A Dramatic Turn of Events

A Dramatic Turn of Events
A Dramatic Turn of Events

Cover art by Hugh Syme
Studio album by Dream Theater
Released September 13, 2011[1]
Recorded January – May 2011 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long Island
Genre Progressive metal
Length 77:05[2]
Label Roadrunner
Producer John Petrucci
Dream Theater chronology
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
A Dramatic Turn of Events
Singles from A Dramatic Turn of Events
  1. "On the Backs of Angels"
    Released: June 29, 2011

A Dramatic Turn of Events is the 11th studio album by American progressive metal band Dream Theater, released on September 13, 2011 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.

The album was written, recorded, mixed and mastered between January and June 2011 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long Island, New York. It was produced by John Petrucci and mixed by Andy Wallace. Its first single, "On the Backs of Angels", was released via YouTube on June 29. A critical and commercial success, the album moved 36,000 units in the United States in its debut week, eventually charting at number eight on the Billboard 200.[3] Currently, the band are touring North America in support of the album.



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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[5] 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 were Mike Mangini, Derek Roddy, Thomas Lang, Virgil Donati, Marco Minnemann, Aquiles Priester and Peter Wildoer.[6] 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.[6] The candidates were notified whether they had been chosen on November 5;[7] 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". In the last episode of the series, it was revealed that Mike Mangini was the drummer selected.[8]

In November, shortly after Mangini joined the band, Portnoy e-mailed them asking to rejoin, but his attempt was rebuffed.[9]

Writing, recording and promotion

On January 3, 2011, Dream Theater entered Cove City Sound Studios to begin working on a new album.[10][11] According to John Petrucci, the band entered the studio with the goal of writing something "on a grand scale" that was "sonically interesting".[12] Although Petrucci brought in some demos, riffs and songs from home, the album was mostly written in the studio.[13] Writing was completed on March 2 and done without Mike Mangini.[5][14] 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".[15] James LaBrie and John Myung each contributed more to the writing than they had in recent years.[16]

On April 14, LaBrie began tracking vocals and by June 28, the album's mixing and mastering by Andy Wallace were finished.[17][18][19] LaBrie recorded all the album's vocals in Canada with Richard Chycki.[16] 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.[20] 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.[21] Leading up to the release of the album, Dream Theater released various one-minute long snippets of new songs, including "Bridges in the Sky",[22] "Breaking All Illusions",[23] "Beneath the Surface",[24] "This Is the Life",[25] "Lost Not Forgotten"[26] and "Far from Heaven".[27] On September 14, a music video for "On the Backs of Angels" was released.[28]

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.[29] 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".[30]

Rudess has described the album's music as "heavy, Latin and devastating" with a wide variety of sounds.[29] 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".[31] 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 toward progressive 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.[32]


In July 2011, A Dramatic Turn of Events was voted Roadrunner Records' most anticipated album of Q4 2011, receiving 67% of the vote and beating such artists as Megadeth, Trivium, Opeth and Machine Head.[33] The album has been declared the most anticipated of Dream Theater's career by some critics.[34]

A Dramatic Turn of Events was released worldwide on September 12, 2011 and in the United States on September 13. The album debuted at number one in some countries, and attained the eighth position on the Billboard 200.[3] It was the band's second highest debut position ever on that chart behind their previous album, 2009's Black Clouds & Silver Linings.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.0/5 stars [34]
The AU Review 10/10 stars [35]
The Gazette 4/5 stars [36]
My Metal Bin 9/10 stars[37]
The Metal Critic 7.5/10 stars[38]
Popmatters 5/10 stars[39]
Rock Sins 8/10 stars [40]
Sea of Tranquility 5/5 stars [41]
Sputnikmusic 3.5/5 stars [42]
Suite101 4/5 stars [43]

A Dramatic Turn of Events has received generally positive reviews. 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."[44] Sea of Tranquility reviewer Murat Batmaz praised the album, highlighting Rudess' role in the compositions, saying Rudess "expands the songs' chordal parameters and no longer strictly functions as Petrucci's shadow, coming to the fore prominently both during the choruses and solo passages. He also avoids using his more eclectic synth patches and tones as he plays to the strength of the compositions." [45] In another early review, Dave Roberts of The AU Review awarded the album a perfect score and described it as a "masterpiece".[35] In a review for Rock Sins, Jamie Giberti also praised the album, although he criticized it for lacking stand-out tracks.[40] Drumhead magazine, 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".[46]

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".[39] 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]

Supporting tour

Dream Theater has recently finished touring Europe in support of A Dramatic Turn of Events. Their first show of the leg took place in Rome, Italy on July 4, 2011 and their last show took place in Székesfehérvár, Hungary on August 4. The band are currently on a North American headlining tour with Trivium.[48] In January, the band will tour Europe with Periphery.[49]

Track listing

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "On the Backs of Angels"   John Petrucci Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, John Myung 8:42
2. "Build Me Up, Break Me Down"   Petrucci Petrucci, Rudess, Myung, James 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


  • 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".


Dream Theater


Chart (2011) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[53] 17
Canadian Albums Chart[54] 9
Dutch Albums Chart[55] 2
Finnish Albums Chart[56] 1
Hungarian Albums Chart[57] 6
Polish Albums Chart[58] 7
Portuguese Albums Chart[59] 9
UK Albums Chart[60] 17
UK Rock Chart[60] 1
Billboard 200 US Chart[3] 8
Italian Albums Chart[61] 3
Billboard Tastemaker Albums[62] 1


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