A Dramatic Turn of Events is a more cohesive and diverse album than previous efforts from this tireless and supremely talented progressive metal giant. All the songs are solid with few questions noted.
Mike Portnoy’s departure opened the door for guitarist John Petrucci to take on the task of full-time producing responsibilities. He did a commendable job, especially with the vocals, but Myung’s bass is still down in the mix and the drums do not stand out in any memorable way like they did with Portnoy.
The album closes in on 80 minutes and includes 4 epics and three ballads, one of which is a power ballad. There’s a notable lyrical voice throughout – a lot of anti-war and somberness – but not Peart-territory by any means. Considering the line-up change, the most noteworthy observation with this recording is developing with some stagnation.
“On The Backs of Angels,” the album’s lead single and opening track, has a beautiful beginning similar to early 90’s DT structures, aka “Pull Me Under.” Congratulations are in order here as this track was their 1st ever nomination for a Grammy Award, recognized in the category “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance.”
“Build Me Up, Break Me Down” is a head-banging riff delight; eerily haunting with excellent cohesive band sound enhanced by vocal techniques employed. Vocalist James LaBrie is considered by many to be the weakest link as to where his strengths fit into their compositions, but on this release LaBrie squeezes the most of his talent pretty much throughout. A lot less needless screaming and undoubtedly one of his best efforts on any of their releases. There is still DT excursions into showing off their technical musical prowess, but it is notably less. There’s more keyboard as a baseline to song structures, as opposed to background enhancement and solo exchanges with Petrucci.
Dare I say re-evaluating the arrangements of the epics? “Lost Not Forgotten” is an apt title. It is way too similar to “Under a Glass Moon;” an aimless and lengthy regression of technical self-indulgence (Petrucci & Rudess) that is no longer necessary. “Bridges in the Sky” is a mix of nice highs and a few lows. Why the inclusion of a belching-like intro-outro? Just asking. After this strange opening it transcends to a gorgeous Gregorian-style choir, then a commanding metal riff-ride into a track that is solid but breaks little ground.“Outcry” is powerful track with a strong lyrics, but its middle section tends to needlessly drag at times. The epics are what devout DT fans love, but can these songs become tiresome or needlessly lengthy? When they are filled with note for note technical extravaganzas, yes.
An answer may be including bassist John Myung more in the writing process as they did with “Breaking All Illusions” – a much more well-rounded composition that avoids the aforementioned pitfalls. Is Mike Portnoy’s absence noticeable? Yes and no.
Mike Mangini is a solid drummer and how he contributes to their future is to be determined, but to say Mike Portnoy was a big part of this band is an understatement. A Dramatic Turn of Events does have noticeable differences in direction and cohesiveness. Is that due to the absence of Portnoy’s strong-handed input? Possibly. He was likely right that this band does need to take a break from their constant work habits. It’s time for some self-reflection.
There’s improvement with this release but there is also definite regurgitation of “been there, done that.” A break would benefit their future direction. It is very unfortunate that Portnoy is no longer with this band, for at least at this time. You never know.
Reviewer: Bill Pulice
IRC: Edla Lundgren
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