Dream Theater is an American-Canadian 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 Massachusetts. They subsequently dropped out of their studies to concentrate further on the band that would ultimately become Dream Theater. Though a number of lineup changes followed, the three original members remained together along with James LaBrie and Jordan Rudess until September 8, 2010 when Portnoy left the band. In October 2010, the band held auditions for a drummer to replace Portnoy. Mike Mangini was announced as the new permanent drummer on April 29, 2011.
The band is well known for the technical proficiency of its instrumentalists, who have won many awards from music instruction magazines. Guitarist John Petrucci has been named as the third player on the G3 tour six times, more than any invited players. In 2009 he was named the No. 2 best metal guitarist by Joel McIver in his book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists. He was also named as one of the “Top 10 Fastest Shredders of All Time” by GuitarOne magazine. Jordan Rudess is considered to be one of the greatest keyboard players of all time by many publications like MusicRadar.
Former drummer Mike Portnoy has won 26 awards from Modern Drummer magazine and is also the second youngest person (at the age of 37) to be inducted into the Rock Drummer Hall of Fame. His replacement Mike Mangini has also previously set 5 WFD records. John Myung was voted the greatest bassist of all time in a poll conducted by MusicRadar in August through September 2010. The band was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
The band’s highest-selling album is the gold-selling Images and Words (1992), which reached No. 61 on the Billboard 200 chart. Both the 1994 release Awake and their 2002 release Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence also entered the charts at No. 32 and No. 46 respectively and received mostly positive reviews. Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory 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 and as the number one all-time progressive album by Rolling Stone (as of July 2012). Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence also led to Dream Theater becoming the initial band reviewed in the music section of Entertainment Weekly during its opening week of release, despite the magazine generally preferring more mainstream music.
The band’s eleventh studio album, A Dramatic Turn of Events, was released on September 13, 2011. On November 30, 2011, the album’s lead single, “On the Backs of Angels”, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” category, marking the band’s first ever Grammy nomination. Dream Theater’s self-titled twelfth studio album was released on September 23, 2013 and earned their second Grammy Award nomination, this time for “Best Metal Performance”, for the album’s first single, “The Enemy Inside”.
On April 9, 2013, Images and Words won Loudwire’s fan voted March Metal Madness for world’s best metal album beating albums by Dio, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Megadeth and Metallica. As of 2011, Dream Theater has sold over 12 million records worldwide.
Mike Portnoy’s Departure (2010–11)
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.
Logo and Imagery
Despite the band’s being forced to change their name, Dream Theater adopted a custom logo (known as the Majesty symbol) and wordmark which has appeared on the vast majority of their promotional material and on the front cover of every Dream Theater studio album. The Majesty symbol is derived from Mary, Queen of Scots’ mark, which was re-worked by Charlie Dominici for use on the album artwork for the 1989 debut When Dream and Day Unite.
AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine described Dream Theater’s music as a “dense blend of progressive rock and post-Halen metal”. The band is well noted for being one of the early progenitors of the progressive metal genre. The original members, Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci and John Myung, have strong influences from progressive rock bands such as Rush, Yes and Pink Floyd, heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, various speed metal bands, and even the glam metal of the day.
This synthesis created a unique metal that was not traditional of the day : it had distorted guitars and fast riffing, but the music focused more on technical proficiency and precise execution than on heavy metal riffs. The band’s music has focused on three main elements : metal, melody and progressive roots. Mike Portnoy has also stated that the band’s slower songs are in appreciation of artists such as Peter Gabriel, U2 and Journey. Dream Theater’s music also borrows elements from the 1970s and ’80s art rock sound of musicians such as Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Electric Light Orchestra, the Moody Blues, and Procol Harum.
Dream Theater’s more recent albums such as A Dramatic Turn of Events and Dream Theater lean heavily towards hard rock, while still maintaining their trademark progressive rock and metal sound, whereas their 2003 album Train of Thought showcased a darker, heavier, sometimes more straightforward metal sound, and much of their progressive rock sound was absent, replaced by metal elements such as riffing and shredding. This decision was inspired by the positive feedback received from their previous heavier songs on stage. 1999’s Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory was praised for its display of old-fashioned progressive rock, and was influenced by classic conceptual rock records such as the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Final Cut, the Who’s Tommy, and Genesis’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
Dream Theater’s music occasionally borrows elements of other musical styles including symphonic rock, symphonic metal, arena rock, soft rock and classical music.
Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance – “On the Backs of Angels” (2012)
Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance – “The Enemy Inside” (2014)