Rating:
8.3
Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings
23 June 2009


Disc I [Black Clouds & Silver Linings]
01. A Nightmare To Remember
02. A Rite Of Passage
03. Wither
04. The Shattered Fortress
    1 - X. Restraint
    2 - XI. Receive
    3 - XII. Responsible
05. The Best Of Times
06. The Count Of Tuscany

Disc II [Uncovered 2008/2009]
01. Stargazer [Rainbow cover]
02. Tenement Funster / Flick Of The Wrist / Lily Of The Valley [Queen cover]
03. Odyssey [Dixie Dregs cover]
04. Take Your Fingers From My Hair [Zebra cover]
05. Larks Tongues In Aspic Pt.2 [King Crimson cover]
06. To Tame A Land [Iron Maiden cover]

Disc III [Black Clouds & Silver Linings Instrumental Mixes]
01. A Nightmare To Remember
02. A Rite Of Passage
03. Wither
04. The Shattered Fortress
05. The Best Of Times
06. The Count Of Tuscany


After revisiting Dream Theater's discography and particularly recently setting my eyes on this album, it was my album of choice to review, for there are really a lot of notes and opinions I'd like to speak out about it. With Black Clouds & Silver Linings released in 2009, Dream Theater vowed to hearken back to the days of 2003's Train Of Thought, with more heavy melodies, a straightforward metal approach, calm ballad-like songs in between with the obvious progressive elements, solos and some experimentation; though, after so many jams and extended solos, are we to say that their approach to experimentation, too, hasn't become something too ordinary and expected?

The lyrics of "Wither", the third track, which emphasize the hardship of writing music and coming up with ideas, and the oddly prolonged songs and stretched out riffing, show that Dream Theater is tiring itself on the creative unit, still squeezing out whatever they can to make sure the mill keeps turning to release a new album every two years. However, what they squeezed out this time turned out to be surprisingly good; could that be by chance, maybe?

The strongest points about the album are the quality of the riffs and choruses; "A Nightmare To Remember", a 16-minute song combining aggression and hazy psychedelic calmness, is likely to grab your attention, get stuck in your head and make you sing along the moment the aggressive riffing begins, and continue giving you that effect throughout the calm parts, as well. "A Rite of Passage" has an undeniably good leading riff, pacing and chorus, while "Wither" contains one of the most memorable Dream Theater choruses. Finally, "The Best Of Times", a fast-paced, Rush-like ballad (yes, as weird as that sounds), has some serious good work, especially with an astounding performance from guitarist John Petrucci and an emotional set of lyrics from drummer Mike Portnoy. "The Shattered Fortress" and "The Count Of Tuscany", meanwhile, stale in comparison to these songs; despite being somewhat decent in their own rights.

As for what more good that can be found in Black Clouds & Silver Linings, there are several noteworthy moments, such as Jordan Rudess utilizing an iPod app (Bebop?) in the solo of "A Rite Of Passage", which shows a good tinge of experimentation and creativity. Petrucci also writes a decent storyline on "The Count Of Tuscany", reminiscing the fans with the storytelling style of 1999's Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory, and he also writes a very uplifting lick to bombast through Jordan Rudess's calm piano intro in "The Best Of Times". The band also seemed to have ejected themselves from the poppy, catchy sounds they tried to achieve on their earlier two efforts, Systematic Chaos and Octavarium, and returned to their metal aggressiveness and pleasing the fans more.

As stated before, however, there are several things that stand in the way of Black Clouds & Silver Linings becoming an actually great landmark in the band's history, most importantly the over-stretched song lengths, the tiring state of the band, and several other things. Drummer Mike Portnoy, for example, seems forced to drum along instead of presenting the show he always presented before. His forced state is also shown in the entire writing of "The Shattered Fortress"; while the song itself is fun to listen to, it's filled with repeated melodies from the Twelve-Step song suite it belongs to, that it loses its own identity and stales.

Originality, here, is also a big issue. The band may have polished their sound more here on the production, and presented some small surprises, but they haven't done much outside their comfort circle. There's nothing to really open your mouth about and just stare; it seems like the band was just presenting a good version of what they always did for the decade of the 2000s, and eliminating the too much mess on the preceding album. And, it appears, bassist John Myung's roles are slightly diminished even more on here.

All in all, a very good representation of Dream Theater's 2000s identity, but nothing over the top. The band's fans will enjoy the record very much, as well as new listeners, but for whoever expects a surprise or a new concept on this album, it is likely that they will be somewhat disappointed.

Favorites: "A Nightmare To Remember", "A Rite Of Passage", "Wither".

Performance: 10
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Production: 9


Band profile: Dream Theater
Album: Black Clouds & Silver Linings


 


written by Iron Nostarion | 12.09.2013


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Staff review by
Demonic Tutor

Rating:
7.5
One of my all-time favorite bands, Dream Theater, has been mildly disappointing me since 2002 with their newfound musical direction. After a step in the right direction with their previous album Systematic Chaos, I was anxious to get my hands on their new offering Black Clouds & Silver Linings. With an album title suggesting aggression and great melodies, I thought this would be a real treat.

Read more ››
published 30.06.2009 | Comments (104)



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R Lewis - 12.09.2013 at 09:55  
A really good review, even if I found myself having as a favourite "The Count Of Tuscany". But that's subjective.
A piece of advice: try to shorten a bit the reviews. The reader is more likely to read in its entirety a briefer one, even if this one is absolutey well written.
Lethrokai - 12.09.2013 at 19:41  
" "The Shattered Fortress" and "The Count Of Tuscany", meanwhile, stale in comparison to these songs; despite being somewhat decent in their own rights."
It's really funny that you'd mention that; these were my two favourite songs on the album.

The album overall is solid, however I still find Wither to be one of the worst tracks DT has ever released.

Pretty accurate review overall though - at least, to my beliefs.
Nice job!
nb - 14.09.2013 at 01:11  
The count of Tuscany and The Best of Times were my favorite songs in this album. I have got to say that Petrucci's solo in The Best of Times is possibly one of his best solos ever.
Iron Nostarion - 19.09.2013 at 03:47  
Written by R Lewis on 12.09.2013 at 09:55

A really good review, even if I found myself having as a favourite "The Count Of Tuscany". But that's subjective.
A piece of advice: try to shorten a bit the reviews. The reader is more likely to read in its entirety a briefer one, even if this one is absolutey well written.


Advice taken. Thanks so much.

Also thanks to everyone who took the time to read the review, and I have to say I sort of could say my opinion on Tuscany and Shattered Fortress could be presented more harshly than I intended, since I also like these tracks a lot but just don't find them hanging around my playlist as much as the others.

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