Join Rockin'Town
Rockin'Town Artist Bio

Dream Theater

Nothing kills a group like personnel changes and bad timing. With members entering and exiting it's hard for a group to build momentum much less develop their sound. And while timing may not be everything, it does count for a lot. It's easy to get blindsided by change. What was once thought "edgy" can quickly become disdainful. Dream Theater managed to survive both these pitfalls.

Mike Portnoy and John Myung hooked up at Boston's famous Berklee School of Music in '86. Their first effort was Majesty. This band made a series of demos that were sold locally. It was a good, if unremarkable start. Then their singer split and a new one was recruited. Before the dust settled, the group was informed that there was a Las Vegas based group also calling itself Majesty. Rather than get embroiled in a legal morass the group became Dream Theater, at the suggestion of Portnoy's father. The name came from a long gone California cinema. No conflicts there.

The group's debut "When Dream And Day Unite" came out on the Mechanic label. But like a lot of indies, Mechanic lacked the finances to properly distribute or promote Dream Theater. On top of that, Dream Theater fired their singer, Charlie Dominici, and held a series of auditions before finding LaBrie, who was in Canada, with the Glam Rock Winter Rose.

Signed by ATCO Atlantic, Dream Theater released "Images And Words" in '92, which featured, "Pull Me Under." "Live At The Marquee" (the London club) rolled out the next year. It was after recording their "Awake" album in '94 that keyboardist Kevin Moore decided to leave so he could pursue solo interests. For the "Waking Up - The World" tour Derek Sherinian handled keyboards. After the tour Jordan Rudess, a long time friend, was asked to join but passed.

After a series of fruitless auditions it was decided to retain Sherinian. With the completion of "Falling To Infinity," a planned double album paired down to a single disc, and the Touring Into Infinity world trek, Dream Theater decided to take a break with each member involved in an outside project. The most notable of these efforts was the Liquid Tension Project, which allowed Portnoy and Petrucci the opportunity to work with Rudess. "Once In A LIVEtime" was gleaned from a couple stops on the European leg of their last tour.

Finally, in '99, Rudess replaced Sherinian on keyboards and Dream Theater released "Scenes From A Memory," a mini-Rock opera clocking in at 77 minutes. "Metropolis 2000" came next. Here's the part about bad timing. A three disc live version of "Metropolis 2000," entitled "Live Scenes From New York" was released on 9/11/01. The front cover showed the New York skyline in flames on the very day it actually was in flames. The backlash was significant and the CD was given a different cover.

The 2 CD "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence" was on shelves in '02 as the group embarked on yet another world tour. "Train Of Thought" arrived the following year. '05 saw the arrival of the eight song "Octavarium," the group's eighth album. Some symmetry working here.

Two years later, "Systematic Chaos," Dream Theater's first album on Roadrunner Records, dropped. Recorded in NY, the set featured "Constant Motion," "Prophets Of War" and "In The Presence Of Enemies, Pt. 2." The latter two tracks had backing vocals provided by fans (chants and that sort of thing). The album was co-produced by Portnoy and John Petrucci and contained a handful of Portnoy penned songs referencing his experience with alcoholism.

Avenged Sevenfold's drummer, James "The Rev" Sullivan, passed away in late December, '09. The following February it was announced that Portnoy would work on the group's next album. "We asked Jimmy's all-time favorite drummer {Portnoy} to record on behalf of him," said an Avenged Sevenfold statement. "These guys are a true family and it is an incredibly emotional experience to be here with them for the first time without their lost brother," added Portnoy. "I am treating my participation on this album with the utmost respect for Jimmy's memory.

But Portnoy later ditched Dream Theater for Avenged Sevenfold. "After having had such amazing experiences playing with Hail, Transatlantic and Avenged Sevenfold this past year, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I have recently had more fun and better personal relations with these other projects than I have for a while now in Dream Theater," wrote Portnoy in a statement.

Seven drummers were auditioned to replace Portnoy with Mike Mangini coming out on top. Then the group focused on finishing "A Dramatic Turn Of Events." The '11 album bowed at #8 on the Billboard 200 albums chart selling 36,000 copies in its first week. For a comparison, '09's "Black Clouds & Silver Linings," sold a few thousand more copies - 40,000 - in its first week.

Produced by Petrucci and recorded in New York, Dream Theater's self-titled studio album dropped in '13. "This is the first self-titled album of our career and there is nothing I can think of that makes a statement of musical and creative identity stronger than that," said Petrucci.

"I see every new album as an opportunity to start over," added Petrucci. "To either build or improve upon a direction that has been evolving over time or to completely break new ground."

The album was the band's first recording with Mangini. It sold more than 34,000 copies in its first week to land at #7 on the Billboard 200 chart, the band's third consecutive Top 10 album.

Dream Theater's seventh live album, Live at Luna Park, was released that same year and was followed by "Breaking The Fourth Wall, another live set. This one was recorded at The Boston Opera House.

In early '14 Petrucci discussed Dream Theater's next album. "Every album has a story, and to constantly have a fresh opportunity to do it is really satisfying." "The Astonishing," with a character driven story centered on "a conflict between a group of rebels and an oppressive empire," had its release pushed back to early '16 due to a world tour. Another world tour to promote the album followed.

"Distance Over Time," Dream Theater's fourteenth studio effort, was their first for Sony Music's progressive imprint InsideOut Music. The group decided to create a "tight and focused" album with a heavier sound than "The Astonishing."

Dream Theater Discography

Studio Albums:

1989 When Dream And Day Unite
1992 Images And Words
1994 Awake
1995 A Change Of Seasons (EP)
1997 Falling Into Infinity
1999 Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory
2002 Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence
2003 Train Of Thought
2005 Octavarium
2007 Systematic Chaos
2009 Black Clouds & Silver Linings
2011 A Dramatic Turn Of Events
2013 Dream Theater
2016 The Astonishing
2019 Distance Over Time

Punk Rockers don't come out of the Berklee School of Music. Students are trained in music theory, composition and harmony. Songs with only three chords and a couple stinging licks are practically unthinkable.

Fans vocally proclaim "Systematic Chaos" the group's best album of the decade. Well, as long as they're happy, guess that's all that really matters.

Dream Theater fits in the Prog Rock category but with a proviso. Prog Rock is often used to define the pretentious, self-indulgent and overbearing music. Fortunately, Dream Theater generally avoids these maladies by incorporating a fair dose of Metal in their sound. Sure, those elegant solo runs and dramatic arrangements are there but so is the power, due in no small part to Petrucci's guitar and LaBrie's forceful yet expressive vocals.

Like most Progressive Rock groups, Dream Theater's mode of operation is to take a riff and bludgeon it to death. Of course, they are neither the first nor the last to exhibit this tendency.

With or without Portnoy, the group takes majestic themes to epic proportions. There was some concern that Mangini, coming late into the process, wouldn't be up to the challenge. While not as showy as Portnoy (and fans have their opinions on that), he holds his own.

Dream Theater has released a number of live albums and videos. In these settings they further embellish their songs. But there are also a lot of down points, namely overlong piano and drum solos that detract from the overall impact.

Rate This Bio | Join Rockin'Town | Related Artists | Rockin'Forum