Dream Theater are arguably one of the biggest progressive themed bands of the current age. Their incredible fluency of their instruments and sheer mental brilliance has conceptualised some of the keystones of virtuoso music and a checkpoint to which many admirable long haired teens wish to play or sing like. To say they inspire is an understatement to the influence they have. Whilst being underdogs they are gaining recognition today where they previously hadn’t, a Grammy nomination for example is an impressive feat regardless of ones opinions on the awards charade.
The self-titled release of 2013 is an important milestone in the history of the band. Despite ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’ not featuring progressive metal titan and Dream Theater founder Mike Portnoy performing this album is the first where another percussionist, in the form of the marvelous Mike Mangini, has written parts of the songs, certifying his position in the band as a full time member. Though Portnoy is missed among several fans still, it’s time we look ahead to the band’s future and welcome the new music.
The opening track is written almost purely for a live situation, upon which the band will walk on. It will fit perfectly but almost dramatically opens the album. This track, as well as numerous others feel a lot like songs written during the ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’ era. “The Enemy Inside” was the first major thing anyone heard off the album and displays obviously the heavier side, this however seems like a walk through a field of daisies when going toe-to-toe with ‘Enigma Machine’. The instrumental break here effectively eradicates Portnoy’s looming ghost in a mass quantity of notes and percussion, through one simple drum passage Mangini manages to make those with faces built of stone squirm under it’s fury. Not to mention Rudess and Petrucci’s blinding mastery which is so obviously expected and warmly, if a little bit nervously, invited to return. James LaBrie is best heard in songs like ‘Along For The Ride’ or ‘The Bigger Picture’ where his voice subtly floats atop the gentle music yet still his power stands tall. The man still has an impressive set of lungs despite a career threatening illness many years ago.
The 22 minute song ‘Illumination Theory’ is most definitely the keystone of this album, as with plenty of other Dream Theater albums the epic seems to have the most energy and emotion packed into it. Whilst it may not reside among the lofty heights of ‘Octavarium’ or ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’ it’s still an exhilarating and inspiring piece of music.
Expectations for this album were high, but also uncertain. With ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’ being received well but not wholly brilliantly you could be forgiven for having doubts about this album. However the wait is absolutely worth it and it’s still surprising that they managed to make something that ticked a vast majority of the boxes of things that make Dream Theater one of the best bands in the world.
Verdict – 5/5 Stars