Dream Theater - Black Clouds and Silver Linings
Roadrunner Records
Progressive Metal
6 songs (73:58)
Release year: 2009
Dream Theater, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Thomas
Major event

Lo and behold! The ultimate progressive metal monsters from Dream Theater have returned in the shape of Black Clouds and Silver Linings roughly two years after the both critically acclaimed and dismissed Systematic Chaos was released upon the masses. After Train of Thought, which is maybe The New Yorkers heaviest release to date, they turned things down a bit and released Octavarium which included some very mellow material in comparison. Systematic Chaos picked up the pace again and added a lot more energy and distinct technical details that, as usual with these guys, dazzled the mind. So where does Black Clouds and Silver Linings end up? Well, it is no secret that bands tend to run out of ideas once in a while, and I am not saying that Dream Theater did that here, but I am however implying that this sounds like a solid clash of their previous three albums. Not the worse thing that could happen, but neither is it the best.

Why? Well here goes, even though this album have some perfectly astounding bits, there are definitely flaws here involving downright boring and uninspired moments, as well as stuff you’d rather see more thought through. Instead of putting enough thought into their song-writing, it seems so “simple” for them to just break a song down to a long odd rhythm break and layer them with super-fast and fascinating solo tradeoffs before it goes back to normal. And while I’ll admit that most of these parts appeal to me in various ways, I must simply say that nothing here comes close to the rhythm/solo-parts on songs like Constant Motion or Endless Sacrifice. I could go on and on about the stuff I’m not very happy about on this album, there are however many bright, shining moments that I’d rather focus on in order to get you to check this album out. Because if you’re a Dream Theater fan, like me, or if you have at least appreciated their latest works to some extent, you will not be let down even though it sounds a little weak on the first couple of spins. Allow it to grow on you, and I guarantee that you’ll appreciate it just like you did with their previous 3-4 records.

This is only a six-track album. However, if you’re a driven Dream Theater-fan, this will not fool you as this clocks for well over an hour. The album kicks of with the nearly 15-minute monster A Nightmare to Remember which combines the heaviness of Train of Thought and the calm yet somewhat sprawling melodies of Octavarium. It’s a typical Dream Theater-epic with heavy parts, calm parts, both necessary and unnecessary soloing as well as Mike Portnoy’s ever so stable drumming. The single A Rite of Passage is next up, and the guys gets a little more experimental. Jordan Rudess is very playful, and his newfound love for strange effects gets to blossom on this song. I personally have nothing against this, but it does prove as a small let-down after Petrucci’s awesome almost Slash-like ending solo. Whither or The Answer Lies Within pt. 2 as I like to call it takes us back in the mystical wonderland of the Octavarium with acoustic guitars and very over-emotive melodies that doesn’t really do much more than soften you up a bit before the opening riffs of The Shattered Fortress, sends you head first into the nearest brick wall. This is the final song featured in Mike Portnoy’s so-called “Twelve-step saga” about his battles against alcoholism. Containing some of the strongest riffs since The Dying Soul and The Glass Prison, this sets a crushing mark for the epic suite that has conveyed since Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Even though the song sounds a little recycled at times, it turns out to be one of the, if not the strongest track on the album.

Another Portnoy-piece dedicated to his late father this time, The Best of Times, is up and is really a song that goes through the motions, containing emotional and touching lyrics sung through carefully composed orchestral pieces and enchanting melodies that brings back memories from the sometimes lovely 45-minute tale Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. However, it is not until the end that the guys really show that their sense of epic songwriting has not yet withered completely away. Just as they so magnificently wrapped up Systematic Chaos with In the Presence of Enemies pt. 2 they finish this one of with the 19-minute monster The Count of Tuscany. When I’m listening to this song, I can’t help but feel a little frustrated over why they haven’t done more of this through the entire CD. The beautiful melodies, the enchanting harmonies, the emotions and even some great vocal parts here and there strikes you to the ground with might. And after the well placed almost silent yet atmospheric guitar-part and a build-up that climaxes in one of the best Petrucci-solos I have heard in many years, the huge ending sets a powerful and awe-striking stop to a mighty song, and an album that may disappoint in places but is definitely more than worth a try.

You probably wonder why I haven’t mentioned our Canadian fellow James LaBrie yet, and quite frankly, his situation has not changed. The last time I heard him burst into full bloom was on the live Score-DVD. Since that, his singing has been limited to the middle section of his range, and even though it seems like it just wants to break out into wild soaring, it never does, and I fear it might stay that way for a long time. However, this is really not much of an issue here, as it actually fits pretty nicely even though it’s no highlight. Dream Theater wouldn’t be Dream Theater without LaBrie, and there’s a fun bonus to this style of singing as well: You get to humm along in the car without screaming you lungs out to reach the upper notes which is sweepingly awesome…!

All in all, an album that shouldn’t be missed by any Dream Theater, but on the other hand, if you don’t like them, you wouldn’t want to spend any money on this as this probably won’t change your opinion. They manage to prove two clear things with this one, on one side they still know full and well what it takes to create a good progressive metal CD, but on the other side however, they do have their struggles which becomes a little to audible for comfort at times.

Killing Songs :
The Shattered Fortress, The Count of Tuscany
Thomas quoted 82 / 100
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Dream Theater that we have reviewed:
Dream Theater - Distance Over Time reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
Dream Theater - Dream Theater reviewed by Rob and quoted 79 / 100
Dream Theater - Live At Budokan reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events reviewed by Crash and quoted 73 / 100
Dream Theater - A Change Of Seasons reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
To see all 18 reviews click here
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