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Dream Theater - On The Backs Of Angels - 80%

ConorFynes, December 12th, 2011

It's finally happening. Earlier today, Roadrunner Records released the first single for the upcoming Dream Theater album, entitled 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events'. With Mike Portnoy having left the band late last year and a new drummer taking his place, there is great anticipation to hear what this new incarnation of Dream Theater sounds like. Although fake leaks aplenty were circling the internet, 'On The Backs Of Angels' is the first we get to hear of the real thing, and coming from someone who has been a huge fan of the band for the better part of a decade, the single has not disappointed. At nearly nine minutes in length, 'On The Backs Of Angels' really isn't what I would normally think of when it comes to a single. And going with the territory, there are plenty of instrumental sections for the band to really strut their stuff with the new drummer, Mike Mangini. Although the music here is nothing new for Dream Theater, I have not been disappointed; this song is excellent.

It begins with some proggy mellow guitars that lead the song into something much heavier; a nearly symphonic progressive metal that really underlines the dark sounds the band has started gravitating towards in order to compete with other bands. Instrumentally, the band is in top form here, and its much what one would come to expect of this band. The real focus here is on Petrucci and Rudess, who have quite a few moments to the two of them where they really shred, but it all feels intentioned and composed, rather than shallow technicality like many of the band's detractors would attest to. Coming as a bit of a disappointment is Mike Mangini's drum performance here. Although the drums were written by Petrucci, Mangini's performance doesn't feel like anything particularly excellent here, save for some interesting accents he makes towards the introduction of the song. Vocally, James LaBrie's voice begins somewhat blandly, but it makes up for it later in the song where he takes control of a brilliant chorus, and some very effective harmonies here and there.

'On The Backs Of Angels' is a very promising start to the upcoming record, and now that the time is getting so close, I'm really beginning to feel excitement for this.

In familiar crosshairs. - 75%

hells_unicorn, September 23rd, 2011

Angels are often misunderstood when subject to modern interpretation, too often seen simply as a more forbidding version of a pixie or sylph, conveniently rendered in a Greek/Roman toga when not presented bare skinned. But this is not the biblical definition, though a human-like manifestation might be presupposed given their interaction with people in scriptural accounts. The biblical angel is merely a messenger, an emissary of supernatural consequence that usually brings about a world-changing message by either word of force. And either on purpose or by freak accident, Dream Theater managed to wander almost exclusively into the less commonly alluded nature of said heavenly creature.

While hardly the most awe inspiring or outright brilliant thing put forth by this long time New York progressive outfit, "On The Backs Of Angels" has all of the right ingredients to bridge the gap between newer and older fans. The bleak, politically charged lyrics are definitely a boon for anyone whose gotten into the band since "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence", while the rest of what is going on hearkens back to the early 90s. In fact, while probably not too far off from a number of individual songs that have restated the "Images And Words" template of flashy, virtuosic solos and consonant, melodic themes with the usual rhythmic twists, this song could be chalked up to a poor man's "Pull Me Under". The one thing separating this from the majesty of said song is LaBrie's voice, which has lost a fair amount of its range and punch and sounds all but interchangeable with a few lesser voices that have emulated this band's style for the past 2 decades.

Contrary to popular opinion, often the sum is more than the parts when it comes to truly great bands, and the absence of Mike Portnoy goes virtually unnoticed. Part of it may lay in my personal bias in favor of guitars and keyboards, as well as Petrucci and Rudess in particular, but even when dealing with a complex style such as this, there is much to be said for keeping the beat and not getting carried away, and Mike Mangini displays good care in picking where he puts his fills on here. This is a song built mostly off of a steady groove that evolves gradually into a climactic cascade of ideas, and apart from the auspicious piano solo about 6 minutes in and a few fluid synthesizer motives coming and going, this comes off as a mostly straightforward affair, albeit one that lasts for almost 9 minutes.

One can't help at reflect at the seeming misnomer that progressive rock/metal has become since its inception, as many of the tricks thrown out here are very tried and true. The best way to think of it is that the term has a certain relativity to it depending upon which time period the music draws its greatest influence. At one time, Rush's "2112" was a dangerous new album that broke most of the conventions of rock music, though today this album is referenced by bands including Dream Theater to the point cliche. By the same token, Death's "Scream Bloody Gore" and Emperor's "In The Nightside Eclipse" were of a similar newness in character, yet carried little (if any) resemblance to the original notion of progressive music as it was heard in the 70s. But whatever sound one most often associates with the term, Dream Theater have brought a consistency to their brand that is on full display here.

Dream Theater is back - 85%

TK95, September 16th, 2011

So, a while ago my friend told me that Dream Theater had a new single out. As a huge fan, I rushed to youtube to give it a listen. The first thing you notice is the intro of the song. Very atmospheric arpeggiated intro sounded great. At the point where the synth came in with the choir sound I knew that I was listening to something epic.

The very first line of the song, "Standing at the backs of angels", followed by the epic "We spiral towards disaster" promised a great vocal performance. Vocals remained great until the chorus, which I think is the weakest part of the song. I'm still pretty happy with the vocals, very catchy, always get me singing along.

After the guitar solo I realized that Petrucci had taken the focus off the shredding and is concentrating on the melody. This is great, as my favorite guitar solos from Dream Theater are the slower, melodic solos like Octavarium, Lines in the Sand or Repentance. Otherwise Petrucci's tone is great, fused with Rudess's epic keyboard playing and John Myungs basslines we have the perfect Instrumentation. Only weak part of the instruments are Mangini's percussions, which are pretty basic DT drumming. But that is understandable, him being new to the band.

Overall, this song is perfect for live performances. This really gets the crowd going, It has cool melodies and catchy vocals which are easy to sing along. Only things that prevent me from giving a 100% are the chorus and the percussions. The chorus could have been more epic, It's a mismatch with the rest of the vocal performance. And there could have been more focus on the drumming, especially because they have a new drummer.

So, vocals -5% and percussions -10%, leaving a respectable 85% rating. I still have to say that Dream Theater is back, this sounds better than any of their last four albums, maybe an exception on Octavarium. Can't wait to hear the rest of A Dramatic Turn of Events.