Sound — 7
A Dramatic Turn of Events' is the 11th studio album released by Dream Theater and will be the first album featuring the work of drummer Mike Mangini after founding member Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater in September of 2010. Mike Mangini came in to the album after it had been written was given demos of the songs on the album with pre-programmed drums to learn and was allowed to add/embellish to some extent when recording. The album was written, recorded, mixed and mastered between January and June 2011. John Petrucci acted as producer as well as guitars and backing vocals. There are nine tracks on A Dramatic Turn of Events' and the album clocks in at almost 80 minutes. I listened to On the Backs of Angels' as soon as it was released as a single and I was excited for the release of this album. Listening to it, the keyboard and guitar parts are huge, and the song was musically interesting throughout. The only thing negative I thought was wondering if the drums were mixed just a little too low. This single really got my blood pumping to hear the full album. The guitar tone is absolutely amazing throughout the album and the song structures stay interesting musically. The production and mixing is very polished, but this is a good thing in this instance. The production and mixing really come across like a well finished product instead of being over polished. The guitar solos are very interesting melodically and tastefully done. On occasion the music sounds just a little too busy to me (and I like prog and shred) and that does detract from the album just a little bit.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are well written, and about what you expect from Dream Theater. There is nothing really new, unexpected or groundbreaking about the lyrics - but they are very solid. The vocal delivery is well done and where it should be in the mix. I'll be honest I'm not a huge fan of James LaBrie's voice. I usually like vocalists with a lot of character in their voice, and while James LaBrie's voice is really excellent it sounds mildly generic to me. It does however fit well in the tapestry of each song without detracting from the musicianship displayed. If I was rating this by my personal taste I would probably rate a 6, but instead I will rate based off of the skill and intelligence of the vocals and lyrics.
Overall Impression — 8
There were several times during the album where I felt like I was listening to the soundtrack to an anime, and you can take that as a good or bad thing. A Dramatic Turn of Events' is not as heavy as some of the other recent releases by Dream Theater but instead sounds like what it is prog rock. This is not music to work out to it isn't quite heavy enough. I could see myself listening to this while working, or cutting grass or even possibly while reading. Of course, being Dream Theater the music is slightly cerebral while remaining enjoyable to listen to. John Petrucci is, as always, an impressive musician in both composition and execution. I'm not a huge Mike Portnoy fan, but his leaving did have some impact on the sound. This isn't so much his playing which I don't especially miss but I do feel like the drums are mixed at a level a notch or two too low and I hope this is corrected in the next release by Dream Theater. I'm eager to hear more from Mike Mangini and hope to hear him really grow into his role with Dream Theater.