Review Summary: Remember that Progressive Metal band that was innovative for its time? Whatever happened to it?
On one wall of a very well maintained house hang several photographs of a spirited and adventurous young man who is seen exploring various exotic locations that most people can only imagine themselves ever doing; his childhood dreams had come to fruition, he had learnt to live. The delight emanating from him invokes smiles across the faces of onlookers who can’t help but admire the unabashed fervour the man in the pictures possesses.
That was a long time ago however. The man has now aged and daily hums the same old tune which has been etched in his mind for a few years. He has done well for himself, especially compared to his colleagues, and is surrounded by his achievements; the 2 story house, the BMW in the garage, etc. but not too much has changed in his life for a considerable period now. Sure he might watch a movie after 12 on the weekend, and occasionally fiddle with his hairstyle according to what’s “trendy,” but he still has the same 10 year old job and adheres to the same daily routine without much spontaneity. The most significant event to occur recently was his dramatic break up from the special someone who helped him become the man he is today, the one whom he had blind faith in. If only he had been able to look through her eyes and understand her imploration he might not have been in this predicament. However he decided not to pay heed to her plea and now, not too long after, he has found her replacement that in his opinion is suitable enough to go the distance. Only time will tell.
You used to be so passionate and dared to do what most of your peers hadn’t even considered, what happened?
Dream Theater (DT) is undoubtedly the band that brought the progressive metal genre relative mainstream success. They have been an inspiration to a new generation of ardent music aficionados who have made it their mission to take the time to master their instruments at any cost. Yes DT was an important band in the musical landscape during the 90’s, but is the band still relevant now? Isn’t a progressive band supposed to frequently alter their sound to keep their music interesting for themselves and their audience?
A Dramatic Turn of Events feels like the product of a group of uninspired musicians that seem unwilling to test their creativity or tread through previously unexplored territory. The very genre they played a role in creating in order to liberate themselves, and like-minded artists, from the narrow-minded customs of the mainstream music machine has eventually shackled them to the follies of the very entity they were rebelling against. Only they are to blame for having constructed these walls that bound them, playing to genre stereotypes which they are largely responsible for creating.
We can hear that same old familiar songwriting style we’ve grown very accustomed to, dominated by John Petrucci’s riffs, technical showmanship, and Jordan Rudess’ sprinkling of extra flavour. On this album though, the keyboards are provided with some extra breathing space, which is refreshing to say the least. The bass however is still low in the mix, and now even the drums have been slightly punished. The main problem nonetheless still lies with that contrived and generic way of composing this brand of progressive metal music. The excessive penchant towards technical prowess can take away from the song’s purpose, especially the prolonged instrumental technical “wankery” enthused sections. Songs which come naturally, and are not “manufactured,” are the ones that have the longest lasting impact as they feel more real and honest. This is one area DT has neglected to look into for the most part, and as a result this album left me feeling cold.
There are some new musical ideas present in a few songs however their stay is very temporary, and they feel like last minute additions to adhere to the theme of the songs, the prime example being the intro to “Bridges in the Sky”. The main lyrical themes are frequently overlooked by the music, with the 2 feeling mutually exclusive more often than not, as is the case with “Outcry” and “Lost not Forgotten”. This ensues a feeling of detachment and make the lyrics feel almost pointless.
Generally a progressive band is expected to adeptly fuse various styles into their music, but in my opinion this doesn’t warrant the use of ballads as the scapegoats for the mellower moments whilst the lengthier compositions are used to fortify the more aggressive aspects of the band’s music. While I have enjoyed a reasonable number of DT ballads in the past I am quite against this philosophy, especially in the recent past, since the remaining songs tend to veer extensively towards the metal mindset. The worst possible outcome of this concept can lead to the birth of songs like “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” which is a shameless rip off of bands of the same fabric as “Disturbed”. Why oh why?
I was actually looking forward to this album, but after the dust had settled, once again all I could see was barren land. The prime culprit for this album’s outcome (and I can only speculate) is most probably John Petrucci and his reluctance, or rather fear, of experimenting on this record. Jordan Rudess’ contributions far outweigh anyone else’s; at least he’s trying to come up with interesting ideas. The musicianship is obviously undeniable and there definitely are moments of quality, especially on the song “Breaking All Illusions”, but they’re surrounded by so much mediocrity that a sour aftertaste is left upon listening to the album. Regardless of the reason(s) behind the direction of this album one thing is certain, DT desperately needs to throw caution to the wind and take some major risks, or else they’ll fall deeper into obscurity and become just another band that used to be interesting.
You used to be so passionate and daring, but now that considerable talent you possess is being wasted at the expense of total mediocrity, and yet you seem content to continue with the mundane lifestyle you have adopted. If this is the life you are satisfied with then it really is a crying shame
• On The Backs Of Angels: Pre-chorus
• This Is The Life: Keyboard playing
• Bridges In The Sky: Chorus, instrumental section
• Breaking All Illusions: Chorus, first half of the instrumental section
Breaking All is definitely the strongest song on here, its also more of the same style but it's enjoyable. The lengthier compositions are too riff oriented, and Outcry's instrumental section felt so unnecessary. Thats what I mean when I say it tales away from the song, the song was about uprisings like the Middle Eastern ones, they could've used Middle Eastern instruments, etc.
I mean it doesn't feel fresh at all. My expectations weren't too high, but I was still hoping they's do something different. And this has received such a good response that I think DT will be treading down the same path. Oh well there are plenty of other bands out there.
I dont agree with a lot of your points, but you do make some good ones. Review is really well written. I personally like this album, but it's not one of my favourite of theirs either. The allegorical concept in italics is a bit odd, not bad per se, but just odd. I like it though because it shows that you actually thought about this album and wanted to add some artistry to the review. So yeah, good work, man.
loved what you did with the italics, reviews like this are really a nice breath of fresh air. the pretentiousness of some reviews on here gets old, this is very well crafted and humble pos. didn't enjoy this album at all either btw.