A review on the New Dream Theater album / CD as well as a look at the new video “On The Backs Of Angels”
A Dramatic Turn of Events, which suitably alludes to the absence of Mike Portnoy as it christens the newcomer Mike Mangini into the band, is full of what Dream Theater has built over the past two baker’s dozen years. Very heavy riffs, tasteful melodies, clever progressions, goofy time signatures, and long songs.
Speaking of the song writing, it’s as unconventional as ever. It would be a tad misleading to say there are no surprises, because the band’s built themselves up surprises. I suppose that would come as no surprise, but some of the stunts they pull it can easily come as a surprise. Dream Theater’s never shyed away from chances to dip in and out of various genres, and who doesn’t love it when Jordan Rudess doles out the ragtime on us? And yes. There are trace amounts of ragtime her as well. Awesome.
Naturally there are trace amounts of the influences that built them up to where they are. It’s not any more difficult to spot their Rush influenced roots here than it is any other time, and they’ve even got some tidbits that are reminiscent of newer bands like Opeth influences that can be spotted on “Bridges in the Sky” which are most welcomed, but more importantly is that while influences do shine through they never seem like more than just that. Each idea is implemented in a most Dream Theater way.
As far as technique is concerned, the band is remarkable. Each member’s ability to meld into any time signature thrown at them or to be able to bounce from brighter to darker sounding pieces without sounding contrived is ever present and warrants a tipped hat or two. The dynamic range isn’t ever particularly dramatic, but it’s there well enough that you can tell when they’re toning down a bit and kicking it up a notch.
I’d say John Petrucci, John Myung, and Jordan Rudess have established themselves well in the band and perform every bit up to the expectations. James LaBrie, I think, is somewhat of an acquired taste. Some people seem to love him and others just can’t get into him. Personally when I first heard him I didn’t care for him, but I’ve grown to really appreciate his contributions to the band. He sounds unique and he works well, though at softer parts I always zero in on his inhaling between lyrics. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I seldom find I appreciate the sound of inhaling.
Of course the member under the most speculation is Mike Mangini and how he’s filled the shoes that Mike Portnoy had been cobbling for 25 years. I can easily imagine the fan base splitting into poles not unlike how people have with the whole Van Halen/Van Hagar ordeal, but I say the guy did a remarkable job. He really captured the personality of the band and I find his contributions most welcomed.
And speaking of drummers that brings us to…
Ok, so there are three versions of the album. The regular CD only version, this goofy special edition that comes with a DVD, and the uber fan collector edition that comes with a bunch of stuff including vinyls and what not. The version I got is somewhere between the regular CD version and the vinyl edition.
So the DVD has an hour long documentary on it documenting the process the band went through to recruit a new drummer as well as discussing how Mike Portnoy’s departure came about and where the future of the band lied.
Throughout the DVD there are various clips from the auditions and snippets of what the four remaining horsemen of the apocalypse had in store for the 7 would be drummers. The DVD does pretty well at showing how grueling and demanding auditioning can be, especially when working with Dream Theater’s music, and just how different a variety of drummers were there and how much more dramatic of a turn of events the band could see had they chosen any of the other drummers.
In the long run, though the DVD is kind of a negligible concern. It’s cool too watch a couple of times at the most, but as far as longevity of the purchase goes I’d say save the extra few bucks and swing by Taco Bell on your way home instead. It’s not like a concert DVD where it’s fun to pop in and jump to your favorite song and the camera never stops on a shot long enough to really figure out what the any particular musician is doing. It’s cooler than I thought it would be, but for a one or two time watch it gets a hearty meh from me.
Tell you what I would’ve liked instead. They had released the album Black Clouds & Silver Linings with an instrumental version of the whole album. I thought that was a brilliant idea and dammit if I wasn’t praying they’d repeat that decision.
A video. Surprise.
Dream Theater – “On the Backs Of Angels” Video
Anyway, here’s the video the band just released for the opening track “On the Backs of Angels.” It’s awesome. At least I think it is, and I wouldn’t be wasting your time with it if I thought I wasted my time with it. That wouldn’t be very nice. So if you watch it because I said it’s awesome and you find yourself in disagreement, then please accept my preemptive apologies and a complimentary bag of Old Yeller brand dog food.
You can get the Album here On Amazon: