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With a new drummer, Dream Theater still delivers

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Mike Mangini (left), Dream Theater's new drummer that came to stay.

John Petrucci knows plenty of Dream Theater fans will view the title of the group's latest album, A Dramatic Turn of Events, as directly related to the major change in the band that preceded the new recording. "People look at the title and they say, 'Oh, well, obviously it's about Mike's departure and the changes," said Petrucci, the band's main songwriter and guitarist. "It's really not."

September 2010 marked the departure of drummer Mike Portnoy, a 25-year member who, with Petrucci, had co-produced the group's CDs and become essentially the spokesman and a significant contributor to the group's music. It was a big enough change to make fans wonder if Dream Theater could ever be the same. But that wasn't the kind of big event that Petrucci was driving at with the latest batch of songs.

"There are songs about people, situations in history, major historical events that happened that maybe we forgot about but really changed life for many, many people," Petrucci said. "So we're talking major events, major dramatic turns of events."

The circumstances surrounding Portnoy's departure caught the rest of the band members off guard. The band had completed a tour with Iron Maiden when the drummer proposed that the group go on an extended hiatus — perhaps lasting upwards of five years. The other members — Petrucci, singer James LaBrie, keyboardist Jordan Rudess, and bassist John Myung — weren't feeling the same way.

"I think the bottom line is he needed a change, whether the change was playing with another band or taking some sort of break or whatever, and the rest of us didn't," Petrucci said. "We're at a great point in our career. We're very passionate about what we do. We're very energized. And we tried to convince him otherwise, but ultimately you can't really force somebody to do something they don't want to do."

So Dream Theater parted ways with Portnoy — only to encounter one more twist in the saga. In December 2010, Portnoy had a change of heart and asked back into Dream Theater. The band declined, having already hired Mike Mangini, formerly of Extreme.

With A Dramatic Turn of Events, Petrucci feels Dream Theater made an album that ranks with the best of the group's previous 10 albums. It features plenty of Dream Theater's stylistic trademarks — elements of progressive rock and metal, an emphasis on melody, and some impressively intricate playing. But Petrucci said the new album has a different personality.

"A lot of people are saying, and I tend to agree, that the context of the writing style is the progressive music that we grew up on, like Yes and stuff," Petrucci said. "But the organization and the instrumentation is that of a metal rock band. That's kind of more of the balance that keeps us unique and defines our sound."

Given the excitement the band feels about A Dramatic Turn of Events, it's no surprise that Dream Theater has been playing a good chunk of new material in concerts.

"I love playing new music," Petrucci said. "It's the latest thing that you did. You're so psyched about it. Especially in this case this is the music that [new drummer] Mike Mangini has recorded, so it's great to play the music that we wrote and recorded with him." •

Dream Theater feat. Crimson ProjeKct

7:30pm Thu, July 6
Majestic Theatre
224 E Houston
(800) 745-3000

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