Dream Theater: A Dramatic Turn of Events [2011]

Released September 13, 2011
Recorded January – May 2011 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long Island
Genre Progressive metal
Length 77:05
Label Roadrunner
Producer John Petrucci

A Dramatic Turn of Events is the 11th studio album by American progressive metal 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.

A Dramatic Turn of Events was produced by John Petrucci and mixed by Andy Wallace. It was written, recorded, mixed and mastered between January and June 2011 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long IslandNew York. A commercial success, the album moved 36,000 units in the United States in its debut week, charting at number eight on the Billboard 200. One single, “On the Backs of Angels“, has been released in promotion of the album with another, “Build Me Up, Break Me Down”, coming soon. Since July 2011, Dream Theater have been on tour in support of the album.

Background

Departure of Mike Portnoy

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.”

Search for a new drummer

A little more than a month after Mike Portnoy’s departure, Dream Theater began auditioning for a new drummer in New York City. The drummers invited to audition wereMike ManginiDerek RoddyThomas LangVirgil DonatiMarco MinnemannAquiles 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, written specifically for the auditions.[3] 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”, created by Over the Edge Productions. In the last episode of the series, it was revealed that Mike Mangini was the drummer selected.[5]

In November, shortly after Mangini joined Dream Theater, Portnoy e-mailed the band asking to rejoin, but his attempt was rebuffed.[6]

Writing, recording and promotion

On January 3, 2011, Dream Theater entered Cove City Sound Studios to begin working on a new album.[7][8] According to John Petrucci, the band entered the studio with the goal of writing something “on a grand scale” that was “sonically interesting”.[9] Although Petrucci brought in some demos, riffs and songs from home, the album was mostly written in the studio.[10] Writing was completed on March 2 and done without Mike Mangini.[2][11] 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”.[12] James LaBrieand John Myung each contributed more to the writing than they had in recent years.[13]

On April 14, LaBrie began tracking vocals and by June 28, the album’s mixing and mastering by Andy Wallace were finished.[14][15][16] LaBrie recorded all the album’s vocals in Canada with Richard Chycki.[13] 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”.

On June 8, 2011, the album’s title, track listing and United States release date were revealed.[17] Its cover art was shown several days later, done once again by longtime collaborator Hugh Syme. On June 29, “On the Backs of Angels” was released as the album’s first single.[18] Leading up to the release of the album, Dream Theater released various one-minute long snippets of new songs, including “Bridges in the Sky”,[19] “Breaking All Illusions”,[20] “Beneath the Surface”,[21] “This Is the Life”,[22]“Lost Not Forgotten”[23] and “Far from Heaven”.[24] On September 14, a music video for “On the Backs of Angels” was released.[25] On January 26, 2012, it was revealed that the album’s second single will be “Build Me Up, Break Me Down”.

Musical style

A Dramatic Turn of Events is 77:05 minutes long, filling the entire disc as many of Dream Theater’s past albums have. Amidst speculation that the album’s title was a vague reference to the departure of Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess stressed that it is in no way a reference to anyone; rather, the title references the album’s recurring themes of dramatic changes such as mental, physical and religious/spiritual.[26] Rudess has also 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”.[27]

Rudess has described the album’s music as “heavy, Latin and devastating” with a wide variety of sounds.[26] He has also made mention of the album’s frequent use of piano. 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”.[28] 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 towardprogressive rock and being “spiritually reminiscent” of past albums like Images and Words and Scenes from a Memory. Some members of the band’s fanbase have taken these comparisons a step further, asserting that many songs on A Dramatic Turn of Events are structurally similar to specific counterparts on Images and Words. Mike Portnoy has also commented on these supposed similarities.[29]

Musical style

A Dramatic Turn of Events was highly anticipated leading up to its release. In July 2011, the album was voted Roadrunner Records’ most anticipated album of Q4 2011, receiving 67% of the vote and beating out such artists as MegadethTriviumOpeth and Machine Head.[30] The album was released worldwide on September 12, 2011 and in the United States on September 13. It debuted at number one in some countries, and attained the eighth position on the Billboard 200,[31] the band’s second highest debut position ever on that chart behind their previous album, 2009’s Black Clouds & Silver Linings.

Reception

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”.[38] 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”.[47]A Dramatic Turn of Events has received mixed reviews and currently holds a rating of 55 out of 100 on Metacritic.[32] 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.”[43] In another early review, Dave Roberts of The AU Review awarded the album a perfect score and described it as a “masterpiece”.[34] In a review for Rock Sins, Jamie Giberti also praised the album, although he criticized it for lacking stand-out tracks.[39] 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”.[44] The album has won numerous awards from music publications, including Burrn! Magazine‘s Best Album award.[45] “On the Backs of Angels” was nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards,[46] representing the band’s first ever Grammy nomination.

Supporting tour

Dream Theater kicked off their tour in support of A Dramatic Turn of Events on July 4, 2011 in Rome, Italy. That leg was completed in Székesfehérvár, Hungary on August 4. The second leg of the tour took place in North America, where the band headlined with Trivium.[48] After a short break to conclude 2011, the band returned to Europe with Periphery.[49] Currently, the band is playing in Asia.

Track listing

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. On the Backs of Angels Petrucci Petrucci, RudessMyung 8:42
2. “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” Petrucci Petrucci, Rudess, Myung, LaBrie 6:59
3. “Lost Not Forgotten” Petrucci Petrucci, Rudess, Myung, LaBrie 10:11
4. “This Is the Life” Petrucci Petrucci, Rudess 6:57
5. “Bridges in the Sky” Petrucci Petrucci, Rudess, Myung 11:01
6. “Outcry” Petrucci 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 Petrucci 5:26

Notes

  • The limited Deluxe Collector’s Edition of A Dramatic Turn of Events includes a second disc with instrumentals of all the tracks.[50]
  • “Bridges in the Sky” was originally titled “The Shaman’s Trance”.[51]
  • Paul Northfield is credited for the spoken words in “Breaking All Illusions”.

Listening

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Lyrics

1. On The Backs Of Angels

[Music by John Petrucci, John Myung and Jordan Rudess, Lyrics by John Petrucci]

Standing on the backs of angels
Destined to create
Mounting the attack
While heroes carry your weight

We spiral towards disaster
Survival fading faster

Riding out the wave
Content to feed off the machine
Bleeding us to death
The new American dream

You’re blinded by your hunger
Beware your days are numbered

Tears fall from the shameless
Shelter me, guide me to the edge of the water
Selfless are the righteous
Burden me, lead me like a lamb to the slaughter

Blurring lines drawn in between
What is right and what is wrong
Victims on the radar string us along

We’re on to your agenda
The dead end road to nowhere

Tears fall from the shameless
Shelter me, guide me to the edge of the water
Selfless are the righteous
Burden me, lead me like a lamb to the slaughter

Tears fall from the shameless
Shelter me, guide me to the edge of the water
Selfless are the righteous
Burden me, lead me like a lamb to the slaughter
Selfless are the righteous
Burden me, lead me like a lamb to the slaughter

2. Build Me Up, Break Me Down

[Music by John Petrucci, John Myung, James LaBrie, Lyrics by John Petrucci]

Today I will be your savior
Tomorrow ‒ a demon
You crave my erratic behavior
And watch my every move

Obsession at all cost
You’ll be the death of me
Broken and torn apart
Why can’t you let me be?

You build me up
You break me down
Until I’m falling to pieces
I crash and burn
I never learn
I’m your guilty addiction

Build me up
Break me down

Tonight I am the new messiah
You deify
When I’m no longer desired
I’ll be crucified

The one who’s free from sin
The first to cast the stone
Fighting the fear within
I won’t be left alone

You build me up
You break me down
Until I’m falling to pieces
The price I pay
To live this way
And the fantasy stays alive

I can’t live up
I can’t let down
And leave you falling to pieces
I crash and burn
I never learn
I’m your morbid obsession.

Build me up
Break me down

You build me up
You break me down
Until I’m falling to pieces
The price I pay
To live this way
And the fantasy stays alive

I can’t live up
I can’t let down
And leave you falling to pieces
I crash and burn
I never learn
Your iconic fixation

Build me up
Break me down

Build me up
Break me down

3. Lost Not Forgotten

[Music by John Petrucci, John Myung, James LaBrie, Jordan Rudess, Lyrics by John Petrucci]

I am not immortal
I am just a man
A power-craving tyrant
Beyond the shadows in the sand

Men have come to fear me
Many bow and cry
Known across the desert
I am the one who will not die

I have faced the demons of our most desperate moments
I have been the one to defend our pride
I have worn the banner of my abandoned brothers
I will be the first one to give my live

Lost not forgotten
Reigning against the odds
Feared and respected living among the gods
Leading the empire
Spirit as black as coal
Lost not forgotten
King of the deathless soul

An Epic novel no one’s read
Pages torn and faded
The greatest story never told

Behold the kingdom I possess
Land of wealth and beauty
Where the streets are paved with gold

Once fearless and brave
A realm passed away
The ghosts of yesterday

Lost not forgotten
Reigning against the odds
Feared and respected living among the gods
Leading the empire
Brutal and heartless
Vanishing further
Into the darkness
Lost not forgotten
King of the deathless soul

4. This Is The Life

[Music by John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, Lyrics by John Petrucci]

In the heart of your most solemn barren night
When your soul’s turned inside out
Have you questioned all the madness you invite?
What your life is all about

Some of us choose to live gracefully
Some can get caught in the maze
And lose their way home
This is the life we belong to
Our gift divine

Have you ever wished that you were someone else?
Traded places in your mind
It’s only a waste of your time

Some of us choose to live gracefully
Some can get caught in the maze
And lose their way home
This is the life we belong to
Our gift divine

Feed the illusion you dream about
Cast out the monsters inside
Life begins with an empty slate
Fragile left in the hands of fate
Driven by love and crushed by hate
Until the day the gift is gone
And shadows remain

Some of us choose to live gracefully
Some can get caught in the maze
And lose their way home
Memories will fade
Time races on
What will they say after you’re gone?
This is the life we belong to
Our gift divine
Our gift divine

5. Bridges In The Sky

[Music by John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess and John Myung, Lyrics by John Petrucci]

Blackness awakens
Visions come alive
Seeing through darkness
With borrowed eyes

Death survivor
Take me higher
Reunite my soul

Whisperer of truth
I trust in you
To make me whole

Sun
Come shine my way
May healing waters bury all my pain

Wind
Carry me home
The fabric of reality is tearing apart
The piece of me that died
Will return
To live again

Feeling myself slip away
Suddenly dreaming awake
Hidden memories
Flooding back

I will not grow in the light
Until I pass through the darkest caverns of my heart

Dance with fire
Spirit guide erase the world outside

Messenger of truth
I trust in you
Transform me now

Sun
Come shine my way
May healing waters bury all my pain

Wind
Carry me home
The fabric of reality is tearing apart
The piece of me that died
Will return
To live again

And at last the time has come
To unite again as one

To the power of the Earth I’m calling
Crossing bridges in the sky
On a journey to renew my life
Shaman take my hand

Sun
Come shine my way
May healing waters bury all my pain

Wind
Carry me home
The fabric of reality is tearing apart
The piece of me that died
Will return
To live again

And at last the time has come
To unite again as one
To the power of the Earth I’m calling
Crossing bridges in the sky
On a journey to renew my life
Shaman take my hand

6. Outcry

[Music by John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess and John Myung, Lyrics by John Petrucci]

Somewhere overhead
Distant thunders roars
The revolution has begun
The war to end all wars

As I welcome death
I hear the battle cry
Bullets fall like fire
Raining from the sky

The rebel in us all
Someday gets tired
Of being pushed around
But freedom has a price
The cost is buried in the ground

We suffered far too long
We gather now growing stronger
We will not be ignored
Anymore any longer
Our anthem will guide us

Rise up, be counted
Stand strong and unite
Wait for the outcry
Resistance is calling tonight

Far too many years
Of chaos and unrest
Far too many voices
Brutally suppressed

We fight for what is just
For all that we believe
We fight till death or glory
Fight to be set free

The street are bathed in blood
Time to step down
And time to walk away
You’ll never rule me now
Though you may stand upon my grave

You can look the other way
Or you can face the light
Although it seems so far away
Freedom’s worth the fight

Rise up, be counted
Stand strong and unite
Wait for the outcry
Resistance is calling

Rise up, be counted
Stand strong and unite
Wait for the outcry
Resistance is calling tonight

The world watches on
While we risk our lives
Locked in a kingdom of fear
As our children die

7. Far From Heaven

[Music by John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess and James LaBrie, Lyrics by James LaBrie]

No one truly has the answers
Every day I struggle through it once more
Keep things bottled up
Never speaking my mind
Misinterpreted I’m doing just fine

Every day I put a brave face on
Serves me well
Feeling helpless facing it alone
Hard to tell
That I can’t change who I am
How I feel there’s no end

I have done
What you asked of me
Leaves me nothing to live for

Coming undone
Way too high a price
I should pay
You keep your pride
While I die inside
Every day
No I
Can’t lie anymore
Won’t pretend
I’ve done
All I can

You can’t imagine
The hell I’m going through
Not asking you to save me
I’m too far from heaven

Nothing you can do to change me
But accept me as I am

8. Breaking All Illusions

[Music by John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess and John Myung, Lyrics by John Myung and John Petrucci]

With the sun in place
There’s a test of faith
Streams of thought awaken

New realities
Singularities
Breaking all illusions

Sudden bust of heat
Burning source of life
Masterful destruction

Power’s not an act
It’s understanding truth
Changing my direction

Live in the moment
Breathe in a new beginning
Wisdom revealed
As I unlearn to learn

Life’s biggest battles
Often are fought alone
My spirit brings me home

Emerald thoughts flow through my consciousness
Drawn to curses left behind
Test of will the threshold to one’s faith
Starts a fire in the mind

Searching out
Reaching in
To arrive
Where I began
Sights remembered
In the light

Searching out
Reaching in
To arrive
Where I began
Sights remembered
Come alive

Embrace the days
Don’t turn away
Life’s true intent needs patience
Karma starts the signal

9. Beneath The Surface

[Music and Lyrics by John Petrucci]

Is there ever really a right time?
You had led me to believe
Someday you’d be there for me
When the stars above aligned
When you weren’t so consumed
I kept looking for the clues
So I waited in the shadows of my heart
And still the time was never right

Until one day I stopped caring
And began to forget why I longed to be so close
And I disappeared into the darkness
And the darkness turned to pain
And never went away
Until all that remained was buried, deep beneath the surface

A shell of what things could’ve been
Tired bones beneath a veil of guarded secrets all too frail
Sad to think I never knew
You were searching for the words
For the moment to emerge
Yet the moment never came
You couldn’t risk my fragile frame

Until one day you stopped caring
And began to forget why you tried to be so close
And you disappeared into the darkness
And the darkness turned to pain
And never went away
Until all that remained was buried, deep beneath the surface

I would scream just to be heard
As if yelling at the stars
I was bleeding just to feel
You would never say a word
Kept me reaching in the dark
Always something to conceal

Until one day I stopped caring
And began to forget why I longed to be so close
And I disappeared into the darkness
And the darkness turned to pain
And never went away
Until all that remained was buried, deep beneath the surface
Beneath the surface

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