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Dream Theater - "Black Clouds and Silver Linings" (CD)

Dream Theater - "Black Clouds and Silver Linings" CD cover image

"Black Clouds and Silver Linings" track listing:

1. A Nightmare to Remember
2. A Rite of Passage
3. Wither
4. The Shattered Fortress
5. The Best of Times
6. The Count of Tuscany

Reviewed by on July 9, 2009

"The contentious growling vocals of 'Systematic Chaos' are counterbalanced by meaningful libretto and swerving direction changes, going from powerful and pounding to dark and dangerous with just one furious strike on Petrucci’s guitar."

For two years, progressive metal band Dream Theater has reaped the success of their 2007 album “Systematic Chaos,” the highest preliminary charting album of their career. Since the 2008 announcement of an upcoming album, fans have been eagerly awaiting the next godly offering from Dream Theater and anticipating the next change in their frequently curve-balling sound. “Dark Clouds and Silver Linings” did not disappoint - Dream Theater came back with a devilishly good tenth album, well worth a listen from any Dream Theater fan.

The first track, “A Nightmare To Remember,” delivers riffs ripe with the drives of a drill into concrete, bursting with dark, heavy riffs. The contentious growling vocals of “Systematic Chaos” are counterbalanced by meaningful libretto and swerving directional changes, going from powerful and pounding to dark and dangerous with just one furious strike on Petrucci’s guitar. However, at a whopping sixteen minutes long, “A Nightmare To Remember” starts to become strained, and it is only saved from being tedious by it’s varying tone and mood.

Eastern-esque chords introduce “A Rite Of Passage,” sounding somewhat sinister, creating a powerfully intense atmosphere guided by an air-punch-inducing riff. Petrucci ploughs his way through almost nine minutes of crunching guitar, accompanied by Portnoy beating the crap out of his drums in a track flavoured with the tang of metal.

“Wither” is a slower track, enchantingly sensitive and tinged with the underlying sentiment of LaBrie’s intense vocals. After the first two heavier tracks, “Wither” could be considered as a short break from the intensity, but a wrong judgement this would be, as this is a track filled to the brim with emotion, power and poignancy, telling a story of helplessness and insecurity.

Retreating back to the harsher sound of “A Nightmare To Remember” and “A Rite Of Passage,” track four, “The Shattered Fortress” provides gut-wrenchingly frenzied drum beats and banging riffs sending vibrations of raw emotion down to your very core. The track’s guitar solo is an outstanding display of storming finger work, which is altogether exhilarating.

In an unexpected turn, even more so than the tender nature of “Wither,” a touchingly beautiful piano piece introduces “The Best Of Times,” with the tempo slowing down into a soulful reminiscence of Portnoy’s late father. With it’s personal and touching lyrics, the line “I’ll always remember, those were the best of times” expresses the undertones of love and hope conveyed by an upbeat melody. “The Best Of Times” is significantly different from the previous tracks; the blend of soft piano into delicate strings and moving acoustics makes a huge impact before bursting into life three minutes into the song.

The final track of the album, “The Count Of Tuscany,” is an odd-ball song written by Petrucci involving a Count whom he met in Tuscany - a bizarre background story that somehow works perfectly with the whole feel of the album. After one and a half minutes, the triumphant-sounding guitars and raging drums kick in. The “Count Of Tuscany” is a glorious, yet overly dragged-out, nineteen minute ending to a stunning album.

As individual tracks, they deliver what Dream Theater fans delightedly expect, yet as an album overall it gives a feel that there is a lack of flow between each song causing abrupt twists in song styles that seems to halt the listening experience. Despite the arduous lengths of certain tracks, “Dark Clouds and Silver Linings” is well-worth a listen and does exactly what it says on the tin - the dark clouds of the laborious “The Count Of Tuscany” and “A Nightmare To Remember” are lined with the silver of the very emotive “Wither” and “The Best Of Times”… if tender emotional-filled prog-metal is what you were looking for.

Highs: Heavy guitar riffs are intense and plentifull.

Lows: Several tracks are laboriously long and do not flow well within the album.

Bottom line: A truly great effort worthy of praise, despite some issues of song length and overall flow of the album.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)