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Dream Theater played Wembley recently and Rich Ward of Gigs And Festivals reviewed the show. “Right from the off, Dream Theater were on it, helped of course by the massive sound boost the headliner is always given, which certainly lifted everyone off their seats.”
He wasn’t so fond of Periphery, saying the sounds from their studio albums were a bit lost in the live setting, but couldn’t have been much more praising of Dream Theater. Mangini, as has oft been the case on this tour was at his finest, but as only Dream Theater can do they other guys found a way to keep up.
Rich writes: “Mangini was in danger of stealing the show, but there was plenty of guitar wizardry from John Petrucci as he tore up solo after solo, Jordan Rudess displayed his full gamut of keyboard sounds, John Myung was as metronomic as ever and James La Brie had a chance to show off his talents on an acoustic segment.”
It’s pretty rare that PopMatters gives Dream Theater a good review, but even they couldn’t deny the awesomeness that is Live at Budokan.
Reviewing the new Blu-ray release Jedd Beaudoin writes, “Those who missed out on the album and DVD the first time around will be wise to grab this one––it’s the best of the band’s live lot from an era (although 2006’s Score comes very close) in which Dream Theater seemed incapable of doing wrong. In fact, one might argue that in career that is inching its toward 30 years, this is one of the rare acts that have made few, if any, career blunders. All you have to do is watch Live At Budokan and you quickly understand why.”
Reviews of A Dramatic Turn of Events continue to flow (full list here). This one from Metal Review was unique in that it was done as a two-person conversation—a style that I actually quite enjoyed.
Zach Duvall and John Ray went back and forth, “It’s a natural listen. They’ve achieved an easy flow that we haven’t heard consistently since Six Degrees…
How about how Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci are sounding the best they have in ages on here? Petrucci in particular is back to channeling his two alter egos again. He brings the David Gilmour in his “This Is The Life” solo, and his ability to be a “structured shredder” is in full force in opener “On The Backs of Angels,” adding song development during his featured moment…
[Mangini is] super solid and never distracting.”
There are some negative aspects that they point out—especially of past albums—but both rated it 8.5 out of ten. Full review here.
Eric Webb of the Oklahoma Gazette went pretty in-depth with his track-by-track review, and he criticizes almost every track on the album despite the headline claiming ADTOE is Dream Theater’s “best album in nearly half a decade” (which is really only two other albums).
Webb writes, “They made the right choice in Mangini. Not only is his playing amazing, but his integration into the band feels totally effortless.”
“While “A Dramatic Turn of Events” proves that Dream Theater is going to survive,” Webb writes, “it doesn’t do enough to forge a new direction forward. In some ways, it looks they were afraid of truly embracing the opportunity for change.”
Finally for now, The Contrapunist reviewed the show that they saw on The Dramatic Tour of Events in Illinois.
“For any fan that’s been following the saga over the past year,” he writes, “the audience knew this was going to be a different show with the formal introduction of Mike Mangini as the new drummer. Admittedly, it was a bit odd to not see Portnoy on stage, but two songs into the set, I don’t think anyone cared; at least, I didn’t. It was clear Mangini was the new rhythmic wonder boy.”
Found an unexpected surprise today, with our first review of the Live at Budokan Blu-ray. It is done by Brandon DuHamel of Blu-RayDefinition.com, who admits right up front that he isn’t a Dream Theater fan.
More important than his take on the band itself, is that he says the show looks good. “The seven-year-old production definitely shows some deficits of an early HD image,” he writes, “but generally speaking it looks fairly detailed, picking up the strings on on guitars and basses and the keys on keyboards with little artifacts.”
Of the obviously important sound he writes, “Definitely keep to the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for this disc as the mix is superb. The sound is absolutely spacious with a tremendous amount of stereo separation across the front and the surround channels are utilized for some discrete keyboard sound effects while also on occasion to help pan instruments all the way off to the sides, having equal levels in both front and and corresponding surround channels panned hard left or right. Low frequencies are pretty deep, but they remain tight, vocals are upfront and the midrange never sounds boxy. The one issue I have is that the high frequencies sometimes sound just a little but tizzy.”
The bonus features—the same as the DVD release—are in standard definition. His rating obviously reflects that DT isn’t his cup of tea, but the important aspects of the sound and picture quality look to be good.
For the full review and screen shots you can go here.
The Blu-ray will be released on October 18 and is available from amazon here.
If you go back to the last sound heard from Dream Theater, it was the end of “The Count of Tuscany” that concludes with what sounds like a relaxing evening by a lake somewhere. Maybe the lake was Camp Crystal Lake, because the break between that album and A Dramatic Turn of Events was anything but relaxing with sudden departure… well, you know the story.
This album is a turn in the career of Dream Theater, not that I didn’t love their last few albums, but ADTOE is much less of a ‘throw your devil horns in the air, balls-n-chunk metal experience. ’ The compositions, the sound, and the lyrics all combine toward a much more positive metal vibe that will help the band in the long run.
“On the Backs of Angels” is a track that the band wanted to feel like they had in the past, which made it an odd choice for the single, but made it clear that while the band is still comfortable playing songs like this they want to keep pushing the envelope.
It is quickly apparent that Jordan Rudess has a strong presence. His grand sounds contrast with the rest of the bands’ and while most pop songs would be hitting the refrain for the third time at the 2:30 mark, in true DT fashion it’s where the lyrics start. “Angels” does its job in basically saying, ‘We’re back and we are still the DT that you know and love. Now let’s go.’
I read someone who compared the intro of “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” to Linkin Park and as odd as that sounds for DT it is accurate for the first 20 seconds. I enjoy these lyrics because while probably written about a specific situation, you can probably match them to something or someone in your life.
James LaBrie is all over the place in this one; he’s up, down, growling, soaring, and even screaming in a few parts. Even when I’m driving to school in the morning dead tired, I find myself singing along. Not too long of an instrumental section in this one, but still enough. The end of “Build Me Up” goes into some horses galloping and bridges perfectly into the following track, “Lost Not Forgotten.”
“Forgotten” starts out with another piano section—raw piano is as much on ADTOE as any other DT album—but then kicks into a grand section, that leads into some good old fashioned rocking, to classic DT synchronization that would injure most people who attempted to play it, and back to the rocking again. The lyrics of “Forgotten” are in the John Petrucci-Systematic Chaos vein. The first extended instrumental section comes here, with sounds that differ from the rest of the song. And as one of the many who thought he was a bit soft in the mix of the last few albums, Myung is definitely back.
“This is the Life” is back down to the seven-minute tune structure. More piano and more of James sounding amazing. If you can play your softer sections really soft, your louder sections will seem louder and “Life” is a soft song. Not so much literally, but the slow pace and calm sense found in “Life” gives the upcoming epic parts more of a punch when reached.
LaBrie’s showing in this song is in a territory that few metal singers can enter, they can rock it out, but they can’t take a step back and sound good in a calmer song. LaBrie sounds awesome. Again, the lyrics in this one send a very positive message.
“Bridges in the Sky,” originally “The Shaman’s Trance” is the center-piece that ADTOE is built around. After some of the shaman—the band won’t reveal his identity—enters some of the most haunting vocals I have ever heard which, you guessed it… is replaced by some serious riffage. “Bridges” has everything that a Dream Theater song should have; parts you want to headbang to, a refrain that’s difficult not to sing along with, great lyrics, and an incredible lead into the instrumental section. Some great middle-eastern sounds that we haven’t heard for a while are in there too. (“Bridges” might also be a hint at where the cover art comes from.)
“Outcry” doesn’t let up much; this is a track that will sound great live. While written by Petrucci, this sounds like a counterpart of LaBrie’s “Prophets of War.” Libya and Egypt are the topics of the track (again with the middle-eastern sounds from Rudess), but nationality is irrelevant when you hear LaBrie’s calls to stand up and be counted. If you have read any other reviews, the instrumental section of “Outrcy” was probably cited as the craziest and I won’t disagree. It builds to a head in a similar fashion to “The Dark Eternal Night,” but rather than go into more heavy riffing like that song, it switches to a soft part that keeps with the ‘metal, but not so hardcore metal’ theme.
Photo by Rick Wenner
I would have switched the order of “Far From Heaven” with “Beneath the Surface,” but regardless the song is another solid track. “Heaven” is a duet of Rudess and LaBrie ala “Coming Home” from LaBrie’s solo work Static Impulse; not the most common ground in Dream Theater’s catalogue. There was mention of a duet album with Rudess and LaBrie and if this is a taste then I’m all for it.
Though I didn’t recognize it immediately, “Breaking All Illusions” is my favorite track on ADTOE. It has a major Nightwish vibe going on in the intro and refrain—something I didn’t expect from DT, but absolutely love. Other than that, it’s a perfect blend of all the album’s elements. Piano, some Jethro Tull organ, JMX’s fingers flying, MM keeping pace, and JP taking the lead for a great guitar section that is more emotion than technical ability. Another second instrumental section is the last hurrah that again includes a tour of the band before the uplifting “Searching out, reaching in!”
“Beneath the Surface” is the relief after the storm; another portrait of LaBrie’s calmer side with Petrucci’s acoustic accompaniment. JR kicks in with the perfect sound at the perfect time to build to a climactic middle and finish ADTOE off strong.
James LaBrie and Jordan Rudess take the center stage in ADTOE. The vocals are superbly balanced and JLB’s strength is shown in how diverse he can be. Even though Rudess discovers or invents about eighty new instruments a year he never allows them to take away from a high quality sound; some of his best sounds are in this album. John Myung is absolutely easier to hear and a much more prevalent part of the overall sound than he had become in the past few albums. Mike Mangini is not in-your-face with any of his parts, but that’s not a negative statement. He is solid on ADTOE and I expect will grow into his spot nicely. Finally, John Petrucci. As solid as ever in his performance, but he deserves just as much credit for his work behind the scenes—with his production and increased leadership role in the band.
And with that, I can’t wait to see it live!
Embrace the days
Don’t turn away
Life’s true intent needs patience
Two more reviews of A Dramatic Turn of Events for you: The first one from The Shaman’s Blog, which you should keep an eye on if you can read Español (@TheShamansBlog on Twitter). Unfortunately I can’t, so I miss out on his massive review, but the Shaman was kind enough to translate some into English.
“…This album has exceeded my wildest expectations,” he writes, “I think ADTOE has gone further than the previous Dream Theater efforts, not only sonically, but also conceptually and from an evolutionary point of view. Probably, we’re talking about their best album since Six Degrees or even Scenes From A Memory…”
“…Rudess has found the key to the evolution in Dream Theater sound: the atmosphere. Sounds ridiculous, but listening to the keyboards in ADTOE is like taking the best side of Moore and the best side of Rudess and mixing ‘em into this thing we can hear. This is the evolution of Dream Theater: the quasi-symbiotic union between metal and progressive, the atmosphere as a result of the symphonic sound, and the catchiest choruses as a result of the vocal melodies developed by a vocalist.”
For both the original and English (it’s at the bottom) reviews go here.
Second is from Emanuel Vasconcelos Torres who writes that this is JR’s album to shine, “The keyboards are sublime in this album, the overall sound of the album is straight hard progressive rock with metal passages here and there, that is perfect for me because that’s the way DT really is, it might remind you of their early work but with a more modern tune.”
“Images & Words, Awake, Scenes From A Memory and Train of Thought are DT’s album that I consider masterpieces, and now this one joins them.”
In the shortest review yet of A Dramatic Turn of Events Asia One writes, “Expect epic tracks… which doesn’t necessarily thrash in typical heavy-metal fashion but, instead, boasts intricate melodies and some killer orchestral instrumentation.”
As reported yesterday, Dream Theater’s official site has been completely redesigned and officially unveiled you can check out the brand new forums on the site too.
Speaking of forums, DreamTheaterForums.org got some new themes to coincide with the new album’s release. Additional updates will come soon.
As was rumored last month, Live at Budokan looks like it will be getting a Blu-ray release. It still has not yet been confirmed by any band members (they weren’t with RR at the time, so I’m not sure if they have anything to do with it), but you can now pre-order it on Amazon.com in the US. The pre-orders on Amazon UK and Play.com remain as well.
Wow, reviews coming in quickly now. (JUST A WEEK AWAY FOLKS!) Here are three more:
Peter Hodgson from the IHeartGuitarBlog writes, “The material here is generally more hooky than the material of the last decade or so. Whereas recent albums have leaned towards more metal, A Dramatic Turn Of Events holds back on the aggression until it’s absolutely called for. In its place is more keyboard orchestration, more melody, more intricacy and more lightness… Dream Theater is a progressive rock band again, who use elements of many different musical styles – including metal – in getting their point across.”
Mike at El Opinador Compulsivo went track-by-track through the whole album.
He really liked “Bridges in the Sky,” “…The effect is superb and develops a beautiful atmosphere, which is promptly SMASHED by a FREAKING METAL STEAMROLLER driven by Petrucci, Myung and Mangini, and helped by Rudess they demolish everything on their way…”
No song warranted lower than an 8/10 from Mike, he writes, “The band is in top form, they keep innovating and exploring new avenues of sound, without losing touch with their prog-metal roots.”
Finally, Christian Eichlinger’s BLOG is written in German so I’ll trust that Google Translate was accurate. Markus Maichel wrote the review of ADTOE:
“And I must say, yes, the band has done exactly what I had hoped, and made an album that avoids all the things that had bothered me on the last… The whole album is very confident and relaxed at all incredible complexity, and the mix is withdrawn pleasing, balanced and open.”
Markus’s full entry here. A full list of reviews for A Dramatic Turn of Events is here.
Sources: Christian Eichlinger Blog, El Opinador Compulsivo, IHeartGuitarBlog