Review Summary: A solid release where Dream Theater dares to be themselves again, having everything a dedicated fan would be content with.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
It's interesting to think that Black Clouds and Silver Linings
could be criticized for not being different among Dream Theater’s vast discography. It isn't a work of fiction like Systematic Chaos
or a rage filled album like Train of Thought
, and it sticks to the band's progressive metal genre. Instead, Dream Theater’s 10th album expands their territory, styles and sounds without appearing transparent along their range of influences. At this point in their twenty-plus year prog trail, Their sound arguably resembles a melting pot of various music acts, and while the dark terrain of the opener ‘A Nightmare to Remember’ is another stretch to Dream Theater’s repertoire, the tenth album in Dream Theater’s career holds the wholesome songwriting that gained them media attention with ‘Images and Words.’ As strange as the compliment is, Black Clouds and Silver Linings
is an excellent achievement for the band and a satisfying listen for their devoted fans.
Upon release, the album was described as having several of Dream Theater’s greatest epics on one album. Although that was obviously exaggerated for effect, the merit remains true. The album wraps 75 minutes of material into six songs, and the dedication track ‘The Best of Times’ appears to be a clear allusion to ‘A Change of Seasons’ with a starkly beautiful mood that pulls every sickly sweet or wondrous major chord imaginable, including a clear pinch from various songs off of Rush’s ‘Permanent Waves.’ On the tragic haunting chord of ‘A Nightmare to Remember,’ Portnoy unveils a monstrous threshold of double petal and attempts to blastbeat among his awkward growls. The song features one of the band’s strongest choruses that never grows old and Mike Portnoy’s background vocals work to bring out LaBrie’s splendorous voice. Petrucci’s lyrics perfectly capture the terror of his childhood trauma complete with the unrelenting stress and a torrent of white hot sparks from steel clashing against open road.
As is apparent to those who hear the lyrics of the album and recognize the various Queen inspired solos, Kansas motifs and Rush homages throughout the album, Dream Theater had difficulty making Black Clouds and Silver Linings
. The finale to Portnoy’s Alcoholics Anonymous Suite takes memorable pieces from each of the previous parts to create a ‘greatest hits’ finale, without actually offering anything new besides the cyclical intro and the complacent ‘I am responsible’ ending. The emotional centerpiece ‘Wither’ expands on this with Petrucci’s honest and sorrow filled lyrics of writers block. The strong ballad then builds to an impressive middle solo section that yearns to unite countlessly with disheartened ears. The strangest song is ‘A Rite of Passage,’ with a strong instrumental section that still allows the song to fall out of the album as a dismissible single meant for promotional play at radio stations.
Now for the ending piece, ‘The Count of Tuscany.’ The prog thickness spreads over Pink Floyd territory again and builds into an ending that is as incredible as it is durable. While the lyrics of Petrucci’s story are open to discussion among Dream Theater fans, the song is essentially an epic fairy tale of a true story. We are talking musically massive in the sense that it steps over ‘Octavarium’ and punches the ending of ‘In the Name of God’ in the face. Dream Theater’s endings usually feature a clever concept (Metropolis Pt.2: Scenes From A Memory
can be listened to as a cohesive meta-album) and Black Clouds and Silver Linings
ends with the same dark and thunderous theme as the intro to ‘A Nightmare to Remember,’ after announcing the epic and unforgettable lines “Of course you’re free to go, go and tell the world my story, tell them of my brother, tell them about me, the Count of Tuscany.” Taking that into serious account, there really isn’t an excuse for a Dream Theater fan to avoid Black Clouds and Silver Linings
. The album brings back the band’s humanity, depth and same topical material that made all other Dream Theater songs incredible. Unless you are still upset that Moore left and LaBrie annoys you as a singer, those who are looking to explore Dream Theater’s aggressive side will instantly favor Black Clouds and Silver Linings
and it’s embellished exterior. It is everything a dedicated fan would be content with.