25 minutes ago
Thursday, September 9, 2010
MIKE PORTNOY QUITS DREAM THEATER
Can the band beat on without its heart?
I'm a big fan of irony.
Earlier this afternoon, I loaded the entire Dream Theater catalog onto my iPod. Until this afternoon, only two of the band's 10 studio albums were found on the 80GB drive. Why the sudden urge to drown myself in musical theory? Avenged Sevenfold.
A quick timeline: In 1985 - one year after the youngest member of the band Avenged Sevenfold is born - Mike Portnoy forms the band Majesty while attending the Berklee College of Music. Majesty would become Dream Theater.
Over the next quarter-century, Dream Theater would release ten studio albums and come to define the progressive metal genre. Likewise, Mike Portnoy is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time.
Avenged Sevenfold, meanwhile, burst from their Southern California roots and emerged as a hard rock and heavy metal powerhouse with City of Evil, their major label debut in 2005. When drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan died of a drug overdose late last year, many wondered what would come next for the band - and in the most unlikely of announcements, Mike Portnoy was enlisted to record drums on new release Nightmare, as well as accompany them on this year's tours to support the album.
Earlier today, on Twitter, I said of the record: The new @TheOfficialA7X is musical quicksand - it's got me waist-deep and keeps pulling... (Pull me under, I'm not afraid.)
Absorbed in Nightmare, I was inspired to listen to more Dream Theater. Makes sense, right? Not to Dream Theater.
About five hours after my Twitter post and ensuing addition of the Dream Theater catalog to my iPod, Mike Portnoy announced that he was leaving Dream Theater [read his full statement here].
I've been a fan of Dream Theater for the past two decades, and at the forefront of that fandom have been Mike Portnoy and frontman James LaBrie. Portnoy was the band's heart, LaBrie the band's soul.
Science was never my strong suit in school, but I'm fairly certain that losing your heart isn't a good thing.
The journalist in me wants to wait to hear both sides of the story, but this is a rare instance where I feel justified to overrule my professional sensibilities. Or, as my career has paralleled that of Dream Theater, perhaps I'm honoring those sensibilities...
A number of people have asked me how this happened, as well as why it happened. While I don't know anything more than I read in Mike Portnoy's statement, I can say this - when I made the decision to leave Metal Edge, a magazine I dedicated my blood, sweat and tears into running for a decade, people asked the same questions.
Sadly, sometimes the decisions that are the hardest for us to make, are also the easiest. Not because we want to make them, but because we know that we need to make them. By the time I left Metal Edge, I knew that there was no other option. The magazine was destined to fail under its new ownership, and I realized that I was in no position to prevent that from happening.
Two years and three editors later, Metal Edge went out of business.
What does this have to do with Dream Theater? Everything. I can relate to Mike Portnoy's decision, because I know exactly how it feels to know that you're out of options.
And he was clearly out of options - you don't walk away unless you have no other choice.
So, yes, the irony isn't lost on me that on the day I plunged back into the swirling waters of Dream Theater, their drummer made the choice to climb out of the water and towel off.
I'm the first person in the world to defend Journey without Steve Perry, Van Halen after they hired Sammy Hagar, and KISS with only half their original members.
But Dream Theater without Mike Portnoy?
Where's the heart?
Mike Portnoy on Twitter
Avenged Sevenfold on Twitter
Paul Gargano on Twitter
About 12 hours after I posted the above piece, Dream Theater released their statement concerning Portnoy's departure from the band [read their full statement here]. If you're looking for additional insight into the band's dynamics, focus on the line: "File this episode under ‘Black Clouds and Silver Linings.’ As planned, we begin recording our new album in January 2011..." In other words, the band views Mike's departure as a black cloud, with the silver lining being that they'll record a new album without him. For people that think Mike Portnoy is bitter - perhaps now you understand why. Great bands overcome great trauma - Rush gave Neil Peart the time he needed to deal with tragedy, Metallica aired their dirty laundry in therapy for the world to see, and even the Police were able to pull it together for a reunion. Sure, there are many more examples of bands that haven't persevered inner-band turmoil, I just never expected Dream Theater to be one of them.