Now the dust has settled on the departure of Mike Portnoy and the rest of Dream Theater proved to capable to deliver a fine record without him, the band moved on to greener pastures with newcomer Mike Mangini. This time around he’s fully integrated in the writing process, so let’s see if his contributions brings the new self titled album (Roadrunner) to the next level.
If anything, Dream Theater feels really like a group effort. With the addition of Mike Mangini the band founds its mojo again and that’s his greatest gift to them and the fans. Not to mention he’s one of the best drummers in the business, which he isn’t afraid to show on tracks like ‘Enigma Machine’ and ‘False Awakening Suite’. However, most of the time Mangini rather chooses to go along with the groove of said song, than to interrupt the overall flow with flashy, yet needless breaks and fills. He really knows when to go full out and when to show restraint, as he aptly shows on ‘Illumination Theory’.
With the exception of the aforementioned 22-minute behemoth ‘Illumination Theory’, most songs on Dream Theater are between 5 and 8 minutes long. This more song-orientated approach is quite a departure from epic 10 to 15 minute compositions that dominated most of Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings. In fact, this album may be the band’s most song oriented effort since Awake and Falling Into Infinity. John Petrucci (guitars) and Jordan Rudess (keyboards) still let it rip on songs like ‘The Enemy Inside’, ‘The Big Picture’ and ‘Along For The Ride’, but their respective contributions actually add weight to the songs and it’s no longer soloing just for the sake of it. Singer James LaBrie has really found his niche, now Mike Portnoy is no longer around to push him around.
Dream Theater may not be as groundbreaking as some of the band’s earlier works, but it does contains enough perks to keep fresh and interesting for both newcomers and longtime fans alike. If anything, this album proves that Mike Mangini fits the band like the proverbial glove. Well done, gents!