Re: Mike Portnoy
Actually, yeah, it does seem that he's gotten cleaner for Black Clouds. But I think he's gotten into the same rut as the rest of the band (resting on their laurels, more or less), but A Nightmare to Remember kills me. It's a tough song on the feet if you ask me, but I'm no double-bass technician.
MP was my second drum hero after Neil Peart, and I still come back to Dream Theater and enjoy most of it. Regardless of what people say, I find a lot of substance in the music (don't get me wrong, some songs are wankalicious, but definitely not all of them) and I like the music as a whole, rather than being into it just for the drums. In other words, I got into the band for MP, but stayed for John Petrucci.
He does have one big stylistic characteristic (some people would call it a flaw), which would be his constantly accented 1. No matter what the time signature is, he almost always lands on 1. There are a couple exceptions, like a a couple times in Voices and Learning to Live, but overall, he lands on 1 every time without any playing over the bar line. And most of the time it works for the music.
Not to mention that his drums sound great... sometimes.
AND the new Transatlantic album is fantastic.