Sound — 9
This album definitely goes back to the sound Dream Theater started with. Taking pieces from each of their previous albums, it is a lovely mix of old and new for any Dream Theater fan. While Portnoy is missed on this album, Mangini does well to fill in the gaps. It'll be fun to hear what he can write with the band, as Mangini did not get any writing on this album (the drum tracks were written/programmed by Petrucci then recorded by Mangini). Songs like 'Build Me Up, Break Me Down' and 'Lost Not Forgotten' seem like they could've been lifted directly from the 'Train of Thought' sessions. However, other tracks showcase pieces from the past and their influences, such as 'On the Backs of Angels,' which has sounds similar to everything from 'Images and Words' up to 'Black Clouds and Silver Linings' with a heavy Rush influence in pieces of the composition. While the music is of the caliber to be expected from the band, I believe they truly step up on this album. Tracks such as 'Bridges in the Sky' have a haunting presence thanks to Ruddess's writing. On many of the tracks, Myung is able to be heard clearly in a way that also lends to the dark undertones. One track that stands out above the rest is 'Outcry.' The track hits many different areas, and allows for each band member to showcase their talents, from LaBrie's vocals, to the guitar/keyboard/bass solos, down the Mangini playing the most challenging track on the album. In short, this album follows a very diverse musical structure that I can only compare to the emotional turns of 'Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory.' The irony in this (likely intentional) is that 'Scenes' started a pattern that is complete with this album. 'Scenes' had nine tracks, 'Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence' housed six, and 'Train of Thought' held nine. 'Octavarium' was the middle piece with eight tracks, before the pattern reversed. 'Systematic Chaos' had seven tracks, 'Black Clouds' following with six, and now, 'A Dramatic Turn of Events' ending the cycle with nine. This completes the theme of the middle album, 'Octavarium,' that all things end where they begin. I think it's genius that this was not only done in track amounts, but in album sound and structure ('Scenes' and 'A Dramatic Turn of Events').
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics on this album are what would be expected from Dream Theater. The lyrics do seem a little more personal than they have in the past; however, the themes and flow are nothing new. LaBrie's voice is still very distinguishable, and his melodies fit well with the tracks. Certain tracks take on a dark tone, as mentioned before, and LaBrie does well to balance the dark sound of the song without compromising the smoothness of his voice. He rarely has any growling moments like what was showcased between him and Portnoy on the previous albums. His vocals on 'Far From Heaven' are the shining point of the album for his singing. Throughout the album, he is in typical Dream Theater form, but this track takes him a step above the rest. His lyrics are strong and very heartfelt on this track, and show that LaBrie is capable of contributing solid lyrics to the Dream Theater catalog. Not far behind this track is the closing ballad, 'Beneath the Surface.'
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, this is a great album. It's definitely a grower. 'Black Clouds and Silver Linings' had an immediate effect and was easy to embrace. The changes in this album separate it well from 'Black Clouds' and as such, it takes time to immerse oneself in. However, in time, this will be considered one of Dream Theater's most accomplished albums due to it's implementation of the past and present states of the band, along with a diverse musical structure (not too focused on metal, or too focused on prog, or too focused on ballads). The blend helps tell where Dream Theater has been, where they are today, and where they plan to be tomorrow.