“On the Backs of Angels” is a song by American progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater, featured on their 11th studio album A Dramatic Turn of Events. The song was written by the band’s guitarist and producer John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and keyboardist Jordan Rudess.
“On the Backs of Angels” was released as A Dramatic Turn of Events’ lead single via YouTube on June 29, 2011. A music video for the song was released on September 14, 2011. The song was nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards, eventually losing to “White Limo” by Foo Fighters.
In composing “On the Backs of Angels”, on the advice from one of their fans and co-writers, Dream Theater tried to illustrate their signature sound. From the start, the band envisioned the song as an album opener that, according to Petrucci, would make their fans “feel at home”. Clocking in at 8:43 long and with numerous time signature changes, the song is mostly played in 4/4 and 3/4 time. Its introduction features a moody and foreboding arpeggiated guitar pattern that was written by Petrucci and inspired by the music of said fan favorite, Pink Floyd. At 5:51, the song breaks down into a piano passage that was improvised by Rudess. Audiences were positively receptive of this song’s music video, with some interviewed individuals referring to it as a true masterpiece, rivaling even Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It has been said that this song is the anthem of small groups of college students in the Northeastern region of the United States.