Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band formed in 1985 under the name Majesty by John Petrucci, John Myung and Mike Portnoy while they attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. They subsequently dropped out of their studies to concentrate further on the band that would eventually become Dream Theater. Though a number of lineup changes followed, the three original members remained together until September 8, 2010, when Portnoy left the band and he was replaced several months later by Mike Mangini. James LaBrie has been the lead singer of Dream Theater since 1991, replacing Charlie Dominici who had left the band two years earlier. Dream Theater’s first keyboardist, Kevin Moore, left the band after three albums and was replaced by Derek Sherinian in 1995 after a period of touring. After one album with Sherinian, the band replaced him with current keyboardist Jordan Rudess in 1999.
To date, Dream Theater has released fourteen studio albums. Their first album, When Dream and Day Unite, was released in 1989 and is the only record to feature Dominici on vocals. The band’s highest-selling release is their second album Images and Words (1992), which reached No. 61 on the Billboard 200 chart. Both the albums Awake (1994) and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002) also entered the charts at No. 32 and No. 46, respectively, and received critical acclaim. Their fifth album, Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999), was ranked number 95 on the October 2006 issue of Guitar World magazine’s list of The greatest 100 guitar albums of all time. It is ranked as the 15th Greatest Concept Album as of March 2003 by Classic Rock Magazine.
As of 2018, Dream Theater has sold over 12 million records worldwide and has received two Grammy Award nominations. Along with Queensrÿche and Fates Warning, the band has been referred to as one of the “big three” of the progressive metal genre, responsible for its development and popularization.
Dream Theater was formed in Massachusetts in 1985 when guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and drummer Mike Portnoy decided to form a band while attending the Berklee College of Music. The trio started by covering Rush and Iron Maiden songs in the rehearsal rooms at Berklee.
Myung, Petrucci, and Portnoy joined together on the name Majesty for their newly formed group. According to The Score So Far… documentary, they were waiting in line for tickets to a Rush concert at the Berklee Performance Center while listening to the band on a boom box. Portnoy commented that the ending of the song “Bastille Day” (from the album Caress of Steel) sounded “majestic”. It was then decided that Majesty would be the band’s name.
The trio then set out to fill the remaining positions in the group. Petrucci asked his high school bandmate Kevin Moore to play the keyboard. After he accepted the position, another friend from home, Chris Collins, was recruited as lead vocalist after band members heard him sing a cover of “Queen of the Reich” by Queensrÿche. During this time, Portnoy, Petrucci, and Myung’s hectic schedules forced them to abandon their studies to concentrate on their music, as they did not feel they could learn more in college. Moore also left his college, SUNY Fredonia, to concentrate on the band.
The beginning months of 1986 were filled with various concert dates in and around the New York City area. During this time, the band recorded a collection of demos, titled The Majesty Demos. The initial run of 1,000 sold out within six months, and dubbed copies of the cassette became popular within the progressive metal scene. The Majesty Demos are still available in their original tape format today, despite being released officially on CD, through Mike Portnoy’s YtseJam Records.
In November 1986, after a few months of writing and performing together, Chris Collins was fired. After a year of trying to find a replacement, Charlie Dominici, who was far older and more experienced than anyone else in the band, successfully auditioned for the group. With the stability that Dominici’s appointment brought to Majesty, they began to increase the number of shows played in the New York City area, gaining a considerable amount of exposure.
Shortly after hiring Dominici, a Las Vegas group also named Majesty threatened legal action for intellectual property infringement related to the use of their name, so the band was forced to adopt a new moniker. Various possibilities were proposed and tested, among them Glasser, Magus, and M1, which were all rejected, though the band did go as Glasser for about a week, with poor reactions from fans. Eventually, Portnoy’s father suggested the name Dream Theater, the name of a small theater in Monterey, California, and the name stuck.
When Dream and Day Unite (1988–1990)
With their new name and band stability, Dream Theater concentrated on writing more material while playing more concerts in New York and in neighboring states. This eventually attracted the attention of Mechanic Records, a division of MCA. Dream Theater signed their first record contract with Mechanic on June 23, 1988 and set out to record their debut album. The band recorded the album at Kajem Victory Studios in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. Recording the basic tracks took about 10 days, and the entire album was completed in about 3 weeks.
When Dream and Day Unite was released in 1989 to far less fanfare than the band had anticipated. Mechanic ended up breaking the majority of the financial promises they had made to Dream Theater prior to signing their contract, so the band was restricted to playing around New York City. The promotional tour for the album consisted of just five concerts, all of which were relatively local. Their first show was at Sundance in Bay Shore, New York opening for the classic rock power trio Zebra.
After the fourth show, Charlie Dominici was let go because the band was starting to feel the limitations of his voice based upon the vocal style they wanted. The band was looking for a singer with a style more like Bruce Dickinson or Geoff Tate, and Dominici’s stage presence was not what they wanted for a front man. Shortly after, however, the band Marillion asked Dream Theater to open for them at a gig at the Ritz in New York, so Dominici was given the opportunity to perform one last time. It would be another two years before Dream Theater had a replacement vocalist.
Addition of James LaBrie and Images and Words (1991–1993)
Following Dominici’s departure, Dream Theater fought successfully to be released from their contract with Mechanic, and set about auditioning singers and writing material for their next album. In their search for a new singer, they auditioned over 200 people, among them former Fates Warning front man John Arch. John ultimately decided that his personal commitments were more important and he opted not to join the band. On June 9, 1990, at a gig at Sundance in Bay Shore, New York, Dream Theater introduced Steve Stone as their new singer after playing half the set as an instrumental band. Stone had successfully recorded demos with Dream Theater, but he was fired following a single, ill-fated live performance. According to Mike Portnoy, Stone moved around the stage in a rather odd manner, seemingly doing a bad impression of Bruce Dickinson. Additionally, he shouted “Scream for me Long Beach!” several times throughout the show (Dickinson can be heard saying this on Iron Maiden’s live album Live After Death), although they were actually performing in Bay Shore. The audience was immediately turned off by the new singer. It was five months before Dream Theater played another show, this time all-instrumental (under the name YtseJam). Until 1991, the band remained focused in an attempt to hire another singer and writing additional music. It was during this period that they wrote the majority of what would become Images and Words (1992).
In January 1991, the band received a demo tape from Kevin James LaBrie, of glam metal band Winter Rose. The band had received the tape just before they were about to commit to another singer. The band was so impressed by his demo that he was flown from Canada to New York for an audition. LaBrie jammed on three songs with the band, and was immediately hired to fill the vocalist position. Once recruited, LaBrie decided to drop his first name to avoid confusion with the other Kevin in the band. For the next few months, the band returned to playing live shows (still mostly around NYC), while working on vocal parts for the music written before acquiring LaBrie. Derek Shulman and Atco Records (now East West), a division of Elektra Records, signed Dream Theater to a seven-album contract based on a three-song demo (later made available as “The Atco Demos” through the Dream Theater fan club).
The first album to be recorded under their new record contract was Images and Words (1992). For promotion, the label released a CD Single and video clip for the song “Another Day“, but neither made significant commercial impact. The song “Pull Me Under“, however, managed to garner a high level of radio airplay without any organized promotion from the band or their label. In response, ATCO produced a video clip for “Pull Me Under”, which saw heavy rotation on MTV. A third video clip was produced for “Take the Time“, but it was not nearly as successful as “Pull Me Under”.
The success of “Pull Me Under”, combined with relentless touring throughout the U.S. and Japan, caused Images and Words to achieve gold record certification in the States and platinum status in Japan. A tour of Europe followed in 1993, which included a show at London‘s famed Marquee Club. The show was recorded and released as Live at the Marquee, Dream Theater’s first official live album. Additionally, a video compilation of their Japanese concerts (mixed in with documentary-style footage of the off-stage portion of the tour) was released as Images and Words: Live in Tokyo.
Awake and Kevin Moore’s departure (1994–1995)
Eager to work on fresh material, Dream Theater retreated to the studio in May 1994. Awake, Dream Theater’s third studio album, was released on October 4, 1994 amidst a storm of fan controversy. Shortly before the album was mixed, Moore had announced to the rest of the band that he would be quitting Dream Theater to concentrate on his own musical interests, since he was no longer interested in touring or the style of music which Dream Theater performed. As a result, the band had to scramble to find a replacement keyboardist before a tour could be considered.
Former Yngwie Malmsteen/Dio keyboardist Jens Johansson, who would go on to become a member of Stratovarius, was among the biggest names to audition, but the band members were eager to fill the position with keyboardist Jordan Rudess. Portnoy and Petrucci had come across Rudess in Keyboard Magazine, where he was recognized as “best new talent” in the readers’ poll. The two invited him to play a trial gig with the band at the Concrete Foundations Forum in Burbank, California. Although the show was a success, and Rudess was asked to fill the keyboardist position permanently, he opted to tour with The Dixie Dregs instead, since it granted him more personal latitude. Dream Theater hired fellow Berklee alumnus Derek Sherinian, who had previously toured and recorded with Alice Cooper and KISS, to fill in for the Waking Up the World Tour. By the conclusion of the tour, the band decided to take Sherinian on as Moore’s full-time replacement.
A Change of Seasons, Falling into Infinity (1995–1998)
Once again finding themselves with a new member, the band did not immediately start working on new material. Fans around the world, united on the YtseJam Mailing List (the most popular form of communication between Dream Theater fans at that point), had begun to put pressure on the band to officially release the song “A Change of Seasons“. This had been written in 1989 and was intended to be a part of Images and Words, but at almost 17 minutes, it was deemed too long for studio placement. It had nevertheless been performed live by the band, who continued to revise it in the years leading up to 1995.
The petition was successful, and the group entered BearTracks Studios in New York in May 1995 to rewrite and record the now 23-minute-long song with Sherinian contributing significantly to the final product. The band released A Change of Seasons as an EP along with a collection of cover songs from a live show recorded at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London earlier that year.
After a brief run of small concerts and a short break, the band released a special Christmas CD through their official fan club, consisting of rare live tracks recorded during the band’s early years. They continued releasing a new CD each Christmas until 2005.
Meanwhile, there were several changes at East West, and Dream Theater’s main contact within the label was fired. As a result, the new team at the company were unaccustomed to the relationship Dream Theater had with former East West personnel, and they pressured them to write an album that was more accessible. In mid-1997, they entered the studio to write their next album. In addition to pressuring the band to adopt a more mainstream sound, East West recruited writer/producer Desmond Child to work with Petrucci on polishing the lyrics to his song “You or Me”. The whole band substantially reworked the song, and it appeared on the album as “You Not Me” with a chorus that bore little resemblance to the original. Child also had a noticeable impact on the album, with a shift towards less complex and more radio-friendly compositions.
The band wrote almost two CDs worth of material, including a 20-minute-long follow-up to the Images and Words song “Metropolis–Part I: The Miracle and the Sleeper”. The label, however, did not allow the release of a double album because it felt that a 140-minute record would not be well received by the general public. James LaBrie also felt that the CD should be a single disc. The unused songs were later released in the Ytsejam Records release The Falling into Infinity Demos.
The material that made it onto the album proper was released as Falling into Infinity, which received a mixed reception from fans who were more familiar with the band’s earlier sound. While the album was moderately progressive-sounding, tracks such as “Hollow Years” and “You Not Me” prompted some to believe it was the dawn of a new, mainstream-sounding Dream Theater. Overall, the album was both a critical and commercial disappointment. Although Portnoy did not speak out publicly at the time, he later revealed in the 2004 DVD commentary for 5 Years in a Livetime, that he had been so discouraged during this period that he had considered disbanding Dream Theater altogether.
During the European leg of the Touring Into Infinity world tour, two shows were recorded for a live album titled Once in a LIVEtime, in France and The Netherlands. The album was released at around the same time as the video 5 Years in a Livetime, which covered the years from Kevin Moore’s departure to the Falling into Infinity promotional tour.
Derek Sherinian’s departure, addition of Jordan Rudess, and Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999–2000)
In 1997, Magna Carta Records‘ Mike Varney invited Portnoy to assemble a progressive ‘supergroup‘ to work on an album, which would become the first in a long string of side-projects for the members of Dream Theater. The lineup consisted of Portnoy on drums, Petrucci on guitar, Tony Levin on bass, and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, who had finished with the Dixie Dregs. The band assumed the name Liquid Tension Experiment, and would act as a medium through which Portnoy and Petrucci could once again court Rudess to join Dream Theater. In 1999, he accepted an offer to become the third full-time Dream Theater keyboardist, replacing Sherinian.
With yet another new member, Dream Theater entered BearTracks Studio once again to write and record their next album. As a result of an ultimatum from Portnoy, the label gave the band complete creative control. The band began by revisiting the follow-up to “Metropolis–Part I”, which had been partially written during the Falling into Infinity sessions but which had not been completed or used on that album. They decided to expand the 21-minute song into a complete concept album, with a story revolving around themes such as reincarnation, murder and betrayal. To avoid stirring up the fan base, a tight veil of secrecy enveloped the writing and recording process. The only things fans were privy to prior to its release were a track list that had been leaked against the band’s wishes, and a release date. In 1999, Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory was released to high critical acclaim, being lauded as the band’s masterpiece, despite only reaching No. 73 on the US album chart.
The album was mixed by David Bottrill, but only a few of his mixes made it on the final album. The bulk was remixed by Kevin Shirley, who had produced Falling into Infinity. The rest of the mixes can be heard in the band’s official bootleg The Making of Scenes from a Memory.
The subsequent Metropolis 2000 world tour was by far their largest to date, and took over a year to complete. The concerts reflected the theatrical aspect of the album, with the first half of each show comprising the entire Scenes From a Memory album accompanied by a film showing dramatized portions of the story projected onto a video screen behind the stage. For the last date of the North American leg, at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, actors were hired to play characters in the story, and a gospel choir was enlisted to perform in some sections of the performance. The show was filmed and eventually released in early 2001 as the band’s first DVD release, Metropolis 2000: Scenes from New York, which was certified Gold in the US on November 8, 2002.
Since several songs from the second half of the four-hour show had to be cut from the DVD to save space, the band also released the full show on the live CD Live Scenes from New York. The original cover depicted one of Dream Theater’s early logos (the Images and Words-era burning heart, modeled on the Sacred Heart of Christ) modified to show an apple (as in “Big Apple“) instead of the heart, and the New York skyline, including the twin towers of the World Trade Center, in the flame above it. In an unfortunate coincidence, the album was released on the same date as the September 11 attacks. The album was quickly recalled by the band and was re-released with revised artwork later, although the few copies which were sold with the original artwork have since become rare collector’s items.
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2001–2002)
Putting the whole ordeal behind them, Dream Theater once again entered BearTracks Studios to record their sixth studio album. Four years after they first petitioned East West to allow them to release a double album, they finally got their chance with Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The first disc consisted of five tracks of 7–13 minutes in length, and the second disc was devoted entirely to the 42-minute title track, which remains to date the longest song Dream Theater has written. Many of the song’s melodies and musical themes originated in an instrumental piece, written by Rudess, which would eventually become the song’s “Overture”. Those themes were then expanded by the rest of the band to form individual chapters in a complete story.
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence was very well received by critics and the press. It was the most publicized of Dream Theater’s albums since Awake, debuting on the Billboard charts at No. 46 and the Billboard Internet charts at No. 1. The subsequent world tour included a select few special “album cover” gigs (see Cover songs section, below), in which they played Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast in their entirety.
Train of Thought (2003–2004)
In 2003, Dream Theater entered the studio to write and record another album. Unlike Scenes from a Memory, which had been written and recorded simultaneously in the studio, the band took a different approach by setting aside three weeks for writing prior to recording. In the middle of the recording sessions for the album, a special tour with two other progressive metal bands, Queensrÿche and Fates Warning, was undertaken in North America. Referred to in the band’s promotional material as the “Escape from the Studio American tour”, the tour featured Queensrÿche and Dream Theater as co-headlining acts with Fates Warning performing supporting act duties. As a finale for each concert there was an extended encore in which both Dream Theater and Queensrÿche performed together on stage simultaneously, often playing cover songs.
At the completion of the tour, Dream Theater returned to the studio to finish the recording of their seventh album, Train of Thought. In contrast to the extended songs of their previous album, the band aimed to write a more song-oriented album, inspired in part by covering the Master of Puppets and Number of the Beast albums on their previous concert tour. Although the album was a critical success, its more straightforward metal sound alienated many of the band’s existing fans, who had been attracted by the band’s roots in progressive rock. During this time they also re-released their first two live videos for the first time on DVD, titled “Images and Words: Live in Tokyo/5 Years in a Livetime” on June 29, 2004, through Rhino Records. This release was certified Platinum on March 22, 2006.
Another world tour followed, named Train of Thought Tour. A modest North American tour was completed by the two bands, which Dream Theater supported Yes, a band which had been a major influence on their own musical style. After which Dream Theater continued to tour the world with their so-called “An Evening With Dream Theater” shows. The latter were captured in another live CD/DVD release, recorded at the famous Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on their Train of Thought Tour. Live at Budokan was released on October 5, 2004, and was certified Platinum in the US on January 26, 2005.
After their Train of Thought promotional tour, Dream Theater entered the Hit Factory studios in NYC to record their eighth album. They would in fact become the final group to use the famous studio, which closed on April 1, 2005.
Octavarium was released on June 7, 2005, and took the band’s sound in yet another new direction. Its eight songs included a continuation of Portnoy’s “Twelve-step” saga (“The Root of All Evil”, steps 6–7 in the 12-step plan), as well as the title track, a musically versatile 24 minute epic rivaling “A Change of Seasons”. Octavarium received mixed reviews from fans and has been the subject of spirited debate. Octavarium was the last album under their seven-album deal with Elektra Records, which had inherited the contract upon its absorption of EastWest Records.
Dream Theater started the Octavarium Tour extensively throughout 2005 and 2006 to celebrate their 20th Anniversary as a band, including a headlining spot on Gigantour alongside Megadeth and put together by frontman Dave Mustaine, also featuring Fear Factory, Nevermore and Symphony X. During a show on August 2, 2005 in Dallas, the band paid tribute to Pantera‘s late guitarist Dimebag Darrell by performing the song “Cemetery Gates” as an encore. In addition was the unexpected appearance of fellow musicians Russell Allen (Symphony X vocalist), Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory vocalist) and Dave Mustaine (Megadeth vocalist/guitarist), who joined the band on stage to perform parts of the song.
Dream Theater later departed from Gigantour 2005 a few dates before it ended and continued on with their own series of concerts, several of which were recorded and released for the band’s fanclubs. The 20th anniversary tour concluded with a show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on April 1, 2006. Though the show had minimal promotion, it was sold out days after tickets were made available. This show, which was recorded for a CD/DVD called Score released on August 29, 2006 through Rhino Records, featured songs from the band’s entire history, as well a second half accompanied by a full symphony orchestra (the “Octavarium Orchestra”). This release was the band’s third Live DVD release to be certified Platinum in the US on October 11, 2006.
Systematic Chaos and Greatest Hit (…And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs) (2006–2008)
For the first time in their career, the band decided to take the summer off after their show at Radio City Music Hall. In September 2006, Dream Theater entered Avatar Studios to record their follow-up to Octavarium with legendary studio engineer Paul Northfield. Dream Theater’s ninth studio album, Systematic Chaos, was released on June 5, 2007. The record marked their first with new label Roadrunner Records, which in 2010 would become a wholly owned subsidiary of the band’s previous label Atlantic Records. Roadrunner implemented increased promotion for the album and Systematic Chaos duly reached number 19 on the Billboard 200. It also oversaw the release of a video for “Constant Motion” on July 14, the band’s first music video since Hollow Years in 1997. The album was bookended by the two parts of “In the Presence of Enemies”, written and conceived as a single piece but split into two halves for the purposes of the album. The other six tracks included the most recent part of Portnoy’s continuing AA Saga with the song “Repentance“.
The 2007–08 Chaos in Motion Tour started off in Italy. Dream Theater played in the Gods of Metal concert on June 3, 2007, as well as various other European festivals including the Netherlands’ Fields of Rock Festival, UK’s Download Festival, the French festival Hellfest Summer Open Air alongside Megadeth, Korn, Mastodon and Slayer. The North American leg of the tour began on July 24 in San Diego, California and wrapped up on August 26 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They played with opening acts Redemption and Into Eternity. The Chaos In Motion Tour continued for the rest of the year and into 2008, playing shows in Asia, South America and, for the first time, Australia.
On April 1, 2008, a two-disc compilation album titled Greatest Hit (…and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs) was released by the band. The title jokingly references the song “Pull Me Under“, the band’s only significant radio hit. It also includes three song re-mixes from their second album, Images and Words, five edited versions of previously released songs, and a track from a single B-side. Unlike most greatest hits compilations, Dream Theater was actively involved with the album, coming up with the track listing that they felt best represented their musical careers.
After the release of Greatest Hit, drummer Mike Portnoy organized a new tour called Progressive Nation 2008. Unlike previous Dream Theater tours, performances were held in cities that they had not visited before in the past (such as Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) or cities they had not played in for several years. This tour also marked the first time, since the release of Images and Words, where the group performed in small venues and performance halls.
In September 2008, the band released a DVD set called Chaos in Motion 2007–2008, featuring songs recorded at several shows during the Chaos in Motion tour.
Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2008–2010)
On October 7, 2008, Dream Theater returned to Avatar Studios to begin work on their tenth album, resuming their relationship with Paul Northfield to engineer and mix the record. The album, titled Black Clouds & Silver Linings, was released on June 23, 2009. In addition to the standard CD, the album was made available on vinyl LP, as well as a 3-disc Special Edition CD that includes the full album, a CD of instrumental mixes of the album and a CD of six cover songs from artists such as Queen and Rainbow. On July 1, 2009, the album debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart, with first week sales totalling 40,285, making their highest entry on the chart. The album featured “The Shattered Fortress”, the last in Mike Portnoy’s series of songs about his 12-step recovery from alcoholism, as well as the song “The Best of Times”, described by Portnoy as “a real heavy personal subject about my dad who passed away during the making of the album … He was battling cancer throughout its making.”
The band also embarked on a second Progressive Nation tour, including the tour’s first performances in Europe. Opeth, Unexpect and Bigelf supported Dream Theater in Europe, while Zappa Plays Zappa, Pain Of Salvation, and Beardfish were slated to perform on the North American leg. However, Pain of Salvation and Beardfish were unable to tour with Dream Theater and Zappa Plays Zappa because of financial troubles within their respective record labels. The two new bands that filled the vacated slots for the Progressive Nation 2009 tour in North America were Bigelf and Scale the Summit with Bigelf performing on both European and North American legs.
After the Progressive Nation Tour, Dream Theater re-entered the studio to write and record a brand new instrumental track for inclusion on the God of War III soundtrack EP God of War: Blood & Metal. The track, titled “Raw Dog” (God (of) War reversed), marked the first time that the band has written and recorded an exclusive track for an outside project. “Raw Dog” includes the first ever commercially recorded harpejji track, performed by Jordan Rudess, as well as Dream Theater’s final recorded performance with Mike Portnoy on drums. In December 2009, during their Black Clouds & Silver Linings tour whilst visiting Australia, Dream Theater appeared with one support act, Pain of Salvation. In March 2010, they toured South America with Bigelf. Afterwards, during the summer of 2010, Dream Theater supported Iron Maiden on the US and Canadian legs of their summer tour which were the last shows DT played during 2010.
Mike Portnoy’s departure and arrival of Mike Mangini (2010–2011)
On September 8, 2010, Mike Portnoy announced that he would be leaving Dream Theater, citing better relationships in other projects, burnout, and his desire for a break as reasons. Elaborating on the situation for MusicRadar, John Petrucci revealed that originally, Portnoy did not want to leave the band; he only wanted to take a five-year break. He eventually dropped this number to around one year. Only after the rest of the band rejected his proposal did Portnoy decide to quit.
After Portnoy left Dream Theater, relationships between him and his former bandmates became strained. In February 2011, Portnoy complained that no one from the band was returning his calls and e-mails. However, later Portnoy commented that both Petrucci and Rudess were the only members that stayed in touch with him. Tensions became especially high when Portnoy called James LaBrie “disrespectful” for comments LaBrie made during an interview, stating that Dream Theater were “not sad at all” that Portnoy was no longer a band member. By July 2011, LaBrie had not remained in touch with Portnoy. Portnoy later stated that he would rejoin the band in a heartbeat, stating: “They are the ones that have closed the door on it. I’ve only needed a break, and I’ve had that break. So I’m ready, willing and able. But I honestly don’t think they ever will; they’ve closed their door on it and I think they’re too headstrong in having to prove themselves without me. So I wouldn’t count on it. But my door is always open.”
A little more than a month after Portnoy’s departure, Dream Theater began auditioning for a new drummer in New York City. The drummers who auditioned were Mike Mangini, Derek Roddy, Thomas Lang, Virgil Donati, Marco Minnemann, Aquiles Priester, and Peter Wildoer. Fates Warning drummer Bobby Jarzombek was also invited to audition, but had to turn down the offer due to scheduling conflicts. The candidates were notified whether they had been chosen on November 5; however, the results of the audition were not made public until April 2011 via a three-part YouTube documentary series called The Spirit Carries On. In the last episode of the series, it was revealed that Mangini was the drummer selected. Petrucci later explained that Portnoy approached them to rejoin after they had selected Mangini; Mangini by this time had left his job as a professor at Berklee and committed to Dream Theater full-time, so Portnoy’s offer was rebuffed.
A Dramatic Turn of Events (2011–2012)
Dream Theater entered Cove City Sound Studios to begin working on a new album on January 3, 2011. Writing was completed on March 2 and done without Mangini. On April 14, LaBrie began tracking vocals and by June 28, the album’s mixing and mastering by Andy Wallace were finished. Released worldwide on September 12 and in the United States on September 13, A Dramatic Turn of Events debuted at number one in some countries and attained the eighth position on the Billboard 200, the band’s second ever top ten debut position on that chart after Black Clouds & Silver Linings. Although the album received mixed reviews, it won numerous awards from music publications and its lead single, “On the Backs of Angels“, was nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards, representing the band’s first ever Grammy nomination.
Dream Theater kicked off their tour in support of A Dramatic Turn of Events on July 4, 2011 in Rome, Italy. The second leg of the tour took place in North America, where the band headlined with Trivium. After a short break to conclude 2011, the band returned to Europe with Periphery, to Asia with Andy McKee, to North America with Crimson Projekct and then to South America for the final leg of the tour. On August 19 and 20, two shows were recorded at Luna Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a live Blu-ray release by Over the Edge Productions. After a six-month delay, Live at Luna Park was released on November 5, 2013, by Eagle Rock Entertainment. The tour concluded on September 1, 2012, in Brasília, Brazil.
On December 25, 2013, at 06:00:00 EST, as a holiday gift to the fans, Dream Theater released a free electronic 2-CD set of live tracks that were not recorded for Live at Luna Park from their 2011-2012 tour in FLAC format via BitTorrent. The release date and time are an allusion to their 1994 song 6:00, the intro of which contains a repeated sample of the line “Six o’clock on a Christmas morning” as spoken by Helena Carroll in The Dead.
Dream Theater (2013–2014)
Writing for Dream Theater’s twelfth studio album commenced on A Dramatic Tour of Events. During soundchecks, the band would jam and record their ideas, and John Petrucci would bring in material he wrote independently. Following the conclusion of the tour, the band took a break but continued writing. They reconvened in early 2013 to enter the studio.
In December 2012, Dream Theater re-signed with Roadrunner Records. The band’s self-titled twelfth album was released on September 23, 2013 as part of the new agreement with Roadrunner. The album sold more than 34,000 copies in its first week and landed on the Billboard 200 chart at No. 7, the band’s third consecutive top 10 album. In addition, the album cracked the top 10 in 24 countries including Japan, Germany, Argentina, The Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Australia and United Kingdom. Dream Theater’s seventh live album, Live at Luna Park, was released on November 5, 2013.
On September 30, 2014, Dream Theater released their eighth live album and film, Breaking the Fourth Wall, which was recorded live from The Boston Opera House on March 25, 2014. During this concert, the band were joined by the Berklee World Strings and the Berklee Concert Choir, directed by Eren Başbuğ, for the second half of the set. The set list for the tour featured the entire second half of Awake, in celebration of the album’s 20th anniversary, including the song “Space-Dye Vest“, which had never been performed live. The set list closed with a performance of four songs from Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, in celebration of the album’s 15th anniversary. The Along for the Ride Tour concluded on October 30, 2014.
The Astonishing and Images and Words anniversary tour (2015–2017)
On January 6, 2014, John Petrucci said that Dream Theater were already “planting seeds for album No. 13”. He commented: “There are some song ideas and little things like that — nothing really official, but the seeds just start to get planted. One of the great things about this career is that you have the opportunity every time to go in and start again with a blank slate and think, ‘What can we do differently? How can we make this better? Where can we go from here?’ Every album has a story, and to constantly have a fresh opportunity to do it is really satisfying.”
The band headed into the studio in February 2015 to record its thirteenth album. The album, titled The Astonishing was released on January 29, 2016. It is a concept album set in a dystopian future society devoid of real music, centering on a conflict between a group of rebels and an oppressive empire. Two singles, “The Gift of Music” and “Moment of Betrayal” were released on December 3, 2015 and January 22, 2016, respectively.
Throughout 2016, Dream Theater went on a tour titled The Astonishing Live to support the album. They played the album in its entirety, with an intermission between the two acts, only playing songs from earlier albums on occasions later in the tour. Their performance was accompanied by a visual representation of the story on background screens. The band also made it a point to play at indoor theater halls such as Radio City Music Hall. In 2017, Dream Theater went on another tour, titled Images, Words & Beyond, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Images and Words. Each night they performed the album in its entirety, as well as “A Change of Seasons”, which was originally written during the Images and Words sessions, and other selections from their catalogue.
Distance over Time and Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory anniversary tour (2017–2019)
In a May 2017 interview with Rockbook, frontman James LaBrie talked about the style of the band’s fourteenth studio album: “It’s really important for us that the new album will be our best effort. It should be who we are at that particular moment. […] But if along the way we feel that there is another album we should recognize once again, then we’ll do it.” In December 2017, Dream Theater announced that they had signed a worldwide longterm deal with Sony Music via Sony’s progressive music label imprint Inside Out, for the release of the album.
The album was written in June and July 2018, and features pieces written collectively and lyrics written by Petrucci, Labrie, Myung and, for the first time ever, Mangini. In anticipation of the album, the band launched a “treasure hunt” in the form of an alternate reality game, where participants would search for various clues across the internet. The game ultimately led to a site revealing the title of the album to be Distance over Time. The site also revealed the cover art for the album, its scheduled release date in February 2019, as well as dates for a tour in North America celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band’s fifth album Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory. On November 6, 2018, a press release from Inside Out officially announced Distance over Time, with a release date of February 22, 2019. Upon release, the album received widespread critical acclaim.
Upcoming fifteenth studio album and Lost Not Forgotten Archives (2020–present)
In April 2020, Metal Addicts reported that Dream Theater was expected to begin working on their fifteenth studio album in 2021. About the direction of the album, guitarist John Petrucci stated in an August 2020 interview with Ultimate Guitar: “The eight-string project with Ernie Ball Music Man is something we are working on and hoping to have developed as this year goes on. I’m hoping that on the next Dream Theater record I’ll be able to explore that.” This would later be confirmed in an interview with Ultimate Guitar in February 2021. Also in August 2020, Petrucci also told Spain’s Metal Hammer that the band would begin working on their new album in the fall. Recording sessions started at DTHQ (the band’s own studio) in October 2020. The band was confirmed on November 27, 2020 to be writing the songs, while LaBrie was writing his parts back home in Canada. When asked in an interview, Petrucci said that the writing sessions were “off to a great start”.
Petrucci released his first solo album in fifteen years, Terminal Velocity, on August 28, 2020. The album was recorded at DTHQ earlier the same year. Its recording sessions marked the first time in ten years that Petrucci worked with his former Dream Theater bandmate Mike Portnoy, who played drums on all tracks from the album. This collaboration led to speculation of a Dream Theater reunion with Portnoy, which was denied by Petrucci, who told Metal Hammer: “I understand where people are coming from with that. One of the concerns I had, a little bit – not musically at all – but about Mike, is I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea.”
On November 27, 2020, Dream Theater released their ninth live album, Distant Memories – Live in London, recorded at Hammersmith Apollo prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. On December 1, 2020, the band released the single “The Holiday Spirit Carries On”, a medley of holiday songs played in a progressive metal style, exclusively through Bandcamp. The title references the fan-favorite song “The Spirit Carries On” from Scenes from a Memory. The proceeds from sales of the single benefited the band’s road crew. On January 30, 2021, Dream Theater held a special streaming event titled Images, Words & Beyond Live in Japan, an online broadcast of a concert from the band’s 2017 tour, which was originally recorded for Japanese television.
On May 5, 2021, Dream Theater announced a series of albums titled the Lost Not Forgotten Archives, the first release of which will be the second set of the Images, Words & Beyond Live in Japan concert. The band added that the Lost Not Forgotten Archives will eventually include every Ytsejam Records release on CD, vinyl and digital formats, along with previously unreleased archival material.
|Mike Portnoy||Drums, Vocals (additional) (1988-2010)|
|See also: Liquid Tension Experiment, Metal Allegiance, Sons of Apollo, Transatlantic, Noturnall (live), John Arch, ex-Liquid Trio Experiment, ex-Rising Power, ex-Majesty, BPMD, Flying Colors, Neal Morse Band, The Winery Dogs, Yellow Matter Custard, Bigelf (live), ex-S.A. Adams, ex-Altitudes & Attitude (live), ex-Fates Warning (live), ex-John Petrucci (live), ex-Overkill (live), ex-OSI, ex-Adrenaline Mob, ex-Inner Sanctum, ex-Twisted Sister (live), ex-Amazing Journey, ex-Cygnus and the Sea Monsters, ex-Hammer of the Gods, ex-Intruder, ex-Avenged Sevenfold (live), ex-Stone Sour (live)|
|Kevin Moore||Keyboards (1988-1994)|
|See also: OSI, ex-Majesty, Chroma Key, ex-Fates Warning|
|Charlie Dominici||Vocals (1988-1989)|
|See also: ex-Dominici, ex-Majesty|
|Derek Sherinian||Keyboards, Vocals (backing) (1994-1999)|
|See also: Derek Sherinian, Pentakill, Sons of Apollo, ex-Planet X, ex-Platypus, Black Country Communion, Joe Bonamassa, ex-All Too Human, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, ex-Black Label Society (live), ex-Alice Cooper, ex-Billy Idol, ex-Jughead, ex-Generation Axe (live), ex-John Sykes (live), ex-Kiss (live)|