Review Summary: Dream Theater have meticulously crafted an album that is a huge step in the right direction.
While Images & Words
has been praised for its originality and Scenes From a Memory
lauded for its superbly portrayed apologue, Dream Theater’s recent efforts have been more contrived. Though “Octavarium” is almost unanimously regarded as one of Dream Theater’s best, nearly half of the material from its album isn’t worth listening to. Moreover, the lyrical content of the music has deteriorated greatly, and when reflecting upon the quality of Dream Theater’s output prior to 2005’s Train of Thought
, the lyrics of the more recent albums have been comparatively abysmal. It’s definitely safe to say that the band has been in a bit of a drought, and while I cringe at denigrating the band, it is probably at its nadir.
For many, Black Clouds & Silver Linings
was going to be the last Dream Theater album they were willing to deal with. Tired of the overly indulgent soloing and dragging songs, numerous fans were expecting to be done with the band that effectively epitomized the word “pretentious”. And with six tracks clocking in at a hefty 75 minutes, it becomes very safe to make the initial assumption that Dream Theater will continue the trend of tedious and lengthy songs. But on Black Clouds
, Dream Theater make great strides in their attempts to dismantle any preconceived apprehensions about the album.
The album is much more emotionally driven than previous efforts, and with more of a focus on the emotional aspects of the music, songwriting seems to have become a greater priority of the band, and any qualms fans may have had about the band begin to dissipate. There are still trademark Dream Theater solos, but John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess tone it down significantly and focus more on the riffs and creating a good atmosphere for the music. This allows Mike Portnoy to exercise more freedom with his playing, and it results in some of his best work.
Though the music has taken a turn in the right direction, the lyrics continue to be sub-par. On “The Count of Tuscany”, the attempt to show a frightening scene is hampered by laughable lyrics and a vapid delivery. Nevertheless, the song is the best on the album; the segment following the Octavarium-esque ethereal interlude being the best and most emotional music the band has ever written. In fact, despite the issues that the band still need to work out, Dream Theater have meticulously crafted an album that is a huge step in the right direction.