Customer Reviews: A Dramatic Turn of Events (Special Edition) (CD+DVD)
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on September 23, 2011
I will echo the comments of others... upon reflection, I'd say that this is certainly DT's best album since Scenes from a Memory, and maybe their best album ever.

Falling Into Infinity (and every album after Scenes from a Memory) all have their moments, but they are also marred by frequent occurences of cheesy, cringe-inducing songwriting/lyrics/production choices. ie: stuff so bad that you are unwilling to introduce this band to your friends, in spite of the great music they are sometimes capable of). Black Clouds was downright terrible (Nightmare would have been fine without Portnoy's vocals). The only worthwhile part of the album was the bonus disc of covers.

This album is a welcome return to (good) vintage DT. Bridges in the Sky and Breaking All Illusions are the standouts, but there's not a single bad track on the album and it's been a long time since DT managed that. Sure, Build Me Up Break Me Down sounds like Linkin Park, but it would be more accurate to say it sounds like what Linkin Park would sound like if Linkin Park were much better players, and that's not a bad thing.

Petrucci is the MVP as usual, but Rudess adds a lot of texture and you can hear Myung for a change. LaBrie stays within his range and sounds better than he has in years.

What changed? Portnoy is gone. Listen to Portnoy's terrible new band Adrenaline Mob, and the rest of the band's comments about how "controlling" Portnoy was, and you'll start to suspect that Portnoy has been responsible for a lot of the low DT moments of the last 10 years.

Portnoy was a superb rock showman, if you ignore the spitting on stage, but Mike Mangini is a more than capable replacement: he can play most of Portnoy's stuff with one hand, and he's capable of much more subtlety. He's a little low in the mix, but Portnoy (unsurprisingly) used to put himself quite high in the mix and I guess the band was looking for a less drum-dominated sound. As mentioned, the overall sound is very balanced. Mangini had nothing to do with writing the album, so I look forward to hearing what he's capable of in that department. Even without contributing a note of writing, he seems to be contributing a much more positive energy.

A few more albums like this, please!
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on September 16, 2011
Well, if this isn't the most anticipated Dream Theater album yet.

There were serious doubts about whether DT would be able to carry-on without long-time drummer Mike Portnoy. It was him, after all, who played an integral role is establishing the band and making them what they are today. After Scenes from a Memory, though, his role as Dream Theater's drummer extended into other areas, like "manager," "producer," "spokesperson" and, bizarrely enough, "frontman". For many, especially those fans who'd only come around recently, Mike Portnoy was Dream Theater. For others, Mike's ever-extending reach into the affairs of the band had less positive connotations; for some, Mike was thought to be a creative-dictator from the drum-stool, someone who's unchecked decision making was stifling the band's creativity and leading Dream Theater further and further down a path of a caricatured and sterilized existence.

And then, suddenly, Mike Portnoy quit and none of it mattered anymore.

Mike Portnoy is out, and Mike Mangini is in. In the context of the controversy summed up above, this could mean two things: for some, it means the death of DT. For others, it means a second chance at doing something worthwhile again. But did this swap spur jolt of much-needed energy into the band, or have the funeral meats coldly furnish the marriage table? Thankfully, we have A Dramatic Turn of Events to insure us that all has been put to rights in the Dream Theater world.

The album begins with "On the Backs of Angels", a song most fans no-doubt heard months ago. Merely listening to the intro brings chills down one's spine, maybe because of its similarity with the intro of another song fans know well: "Pull Me Under". The similarities end there, though, and before you know it Rudess, Petrucci, Myung and Mangini break out into an epic riff that sees all four members playing around each other in a way that reminds one of some of Yes' best instrumental work.

But lest DT be accused of trying to tread the same ground that make Images and Words a hit again, the next song "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" is a completely departure from anything the band have done previously. It's got a hip-hop beat, somewhat harsh vocals from James LaBrie, and some of the best string patches Jordan Rudess has ever used on a Dream Theater album. It's a nice tune, but nowhere near the best on the album. Those come in the second half.

"Bridges in the Sky," "Outcry," and "Beneath The Surface", all clocking in just a bit over ten minutes, are DT "epics" in the truest sense. What's most impressive about these three long songs is that they accomplish more in 10 minutes as "epics" that what much longer recent compositions (i.e. "A Nightmare to Remember", "The Ministry of Lost Souls", "The Shattered Fortress") were able to do with 15-20 minutes. Indeed, Dream Theater have managed to trim back some of the excesses and write long songs that do not manage to loose their punch at any point here.

And then, there are the ballads, "This is the Life", "Far From Heaven" and "Breaking All Illusions." Much in the vein of the last album's "Wither," these three songs all manage to put songwriting before instrumental fireworks. The pay-off is great, leading this album to be one of the most successful stylistically varied DT albums out there. Imagine "Octavarium", only if "The Answer Lies Within" and "I Walk Beside You" were actually really good. Maybe it's just me, but I almost here a Blackfied-esque Steve Wilson influence in some of these songs.

In terms of individual performances, all 5 members are firing on all cylinders. The days of an audible John Myung have returned, and thankfully he's doing more now that just doubling Petrucci. The bass attack on this album is really just fantastic. Petrucci, of course, is as great as ever, with this album representing some of his most technical playing yet. James LaBrie is sounding great, much more akin to the way he sounds on his solo albums than any recent DT release, and Rudess is better utilized than ever--not surprising, he's being considered the album's MVP at Dream Theater's unofficial fansite. Finally, there's the new guy. As others have noted, Mangini does sound a bit low in the mix, especially compared to Mike Portnoy's prominently mixed drumming. But his playing is phenomenal nonetheless--those who listen closely to what he's doing will have no choice but to admit that they are listening to the best drumming on any DT record yet.

Sure, there are some problems. The lyrics, while still possibly a step up back to the level maybe of those on Six Degrees, are still not the best the band have done. The album's also a bit unbalanced--the first four tracks are nowhere near as good as the last five. While none of them are bad, per se, after repeated listens it does start to seem like all the best material arrives 30 minutes in. If there's one song I don't like, it's "Lost Not Forgotten," but even that has its killer moments.

DT fans should really just let this album sink in. Those who've stuck with the band for the last two albums really deserve it. This is, without a doubt, DT tapping into the magick potential you only managed to hear a peep of through songs like "The Count of Tuscany" and "In the Presence of Enemies pt. One".
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on September 21, 2011
I'll keep this short and sweet. I am a HUGE Portnoy fan. I've been playing drums since I was in grade school and I still remember the first time I heard the first DT album. Been hooked ever since and have always idolized Portnoy. I was shocked and upset when Portnoy left, tried to come back and wasn't accepted back. I had low expectations for this album. WOW, was I wrong!!! This is the best album DT has put out in years! It's like they went back to the stuff that made me such a diehard fan. The last several albums really failed to grab my attention. To be honest, I probably listened to the last couple albums a few times each and put them away. This album is in HEAVY rotation. I just love this album. And that Mike Mangini guy? Turns out he's not so bad :) Is he Portnoy? No. Is he better or worse? Does it matter if the music is this good? Mangini is insane on behind the kit. So was Portnoy. They just traded in their Ferrari for a Lamborghini. They're both AWESOME. DT IS BACK!!!
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on July 27, 2012
While I'm willing to bet heavily on the fact that no one wanted to see Mike Portnoy go, they absolutely chose the right man for the job. Mike Mangini is the only drummer on earth I feel comfortable comparing to Terry Bozzio and he fills Mike Portnoy's shoes very well and that is no small task. I'm a prog geek and big DT fan so feel free to take this review with a grain of salt.

I'll be brief. If you like prog, you'll love this record. Start to finish it's at times heavy, melodic and just beautiful. The lyrics well thought out and meaningful and beautifully interpreted by James LaBrie. As a musician myself, I appreciate this band for the fact that they've spent countless hours working their tails off to excel (from a technical perspective) at their respective instruments. What they do with the results of that obsessive work ethic is the true gift that they share with us.

This record like the others that led up to it blew me away. Buy it and enjoy.
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VINE VOICEon October 9, 2011
As a somewhat older fan of 1970s progressive, I am always on the lookout for new and interesting music. I have never been a fan of heavy metal, so my interest in this group tends to stem from their more "progressive" material, and there is no shortage of that on this 2011 release. Overall, I was thrilled with the music and the musicians - they are keeping the approach to musicianship as olympic-scale spectacle alive.

Although the complexity of the ensemble work and speed with which they play is mind-boggling, A Dramatic Turn of Events is really not just about that. These guys are pretty good composers and utilize dynamics effectively. In fact, although there may have been an awkward arrangement here or there, the entire album seems to flow together seamlessly as a song-cycle. They also have a good grasp on melodies and there are a surprising number of them on the album. I also like the quieter moments and the acoustic piano playing - it is nice to hear Jordan break things up with different tone colors rather than simply pressing the keyboard into service as another electric guitar. James LaBrie is in fine form and his voice is still strong and clear - I am glad that his singing on the album was not ruined with the awful "cookie-monster" growling that turned up on Black Clouds and Silver Linings (2009). My understanding is that former drummer (Mike Portnoy) was responsible for this. Last but not least, I can actually hear John Myung - his bass provides nice counterpoint.

With respect to the change in drummers, Mike Mangini is among the finest rock drummers in the business and his performance on the album is alternately subtle and earth-shaking (he plays parts on the drum kit that I did not think were humanly possible). He is, above all else, an ensemble player and really listens to the other guys - I think that this is the most significant change in the overall sound. Come to think of it, I prefer Mangini over his predecessor, who tended to overplay (that is how it sounded to me).

The production quality is very good. There is more of an overall balance between the different instruments and as I said before, I can actually hear John Myung. The CD booklet features the lyrics (mostly written by John Petrucci), a group photo, and some arty images.

All in all, this is a superb album by an exciting group. Although I am not a fan of heavy metal, this group appeals to me because they know how to compose and place an emphasis on melody. This makes for a nice balance between overwhelming virtuosity and pleasant ballads. Recommended along with Scenes from a Memory (1999).
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on September 20, 2011
A Dramatic Turn of Events is definitely my favorite post Scenes From a Memory release. My favorite DT albums are Scenes and Awake because both albums have an undeniable vibe running through them that is lacking from other releases. I like all of the releases, but those two have always been special to me. This album is similarly special. It is difficult to explain why, but everything just seems to click. I have always wondered what DT would have sounded like if their label didn't interfere with Falling Into Infinity and they were able to really record the follow up to Awake. In some ways A Dramatic Turn of Events has that sound to me. It is more modern sounding and has a more Jordan Rudess feel, but at the same time the songs have a similar vibe.

My favorite song on the album at the moment is "Outcry" which has received far less attention. In many ways, I feel like that is the DT song I have been waiting to hear for a long time. Apart from the fact that it is a well written song, it is a summary of DT's history in one song that still maintains the ability to add new ideas and look forward to the future. There are sections that recall concepts from Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds and Silver Linings as well as a clear "Metropolis" section and yet the song avoids feeling stale and redundant.

Musically, the album has all five members performing much better than they have on recent releases. Petrucci and Rudess and up to their usual tricks and Myung has reestablished being a presence in the band. James LaBrie is definitely the standout performer on this album in my mind. In recent years, his parts have seemed less impressive than they used to be. A lot of people claim that this is due to his vocal injury, but his solo record have always yielded very impressive vocals. DT has finally let him sing the way he should be singing and it is great to hear James LaBrie being James LaBrie again. I love his performance on this record. I'm sure the James LaBrie haters will still complain, but I never understood why someone who hates James's voice would bother listening to DT in the first place. He's been in the band for 20 years now and has sung on 10 of the 11 albums. He's as much at part of DT as anyone else.

Finally, Mike Mangini has been getting some complaints from people needlessly. The drums are mixed fine and I never found myself wishing there were more drums in the mix. His performance is amazing. It is a little bit more restrained than it could be (considering his abilities), but it always fits the song, which is what a good drummer should do. Honestly, I forgot that they changed drummers listening to the album because many of his fills are what Mike Portnoy would have played.

As a final note I will say this. I know a lot of people are concerned about the future of DT and Mike Mangini vs Mike Portnoy. DT has changed a bit and there will be differences, but I am looking forward to the future. Mike Portnoy wasn't feeling DT anymore (which is his right to do) so his heart would not have been in the record. I am not wishing he was back in the band because I'm sure there would be conflict or they would get stale as a result of his lack of interest. However, watching the documentary will show you just how much Mike Mangini wants to be in DT. I don't think anyone in the world will ever be as excited about anything as he was when he found out he was in the band. So in my mind, DT are in a better place now than they would have been if there was no line-up change and they have released an incredible album. So, stop worrying about the future of DT and just enjoy their new masterpiece.
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on September 24, 2011
I've been suspecting for a long time that the influence of Mike Portnoy (as much as I still love the guy) was a driving musical factor as to why the last few DT albums did not sound like DT. Most bands start off sounding like their influences and eventually find their own sound, while I feel DT has done things backwards. When they appeared, you could take some educated guesses who they were influenced by, but no one really sounded like them at the time. The last few albums have been a mix of Opeth, A7F, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Early Genesis, and I can go on and on. While giving musical shout-outs to your influences is fine in small doses, it drives me nuts when I can pick out the artist and exact song that influenced a band when they're supposed to be writing original material. That was my biggest gripe with the last 10 years (with the second biggest being backup vocals).

With this latest release, I feel a weight lifted. It's like instead of listening to Master of Puppets and making an album, they listened to Images and Words and made an album. Better to imitate yourself than someone else, haha! The guys seem much more focused on songwriting, and making the songs sound coherent and melodic rather than forced. James Labrie and John Myung are particular standouts on A Dramatic Turn of Events, with Labrie sounding much more into the music, and Myung having more time to shine. Myung shows his lyric writing chops once again, and it is a welcome relief from "The Count of Tuscany" tragedy. Lyrics, as a whole, are better, still not amazing, but I was pleased. Pettruci and Rudess are solid, and I am glad to hear a little less "widily widily weeeeeeee" solos from Jordan, although there are a couple. Mike Mangini sounds great, although kind of going through the motions, and the drums seem a bit flat and low in the mix. I'm anxious to hear what he can bring to the band songwriting wise on their next album.

My only WTF? moment came with the Bridges in the Sky burping monk. Yeah, yeah, I know those guys are supposed to be really awesome, and can have 3 tones at once or whatever, but I wasn't too keen on the intro or ending. The rest of the song was great though.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with A Dramatic Turn of Events, and I am now positive this is a step in the right direction for Dream Theater.
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on September 27, 2012
This is a great album. I bought it the week it came out at my record store and a year later, I still listen to it regularly. From the opening chord of On the Backs of Angels to the epic chorus of Build Me Up, Break Me Down, to the prog metal-fest that is Lost Not Forgotten, every song is epic and fantastic. You will not regret this purchase!
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on September 21, 2011
This new album with new drummer Mike Mangini is just as strong as any other DT release. You either love DT or you hate them, that's pretty much the way it goes... Anyhow, I was a bit nervous with the whole new drummer thing, but Mangini proves he's more than capable. The song selection has a good mix of heavy and not-so-heavy. "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" (heavy) seems like it could have belonged on James Labrie's Static Impulse album for those who have that CD. Good album for those of you who DON'T have it. "Far From Heaven" and "Beneath the Surface" are the two "not-so-heavy" tracks on this album. Both are beautiful tracks, just not "heavy".

My one "flaw" in this album is this: I was so psyched to hear the drums on this album, only to find out they seemed to be mixed a bit too low. BUMMER! Also, since the songs had already been written before Mangini joined the band, I feel that they might have been a little better had he been part of the writing process. That's something to look forward to on the NEXT album. I think once he's able to put in his "two cents" as far as what the drums will be, things will improve greatly.

So, in light of those minor complaints, I still have to give this album a 5 mainly for the fact that DT shows they can "make do" even though they've lost a long time member. And I WAS sad to see Portnoy go, but, as they say "No use crying over spilled milk".) I look forward to seeing what else Mangini can bring to the band...
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on October 22, 2011
These guys are totally on top of their games and this is one of a kind music. It's complex...very complex! Been listening to the cd for about a month, and the nuances and some songs barely started registering (yes, it's that complex!). I've been loving the epic pieces (#3, 5, 6, 8 on cd). If someone were to ask me "what's progressive metal?", I would point to this cd. Dream theater is clearly pushing boundaries here and redefining a genre. Love the drums and drumming (thanks Mike!... and John). This is an awesome album, and it will probably be remembered as one of the best from Dream Theater.

Edit: I've listened to ADTOE for about 2 months now without getting bored in the car, at work, anywhere. It's an awesome piece of musicianship... in one word a masterpiece. You know what? The longer I listen to it, the more I appreciate the drumming and the band's new sound. The drums are less pronounced compared to the earlier albums, but band sounds more like a whole. Way to go guys! Fantastic job!
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