A Dramatic Turn of Events

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A Dramatic Turn of Events
Studio album by Dream Theater
Released September 12, 2011 (2011-09-12)
Recorded January–May 2011 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long Island
Genre Progressive metal, progressive rock, hard rock
Length 77:01
Label Roadrunner
Producer John Petrucci
Dream Theater chronology
Wither
(2009)
A Dramatic Turn of Events
(2011)
Dream Theater
(2013)
Singles from A Dramatic Turn of Events
  1. "On the Backs of Angels"
    Released: June 29, 2011
  2. "Build Me Up, Break Me Down"
    Released: January 26, 2012

A Dramatic Turn of Events is the eleventh studio album by American progressive metal/progressive rock band Dream Theater, released worldwide on September 12, 2011 and in the United States on September 13 through Roadrunner Records. It is the band's first recording to feature drummer Mike Mangini following the departure of founding member Mike Portnoy in September 2010. The album was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered between January and June 2011 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long Island, New York. It was produced by John Petrucci and mixed by Andy Wallace. One single, "On the Backs of Angels", was released in promotion of the album.

For A Dramatic Turn of Events, Dream Theater underwent a self-proclaimed musical change, reevaluating and restructuring themselves. The album's style veers toward progressive rock and hard rock, more so than some other recent previous Dream Theater albums, and has been called reminiscent of the band's past albums Images and Words and Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory. Many songs on the album were written with a specific purpose in mind as Petrucci, one of the album's primary composers, felt a sense of responsibility to fans following Portnoy's departure. The album's title was derived from its recurring lyrical themes of dramatic changes in history that have affected peoples' lives, including contemporary uprisings such as the Libyan Civil War.

A commercial success, A Dramatic Turn of Events moved 36,000 units in the United States in its debut week, charting at number eight on the US Billboard 200. The album received mixed reviews from critics, but nonetheless earned Dream Theater their first ever Grammy nomination. From July 2011 until September 2012, the band supported the album on the A Dramatic Turn of Events Tour.

Background[edit]

Search for a new drummer[edit]

On September 8, 2010, Mike Portnoy announced that he would be leaving Dream Theater, citing better relationships in other projects, burnout, and his desire for a break as reasons.[1] Elaborating on the situation for MusicRadar, John Petrucci revealed that originally, Portnoy did not want to leave the band; he only wanted to take a five-year break.[2] Only after the rest of the band rejected his proposal did Portnoy decide to quit.

Petrucci has called Portnoy's departure one of the hardest things Dream Theater have had to face.[2] Speaking of when he first heard the news, Jordan Rudess recounts, "You know, just to give you an idea of how deep this was to lose him, how difficult it was... after we got off the phone with him... I literally sat on the steps of my studio and cried. This is a guy who's a friend of mine, who we all love and admire. We didn't want to see it come crashing down."

Mike Mangini (pictured in 2004) was selected as Dream Theater's new drummer following a rigorous audition process.

A little more than a month after Portnoy's departure, Dream Theater began auditioning for a new drummer in New York City. The drummers invited to audition were Mike Mangini, Derek Roddy, Thomas Lang, Virgil Donati, Marco Minnemann, Aquiles Priester, and Peter Wildoer.[3] Each candidate was given three songs to learn for the audition – "A Nightmare to Remember", "The Dance of Eternity" and "The Spirit Carries On" – and was given only a few weeks to prepare. Each audition lasted for around three hours and included a jam session, song test, and riff test where drummers were asked to play along with a selection of pre-written riffs. The candidates were notified whether they had been chosen on November 5;[4] however, the results of the audition were not made public until April 2011 via a three part YouTube documentary series called The Spirit Carries On.[5] In the last episode of the series, it was revealed that Mangini was the drummer selected.

In November, shortly after Mangini joined Dream Theater, Portnoy e-mailed the band asking to rejoin, but his attempt was rebuffed.[6] Reflecting on his arrival to the band, Mangini told Noisecreep, "As I see it, as I look back, I really think what happened was that this band kind of started over. They were in a new place as they looked for a drummer, and I when got the news, after the shock wore off, I knew what I wanted to do – which was just basically come in and try to support where they wanted to go. They had a vision, they had great ideas, and I just wanted to help them achieve those things."[7]

Writing and recording[edit]

On January 3, 2011, Dream Theater entered Cove City Sound Studios to begin working on a new album.[8][9] According to John Petrucci, the band entered the studio with the goal of writing something "on a grand scale" that was "sonically interesting."[10] Although Petrucci brought in demos, riffs, and songs from home, the album was mostly written in the studio.[11] Writing was completed on March 2 and done without Mike Mangini.[2][12] The band made demos for all the songs with drums already programmed, then sent them to Mangini who learned the parts and "added his own stuff." Reflecting on the writing process for Rock Your Life, Jordan Rudess explained that the band's approach was more open to his keyboards than in the past, and that after Mike Portnoy's departure, he and Petrucci "became, like, free."[13] James LaBrie and John Myung each contributed more to the writing than they had in recent years.[14]

On April 14, LaBrie began tracking vocals and the album's mixing and mastering by Andy Wallace were finished by June 28.[15][16][17] LaBrie recorded all the album's vocals in Canada with Richard Chycki.[14] Originally, LaBrie planned to only record the album's first two songs away from New York City, but after flying there to finish the remainder of the vocals, decided to go back to Canada because "it just didn't feel right."

Composition[edit]

A Dramatic Turn of Events' title was inspired by contemporary uprisings, including the Libyan Civil War.[18]

A Dramatic Turn of Events is 77:05 minutes long, filling the entire disc with as much music as Dream Theater's past albums have. Jordan Rudess has gone on record as saying that for the album, the band underwent a musical change, re-evaluating and restructuring "who we are and what we do."[19] Speaking in an interview for The Mirror and Roadrunner Germany, John Petrucci mentioned that the album "tells a story... not literally but emotionally" and likened the experience to a "roller coaster ride."[20] In that same interview, James LaBrie emphasized that the album was melodically driven.

In his review of A Dramatic Turn of Events, Rich Wilson – author of the official Dream Theater biography Lifting Shadows – described the album's material as veering toward progressive rock and being "spiritually reminiscent" of past albums like Images and Words and Scenes from a Memory.[21] A lot of fans took these comparisons a step further, asserting that certain songs on A Dramatic Turn of Events are structurally similar to specific counterparts on Images and Words,[22] comments that were later echoed by Mike Portnoy.[23]

In composing A Dramatic Turn of Events, Petrucci admitted feeling a sense of responsibility to fans following Portnoy's departure,[24] and the majority of the songs on the album were written with a specific purpose in mind to prove to people that everything was grounded and intact with the band. Opener "On the Backs of Angels" was designed to reflect Dream Theater's signature sound,[25] the heavy "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" was written far into the making of the album to serve as a contrast to its progressive elements,[26] "Outcry" was intended to be the anthem of the album,[27] and "Breaking All Illusions" was used as an epic piece that would not bind the band to conventional songwriting arrangements.[28] The final song written for the album was the ballad "Beneath the Surface", which is also the album's closing track.[29] Petrucci wrote the song himself, demoed and recorded it, and then presented it to the band, who were open to including it on the album.

Amidst speculation that A Dramatic Turn of Events' title was a vague reference to Portnoy's departure, Petrucci stressed that it is in no way a reference to anyone; rather, the title references the album's recurring themes of dramatic changes in history that have affected peoples' lives.[30] All of the album's lyrics were written by Petrucci except for "Far from Heaven", written by LaBrie, and "Breaking All Illusions", co-written with John Myung; his first lyrics on a Dream Theater album since "Fatal Tragedy" from Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory.

Release[edit]

A Dramatic Turn of Events' title, track listing, and United States release date were revealed on June 8, 2011.[31] Its cover art, designed by longtime collaborator Hugh Syme, was revealed several days later.[32] On June 29, "On the Backs of Angels" was released as the album's first single.[33] Leading up to the release of the album, Dream Theater released various one-minute long snippets of new songs, including "Bridges in the Sky" (originally titled "The Shaman's Trance"),[34][35] "Breaking All Illusions",[36] "Beneath the Surface",[37] "This Is the Life",[38] "Lost Not Forgotten",[39] and "Far from Heaven."[40] On September 14, a music video for "On the Backs of Angels" was released.[41] On January 26, 2012, the band premiered a lyric video for their upcoming single "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" on Loudwire.[42]

Shortly before its release, A Dramatic Turn of Events was voted Roadrunner Records' most anticipated album of Q4 2011, receiving 67 percent of the vote and beating out such artists as Megadeth, Trivium, Opeth, and Machine Head.[43] It was released worldwide on September 12, 2011 and in the United States on September 13, debuting at number one in some countries and attaining the eighth position on the US Billboard 200,[44] the band's second top ten debut position on that chart after their previous album, 2009's Black Clouds & Silver Linings, which debuted at No. 6.[45] Alongside the standard edition of the album, a special edition and deluxe collector's edition were also made available for purchase.[46][47] The special edition featured different packaging and a bonus DVD containing The Spirit Carries On documentary, while the deluxe collector's edition featured, among other bonus items, instrumental versions of all songs.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 55/100[48]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.0/5 stars[49]
The Gazette 4/5[50]
Popmatters 5/10[51]
Rock Sins 8/10[52]
Sputnikmusic 3.5/5[53]
Suite101 4/5 stars[54]

A Dramatic Turn of Events received mixed reviews and currently holds a rating of 55 out of 100 on Metacritic based on six critic reviews.[48] Writing one of the first reviews for the album, Rich Wilson called it "fresh and frankly stunning"; however, he warned that the album was not immediately gratifying and that it "requires several listens in order to fully grasp what the band have achieved here."[21] In a review for Rock Sins, Jamie Giberti also praised the album, although he criticized it for lacking stand-out tracks.[52] Drumhead, commenting specifically on Mike Mangini's performance, said that "Mangini demonstrates the physical prowess and agility of a racehorse, stretching to play at the top of his talents and reining himself in to allow his bandmates to do the same."[55] The album has won numerous awards from music publications, including Burrn! Magazine's Best Album award.[56] "On the Backs of Angels" was nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards,[57] representing the band's first ever Grammy nomination.[58]

Negative reviews of the album have focused on its predictability. In a critical review for Popmatters, Chris Conaton noted, "At this point it’s pretty clear that the band is comfortably ensconced in their lifestyle and content to just keep doing things the way they have been for years."[51] Reporting for Oology, Brett Warner warned, "Fans expecting these obscenely talented Berklee graduates to turn over a new leaf with the addition of new drummer Mike Mangini... will be either disappointed or thrilled to hear more of the same" (although none of the current members of Dream Theater have ever graduated from Berklee).[59]

Supporting tour[edit]

Dream Theater kicked off their tour in support of A Dramatic Turn of Events on July 4, 2011 in Rome, Italy.[16][60] The second leg of the tour took place in North America, where the band headlined with Trivium.[61] After a short break to conclude 2011, the band returned to Europe with Periphery,[62] then to North America with Crimson Projekct before heading to South America for the final leg of the tour.[63] On August 19 and 20, they filmed two shows at Luna Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a live Blu-ray release.[64][65][66] The tour concluded on September 1 in Brasília, Brazil.

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by John Petrucci except where noted. 

No. Title Music Length
1. "On the Backs of Angels"   John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, John Myung 8:42
2. "Build Me Up, Break Me Down"   Petrucci, Rudess, Myung, James LaBrie 6:59
3. "Lost Not Forgotten"   Petrucci, Rudess, Myung, LaBrie 10:11
4. "This Is the Life"   Petrucci, Rudess 6:57
5. "Bridges in the Sky"   Petrucci, Rudess, Myung 11:01
6. "Outcry"   Petrucci, Rudess, Myung 11:24
7. "Far from Heaven" (LaBrie) Petrucci, Rudess, LaBrie 3:56
8. "Breaking All Illusions" (Myung, Petrucci) Petrucci, Rudess, Myung 12:25
9. "Beneath the Surface"   Petrucci 5:26
Total length:
77:01

Personnel[edit]

All credits taken from the A Dramatic Turn of Events liner notes.[67]