Dream Theater
Black Clouds and Silver Linings



by PsychicChris USER (564 Reviews)
May 13th, 2024 | 15 replies

Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Like reflections on the page, the world’s what you create

Like Scenes From A Memory before it, there’s a sense of culmination with 2009’s Black Clouds & Silver Linings. The style is at its most honed in with nary a gimmick to be found, essentially continuing the heavy bombast of Systematic Chaos applied to even more grandiose songwriting. Even without factoring in Mike Portnoy’s departure from the band a year later, there’s a sense that they’ve pushed this phase of their career as far as it could go and steps like ending the AA Suite reinforce that resolution.

This might also be the band’s most personal album in some time with lyrics revolving around themes of family and personal introspection. It still results in the mix of silliness and sincerity that came to define aughts-era Dream Theater, but I can appreciate moments like “Wither” detailing the struggles of writer’s block as well as Portnoy offering an emotional tribute to his father with “The Best of Times.” “A Rite of Passage” is the lone outlier with its diatribes about secret societies, but can we really confirm that John Petrucci isn’t a Mason?

The album also hearkens back to the denser song lengths of Six Degrees and Train of Thought with four of its six tracks running well past the twelve-minute mark. Each one does a good job exploring various moods as “The Shattered Fortress” caps off the AA Suite with a mix of revisited motifs and a hard-hitting climax while “The Best of Times” keeps from getting too saccharine by means of its upbeat and free-flowing Rush inspirations. Even the shorter tracks have their duality between the epic march and keyboard tangents on “A Rite of Passage” and straightforward balladry on “Wither.”

While the bookending numbers on this album aren’t thematically connected, “A Nightmare to Remember” and “The Count of Tuscany” are the most memorable tracks. They’re both structured fairly similarly with dramatic introductions, driving metal verses, explosive choruses, slower interludes, and climactic endings across their dense runtimes. While I prefer the former for its more visceral structuring and lyrics about a traumatic car accident, the latter’s contrasts between intense gallops and spacey back half are pretty cool. I also can’t deny the cheese that each provides; Portnoy’s half-growled verses toward the end of the former and the latter’s lyrics amounting to Petrucci freaking out about some random aristocrat don’t quite undercut their impacts, but they do come close.

I have my doubts on whether Dream Theater’s cyclical phases are intentional, but Black Clouds & Silver Linings is a strong end to their 2000s run of releases. It reflects what they had accomplished up to that point, largely eschewing the gimmicks but putting forth their dynamics and personal charm across tracks that are dense yet solidly constructed. It’s as corny as anything else they’d done, but fourteen years of hindsight has done enough to make one miss this particular brand of it. And with Portnoy having recently returned to the fold, one wonders how much of this majesty they’ll be able to recapture.

Recent reviews by this author
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Comments:Add a Comment 
May 13th 2024


Good to see such a high rating, I always thought this was their best album easily

May 14th 2024


Album Rating: 4.0

This one feels the most "cut and paste" to me, but it's still good. The cheesiness doesn't bother me if it's not in your face cheesiness a la Manowar. Thank you for this string of reviews, curious to know what you think about the Mangini era

May 14th 2024


Album Rating: 4.5

I’ve reviewed them all but the short answer is I really like A Dramatic Turn of Events, loathe The Astonishing, and degrees of meh toward the other three.

May 14th 2024


Album Rating: 4.5

I agree. It's good to see such a high rating to this album. Maybe it has nothing new to offer but I always loved it and it became one of my favourite albums of the band after their golden era.

Nice work pal. Pos.

May 14th 2024


Album Rating: 4.0

This is one of their most stupid and beautiful albums ever

May 14th 2024


Album Rating: 4.5


May 14th 2024


Album Rating: 4.0

"I’ve reviewed them all but the short answer is I really like A Dramatic Turn of Events, loathe The Astonishing, and degrees of meh toward the other three".

Ok, that's exactly what I feel about these albums, except I don't actively loathe The Astonishing, just grew tired of it really quickly and don't come back to listen anymore.

May 14th 2024


Album Rating: 4.0

Good review. It's always been about the bookends for me.

And that Stargazer cover on the deluxe disc.

May 15th 2024


Album Rating: 4.0

This is one of their most stupid and beautiful albums ever [2]

This album is special to me, really takes me back to high school. The words "3 disc special edition" remind me of a time when buying CD's felt amazing

May 15th 2024


Album Rating: 4.0

A younger version of me was totally obsessed with the count of tuscany. Still really like this but think I might agree with my dad that this is maybe their last great album

Staff Reviewer
May 15th 2024


Album Rating: 4.0

It’s not their best but it's defo my favourite Dream Theater. Great write-up

May 16th 2024


Album Rating: 3.5

I'm actually enjoying a lot this serie of review, re-listened to some CDs too, so thanks for that!

Have a pos!

May 16th 2024


Album Rating: 2.5

I remember not loving this, but tbh I can't remember the last time I listened to DT that wasnt Images and Words or Awake

May 16th 2024


The mid section of The Count of Tuscany from 10:17 to 14:17 is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. Incredible.

May 17th 2024


Album Rating: 4.5


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