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A Dramatic Turn Of Events
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A Dramatic Turn Of Events
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A Dramatic Turn of Events is an album born from transition, crafted with studied persistence and possessed by newfound freedom and free-flowing invigoration. The album strikes the perfect balance between Dream Theater's intimate history with all that is heavy, progressive and melodic with each element fully realized. Longtime fans of the band intrigued by the speediness of the notes on display from Dream Theater have much to study on the album, while fans of melodic hooks will find equal pleasure within the songs.
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1. On the Backs of Angels - The album's lead single. Fitting for an opening track. The song starts off with a clean guitar inro that slowly builds up into a heavy chorus backed with the usual instruments along with a choir. This album certainly has more of an orchestral feel to it than their others, with more emphasis on choir, strings, and piano arrangements. Not the best on the album, but it's a good song, containing a heavy intro, a melodic chorus, and breakdowns not focused solely on instrumental prowess. 3.5/5
2. Build Me Up, Break Me Down - A bit different than their usual stuff. It starts off a bit electronic with a constant and strong guitar riff. The rest of the bands joins in and fits perfectly with the riff that sets the tone for the rest of the song. The electronic element is present within the majority of the song, which suits the mid-paced and heavy style of the song. The song doesn't get too carried away, as the chorus is a bit melodic, like the previous song. The end of the chorus features backing by LaBrie that contains some of the highest notes he has ever hit. 3.5/5
3. Lost Not Forgotten - This is more in the style of their usual stuff than the last two, a song with an extended length that has plenty of technical riffs and passages along with crazy solos. Starting off with piano, the song doesn't take long to venture into the heavy and technical style that remains prominent throughout. Every member of the band shines here, most notably keyboardist Jordan Rudess, with his fitting backing arrangements and constant solos, and LaBrie, with his vocal approach staying constantly strong to complement the song. The solos and breakdowns are flashy, to be sure, but this song, along with others on the album, give a slightly different approach than usual, with solos and backing instrumentation being more melodic. 3.5/5
4. This Is the Life - One of the softer songs on the albums. Unlike some of Dream Theater's softer work, this song doesn't venture too far out of it's boundaries; it stays consistently soft while constantly changing to make it interesting. This may not be the best soft song that Dream Theater has done, but it doesn't feel out of place for the band or the album, and it also manages to stay consistent. 3/5
5. Bridges in the Sky - Originally titled "The Shaman's Trance". The intro to this song is certainly unique, mostly acapella with some light instrument accompaniment. The song immediately changes as the intro goes into to one of the heaviest riffs on the album. The heavy guitar sets the tone for the majority of the song that also has, like the other songs on the album, a melodic chorus. This song also has an instrumental breakdown that is both technical and filled with solos. Being of the heaviest and most progressive on the album, this is one of the best tracks on the album. 5/5
6. Outcry - Another song with a clean intro, this is a moderately paced song that's heavy but also melodically driven. This song features some of the best lyrics on the album. This song also shows that Rudess is definitely taking a different approach this time (more so than the other band members), with interesting choices for backing arrangements and solos. Going by the instrumental parts of this song, it shows that the rest of the band also decided to take a more melodic turn for solos, breakdowns, and technical parts for this album. 4/5
7. Far from Heaven - One of the two ballads on the album. Heavily piano driven, it's lyrics by LaBrie and music are very sad, and his vocal approach fits the song perfectly. This is some of the softest playing the band has done to date, especially by Rudess, with piano accompaniment that can only be described as beautiful. 4.5/5
8. Breaking All Illusions - Probably the most "progressive" song on the album, it starts off with a techinical guitar riff thats slowly joined by other instruments. While initially a techinical onslaught, the keyboards set the tone for the melodic nature of this song. The soft verse has light keyboards with fitting bass and drums before LaBrie and the guitar enter smoothly. The lyrics, penned by Myung with help from Petrucci, are more introspective than the others on the album, offering a nice change of pace. After an equally soft second passage, the technicality and heaviness pick up briefly before LaBrie comes back in to match the rest of the band. As quick as it became heavy, it goes back to melodic, before using the keyboard riff from the beginning as a basis for the chorus. The short keyboard intermission keep the first few instrumental parts interesting, while it slowly picks up into an extended melodic gutiar solo. After that, the tehcnical breakdowns inevitably come into play. The melodic chorus eventually comes back and evolves into an incredible outro that's based on one of the final piano melodies from "Far from Heaven". 5/5
9. Beneath the Surface - A ballad with music and lyrics written completely by Petrucci. Taking a simplistic approach, like the other ballad, the vocals and instruments are soft and casual, which fits the tone of the song and it's lyrics. A short and airy keyboard solo continues the song as LaBrie's vocals harmonize and the keyboard backing becomes more prominent. As the song fades back into the original soft chorus, LaBrie's vocal shoot up on octave, which greatly intesifies his performance and the song overall. It concludes with the same passage as the intro, ending with strings and a final arpeggiated guitar chord. 4/5
"A Dramatic Turn of Events" is a slightly different approach for the band, as the members became more active in their respective roles after the departure of Portnoy. Because Mangini joined after the album was virtually finished, his drum contributions are limited to playing what Petrucci had already written, which surprisingly fits all of the songs on the album. With this in mind, it's clear that this doesn't sound like a typical Dream Theater album; all of the elements of their music -- the heaviness, progressive sound, and sense of melody -- are set to an extreme for this album. This can easily make a song sound as if it's overstepping it's boundaries, or that it's trying too hard, but the overall product ends up more satisfying than disappointing.
I'm still at the point where I'm listening to the whole album and haven't yet dissected and rated the entire thing; the best point of familiarity with an album. "On the Backs of Angels" was the first song that really stuck out. Labrie contributed to the music of "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" and it shows; it sounds like some of his solo songs. I look forward to seeing creative contributions in songwriting from all members; some hadn't been so active. "Bridges in the Sky" is a song dealing with the idea that someday our existence will stop; I like how Petrucci (while being in a particular religion) has imagined different views of spirituality in various lyrics, and I really loved the sample of the throat singer in the beginning and end! "Lost Not Forgotten" has a beautiful piano section in the beginning and some insane instrumentals. In "Outcry" there is an instrumental point that keeps getting faster and kind of sounds like getting caught in a whirlpool. "Far from Heaven" is a ballad that shares a theme with "Breaking All Illusions", which stands out to me as the most euphoric.
I'm very taken with the ballads on this album. ("Wither" on the last album just didn't do anything for me, and a few others lately hadn't really hit me in the heart.) Labrie's sensitive voice has a personal feel. "This Is The Life" has the mark of Petrucci's classic, soaring style. The lyrics can be interpreted in many different ways; it has meaning to me because I view it as a message for people to stop berating themselves about their shortcomings in life. "Beneath the Surface" is a simple and well-performed song that has the appearance of effortlessness found in "Another Day" (while still being quite different from "Another Day"). It's a happy-sounding tune with heartbroken lyrics; it almost has a country sound to it and although I'm not crazy about country I'm crazy about this song.
This is also the first album without Mike Portnoy. Whether it is coincidential that this just happens to be a stellar album is yet to be seen, but it seems his heart was not entirely in it for the past few years. He still contributed to over 20 years of awesomeness. The DVD told the basic story and made a nifty one-episode reality show about the drummer tryouts. I enjoyed watching it, especially with family members who weren't as aware of current events (they were guessing which drummer was going to be chosen, then said "that makes sense, Mangini even looks like he's already one of them").
Summary: The feeling on this album is more intense; the overall feeling is darker, but there are also quite a lot of great euphoric moments too. The members are all in top form; few artists have maintained their creative power over such a long period of time. Dream Theater continues to live up to their name with the imagery they create. This album is among their best!
For the aforementioned reason and because I've been watching DT grow stagnant for the last decade, I very nearly did not pick up this album. I ended up pulling the trigger out of curiousity and because I felt like I owed it to the band to give them at least one post-Portnoy shot. I started listening with an initial desire not to like the album; some goofy illogical voice inside me said that liking the album was akin to picking DT over MP.
On first blush, I wasn't too impressed. Portnoy's absence is obvious. This album has a very different feel and is absolutely not a natural musical progression for DT. I was disappointed by that, feeling DT lost its soul without MP, before time and thought cleared my mind a bit. If I'd been disappointed with DT's stagnancy, was a new direction really a bad thing?
Listening to this album from a "new era" perspective, giving it a fair shot and without assumptions or ridiculous bias, I'm digging it more with every listen. DT is more "musical" than ever and I'm beginning to feel perhaps the DT-MP split was actually overdue.
In the end, I can love both without betraying either. I just hope MP ends up doing something better than Adrenaline Mob...