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Accepting Disappointment

  • Accepting Disappointment
    October 23, 2011 - 4:50am

    Let me start off by saying that I have been a lifelong fan of Dream Theater. I‘ve had the opportunity to enjoy their unique vision since they were a bar band on Long Island named Majesty. I have their entire discography loaded into my iPod and I’ve seen them in concert dozens of times. I was very sad when I first heard that Mike Portnoy was no longer part of the group, though Mike Mangini is certainly a tremendous drummer and a great choice for a replacement.

    However, I have to admit that I have been steadily losing interest in their music. Don't get me wrong, the level of musicianship is always incredible and I have tremendous respect for them, but their last few records have started to sound the same to me. I've always leaned more toward the lushly-orchestrated side of Dream Theater (which they seem to be abandoning), rather than the heavier side. Usually when I would get a new DT album, it would require about 10 listens before the main themes and melodies would emerge and get stuck in my mind. After listening to this latest album for about a month straight, it has just gotten stale for me. I think that the band used to have a much better balance between what is technically hard to play and what is catchy. After multiple listens, I’ve found that many of the riffs on the new album were becoming tedious and irritating to my ear, often sounding more like guitar picking exercises than musical motifs. Unfortunately, I've kind of felt the same about their last three studio albums, though I tended to overlook my disappointment because of the band's rich history. This last album has really epitomized that disappointed feeling in me.

    I don’t write this easily. Dream Theater has long been one of the few bright spots in a music scene that is mostly barren. I still love their earlier work and revere it as some of the best music ever made; however, they just don’t feel like a vital entity anymore.

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Phrygian Sunshine's picture
on October 23, 2011 - 4:50am

Let me start off by saying that I have been a lifelong fan of Dream Theater. I‘ve had the opportunity to enjoy their unique vision since they were a bar band on Long Island named Majesty. I have their entire discography loaded into my iPod and I’ve seen them in concert dozens of times. I was very sad when I first heard that Mike Portnoy was no longer part of the group, though Mike Mangini is certainly a tremendous drummer and a great choice for a replacement.

However, I have to admit that I have been steadily losing interest in their music. Don't get me wrong, the level of musicianship is always incredible and I have tremendous respect for them, but their last few records have started to sound the same to me. I've always leaned more toward the lushly-orchestrated side of Dream Theater (which they seem to be abandoning), rather than the heavier side. Usually when I would get a new DT album, it would require about 10 listens before the main themes and melodies would emerge and get stuck in my mind. After listening to this latest album for about a month straight, it has just gotten stale for me. I think that the band used to have a much better balance between what is technically hard to play and what is catchy. After multiple listens, I’ve found that many of the riffs on the new album were becoming tedious and irritating to my ear, often sounding more like guitar picking exercises than musical motifs. Unfortunately, I've kind of felt the same about their last three studio albums, though I tended to overlook my disappointment because of the band's rich history. This last album has really epitomized that disappointed feeling in me.

I don’t write this easily. Dream Theater has long been one of the few bright spots in a music scene that is mostly barren. I still love their earlier work and revere it as some of the best music ever made; however, they just don’t feel like a vital entity anymore.

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Asharp's picture

I dig the new album, yet it's clearly not their best. To me, it's simply not dark enough and appears far too busy rhythmically where it doesn't need to be. OK..I get it, Managini (the new guy) has great chops, yet Portnoy lays it down harder and locks in to the Petrucci's phrasing differently. I hate comparing musicians since every artist portrays a different view on their instrument - for better or worse, yet after a couple of albums, Portnoy fills this role much better as a Dream Theater member.
Also, is it me, or does this new album sound lighter and more predictable? I find the use of too many keys destroys (especially in final track) DT's darkness - metal aspect in context where JP is almost competing with JR for a more heavier Dream Theater sound. (my favs..Black Clouds, Octavarium, Systematic Chaos era ...and Six Degrees)

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

It's been almost two years since I originally posted this thread. Today, I finally got around to steaming "Dream Theater" in its entirety. The sound of the album is fantastic. The mix is like candy to the ear. It may end up being one of the band's very best. Time will tell. Definitely not a disappointment. Congrats on a good release, DT!

Brenomirisola's picture

you gotta be kidding!! You really enjoyed the mixing? doesn't it bother you the electronic drumming with great distortion?? I'm really asking cause it bothers me so much I can't hear the album and I'm trying to make some excuse to my self cause they have always being my favorite band.... (sorry for my English mistakes I'm from Brazil)

unkindercynic's picture

One of their best I hate to disappoint you but not even close. The album is not different from their last few releases. There are moments of DT goodness but overall there is something lacking. The instrumental is the best thing on the album. I think being on Roadrunner label has made the band comfortable releasing the same formula of music wise again and again. Of course the label is ok with that but as a DT fan since the early days the band is lacking creativity and it's a shame since musician wise that are still some of the best at their craft.

Khuller's picture

@jcwhit: Totally,man,you're absolutely right!

jcwhit's picture

Hey, all - well wow I have never really posted to anything but reading all this really got to me for sure. Another life long DT fan here - they can do no wrong - but yes I agree that things have changed recently. The first thing I noticed was when they moved to Roadrunner - seems like the company wanted DT to be more like some of their run-of-the-mill metal bands. I think DT is trying their best to move away from that now - and yes I cannot wait for the next album too. Heaven be praised the growling vocals are gone - I know that has been said a million times already.

I have been a drummer all my life and let me try to sum up briefly what I think folks are hearing from MP to MM. Lets all go back to Ringo - drums is not just about tempo or tech skills but about ADDING to the music - Ringo really had minimal chops but man he could tell where songs needed something musically. I like Mangini a lot but if you listen closely the drums parts are merely reflecting the technical skills and speed of the other musicians. If you listen to Portnoy the fills are adding new things to the songs in the breaks and choruses. Different meters for a few measures - different sounds and style - for me that is why the older stuff was more interesting and honestly I think why many of you (including me) are finding the new stuff a bit more boring. Old quote - you can have a good band with any drummer but to have a great band you need a great drummer. They make it or break it. Anyway - I will shut up now - but go Mangini and as always I will have the new album the first day. I hope what I read from JP is true that they let him loose this time around and that is not just technically but musically brilliant. DT fan forever!!!!

Khuller's picture

You're right,though I'm getting bored with the overall musical direction, and especially Mangini's lame uninteresting drumming,that lacks Portnoy's creativity,especially on A Dramatic Turn Of Events.

countess_drummer's picture

@Wolfpacker96:

Tracks 4 - 9 on Events album is fantastic, can't stop listening to it!!!!!!!

Green Lantern's picture

@Phrygian Sunshine: Oh, sorry about that. I didn't mean to imply that it has to be either/or. I just believe that DT haven't been composing with the intention of creating art for the last few albums. I agree that a lot of their music is both artistic and entertaining.

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@Green Lantern: Hmm. I'm not sure that I agree with the whole art vs entertainment idea. "Scenes from a Memory" is one of DT's crowning artistic achievements, yet to listen to it from beginning to end with headphones on is also about as good a time as one can have while listening to music. It's artistic and entertaining.

Green Lantern's picture

As has been stated already, you just can't please every fan. However, I have to agree with phrygian sunshine. DT seems a lot less interested in creating art, and more interested in just creating entertainment nowadays. I too, was completely obsessed with everything from awake to six degrees, and although train of thought and octavarium were also great albums, everything after that I found rather difficult to enjoy. They used to be so innovative, now it feels like they're constantly rehashing elements that seemed to work in the past.

...and to this day, I wish for another liquid tension experiment.

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@Ytsejam58: Hi Ytse. The link is right here on this website. It's under "NEWS." Just scroll down and you'll see Mike Mangini Interview: DT Norway.

Ytsejam58's picture

@Phrygian Sunshine: do you have a youtube link to it? I'd like to see it.

Jorge Armando's picture

Quote:

"I do agree with someone above who said this album felt safe. It didn't really break any new ground for DT."

There you go. After reading this post for the 15th time, I decided to make a little "deep study" on DT's last production. I've listened to ADTOE again, and again, and again trying to find a definition for it after comparing it against "Images", one of the fans' favourites and "Systematic chaos", the one I enjoy the most lately. "Safe" seems about right. Great call on calling it!!!

[/quote]

Hvilsted's picture

I actually registred just to say the following:

When ADTOE came out I was aware that it would be another drumming style, and I accept that.

But I really feel that the drum bus should have been like 2 dB higher during mix-down. The drums just don't cut through the mix properly. The double kicks are hard to hear and it's a shame - because there really are some nice combinations.

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@Ytsejam58: I think Mangini says it best in his Norway interview. Cool interview there.

Thoughts's picture

I definitely look forward to MM's full participation in the writing process too.

One thing that I have noticed is that the overall tempo has increased in the instrumental sections and in the faster songs overall. Along with this is a profusion of notes. It is almost like DT keeps trying to outdo itself technically as the primary way of progressing. I think OTBOA is a good example. It almost feels like there is too much going on, maybe like less would have been more. I have also thought at times that they play so fast that it is difficult to really digest or distinguish what they are doing. This is not a feeling that occurs pre 6DOIT.

I did like there was a little more diversity and some slower tempo songs on ADTOE. I think it helps make it one of their best in awhile.

I do agree with someone above who said this album felt safe. It didn't really break any new ground for DT.

Ytsejam58's picture

@Phrygian Sunshine: I'm kind of thinking of Avenged Sevenfold's Nightmare album. Portnoy had his own parts in the music but mostly he was playing to what The Rev had already set up. But if he had stayed I'm sure it would have sounded like a Portnoy's style. I agree with you, I would love to hear Mangini's full potential on an upcoming album, whenever it may come. Hope it's soon

Ytsejam58's picture

@Sleeper1928: I'm a drummer too and there are things I love about both drummers. Mangini is a technigal genius and a lot of his stuff just boggles my mind. I can't even cover those songs yet. But I agree with you, Portnoy had more soul in it.
Compared to Black Clouds and Silver Linings, (except The Count of Tuscany, cuz I love that song so much) I think the instrumental sections are masterpieces.
12 Part suite: I've never heard them all together, I get what they were trying to do. They said in the Systematic Chaos Dvd that they wanted to have a breather song, like how Goodnight Kiss was in Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence or Through her Eyes in Metropolis Pt. 2. but as good and important as those songs are, they just don't do it for me. I'm a kind of guy where I like all of the songs on an album to be awesome, like on When Dream and Day Unite, all of the songs were progy and on the whole time. Images and Words had a slow song (Waiting for Sleep) but I freakin love that song to death. It's short, sweet, and so much fun to play on piano. (I don't. my brother does)

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@STS: I must say, even though I'm older now, I still feel those moments of musical "magic" now and then, though they are much less frequent than they were in my teenage years. I actually originally posted this thread before Rush had released "Clockwork Angels." I think it is an excellent album and I listened to it a lot. Also, Steven Wilson's latest effort is about as good an album as I've ever heard. I haven't taken it out of my CD player since it came out and I can honestly say that I like it as much as anything that I grew up listening to. I was giddy when I went to the concert. I am definitely feeling the "magic" over that one.

Like you, I also have high hopes about DT's next album. I'm definitely going into it with the thought that I'm going to like it. Hopefully, the magic will be there.

STS's picture

@Phrygian Sunshine:
I agree with your assessment of Rush before and after Signals. I still love the late-70s prog-era Rush today like I did back then. But as much as I try to like most of their stuff since then, I can't. Different Rush fans like their later stuff more, so Rush has clearly evolved and thrived in their career regardless of my preferences. I suspect the "magic" is a subjective thing, probably whatever we decide we like in our formative teenage years that gets hardwired for the rest of our lives. New magic for new teenagers each decade?

There may be big differences with the story of Dream Theater's evolution. 1) There's no major change in the industry impacting DT like the emergence of MTV (visual production emphasis, short songs) that clearly affected Rush after their newfound commercial success. 2) Dream Theater seems to be eternally comfortable having nearly no "radio hits" while living off a cult following. 3) The band has more people and more personnel changes over time. So I'm not sure how closely the DT story will track Rush.

JP reportedly loves Hemispheres, and Fragile, but also Master of Puppets. All very cool! I am probably about JP's age, and I can imagine him agreeing with me that most 80s rock (e.g. glam metal) was commercialized, formulaic, silly garbage. Maybe John was like me in that he found a second wave of music he liked later in life, like Metallica. I like metal selectively... a lot of metal is pretty mindless. I like what I hear in the fusion of influences in DT, always very "mindful". I like the tension between the metallic edge and the melodic beauty and the adventurous 70s prog spirit.

I don't dislike ADTOE but find that the songs blur together and nothing stands out like a few past masterpieces. I don't know if it is the beginning of a trend, since it is the first output without the founding drummer. (Metallica started boring me, then Death Magnetic broke that trend.) We'll have to reserve judgment for a few more albums. Some of what I don't like in ADTOE also follows a trend in the few albums earlier that just seemed like a kind of creative dry spell setting in... some riffs a bit repetitive or over-complicated, lyrics becoming less heartfelt and more contrived, singing and vocal melody a little brooding, fewer songs that are upbeat and crisp and energetic, and maybe too much "symphonic sound" sometimes.

Exemplifying some of these points, I am not in love with Falling into Infinity, but to me the best song on it is Just Let Me Breathe. Its riff is not that complex but it is intense and edgy and has just enough metal tone. The singing is rythmic and exciting and "sounds like rock". The guitar solos are very cool and innovative. Sometimes simpler may be better. But I love the epics too. Octavarium is awesome and breathtaking. The key to it is the progression of moods and the cohesiveness of a story within it. The guitar about 3/4 into it is also mind-blowing, not just in showcasing JP's brilliance but also the way it fits seamlessly in the whole composition. I look forward to more of both types of song.

I still have high hopes and expect DT to challenge themselves and keep us interested far into the future.

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@Ytsejam58: I am of the thinking that the forthcoming album will be sort of the second introduction to Mike Mangini. The music on ADTOE was composed with Mike Portnoy's hard-hitting style in mind. Mangini seems to be a much more dynamic and even subtle drummer. Hopefully, those qualities will shine on the next record.

George Elliot's picture

Wow, this has been such an awesome discussion! I don't post all that often because mostly I just like to read other folks comments. However, this time I just couldn't resist.

I have commented about ADTOE before, but that was months ago and my perspective has changed a little since then. Keep in mind as you read this that I am a fairly new DT fan and I probably lack the depth of perspective some of you veterans have. I am still not a fan of the mixing job. For me it lacks that edge I like when I listen to metal. It sounds like someone put a powder puff all over the songs. This doesn't bother me as much as it used to though. When I first got the album I instantly liked all the heavier songs (except LNF) on the album and none of the ballads. Then, after a few months, my interest in Outcry waned till I no longer listened to it at all but I gained an interest in BtS. A few more months went by and I started to loose a little interest in BitS but I begun to gain an interest in LNF. Thant interest grew till I decided that it was among my most favorite of all DT songs and now I just can't get enough of it. One night I was listening to the album while I was falling asleep and the last song I remember listening to was TitL. Right before I zonked off for good I had an epiphany and suddenly "got" the song and had this wonderful serene feeling as I lost consciousness. I now really like the song. FfH still fails to catch my interest and for a while I considered it DT's worst song. I don't carry that opinion anymore but I still don't care for it. Now, I love all the songs except FfH and Outcry, but considering my evolving listening experience and appreciation for the album, I expect that to change.

Overall, I think ADToE is a really good album with a good mix of heaviness, complexity, beautiful melodies and epic transcendency, which are all trade marks of TD. I especially like it lyrically. Considering my changing opinion since its release, I can certainly understand others unfavorable opinions. Anyway, that is my two cents.

Overall I really like the album and I consider it a big step in the right direction for the band

Sleeper1928's picture

@Ytsejam58: I know what you're saying about Mangini. I noticed, too, that there's just some....soulfulness missing. But you know what - I've learned to embrace that. ADTOE is a different monster than other DT albums. On this one, JP just took the f*** over. And don't get me wrong - I'm a drummer. The reason I became addicted to DT was Mike Portnoy, and he's the reason I kept listening all this time.

But Mangini....you can't deny his technical genius. And for him to lack the kind of things MP had on previous albums was a golden opportunity for some heart-melting stuff. Again, JP took over this album, but listening to it, I have a new appreciation for everything else DT stands for. It was rough, going through what they had to, and I think they definitely captured that feeling with the guitar work on the album.

About the 12-Step suite: You ever seen them do it all?

Ytsejam58's picture

I kind of have mixed feelings about Mike Mangini's addition to the band. His playing during verses and choruses are kind of slow and boring to listen to (except for Breaking all Illusions, the whole thing is crazy) but it contrasts greatly with the intense playing during intros, bridges, instrumentals, ect... I think its mostly because the drum part came from Petrucci's mind. I think on their next album, it will be more of Mangini's ideas and hopefully be more creative.
With Black Clouds.... I didn't like that album. the whole thing was dark and long with 4 over 10 min songs. They didn't impress me much except for The Count of Tuscany. It surprised me that the cover album included with it inspired me more than the album did.
With Systematic Chaos, I thought that was a very amazing album with the exception of Repentance. Don't get me wrong, I loved what mike was doing with the whole 12 part suite, but that song just bored me. The rest of them i loved.
I have good hopes for the newest album and for the upcoming live album... I'd like to hear new mikes renditions of old mikes parts.

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@Jorge Armando: Hi Jorge! I just checked out the guitar video. Yes, I think it's safe to say that I would dig the guitar festival. Fingerstyle/classical guitar is right up my alley.

It's been a busy week here. The performance went really great on Monday. I'm going to it up on YouTube pretty soon. Then, I went to my son's 4th Grade concert yesterday. Busy, but really fun times.

Hope all is well. Cheers!

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@Jorge Armando: Ah, I just checked out the video about Morelia! Fantastic. I love the sight of all of that classic art and architecture. You're lucky to live in such a beautiful place. The music that accompanied the vid was perfect. It really made me want to go on an adventure.

I'll check out the other video soon. Tonight's the performance. Wish me luck! Cheers!

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@Jorge Armando: Ah excellent! I'm going to check out these videos tonight when I have time sit down and enjoy them. I'll let you know what I think. Thanks for sharing.

Jorge Armando's picture

@Phrygian Sunshine: Two links for you. The first one is from my home city, Morelia. On the top go to "Idiomas" and change it to english, of course. There's a pretty cool video in a tiny window. Watch it. Browse and enjoy:

http://www.visitmexico.com/en/morelia

The second one is a link to a video. Miguel Castellanos, from Mexico playing Yuri Nilo's Prelude. This video will give you a good idea as to what kind of festival this is. There are also guitars from Venezuela, The Czech Republic, Italy and many other countries:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHA-LhWjYlc

Enjoy your performance!!!

Phrygian Sunshine's picture

@Jorge Armando: Morelia sounds fabulous. Guitar festival? Have you gone to one? What is it like? It definitely sounds like something that would interest me.

Everything here is going great. Beautiful weather today. The nicest yet this year. I'm getting very excited about another performance that I have to give on Monday. An acting showcase. I'll be portraying a detective in a funny one-act play. Most of my weekend will be dedicated to rehearsing. I'm also hoping to get to see the latest Iron Man film as well this weekend. We'll see. Cheers!

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