Sound — 9
Dream Theater is having their first release since the departure of band leader Mike Portnoy and to be frank, when I heard Portnoy was gone, I thought Dream Theater was over. Yet they are not! Instead they have come back with one of their greatest efforts to date! Mike Mangini helped bring the band back to his life and his drum work more than compensates for the missing Portnoy. A Dramatic Turn of Events is quite literally a dramatic turn of events for Dream Theater as it brings them back to their old more melodic proggy roots making this almost more of a Rhapsody of Fire type record. Yet this album has so much more than other Dream Theater releases. The guitars balance loud and soft while featuring some really sweet riffs. The solos are typical Dream Theater with some blazingly fast solos. In addition the bass is powerful and has some exceptionally solid lines on this album really driving the music along. The newest member of DT does a very good job on the drums perfectly meeting all of the chops required to play on a DT record. The keyboards are beautiful and symphonic as is the norm with DT but there are still some impressive piano solos in there too. Then the vocals of LaBrie are up to par as usual with the same epic DT lyrics. The guitar work on this record goes back to the more melodic side of Dream Theater. This album is not as heavy as the past few Dream Theater releases but it has easily 3 times the technicality and atmosphere. One only needs to hear the intro solo to On The Backs of Angels to realize that this is going to be an amazing guitar album. The shift from epic intro solo to brutal (for DT) riff is excellent and really helps to get the album going. The solos on this record are brilliant and they are plentiful. Almost every song has some form of extended solo and it helps keep the album melodic. Admittedly this does get a bit frustrating after a while and some bits are probably extraneous. Yet there are times when Petrucci back up and play simpler acoustic passages like in the intro to This is The Life and this adds a very nice feel of contrast to the music. Suffice to say from a simply guitar perspective this album is brilliant. The bass on this record is really impressive too. From the huge bass line from On the Backs of Angels to the solid finish at the end of Beneath The Surface the bass has a huge part on this record. There is a huge amount of bass on this record and that helps it become that much heavier and that much more solid. However I wish that the bass got a few extra unique fills instead of repetitive follow the lead guitar type stuff. The drums are really well done, almost, too good. Mangini really takes DT to a whole new level with his drum work. He perfectly balances hard powerful drumming techniques with lighter more gentle parts nicely fitting the pattern of DT's music. Yet the whole time he drives the music on. A key example of this is fond in the track Build Me Up, Break Me Down where the solid bass drum line keeps the music powerful and driven. The keyboards of Jordan Rudess show off some real chops on record. A key example of this is on Lost, Not Forgotten a frenetic keyboard driven track filled with some amazing piano parts that really add on to the music. Yet Rudess is not all about the crazy technical piano parts there are definitely some tracks where he goes into symphonic mode like in the track Outcry where the entire song is layered by his great pianos. Finally the majority of the intros on this record are somehow piano based and this gives a really nice feel to the beginnings of many of the songs. I do feel though that some of the bits are a bit to tweedly and a bit overused making some bits of songs eventually dull. In short, Rudess shows great technical skill on this album yet proves that he can still pull back and play background stuff.
Lyrics — 8
The vocals of John Labrae are pretty standard for Dream Theater yet for me they are sufficiently soulful and beautiful to hold up against the test of time. Labrae's vocals reach power metal heights at times yet they always come back to their roots in the technical ecstasy of Dream Theater's music. Labrae really cuts off his metal edge on this records and goes straight back to the old days giving DT the most real sound they've had in years. The lyrics are varied but there are definitely some good themes in the tracks. One of my favorites is Far From Heaven a song about the miseries of being on earth. All in all this is a very solid album vocally.
Overall Impression — 9
To finish, this is one of the greatest Dream Theater albums ever. This album has all that makes DT an amazing melodic band and takes out the meh metal element that has been invading their sound in recent years. This album is a return to the basics for Dream Theater with simpler riffs and more melodic solos. With Portnoy gone the band feels a lot more free in their tone and the music profits greatly. So the verdict, this record is sick, go buy it. If you like my stuff please check out my site Twoguysmetalreviews.blogspot.com