The Fans’ Take on Dream Theater’s New Drummer Mike Mangini

After stringing out the suspense through a three-part documentary (part one is here, part two here, part three here), the big news has finally been revealed. Dream Theater has chosen Mike Mangini as their new drummer. DT is infamous for their passionate fans who love to dissect every little aspect of the band. And we’ve had plenty to say about the documentary and new drummer. According to a press release from Roadrunner Records, #dreamtheater and #mikemangini were trending topics on Twitter over the weekend, second only to the royal wedding.

As a proud member of both the James LaBrie and Mike Portnoy forums, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of positive reactions and well wishes:

Natt (LaBrie forum): I’m really glad it’s Mike Mangini. He really seems to be the right guy. Can’t wait to hear them live. I love how Mike was so emotional when he heard he’s in. I couldn’t help but flash a big grin. It was such a happy moment for the guy. I wish him all the best.

Many fans had mixed emotions:

Enchantgy (Portnoy forum): I’m happy with how they did it. I felt happy for Mike Mangini. And I think that is what “they” wanted to accomplish with this whole documentary thing. To help the fans embrace the new drummer. I’m still sad that it’s not MP behind the drum kit. but life goes on. One thing I didn’t like is MikeM saying “I’m carrying on Mike’s spirit”. And he isn’t dead… I thought that was kind of weird and awkward to hear.

YtseBitsySpider (LaBrie forum): well I was pulling for Virgil… but Mike will do. I get the sense that Mike one because he played it the right way. The rest of them seem to add some personal flavor to it. Probably not the best thing to do at the audition.

There were of course a few enraged trolls:

RAGEnarok (Portnoy forum):… The more I watched the video, the more I realized it was having the opposite effect on me than intended. The more the band would insist that they were a “family”, the more I was bothered by the fact that they wouldn’t give their “brother” (MP) the time and space he needed. The more they showed archival footage of MP for the sake of their little artificial drama, the more it became apparent how much MP brought to this band… The more they wanted to hike the mystery of who would be the new “guy”, the more I realized I didn’t really care (where once I did). Docu-drama or shameless and insensitive PR? Who knows – either way (with all props to Mangini whom I’ve had the pleasure of hanging with once at a clinic) I won’t be buying this new DT disc.

So what is my take on all of this? Dream Theater and their music have been close to my heart for almost 12 years, and the split between Mike Portnoy and his bandmates seemed the breakup of a marriage. While watching the guys jam with the seven prospective drummers, I felt like a child seeing his newly-divorced mom dating for the first time. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the unique dynamic each of the seven drummers brought to the band. I especially enjoyed the part of the auditions during which the drummers had to jam with the rest of the band on guitarist John Petrucci‘s riff.

It was pretty obvious that the choice would come down to either Marco Minnemann or Mike Mangini. Minnemann brought infectious joy and an ease of musicality; Mangini brought passion and power. DT took the safest musical route by choosing Mangini. I would’ve loved the new directions in which Minnemann could’ve taken the band. However, I completely understand why the guys chose Mangini. Of all the drummers, he seemed to want it the most. And personality-wise, he fit in with the guys as if he’d been playing with them for years. I’m truly looking forward to DT’s new album, and I’m hoping for a fresh start and renewed enthusiasm.

One of things that most impressed me about Mangini was his passion and positive energy. I’d like to sum things up with Mangini’s reaction to joining the band:

I am just busting at the seams on being the new drummer for Dream Theater. Digesting the incredibly challenging catalog, exploding with creative ideas, and anticipating what James, John, John, and Jordan will come up with collectively and individually for new music and a fresh stage show is going to be really exciting and fun for me. I consider this opportunity the absolute pinnacle of my career. I can’t even imagine what untapped and future musical genius is inside of these guys; I can’t wait until we get into the studio together. Playing with these guys… It’s the mountaintop. This is where I want to be.

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