brilliant "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" that has many heavy and modern sounds but a catchy and beautiful chorus that contrasts the stunning beginning of the song. The great thing about this album is that it touches many different styles, ideas and genres but the choice of the track list still glues the nine songs coherently together. Every song has something different to show us even if we have heard bits and pieces of the diversified styles in many other DREAM THEATER albums before. This record presents us nothing new but it stagnates on a very strong level and is an important transitional album and new beginning after the departure of Mike Portnoy. This record should unite old and young fans and as I recognized, this album pleases as much to those who cite "Awake" as their favourite album as to those who would put "Train Of Thoughts" on the top of their list. That's a rare and stunning effort. With the last record, the band seems to have been able to develop away to catalyze their different styles into a well mixed melting pot of genius.
Every DREAM THEATER album has one song that truly stands out in my opinion and even though all songs are pretty great on this new effort, this is still the case on here. I talk about the amazing "Bridges In The Sky" that has almost made it as the title track of the album. The song mixes haunting shaman chants with atmospheric choirs, keyboards passages and even new age influences that lead to heavy and almost thrash orientated verses and beautiful choruses. Every instrument plus the vocals shine in this masterpiece that I would put slightly in front of the other stunning epics "Breaking All Illusions", followed by "Outcry" and finally "Lost Not Forgotten". This song contains everything DREAM THEATER is still about in 2011. I don't like stupid general comments but I would make an exception here and say that you don't like DREAM THEATER if you don't like this song.
In the end, the only reason why this record isn't my favourite one of the band and only placed second behind the previous "Black Clouds And Silver Linings" is that there are maybe one or two ballads too much on the record with "This Is The Life" and "Far From Heaven" and that the band doesn't try out something completely new yet. But I feel that the best is yet to come and that this album will also still grow on me. This album is definitely in my top ten of the best Metal releases of the year and a must have for any fan of Progressive music of any kind.
(Online February 5, 2012)