The dream is over for Mike Portnoy. That’s right,after 25 years, drummer Mike Portnoy has announced his departure from Dream Theater. Portnoy released the following lengthy statement earlier tonight:

“I am about to write something I never imagined I’d ever write. After 25 years, I have decided to leave Dream Theater… the band I founded, led and truly loved for a quarter of a century. To many people this will come as a complete shock, and will also likely be misunderstood by some, but please believe me that it is not a hasty decision…it is something I have struggled with for the last year or so….

After having had such amazing experiences playing with Hail!, Transatlantic and Avenged Sevenfold this past year, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I have recently had more fun and better personal relations with these other projects than I have for a while now in Dream Theater. Please don’t misinterpret me, I love the Dream Theater guys dearly and have a long history, friendship and bond that runs incredibly deep with them… it’s just that I think we are in serious need of a little break.

Dream Theater was always my baby…and I nurtured that baby every single day and waking moment of my life since 1985… 24/7, 365… never taking time off from Dream Theater’s never-ending responsibilities (even when the band was ‘off’ between cycles)… working overtime and way beyond the call of duty that most sane people ever would do for a band. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the Dream Theater machine was starting to burn me out…and I really needed a break from the band in order to save my relationship with the other members and keep my Dream Theater spirit hungry and inspired. We have been on an endless write/record/tour cycle for almost 20 years now (of which I have overseen EVERY aspect without a break) and while a few months apart from each other here and there over the years has been much needed and helpful, I honestly hoped the band could simply agree with me to taking a bit of a ‘hiatus’ to recharge our batteries and ‘save me from ourselves’… Sadly, in discussing this with the guys, they determined they do not share my feelings and have decided to continue without me rather than take a breather… I even offered to do some occasional work throughout 2011 against my initial wishes, but it was not to be… While it truly hurts for me to even think of a Dream Theater without Mike Portnoy (hell, my father named the band!!), I do not want to stand in their way…so I have decided to sacrifice myself and simply leave the band so as to not hold them back against their wishes.”

There is much more to his official statement, which you can read after the jump. To put it simply, this truly is surprising. Not only because this seemingly came out of nowhere, but mainly because (as even he puts it) it’s very difficult to imagine Dream Theater WITHOUT Mike Portnoy! Anyone who is familiar with Dream Theater knows that it’s a bit of an understatement to say that Portnoy was just a founding member. So to imagine what the band will do without him is harder to grasp than the movie Inception. Without belittling the talent of the other four members in the band, Mike Portnoy is not only the face, but the voice of the band.

While his statement makes his reasoning pretty cut and dry, I can’t help but become suspicious. It may be very inappropriate/too soon to even suggest such a claim, but could his departure also have anything to do with Avenged Sevenfold (who Portnoy has been playing the role of fill-in drummer for)? A7X has made it clear that they are taking each move one step at a time. But touring with a band that’s as mass appeal as Avenged, as opposed to Dream Theater’s (admittedly very large and passionate) cult audience of prog fans and musicians, might have played a part in his decision. I’m not saying that Portnoy left Dream Theater to join a more successful band. However, does his departure imply that his involvement with Avenged Sevenfold might extend a little longer?

Read the rest of Portnoy’s statement below:

“Strangely enough, I just read an interview that I recently did that asked me about the future of Dream Theater and I talked about ‘always following your heart and being true to yourself’… Sadly, I must say that at this particular moment, my heart is not with Dream Theater…and I would simply be ‘going through the motions,’ and would honestly NOT be true to myself if I stayed for the sake of obligation without taking the break I felt I needed. I wish the guys the best and hope the music and legacy we created together is enjoyed by fans for decades to come… I am proud of every album we made, every song we wrote and every show we played….

I’m sorry to all the disappointed Dream Theater fans around the world… I really tried to salvage the situation and make it work… I honestly just wanted a break (not a split)… but happiness cannot be forced, it needs to come from within. You Dream Theater fans are the greatest fans in the world and as you all know, I have always busted my ass for you guys and I hope that you will stay with me on my future musical journey, wherever it may lead me…. (and as you all know my work ethic, there will surely be no shortage of future Mike Portnoy projects!)”