A Dramatic Turn of Events, the 11th studio long player from progressive hard rock act Dream Theater, is understandably among the most anticipated in their decades-long career. Founding drummer Mike Portnoy -- long considered, with guitarist John Petrucci, to be DT -- left the band and was replaced with veteran Mike Mangini. This is the set that answers the question about his impact on their sound. Interestingly enough, it's not that much. Mangini is as much a complex, intricate drummer as Portnoy was, though he is more an ensemble player; he plays more on the beat than behind it. A Dramatic Turn of Events is a much more keyboard-driven offering, though there is plenty of good old-fashioned prog metal here, too. Given its nearly 80-minute length, there is something here for virtually every fan -- or detractor -- to grab hold of. Singer James LaBrie doesn't indulge his high metal screech here that often, and prefers to sing plainly -- a good thing. Three tracks -- “Outcry,” “Breaking All Illusions,” and “Lost Not Forgotten” -- feature wildly long instrumental segments with more odd time signature changes than you can likely count. The latter of these sounds almost like Meshuggah with keyboards and stacked with multi-part harmonic vocals. Opening track and single "On the Backs of Angels" contains all the DT trademarks: disciplined drumming, intricate seven-string guitar riffs that grow increasingly more explosive, a Gothic chorale, and John Myung's insistent basslines, which are nearly buried in the mix. Jordan Rudess' keyboards counter Petrucci's guitar and Mangini's drums for dominance and come out on top. That said, the melodic structure of the tune harkens back to DT albums previous to the last decade's. As melodic as it is, it's almost knotty compared to the sheer melodicism of “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” that follows it. One does have to wonder about the inclusion of the ballads "Far from Heaven" and the string-laden "Beneath the Surface," which have clunky, trite lyrics, sappy instrumentation, and feel like filler; it would have been better to have trimmed them to keep the album a reasonable length. In sum, a Dramatic Turn of Events, while not a perfect offering, has enough of what makes Dream Theater attractive to make it a necessary purchase for fans.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek