Why does everything DT records have to be dark? I think Portnoy was keeping this band too dark and moody. It's about expressive creativity and musicianship. There are ten billion lesser bands out there who are happy with their severe lyrics and murky, swampy guitar riffs all on baritone guitars tuned down to B-flat. Every now and then, something like "The Dark Eternal Night" or "A Nightmare to Remember" is great, but, damn, I don't think the rest of the band has the emotional demons that Portnoy does. It just doesn't seem like he was speaking for the rest of them in his writing, which is probably why they didn't fight very hard to keep him. I found the new album to be cleansing; as if it is what DT has always wanted to be, but couldn't with Portnoy. Mangini kills Portnoy on the kit, and is more creative and expressive in his playing. Mangini intertwines his playing into the rest of the music and makes the drum sound more "musical" than I've ever heard. Portnoy just beat the hell out of them. Portnoy was a personality. Mangini is a musician. Portnoy is a great guy and an outstanding drummer, but he was drifting too far apart, creatively, from the rest of the band. What's more, I believe the song "Illumination Theory" to be DT's most defining song. If someone were to ask me to choose one DT that represented the band the best, it would be "Illumination Theory."
I don't think I could disagree more emphatically. Portnoy made this band too dark. I don't mind "dark" every now and then (The Dark Eternal Night is a magnum punch to the face), but this band is best when it is allows melodies to flow into the music. This band wants to be orchestral and sweeping. Portnoy kept making sure it was murky and dank. Hey, that's fine for some things, but not Dream Theater. This band is too talented to be mired and limited. Mangini has not only brought with him a new creative energy, but he has also indirectly allowed them to unshackle themselves from murk and really explore the more symphonic side of their vision.
ADTOE and DT are phenomenal albums, each with immediately catchy hooks. When I first listened to ADTOE, I was at work plugging away at Excel. I was tapping my toe and getting into it. When "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" started, I thought it was great, and then when the chorus hit with those gut ripping chord changes, I *literally* stopped everything I was doing and just stared into space as the song played. It completely froze me. And let me tell you something else: a song has not brought tears to my eyes in years. That is, until I first heard "Illumination Theory." I was entranced from the very beginning. The soaring crescendo of the last movement of that piece had me misty eyed and dizzy. Nothing has elicited that kind of emotion from me in years. I don't think a song like "Illumination Theory" was even possible under Portnoy. He would have either shot it down or smeared sh!t all over it to turn it into something about death or addiction.
Good riddance, Portnoy. Your contributions are appreciated, but I am glad James, John, John and Jordan called your bluff and let you walk out. Welcome Mike. You rock my world and this band more than anyone else could. I hope DT keeps making albums like ADTOE and DT because they haven't been this inspiring in years.