Longtime American progressive metal band Dream Theater suffered a blow last year with the departure of founding member, masterful drummer and co-songwriter Mike Portnoy. But "A Dramatic Turn of Events," the group's first album post-Portnoy, doesn't uncover a significantly different sound, despite the spectacle referenced in its title.
Instead, replacement drummer Mike Mangini (Annihilator, Steve Vai) certainly holds his own. Even in Portnoy's absence, the album features the band's classic strengths - John Petrucci's complex guitar wizardry and long, multifaceted compositions with changing time signatures. At its best, the group still commands attention with such standout tracks as the ominous album opener, "On the Backs of Angels," and the 12-minute "Breaking All Illusions."
Unfortunately, the nearly 80-minute album does have weaker parts that make it feel bloated, even for a prog band. Some of the mellower, meandering moments of the longer songs - such as the 11-minute "Outcry" - end up diluting the impact of Petrucci's technical prowess. The piano ballad "Far From Heaven" feels like a soft-rock filler track, underscoring the real disappointment here: the watering-down of the musical complexity the group is obviously still capable of. There are plenty of captivating moments; they just get lost sometimes.
-- Catherine P. Lewis