Released: Jun 23, 2009
Genre: Progressive metal
Label: Roadrunner Records
Number Of Tracks: 6
Dream Theater deliver the goods in the usual enjoyable way but remain limited in terms of how much further their routine can take them.
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
UG Team, on june 23, 2009 11 of 29 people found this review helpful
Sound: I have a theory when it comes to Dream Theater: that they put out an absolute masterpiece (the first being Images & Words') but then have to go through two album cycles to recharge their batteries to their full potential again. For Black Clouds & Silver Linings' to follow this pattern, I would expect it to be anything from great to mediocre, though of course bucking the trend should never be out of the question. Things start off very nicely with the bulging goliath A Nightmare To Remember' and the rest of the album certainly ticks all the boxes. We've got the stock yet strangely appealing modern DT riffs, the expansive instrumental workouts and the astronomically high notes-per-minute count. Whilst still fairly dark and heavy, the Portnoy-speared METUL!' douchebaggery found on a lot of Systematic Chaos' has cooled down and left more room for traditional proggy sounds, particularly on The Count Of Tuscany' and Wither'.
The most talked-about song after details of the album were first released was The Shattered Fortress', the closing chapter of Mike Portnoy's Twelve-Step Suite', but Dream Theater have shot themselves in the foot with its creation; rather than write a piece which concludes the string of quality songs, they have crammed together as many of the saga's themes as possible and wedged brief moments of original material to fill in the gaps, creating the musical equivalent of a sitcom clip show. In fact the whole album feels like DT-by-numbers and sadly after 10 albums fans should be starting to hear what note James LaBrie is about to hit, predict when they'll reprise the main riff with a half time feel, and speculate on just how much longer John Myung can survive under the rubble of the mix before losing consciousness entirely.
Still, those who gape at the technical wizardry of the band shouldn't be let down; Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci once again play until their fingers blur, though the division between shred' and emotional' soloing has never been clearer. There's some mighty fine instrumental sections on the first and last tracks (incidentally the only two songs which stand out as being particularly great), and Rudess' wide palette of sounds grows even more to include, reportedly, an iPhone. Whatever will that crazy character do next? // 7
Lyrics: I think Dream Theater fans are used to some pretty cheesy lyrics, but some of the material on Black Clouds & Silver Linings' really takes the cake. There's a melodramatic ballad about writer's block and a 16 minute epic about a car crash but the most bizarre song of all is The Count Of Tuscany', a song which John Petrucci wrote about a Count, whom he met in Tuscany, that frightened him in some way. We can only make wild guesses at what on earth happened to that poor guy, but I think it can safely be assumed that puzzled looks were exchanged at the Dream Theater drawing board when the idea was pitched. Aside from sketchy subject matter, the lyrics aren't the best you'll ever see, but they're only explicitly bad on occasion; this is often the case with Dream Theater when they don't appear to have some kind of central theme to work with. The Shattered Fortress', though, for all its musical shortcomings, is a brilliant lyrically and wraps things up the story of Mike's alcoholism in style.
James LaBrie absolutely stuns me on this album. His melodies are often the most interesting parts in the songs and he's definitely found the balance between operatic bombast, unornamented melody and his slightly rougher approach on heavier parts. For a guy who is often seen to be the weak link' in the band when it comes to instrumental virtuosity, he really hits every note in the exact right way. Mike Portnoy's vocal contributions are getting more frequent, and while they aren't half as irritating as they have been in the past, there are times where you have to wonder why they were included. Still, it affects a very small portion of the album and is overshadowed by LaBrie's performance. // 8
Overall Impression: Mike Portnoy has been quoted as saying Black Clouds...' is an album which is like having A Change of Seasons', Octavarium', Learning to Live', Pull Me Under' and The Glass Prison' all on one album. Right you are, Mike, but I've heard those songs before and don't need them again. It may sound harsh, but far too much of this album feels familiar; not necessarily because DT have ripped themselves off' (although the acoustic solo in The Best Of Times' may as well be Hollow Years') but because of the borderline obsessed fanbase they've had for many years; it feels like they are hesitant to take major stylistic steps and instead keep their music progressive' only as far as a song or an album goes, rather than a career.
If this were a debut album, it would be absolutely fantastic and there's no denying that there's a lot of great music here, but it's nothing all that new from this band. Unless they experiment further and truly progress beyond what is expected of them, Dream Theater's newfound popularity in the modern scene may be the only thing that grows. // 6
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
Big Tommy P, on june 23, 2009 6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Sound: First and foremost: I am prog, not metal. Bare that in mind as you read this. I found the album improves as it progresses. I found the opener, A Nightmare to Remember, a little wearisome in parts, but for anyone who liked Train of Thought, this track shouldn't disappoint. A Rite of Passage, and Wither seem quite commercial by DT's standards, whilst not unpleasant, is a little surprising, especially the latter. Mike has finished the AA suite, so in "The Shattered Fortress", there is a resurgence of themes from the previous steps (ie, The Glass Prison, etc.). It is the final two tracks that stand out the most, the Rush-esque "The Best of Times" in a slight ballad fashion, and the epic "The Count of Tuscany" which really captures the band at their best.
Petrucci will not disappoint, well, not guitarists at least. He and Portnoy seem to hog the majority of the album, with Rudess soaring above with some gothic orchestral motifs. Myung, sadly, seems to have a diminished role these days, as the bass cannot even be heard in some parts, and when it can, is virtually supporting the guitars. // 9
Lyrics: James LaBrie helms the mic again, and in fine shape mind you, alternating between his clear, angelic voice, and his harsh, gruff screaming. Although a tenor, he still manages to find a few moments to hit a couple of high notes interspersed here and there. He does a good job, granted, a voice of his calibre deserves an album more like Scenes From a Memory, or Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, but I can't imagine anyone else more suited for the album, as the ability to alternate between styles is essential to the songs and lyrics.
The Shattered Fortress, the first of Portnoy's two lyrical compositions, is the final installment of his AA suite, and a worthy finale for a difficult battle against an unhealthy addiction. Whilst not as interesting as it's predecessors, a worthy finish.
The Best of Times, Portnoy's other creation, is about his father, whom died of cancer earlier this year. An uncharacteristic approach to lyrics (by Mike's standards), but the effect is well received when combined with the music, to make a ballad, showcasing, yet another side of the band. It doesn't however, stand up to A Change of Seasons, themed about his mother's struggle against cancer.
The only interesting lyrics by Petrucci are those of The Count of Tuscany: Italy, arcane practices of cannibalism interwoven in tradition; well, that's prog metal, I'm satisfied.
When read alone, the lyrics seem a little corny and trite, but with the music, they take on a life of their own, and all silliness vanishes. Then again, that's true for most music, as the music is often medium of expression. // 9
Overall Impression: I will not compare this album to anything prior to Scenes From a Memory. After a few listens, I have deemed it superior to Train of Thought. Just makes the cut above Octavarium, and lightyears above Systematic Chaos (not that it was a bad album, just below my expactations of such a grouping of virtuosos). It fails, however, to compare to the likes of the aforementioned Scenes, and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. But hey, I'm prog, make that decision yourself.
The final two tracks I think are the prime cuts, but if it were to spawn singles, A Rite of Passage, and Wither would claim those titles. It's quite impressive after a few listens, as it caters to quite a few styles.
I'm disappointed in the metal themed direction DT has taken for the last few years, but this album far exceeds its predecessor. I do like Rudess' attempts to assert himself during the songs, as he seemed reluctant to do for TOT and SysChaos. I think Myung's bass needed to be turned up a bit, which I really found irritating.
If I had to, I'd place it in fifth place, for favourite overall DT album (Change of Seasons excluded), and third place for Rudess DT album. // 9
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
leetguitar, on july 21, 2009 2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Two long years after the release of their controversial album "Systematic Chaos," progressive power house, Dream Theater, has returned to the spotlight with their latest album, Black Clouds & Silver Linings. Once again Dream Theater has tweaked their sound and mood from previous albums, and headed in a sometimes more gothic direction with songs like "A Nightmare to Remember." Not to say all the songs have a gothic feeling, and actually far from it. This album has a range of Dream Theater not seen on past albums. Starting with a dark and foreboding head banger, and ending with a nineteen minute proggresive rock masterpiece, sprinkled with ballads, and heartwarming melodic soundscapes, Black Clouds & Silver Linings is one of Dream Theaters best sounding albums in recent memory.
For me, there is little to complain about the sound of this new album except for a few nitpicks, such as a few of Portnoy's vocals (which you get used to after a few listens) and the deep voiced talking in the AA Saga Finale. Surely detractors with poorly trained ears, who listen through generic ipod headphones will complain about the lack of Myungs bass, but if you have decent headphones, and a usable set of ears, you should have little to complain about. // 9
Lyrics: Like most Dream Theater albums, Black Clouds & Silver Linings has a plethora of lyrical topics ranging from personal tragedies and losing loved ones, to masonic cults, and writers block.
To be honest, myself, and I assume most others, don't listen to Dream Theater in search of some deep and profound lyrics, as much as we do for their amazing technical prowess. Despite this, when it comes to lyrics, Dream Theater doesn't simply dish out generic boy meets girl love stories, and goes out of their way to write about interesting and unusual topics. Sure there they can be silly at times, or just plain corny *cough*wither*cough* but as I stated, DT's lyrics are overcompensated by their amazing musicianship, and vocal meoldies.
On the topic of vocals, DT fans are in for a treat. Often criticized as the weak link of Dream Theater, James Labrie really gets his vocals just right this time around. James does a great job of balancing the high vocals with the lower, without ever sounding whinny or cheesey. I found the vocals on the "Shattered Fortress", and on the cover CD song "Stargazer" two very strong vocal performances.
Bottom Line: Some of the best Dream Theater Vocals in the past decade // 10
Overall Impression: 01.A Nightmare to Remember: this 16 minute thrill ride of a song starts out with the distant clapping of thunder, and soon goes into an eerie piano melody which leads into one of the most epic (and sinister) Dream Theater intros ever. With a driving guitar and choir melody, cascading drum fills, and thunderous double bass, this song pulls you in, and doesn't let go till the rides over. Featuring a powerful singing performance, brilliant guitar and key solos, melodic interludes, and hectic drumming. Easily one of my faves from the album.
02.A Rite of Passage: the first single off of Black Clouds, "A Rite Of Passage" doesn't disappoint. Beginning with a catchy bass melody which quickly grows into a memorable, and driving riff. Though one of the heavier tracks, it features many SFAM type vocal melodies. By the end you may be a little bored by the repetitious chorus, but in awe of the inhuman solo of Petrucci, and a bit confused by the ending of Rudess's. Over all not my favorite song, but by no means a bad one.
03.Wither: the third track Wither is the albums ballad. And like with most DT ballads, it's usually a love/hate situation. The track starts with the echo of acoustic guitar, and soon drums and vocals kick in. The most melodic song on the album, the song continually builds up to the end, where it ends with a short queen inspired solo. The song's lyrics focuses on the difficulties of writers block, and when you pay close attention to the lyrics, it will come across as quite corny. I found that I enjoyed this song more before finding out the context of the lyrics. Still it is a good song, and props to Petrucci for his short, but more than sweet solo.
04.The Shattered Fortress: the final piece of the AA saga, and the second heaviest song on the album, "The Shattered Fortress" brings the 5 piece series to a climactic close. The song takes various riffs and melodies from past AA songs, and melds them with new ideas, to create a familiar, yet intriguingly solid track. Slowly fading in with a distorted guitar, a growling riff soon takes over, and is layered with a key melody punctuated by a snare drum. It's hard to describe, but it comes together very nicely to form an awesome riff. After about a minute and a half of the intro, the guitar goes into a soaring rendition of the "This Dying Soul" solo, and then changing to the "The Glass Prison" riff. Throughout the song you will hear past snippets from the series.
All together, the combination of old and new elements makes this a worthy ending to the AA suite. Only complaint I have is the deep voice in the "Repentance" rehash.
05.The Best of Times: The second to last track, and definitely the most emotional, and soulful song on BC&SL, the song is an ode from Portnoy to his deceased father. Starting with a beautiful, tear jerking acoustic solo, and rapidly changing pace into a Rush-esque epic. Hosting Some of the best lyrics on the album, and with a more classic prog-rock vibe, this track is sure to please old-school DT fans. Like "Wither," the song builds up until the end where Petrucci unleashes one of his most amazingly passionate guitar solos. Ever.
Even if this song was bad, which it isn't, this solo alone would make up for it.
06.The Count of Tuscany: finally, the final track. "The Count of Tuscany" is the albums epic, and clocking in at 19 minutes of Progressive awesomeness, it is not a let down. The song begins with an acoustic melody, leading into a beautiful electric guitar solo, which fades away back into a new acoustic melody. Then the distorted guitar kicks in, and Portnoy lets loose some inspiring drum fills. Riddled with catchy meoldies, time signature changes, interesting interludes, synchronized solos, and heavy riffs, This track is sure to please all Dream Theater fans, and become a classic.
Many have complained about the strange lyrics of this song, which deal about Petrucci's travel to Tuscany, where he met a count who he thought would kill him. Frankly, as long as the lyrics aren't as cliche as singing about monsters *cough*Dark Eternal Night**cough* they're good enough for me.
In conclusion, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" is a great progressive metal album, probably the best album out this year, and certainly one of Dream Theater's best in a long time.
Great vocals, great instrumentation, and great production all lend to making this a must have for any DT fan, or progressive fan for that matter. My favorite tracks are the first and last tracks, "A nightmare to Remember," and "The Count of Tuscany."
If stolen I would impale the thief with a spork, and force him to eat shrinky-dinks till he internally ruptured, than I would throw him in a pool of battery acid, and ammonia. Than I would go buy a new one. // 9
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
TheLlamaMan, on june 26, 2009 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Black Clouds & Silver Linings is progressive metal band Dream Theater's 10th studio album. The great thing about Dream Theater is their ability to write complicated music in many different styles and cram it into a song in a way that sounds amazing, and this album is no exception, for the most part.
The album can easily be identified as darker and heavier then its predecessor in songs like "A Nightmare to Remember", but it's clear that the band is not limited this style as we see much softer and emotional songs as well, like "Wither" and "The Best of Times". Each song on this album is over 10 minutes, with the exception of two, and although this seems as if its a big much the band manages to make each song feel full and will keep you wanting to listen. The sound on this album is incredibly balanced, but you can't feel but help like some of the songs drag on and others should be longer.
This album is full of great original progressive songs, like "The Count of Tuscany", but it is obvious that they were stretching at some points. For instance, the song "The Shattered Fortress" is the end of the epic Twelve-step Suite, but instead of the original masterpiece we expected, we are delivered a 12 minute song made up of recycled parts of the previous installments of the suite.
Despite some of the issues with the album, the instrumentation is fantastic as usual. John Petrucci's guitar playing abilities are as amazing as ever, and it seems like his ability to distinguish crazy shredding from melodic and beautiful lines has really improved. On drums, Mike Portnoy is amazing. He's able to keep complicated time signatures while throwing in crazy drum fills wherever he can and still keep time. John Myung's bass playing is still great and dominant, and instead of being an instrument to support the guitar its an instrument of its own that really adds a ton to the album. Finally, Jordan Rudess' keyboard playing remains fantastic and a great addition to the songs.
Overall, this album has tons of great aspects to it and will keep you listening for a long time, but there's still a few issues the band needs to overcome. The problems aren't very big at all, but this is their 10th album and by this point they should be able to fix some minor things that bring the album down. // 8
Lyrics: The lyrics cover many themes, from the death of loved ones to innocence to recovering alcoholics. The lyrics themselves are fairly simply written, but in a way that's catchy and that you can really get into. Some of the themes seem a tad repetitive, but for the most part they are well written and can be related to.
James LaBrie's vocals have improved and changed greatly since the release of Systematic Chaos. His voice isn't as whiny and is more confident. However, instead of being underconfident he is almost over confident.. I feel like he's making some of the vocals harsher, louder, and edgier then they were intended to be. His singing is great, but it is obvious that this is probably one of the weaker parts of the band. // 8
Overall Impression: When I first got the album, I thought it was absolutely stunning. A few times later, I still think it's great. However, listening closely you can hear some parts where the band isn't as tight as it could be, or some of the songs aren't as great as they could be.
Overall, this album is great and you'll want to listen to it if you're a fan of the genre, and if you're a fan of Dream Theater definitely buy it, it's not number 1 but it's still pretty high up there. // 9
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
wont-fool-again, on june 29, 2009 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Following up to 2007s Album "Systematic Chaos" "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" is Dream Theaters 2nd album with Roadrunner Records, and I must say it's their best sounding record since "Scenes from a Memory" In fact I think It may be better than that album. Each song sounds different from the last giving it a good amount of diversity on the album. The opening Track "A nightmare to remember" Is a balls to the wall metal song that halfway in switches to a pink floyd-esque sound, Then you have tracks like "Wither" which are pure Ballads. The songs length is well balanced also, they range from 5 minutes to 19 minutes. One thing I really love about this album is how based it is around the vocals rather than the Instruments ("Systematic Chaos" Was a very instrument based album). Overall I think it's the best sounding album the band has ever released. // 10
Lyrics: Again- With the last album Dream Theater came out with the writing was not that great but I'd say they've gotten back to a good writing style, although the lyrics in "The Count of Tuscany" are a bit Cheesy by the end of the song you may be in tears like I was. Each song tells a different story as the songs are all Non-fiction material.
01."A Nightmare to remember": is about a Car accident John Petrucci was involved with as a child. It runs at about 16:10 and sounds very much like metallica (Lyrically and musically) One complaint I have to say about this song is at the very end Mike Portnoy does kind of a growling section and the lyrics do not match the singing.
02."A Rite of Passage" is about Free Masonry, It is one of the best written songs on the album as it clearly defines what it is about.
03."Wither": is the best written song on the album, which I find Ironic because the song is about Writers block.
04."The Shattered Fortress": is the final song is a series of 12 step saga songs by Mike Portnoy, Not much to say other than don't expect alot of new things.
05."The Best of Times": is another song written by Mr.Portnoy about his father who had cancer at the time of writing the song. It is a beautifully written song filled with emotion and it has a very similar section to hollow years in it.
06."The Count of Tuscany": is the only song with pretty bad lyrics, Bad in a sense of: They are far too straight forward, Especially by Petrucci's standards. He Usually tends to write in Metaphors but he pretty much describes what happened to him out there word for word. The first half is quite cheesy the second half is beautiful.
This also happens to be Labrie's best album Vocally. His voice is absolutely great from start to finish, he gets his growls in very well and sings his usual high notes (No F# Though!). // 9
Overall Impression: Overall It is probably Dream Theaters best album, the best songs In my opinion are (In this order) Wither, The count of Tuscany, The Shattered Fortress, The Best of Times, A Nightmare to Remember, A rite of Passage. The thing I love about this album is it's uniqueness, It's unlike anything Dream Theater has ever done for me. It stands out amongst their albums so much more than "Systematic Chaos" Or "Octavarium" did, And I remember Portnoy talking about what those albums were ("Systematic Chaos" was another Heavy album "Octavarium" had a grand theme) and I can't really say this album has a Theme, It varies so much from song to song.
And If it was stolen or lost would I buy it again? I spent 132$ on it so of course I would! // 10
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
immortalsoloist, on july 01, 2009 1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Very Progressive sounding. Fantastic transitions between heavy and soft sound moments. The sound is certainly the traditional Dream Theater sound with a bunch of newer sounds added on to their signature sound. The sound is all that you can expect from a Dream Theater album.
Imagine mixing Cynic, Opeth, Black Sabbath, Yes, and Pink Floyd all together. That is the over all sound of the entire record. Fantastic piece of music. // 10
Lyrics: The lyrics are mostly non fictional and very real life based. The lyrics generally talk about real life experiences (Good or Bad) with the band members of Dream Theater, mainly John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy. James Labrie, their vocalist sounded fantastic on this record. The lyrics were very meaningful and not the usual fictional stuff you hear Dream Theater writing. // 10
Overall Impression: I am a very old Dream Theater fan and this is my review of the entire record.
01.A Nightmare To Remember: this song is just pure heavy. The intro is probably the heaviest that Dream Theater have done. It talks about real life events on John Petrucci's fatal car accident. The song starts really heavy. To me it reminded me of a bunch of bands combined with Dream Theater, adding a little Opeth and Cynic in to play with Dream Theater's signature sound and this is what the track's intro is like. The song is like that half way through going in to a fantastic Yes or Pink Floyd type of transition with extreme mellowness. Once again the instrumental work is just fantastic on this track; the unisons between Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci are just as good as any. John Petrucci's tone this time was quiet different; the solo started like a powerful Zakk Wylde solo going in to the signature John Petrucci sound. While it was a shred solo it had a very melodic passage, which made it fast yet very musical, going in to an obscure unison between Jordan Rudess and Petrucci. So Dream Theater really gave a thunderous song to begin with. 16:10 is the time duration of extreme musical transitions.
02.A Rite Of Passage: A Rite Of Passage is another great track -definitely a great single. The drums really reminded me of the Falling In To Infinity era. To me it sounded like putting together Pull Me Under from "Images And Words, Burning My Soul"Falling In TO Infinity" and As I Am from "Train Of Thought" all together. Like there weren't any similar riffs but the writing style of this track was certainly similar to all these tracks mentioned above due to the sound. A great single -probably the best since Pull Me Under. 8:25 of great music. The solos on this track were both separated from one another. Once again John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess did a fantastic job on the solo sections.
The drums really reminded me of the Falling In To Infinity era. To me it sounded like putting together Pull Me Under from "Images And Words, Burning, My Soul Falling In TO Infinity" and As I Am from "Train Of Thought" all together. Like there weren't any similar riffs but the writing style of this track was certainly similar to all these tracks mentioned above due to the sound. A great single, probably the best since Pull Me Under. 8:25 of great music. The solos on this track were both separated from one another. Once again John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess did a fantastic job on the solo sections.
03.Whither: now here is a song which really changes the mood.The guitar intro is totally chordal with great usage of reverb. The special thing about this song in particular is that it is completely composed and arranged by John Petrucci himself instead of having the others giving their input. The song is really well balanced with soft moments going in to a bunch of perfect well balanced distorted moments, very well mixed. This song is 5:25 and is the shortest song on the album, in my opinion it can easily get a nice radio play on all of the stations. If you like songs like "Another Day" and "I Walk Beside You" this certainly does not disappoint. My personal request to all of those that have been hearing these songs on You Tube: it's my humble request that guys please be true fans and get nice versions of the songs- the ones uploaded on you tube are of terrible sound quality so please before coming up with any assumptions against the album try to be more of the true fans before judging the record. Once again this is a fantastic single and I think this song would make a great video. Overall a wonderful track.
04.The Shattered Fortress: alright this song hasn't been a huge favorite of many listeners. I personally really enjoyed it not just because I am a huge Dream Theater fan and like anything and everything that they do but because this is the ending to the entire Glass Prison Saga. It started from The Glass Prison going in to This Dying Soul, going In To The Root Of All Evil, going in to Repentance, and ending with the Shattered Fortress. I don't know why some fans were disappointed with this track because it makes perfect sense since it's the ending to the entire saga that Mike Portnoy started writing from the Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence era. I was expecting it would have bits and pieces from every song that was linked with the Glass Prison. It kind of showed that now that all has been done and said it's time to end it and the way I saw it was the person who was once stuck in the Glass Prison was now free of all the bindings and all the frustrations due to his drinking problems and was now reflecting upon the past and finally closing the entire book. So to me this track felt right in place. People said it was too heavy and that kind of makes me laugh because this is the ending to the Glass Prison Saga. No one complained about that when The Glass Prison itself came out and if I can recall it's probably one of the most heavy and memorable tracks of Dream Theater. All I can say is people just can never be satisfied. I really heard this album from the day I bought it like probably 40 times to really come up with a solidified review for every track. So coming back to this track Jordan Rudess solo was really powerful .I don't know if many of you remember the keyboard solo that Jordan played in his own way in "A Change Of Seasons" from the Live Scenes In New York DVD; well his solo on this track was pretty much like that so it's very cool. John Petrucci's solo was outstanding. He used some very odd notes in the beginning of his solo and kept it very melodic. I was very happy with it .The solo could really take you back to his playing era of "Awake" so once again fantastic job. James Labrie sounded stronger then ever. I highly recommend people to give this track a listen like 5 or 6 times before judging it. It has a lot of the old stuff in it combined with some interesting new parts. 12:49 of adrenaline rush is what I would say about this track.
05.The Best Of Times: The Best Of Times is probably going to go in as a Dream Theater Classic! It's an extremely emotional track that Mike Portnoy wrote for his father "Howard Portnoy" who passed away in early 2009. And Mike really played the drums in a really musical way and really expressed all his feelings through them which was a treat. The intro begins with a beautiful Piano Intro linked with a few bars of beautiful violin played by "Jerry Goodman" and then beautiful acoustic guitars by John Petrucci. After that it takes an intense turn in to a very beautiful intense second intro which certainly reminded me of the band "Rush" so you can imagine how amazing that must be. And certainly this song reminded me of the "Scenes From A Memory" plus "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence" era. Then the song takes a beautiful transition in to the same melody that was in the intro and then John Petrucci gives a solo which gave me the chills. It was probably the most perfect solo on the entire record. I mean I liked all solos but this certainly stood out. Like everything was well balanced. The fast parts were executed at the perfect time and then going in to very melodic parts. I think John Petrucci was outstanding on this track. The acoustic guitars in the middle were also very well balanced. James Labrie sounded fantastic on this song as well. He really gave a lot of emotions on this track. When you hear this track it would certainly remind you of your best of times. Fantastic song Dream Theater Classic. 13:07 of beautiful and emotional music.
06.The Count Of Tuscany: this is a real treat for all "TRUE DREAM THEATER FANS" -another epic. It's almost as long as "A Change Of Seasons" so well it starts off with beautiful clean guitars and keyboards, the first few bars would certainly remind you of "Another Day" then it goes in to beautiful unisons just like they used to do back in the "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence" era. I can certainly say the unison was as good as any of the ones on Disc 2 of "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence" then certainly it takes an entire other transition in to this darkness. The intro towards the darkness is certainly very powerful- the first few bars would definitely remind you of Rush's "YYZ" so, yea, that is fantastic and then it goes in to a very similar structure of writing like they had during the "When Dream And Day Unite" era then it went in to another change between mellow and heavy put together which fit perfectly and then James Labrie's vocals came in which weren't disappointing. After some really great riffs and ideas it goes in to this complete mellow transition where John Petrucci plays some wonderful whaling guitars with the usage of good delay. Lets just say that section was YES meets Pink Floyd and then after that the endings were probably some of the best Dream Theater have done. Honestly speaking, the ending was as good or even better than Octavarium's ending. The acoustic guitars were amazing going in to the electric guitars intensity. It was a beautiful ending. Certainly right up there with the classic Dream Theater endings to an epic. I would certainly say this Epic stands head to head with " A Change Of Season" and "Octavarium". This song was based on the real life events of John Petrucci meeting the Count of Tuscany.
19:16 epic just mind blowing musical sound scape. I think any true Dream Theater fan who is open to change and really believes in the term "Progressive" would really enjoy this record. Using You Tube and downloading bad quality torrents is just wrong. After doing so and commenting on the album is shameful. Be a true fan really, hear the perfect mix and then pass your judgments. I waited for this album to come out to enjoy it. I could have you tubed the songs and been like oh well it's nothing special; remember quality of a product affects the views of the listener. I would give this record 10/10 because it really is what it says behind every cloud there is silver lining. The perfect blend of Heavy and Dark moods going in to more emotional and soft moods and talking about some of the worst scenarios/events and coming out of from those even stronger than ever for a better and good future and trying to find something good within the bad. Behind Every Cloud There is a Silver lining-great concept and great record.
For those fans like me who bought the special edition CD, their journey of musical satisfaction doesn't end here because there are two more discs. Disc 2 is a cover song CD and Disc 3 is an instrumental mix of the entire album "Black Clouds And Silver Linings".
Lets talk a little about Disc 2 which is such a treat.
01.Artist: Rainbow-Song: Start Gazer: alright as most of you know the original consisted of the amazing Richie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio. Well, this track certainly was covered in a really amazing way and it really fit the Dream Theater sound. For all the James Labrie haters once you hear his vocals on this you would probably be a little embarrassed to criticize his vocals because he sang it so well. The cover is fantastic, a real treat indeed.
02.Artist Queen-Song: Funster/Flick Of The Wrist/Lily Of the Valley: this track is just epic. Queens are one of those classic bands which had a wide array of genres within their style so that certainly fit in to Dream Theater's covering catalogue. The cover was fantastic and according to Brian May (Queen's Guitar Player) it was the best cover of Queen that he ever heard. So you fans are in for a real treat with this one.
03.Artist: Dixie Dreggs - Song: The Odyssey: now for most of the die hard Dream Theater fans this is another treat- I mean if you are a Dream Theater fan then you certainly know who the Dixie Dreggs are. One of the best instrumental bands that comprised of legends such as Dave Larue on bass, Steve Morse on Guitars, and Rod Morgenstein on drums. All these guys are huge influences on the boys from Dream Theater. Steve Morse is like a huge inspiration for John Petrucci, Dave Larue is one of the favorites of John Myung's (Bass), and Rod Morgenstein is a huge influence on Mike Portnoy's drumming along with Neil Pert and Jon Bonham. So this song was fantastically covered by Dream Theater. Dream Theater also have a very intimate relationship with all these guys: one way or the other they have all played together in side projects and have been on tours together.
04.Artist: Zebra- Song: Take Your Fingers From My Hair: now Zebra is a band that many don't know about. The band was huge in the 80's; in fact maybe even before that they were huge in their local New York area and one of Dream Theater's favorite bands. The band still exists but they play in small clubs around New York and all so they are very under ground even after so many years. Zebra was also the first band Dream Theater ever opened for. So the cover was really well done.
05.Artist: King Crimson-Song: Larks Tongues In Aspic Pt.2: this is another fantastic Instrumental done to perfection By Dream Theater. The song is originally by Progressive maestros King Crimson which consists of Tony Levin (Champan Sticks/Bass) who has been in an instrumental band with John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, and Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater called the "Liquid Tension Experiment" and this a real treat for all progressive fans.
06.Artist: Iron Maiden- Song: To Tame A Land: now Dream Theater have been known to cover Iron Maiden for a while, but this is one of those Iron Maiden songs that even Iron Maiden hasn't played live since the 80's in their live shows. This is one of those songs that is probably one of the greatest Iron Maiden tracks and is highly under rated. And Dream Theater kind of brought it back up again and in to the light. This is the only cover which wasn't recorded this year like the rest were during the "Black Clouds And Silver Linings" recording sessions. This was recorded in 2008 while on tour in Australia. But the band sounds fantastic, each and every member sounded great.
So this was the perfect ending to the Dream Theater cover disc. The third disc is basically an instrumental mix of the entire album "Black Clouds And Silver Linings" and it's really fun to listen to. Also a great CD if you want to transcribe and work out all the riffs and ideas from the songs. So over all this has been one of the best albums that Dream Theater has written in a long time. I loved every bit of it. A huge treat for a real Dream Theater fan.
Written By: Aman Hassan. // 10
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
pingu45, on july 07, 2009 1 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: Truly, I had very low expectations for this album. My thoughts before listening to the album were that Dream Theater would use that 'perfect' sound which had manifested itself in the latest works "Systematic Chaos" and "Octavarium". A mediocre, flawless mix which wrings the flavour from the music, turning it into a dry work. The album begins with an extremely heavy choral intro, followed by a driving riff into an aggressive piece that shows obvious influence from their Swedish accomplices Opeth, mixed with minor chords & double-kicks galore. Frankly, Portnoy's vocals don't contribute much. The Continuum seems to have that 'that's so 2006' feeling, as we endure its melody. The next piece leaves every great work in Dream Theater's past in a cloud of dust, as it goes off on such an askew tangent towards mainstream, synthetic metal. Especially startling is that disgusting augmented fourth/flat five chord that punctuates the main riff. Had the preceding songs to "Wither" been satisfactory, the third track would have seemed appropriate. As this is not the case, I would liken it to a Christian rock song that would be played at church, or by Neal Morse for that matter. "The Shattered Fortress" truly does shatter the fortress built up by its parent songs, and is surely just a perversion of those four songs. "The Best Of Times" introduction is reminiscent of "Hollow Years", but the middle of the song reminds me of a watered-down, dull reflection of the triumphant tone that "Surrounded" had - and the third part of the song is simply a predictable chord progression that sounds like it should be the theme to a movie, a bit like "Ministry Of Lost Souls". Finally, "The Count Of Tuscany" brings the album to a generally decent closing. It contains many of the elements for which we grew to like Dream Theater; the strange technical passages, the excessive tempo changes; and fortunately Rudess' doesn't ruin the piece with displaced exotic synth tones. But the album's sound juxtaposed with "Images And Words" and "Awake" will show how dull it really is. // 6
Lyrics: LaBrie truly is a great singer. He doesn't try to be overly agressive, and he provides a commendable performance on this album. Unfortunately the lyrics don't do his voice justice. They are not nearly as inspired as during the "Images And Words" and "Awake" period. "The final stage, a sacred home, unlock the door, and lay the cornerstone" - "I wither, and render myself helpless"? Really, what? "A Nightmare To Remember" sees the return of more Octavarium-esque "peaceful sedation" substance, but I suppose we must give credit for the one good line in the entire album "Hopelessly drifting, bathing in beautiful agony" The lyrics are so pedestrian it really generates the feeling that the boys from New York are straining to find decent, sensible rhymes anymore. The Count Of Tuscany's storytelling style is majorly belittled by what Dream Theater had in "Scenes From A Memory", and a majority of the lyrics' meanings seem pointlessly evasive. Thoroughly uninspiring. // 4
Overall Impression: It's a rather morose feeling to know that Dream Theater is unlikely to conjure another masterpiece like "A Change Of Seasons" or "Images And Words". I get the impression that Dream Theater is trying to sound like they're still experimenting a lot by throwing in a few wacky synthesizer noises and letting Portnoy go all metal on us, but really the album lacks the true experimental aspects that "Six Degrees..." and "Falling Into Infinity" had. "The Shattered Fortress" had a big role to play in this album, and it did not deliver. I would have been exponentially happier with the album if it had actually been the six cover songs that were released, instead of these six works corrupted by modern trends. // 6
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
KorbalBroach, on june 23, 2009 0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: I feel Dream Theater fans split into two broad camps (if they split at all): those who like their earlier material, up to, say Train of Thought, and those who enjoy the heavier metal style of that album and their later work. Black Clouds and Silver Linings is the band's 10th studio album and takes a fairly balanced step, though with considerable bias towards the heavier repertoire, a style similar to that of the rather disappointing Systematic Chaos.
The opening track A Nightmare to Remember is disappointing: Petrucci opts for a much more crunchy and biting guitar sound than on some earlier work, choosing to forego the traditional Dream Theater subtlety. The deep vocals or shouting that could be heard on the Dark Eternal Night ("Systematic Chaos") and was frankly embarrassing is back and occupying far too much valuable disc space. Portnoy employs a lot more slamming drums and fills, characterized for instance by aggressive double pedaling, nonetheless impressive but forfeiting his usual complexity. Not to overstate the faults: this is still Dream Theater, still leaps and bounds ahead of most other metal acts in terms at least of pure skill. In fact, the odd time signature changes dotting Petrucci's solos on Best of Times are some of his most impressive; Rudess is still brilliant and Myung as always in the background but amazing. Unfortunately, these moments and qualities seem fewer and somehow less impressive than in years gone.
Having said all that, the album does pick up about half way in with the Shattered Fortress, resuming the epic song progression carried over the last five albums, starting with The Glass Prison in Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and continued in This Dying Soul (Train of Thought), The Root of All Evil (Octavarium) and Repentance (Systematic Chaos). It is also perhaps the strongest track on the new record, reprising several notable riffs in a different tonality and time signatures but also adding a very strong original compliment. The mellower moments and tracks on the album are in the usual Dream Theater vein, with either LaBrie (Wither), Rudess (the usual riffs, fills and insane keyboard solos) or Petrucci's clean/Spanish guitar providing a gentle and moving accompaniment (intro to The Best of Times or the beautiful end to The Count of Tuscany). Having expressed worries over their new sound, I also have to admit that the latter half of the album pays a lot more homage to their older material and old school fans. // 8
Lyrics: I do not think Dream Theater have ever been particularly great at lyrics. They may be better than usual run-of-the-mill metal themes but certainly not on a par with their technical excellence. There have been some notable exceptions through the years (Images and Words for instance) but Black Clouds is unfortunately not one of them. The lyrics range from describing a car crash Petrucci was in as a child (A Nightmare to Remember) to remembering Portnoy's father, who recently passed (The Best of Times). // 7
Overall Impression: The Dream Theater sound and complexity are still unmistakably and gloriously present. The experimentation with time signatures is at times some of the best they have attempted (see for example the instrumentals in The Count of Tuscany) and at least half of the album progresses in an extremely satisfying fashion. However, much like their last record, a lot of this brilliance is watered down by some poor choices and attempts to go in a new direction, particularly at the start of the record. While a band cannot be blamed for trying new things, especially after over twenty years in music, it does change the fact that at least for me the album is not nearly their best and gives a poor first impression. However it also goes on to creep up and pleasantly surprise the listener, culminating in a truly epic experience.
The additional content provided on the Deluxe Edition is definitely worth the extra money, even if one is not a diehard fan. The covers of Rainbow, Queen, the Dixie Dregs, Zebra, King Crimson and Iron Maiden are very interesting and strongly reminiscent of the covers on A Change of Seasons, showing off LaBrie's range a lot more than the band's original material. The instrumental version of the whole album on the third disc is clearly intended for the diehard fan and gives a much clearer appreciation of the complexity involved in the band's craft while providing a perfect exercise for the guitar player. // 8
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
LucasGtrGod, on june 25, 2009 0 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: Now I must attest, when I first heard this album I was absolutely floored by it. I thought it was the coolest cat in the street, the heaviest rock in the Andes. But then a strange thing happened: I listened to it again and felt a little underwhelmed. Then I listened it to it again and felt even more underwhelmed. Thus is the problem of Dream Theater's new album: It appears strong and progressive on the outside, but once you look a little deeper it feels fickle and run of the mill.
The album opens on a strong point with the suitably creepy piano introduction for A Nightmare To Remember. This leads into a very heavy section that at first sounds great, but is very derivative of anything modern in metal. This then goes into a Metallica riff (I know Portnoy said that Petrucci wrote the riff before he heard Metallica's "That Was Just Your Life" but I'm not sold) which has all the typical metal and Dream Theater trappings.
And this brings me to the major problem that I have with this album. It is "typical Dream Theater" there is nothing particularly innovative or evolutionary, just more of what we have heard of them before and as such it just comes across as uninspired and lazy. Sure there are million notes per second shred sections and amazing instrumental wizadry (well not with Portnoy or Myung who seem to have taken a rest in practicing on this album), but it just comes across as tepid, unexciting and repetitive. // 6
Lyrics: This is a hard one for me to judge as two polar opposites are present. On one end of the polarity you have LaBrie whom is singing better than he ever has before. Gone is the whininess that has plagued his vocals for about a decade now, and in its place is a fearsome vowel of confidence and strength.
But then we have the other end of the polarity: the lyrics. Every set of lyrics on this album written by Petrucci (which is all except The Shattered Fortress and The Best of Times) are some of the cheesiest, most ill fitting lyrics that I have ever heard this side of Shadow Gallery.
Sure in some songs they are not so bad that they detract from the music, see A Nightmare To Remember, but in some songs the lyrics suck so insanely hard that it is almost impossible to give the music any credit. An example of this would be a pre chorus section in The Count of Tuscany where I must say that it is impossible to shout the lines, "Let me introduce my brother, A *something* gentlement, historian, Distinguished accent, sucking on his pipe, making me uptight, no accident." I laughed insanely hard when I first heard these lines.
And this brings me to my initial conundrum we have a great vocal performance from Labrie marred by the actual words being spewed from his mouth, so which one do I choose to rate? I think I may go for an average... // 6
Overall Impression: Despite all the bad things I have said about this album it is still Dream Theater, and as such is better than most of the music being released today. Dream Theater have stuck by their guns through their career, but it is beginning to turn to a fault as they are becoming predictable.
And to be honest if you have heard all their other albums you don't really need to hear this one, as it is just more of the same. And not done as well as their earlier material. // 6
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
TwistClock, on june 29, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Dream Theater. What can I say about them. Every album has an un-believable amount of effort put into it. Every song is a new experience for me, And I've listened to the majority of DT albums. Sure, some of it sounds rather similar to their other songs, but lets admit it. This is dream theater, and they sure don't like to disappoint. It would be unfair to say that, despite the fact that this may come out to be weaker than their other albums, they didn't put any effort into this. The whole sound and feel of it, shoots this album up into my top 3 along with Scenes, and SDOIT. Octavarium being replaced into 4th. // 10
Lyrics: Ah, the one thing that has been commented on the most. One thing that is rather strange for dream theater, is this lyrics. But to be honest, they are easily forgotten. After a few listens of the album, I had pretty much memorized all the lyrics, and I was finding some very.. Awkward, and weird lyrics that, although fitting to the whole theme of a song, just could have been conceived better. I think this may be because the lack of Myung writing the lyrics; and from what I've seen, the lyrics were Petrucci and Portnoys Doing. If Myung had a little more say in the lyric side of things, I think this album would get better overall reviews. If we skip a few albums back, you can see that Myung has had some contribution to the lyrics- on this album he didn't. Maybe that's the reason, maybe not, because in the past, John and Mike have Proved that they can make amazing and Poetic Lyrics, but they are just a little weak in this album. Shame. // 8
Overall Impression: Overall, I love this album. The count of Tuscany is the most beautiful song on here, with a nice ambient section 11 minutes in- it's the one thing that caught me, and it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. My Least Favorite would probably be Wither, but then again, that's because I like the epics that this band makes. it's not their best album, but saying that; it should please old and new fans alike. Although over the years the music has gone a little heavy, the Progressive in them is still there, and going strong. If this album was stolen I would Go out and buy another copy, no 2 words about it. A Fantastic and Beautiful album. // 9
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
ironwolg, on june 29, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: The sound of this album is amazing. There are several familiar riffs which got several complaints, I personally enjoy hearing the riffs revised and changed around a bit. It's like a continuation of the other songs. So if you like hearing good riffs revised, you'll love The Shattered Fortress.
A Nightmare to Remember is probably my least favorite song on the album, a great song, but it just wasn't as good as the rest. If you enjoyed Train of Thought you'll probably love it. It's very heavy and aggressive, sure to bring out the headbanger in you. Mike Portnoy shows off his double bass skills in this song but there are also some very slow and melodic parts in the song as well as very proggy parts, so it should be pleasing to most fans. This track is 16 minutes and 10 seconds.
A Rite of Passage is one of my favorite songs on the album, I love the guitar solo. The song starts off with a nice quiet bass intro and then explodes in your face and gets quite aggressive. The Chorus is very catchy, James LaBrie's vocal melody is great. I love listening to it and often catch myself singing it(not as well as James does I'm afraid). The guitar solo reminds me of Constant Motion's solo at the begining but then it really takes off, this solo is gonna be a monster to learn. It definitely shows off Petrucci's skills as a shredder. The ending is the best part in my oppinion, Petrucci smacks is whammy bar to make this aggressive fluttering sound, he used the same technique in Under a Glass Moon and Animate-Inanimate and probably more songs that I can't think of right now. Rudess also gets to show off with an equally cool solo, he shows a few technoy effects, and a super mario brothersish sounding lick. This track is 8 minutes and 36 seconds.
Wither is a very slow melodic song, quite mainstream sounding and surprisingly short. Rudess shows us that he can play without going full blast, his parts are very melodic and beautiful and Petrucci's guitar parts compliment them perfectly. Portnoy as usual creates a drum part that fits perfectly, fortunately he's not a drummer that feels he has to show off 24/7. James LaBrie really shines in this song, his vocals are amazing. The guitar solo sounds like it was very much influenced by Zakk Wylde. Tons of distortion and tons of wah, it might hit the ears a little hard at first, but give a closer listen and you'll hear how well it fits in. Quite a depressing song. This track is 5 minutes and 25 seconds.
And now the song that got bashed on, The Shattered Fortress. The song truely lives up to its name, it sounds like a fortress being shattered by a wrecking ball(and I mean that in a good way!). This seems to be the end of the series that The Glass Prison started. There are riffs from This Dying Soul, The Glass Prison, The Root of All Evil, and Repentance. There might be more that I forgot about but I think that's it. Rudess shows a crazy solo in this one, it just has to be heard and Petrucci will not disappoint. If you're a longtime fan, you probably know pretty much what this song will sound like. This track is 12 minutes and 49 seconds.
Dream Theater gets a little tricky with The Best of Times. It starts out extremely sad and depressing, long time DT fans will recognize the acoustic solo from Hollow Years. You'll be quite surprised to hear a very upbeat guitar lick comming in and then a very happy and upbeat verse appear out of nowhere. It really lets you into Portnoy's head and shows you how he feels and felt. Very well written all around. This track is 13 minutes and 9 seconds.
The Count of Tuscany is my absolute favorite on this album. It's the longest song and every musician is great on this song, everything is well balanced. The chorus is one of my favorites by Dream Theater, it's very catchy and you'll want to start singing right after you hear it. James LaBrie adds the perfect amount of emotion to this song, the way he sings the chorus really adds the effect of desperation and fear of losing your life. The song focuses more on lyrics than crazy blazing fast solos while there are still crazy passages in the song which is why I say that this song is very well balanced. This track is 19 minutes and 16 seconds.
Now, about the actual sounds of the instruments and the voices. John Petrucci's guitar sounds are great, the best I've ever heard from him. There's just enough bass and plenty of distortion. I'm not sure what the settings are exactly but I'm definitely going to do some research on that and use them. He also uses the wah more than usual, very Zakk Wylde influenced I think.
John Myung is unfortunately not really featured on the album as much as everyone else, but his bass sound is perfect as far as I can tell. Maybe I just have a terrible musical ear as far as this goes, but his bass sounds about the same as usual.
Mike Portnoy has found the perfect drum sound. Cymbals can be heard perfectly, bass drums are nice and deep and the snare is perfect. Toms are sounding great as well.
Jordan Rudess's sounds are impossible to review, too many of them. So, moving on...
James LaBrie's vocals are great. His clean vocals are perfect and his rhaspy growlish vocals are perfect as well, everything is used in just the right spots. He adds the perfect aggression or mellowness to all songs. No other singer would fit in these songs. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics on this album were great. A Nightmare to Remember is about a car crash, most people can relate to that and it brings you back to whatever night it was that it happened. The lyrics captured that scenario very well.
A Rite of Passage's lyrics are about the Free Masons, can't talk too much about those, don't want to get in trouble with those guys.
Withered has very sad and melencholy lyrics, if you like to listen to a sad song to make you feel better, this will be perfect for you.
The Shattered Fortress is a continuation of Mike Portnoy's fight against alcoholism which was started by The Glass Prison. Reading the lyrics you can really see where he stands in his fight and how strongly he feels about it.
The Best of Times has some very good lyrics as well. They say that the best lyrics come from the heart; they're right. The song is about his times as a child with his father who recently passed away this year. It goes from his childhood relationship with his dad to present day. It will bring a tear to your eye if you're the emotional type. Very heartfelt lyrics, my sympathies to the Portnoy family.
The Count of Tuscany is about, well, the Count of Tuscany! It's supposedly a true story about John Petrucci's visit to Tuscany where he met a Count that freightened him and put him in some situation where Petrucci thought he would die. The lyrics really take you there and make you feel like you're a part of the story. // 9
Overall Impression: In my oppinion, this is one of their best CDs. Everything sounds great. I only have a few minor complaints.
1. The solo to A Nightmare to Remember didn't start off as well as I would have liked but it still fits in well and sounds great
2. The packaging on the special eddition isn't great, the CDs are very difficult to get out but I would still reccomend the special eddition to any DT fan.
3. I wish they had included the DVD with the special eddition and taken out one of the other extra disks, they're great and the instrumental disk is good for figuring out the songs but the DVD would have been better.
That's all I have for complaints, the CD is still great and I definitely reccomend it to anyone who's a fan of progressive music. // 10
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
Greged, on june 29, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: After not being wowed at all by their last release, Systematic Chaos, I was really hoping Black Clouds & Silver Linings would be a big step up. I had heard this album for more than a month before it came out, so I've been listening to it for a while. I liked it a lot at first, but the more I listend to it, the more it faded for me. But you could say that about any album I suppose. Sound-wise, Dream Theater is miles ahead of anyone else. I think they've really honed their sound in, and it is very tight. They are still writing great music, as every song on the album is nicely done, musically. The first time I heard A Nightmare To Remember, I fell in love with it and knew it would be my favorite song on the album. However, once I listened to the rest of it, I realized that it wasn't as good as some of the other ones. The best part of the song by far is the lyrical middle section. That's just great music. The second track, A Rite Of Passage, was released as a single, just like Constant Motion was two years ago, and the song itself reminded me too much of Constant Motion. A good song, but I don't like this single-making business. Dream Theater should not be making singles, in my opinion. The third song, Wither, is a power ballad of sorts, and I think DT pull it off. I especially liked the Brian May-style Queen guitar solo by John Petrucci. The Shattered Fortress is probably my second favorite song on the album. Some have criticized it for being merely a medley of the last four movements of the Alcoholics Anonymous Suite, but I think that DT took the right plan of action when they wrote this song. I like that it recapitulates all the past parts of the saga, and adds new material to bring it all to a close. Great finale to a great concept. The Best Of Times, the fifth track on the album, is dedicated to Mike Portnoy's father, who died of cancer. It has a beautiful introduction, with piano and a violin soloist, before coming in strong. Some of the chord progressions sounded very familiar to me, but I can't put my finger on it. That brings me to the best song on the album by far, The Count Of Tuscany. I've seen a lot of people bashing this one, but don't listen to them. It is a masterpiece from start to finish. The recap of the solo at the end gives me chills when I listen to it, and it is a very fitting end to the album. Overall, a wonderful sound by the band. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics on this album almost go together. With A Nightmare To Remember, The Count Of Tuscany, Wither, The Shattered Fortress, and The Best Of Times, there are lyrics about life experiences, and A Rite Of Passage has lyrics about free masonry and secret societies. I was trying to find a central theme here, but there is none. However, the lyrics themselves are fine. A Nightmare To Remember is about a car crash from Petrucci's childhood, and I especially like the lyrics from the middle section I mentioned earlier. The part I don't like is where Portnoy speaks the words and then does that ridiculous "roar" noise. That is by far my least favorite part of the entire album. It is pointless and reminds me too much of Systematic Chaos. I liked some of the lyrics in The Shattered Fortress, over top of the riffs from past movements. I liked how they changed them from having a problem to being past the problem. The Count Of Tuscany lyrics are intriguing, and tell a story. It's a bit of a strange story and cannot be total truth, but I think it works. James Labrie sounds good throughout this album; nothing wrong there. // 7
Overall Impression: For me, this album had little or no direction. The things that I liked about past albums were the themes and concepts that linked everything together, and Black Clouds & Silver Linings, as well as Systematic Chaos, lacked that factor. Other albums have lacked a connective concept (Train Of Thought, Images And Words, Awake), but they still managed to be great albums because they forwarded their style and music from the preceding release. This album sounds just like Systematic Chaos, and Systematic Chaos is one of my least favorite DT albums. Ever since they joined Roadrunner Records, they have been giving lackluster effort, compared to their past works, and giving a little too much promotion. For a band that took pride in not making commercial hits and found success without making singles, they sure have taken a turn. It almost seems like sometimes they think that they can just put out whatever they want and still expect to be gods. This isn't the case, and I really hope they can turn it around and make something new and unique with a theme or concept. Don't get me wrong; I like this album a lot, but it just wasn't an Octavarium or a Scenes From A Memory. // 7
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
JawrshyXD, on june 29, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: How can a band with such a strong powerful fan-base, after having been in existence for almost 25 years now, not have slipped into the mainstream and still be alive and well? Whatever the answer, method, or formula; Dream Theater seems to have found it. These 5 virtuosos are at it again with a new album Black Clouds & Silver Linings, which so far has seen a good bit of controversy. Upon listening to this album, it is evident why this air of discord and confusion might be around. The sound is very oriented around the heavy metal aspects of Dream Theater which have become increasingly more powerful post Train Of Thought. ut the band doesn't forget it's majestic beauty and places many melodic passages and full on ballads, reminding us that Dream Theater still has as much melodic skill as ever. The songs are filled with odd time signatures and key changes, much like any Dream Theater album, but they seem to have acquired a better understanding (if it was even possible) of how and where to place these "progressive sections". Though the album is very dark and metal at some points, they really are taking a strong turn towards their roots again throughout the entire album.
Because the album is so variant in styles, I will proceed to review each of these 6 tracks individually.
01.A Nightmare To Remember: this song starts off the album in a heavy dark progressive form. It is littered with heavy riffs and a beautiful soft section in the middle with some of the best lyrics on the album. The whole band plays very well on this track, and it is probably one of the strongest tracks on the record. A great way to open the album. My only issue with this song is the grunt passage near the end, although strangely enough Portnoy actually made it work this time unlike his previous attempts on Systematic Chaos. I give the song a solid 9 out of 10.
02.A Rite Of Passage: this song is a normal everyday post-Train Of ThoughtDream Theater song. It starts off with an interesting bass intro, and leads into the very catchy main riff of the song. Unlike the previous track, this song follows a definite formula, which is not unusual for the post Train Of Thought DT, but they do present some haunting melodies and the many voiced melody in the chorus is enough to give anyone chills. Petrucci and Ruddess are at their career heights with there fingers moving in a blur as usual. The very acrobatic solo section reprises back into the chorus almost instantly and I thought that was extremely well put together. The song as a whole is pretty solid, and is a pretty solid single. I give it a good 9 out of 10 simply because I expected a little more from DT, but I like their ability to calm their musical expertise down and write a simple formulaic song.
03.Wither: this track is nothing short of beautiful. The lyrics are very open-ended in this song and can be interpreted really anyway the listener wants them to be. it's a very strong ballad and Petrucci plays with such feeling in the solo section of this song, though it isn't his most passionate solo on the album. LaBrie is at top form again and it really shows in this song. His tone is absolutely perfect. This song reminds me of an older DT, maybe all the way back to Images And Words, it has the same kind of beautiful feel that Another Day had, only this time with a more dark and eerie twist to it. I grew very attached to this song despite it's technical simplicity it is shear beauty. I give it a 10 out of 10.
04.The Shattered Fortress: MP's final chapter in his "Twelve Step Suite" and it is a proper finale indeed. It reprises and recalls almost all the key points in the suite that have been previously presented on the last 4 albums. It has been stated that they should have had more original parts, which at first I agreed with, until I listened to the entire suite from start to finish. When you listen to it in that fashion this song is all the more powerful and makes all the more sense. It connects everything very well, and gives us an amazing dramatic finale. The boys are at their very best technically in this song, I fell in love with Rudess's strange keyboard solo in the middle, it was so free-base but extremely interesting. But in regards to it as a stand alone track, this song isn't as powerful, I'll give it an 8.5 out of 10.
05.The Best Of Times: the track starts with what would seem to be the ticking of a clock, which sets the mood for this teary-eyed ballad. It has been since Octavarium that we have been treated to such a majestic masterpiece. This is Mike's second song he's written about a late relative. This one is about his recently passed father, and the sting of his passing is still evident in this song. As most hardcore DT fans would recall, Portnoy's father gave the band the name Dream Theater (as stated on the Score DVD). It may not come as a surprise that the whole band seems very reflective in this entire song. It isn't as chilling and intricate as it's predecessor "A Change Of Seasons" (written for Portnoy's deceased mother), but it definitely is more mood appropriate. They pick up the mood a few minutes into the song and lift us up with some very Images And Words-esque riff-age by Mr. Petrucci. It's good to see the band recalling such finer points in their career throughout the whole song. Portnoy's father would have been pleased to hear this song. I want give away much, but I will say that this song is very powerful, and the lyrics, though incredibly straight-forward, really hit yo if you listen closely. The solo at the end by John Petrucc is a complete masterpiece, it will rival his other solos for the spot of his best solo ever quite possibly. It is riddled with strange time signature changes and so much feeling it gives me the chills every time I hear it. I give this song a strong 10 out of 10, it is good to see the boys taking a turn to their roots with a very Rush-esque song!
06.The Count Of Tuscany: this song is an excellent finale. It starts off with some beautiful acoustic guitar which actually is in the same key as I&W's Another Day intro riff (listen to the song and look at the fret patterns and key, you will see that they are almost identical). Despite this odd yet effecient look into DT's past, this song is riddled with all things DT. Heavy sections with LaBrie screaming out his vocals with utter passion, smooth sections with ambient guitar, and even some acoustic beauty near the end. Also there is a lot of the trademark odd time signatures throughout this entire song that have made DT so famous, only this time it seems to be even more efficiently put together. The song is not very solo packed, but it does have a few emotional solos by JP and some interesting melodies by JR. Myung gives ambient bass backing to JP's ambient solo in the middle and this is one of the few song where you can hear his playing, which truly is a shame, because if you turn the bass up on the stereo you can tell JM is doing some interesting things as usual. The song as a whole is a masterpiece and nothing short of brilliant, it will most likely join DT's classics one day in the future. I give it a 10 out of 10. // 9
Lyrics: The album as a whole seems to have a theme oriented around the idea that despite all the devastating event in life, there is always a silver lining. Though this is not exactly very original, and is almost completely cliche, it is something that mankind (more so the youth) need to be reminded.
Dream Theater's lyrics aren't usually anything to leave the reader amazed by them technically, but rather they are usually lyrics that give the listener a definite feeling and help us to relate to the song as a whole. This album lives up to that. One of the lyrical highlights if found in "A Nightmare To Remember" during the melodic middle section: "In peaceful sedation I lay half-awake, As all of the panic inside starts to fade, I am hopelessly drifting, bathing in beautiful agony... ". A Rite Of Passage also contains some interesting lyrics that are filled with cryptic meanings but all in all average rhyme schemes. And as for the song considered the worst lyrically by most, "Wither", because it seems to be about writer's block, if the listener takes that aside and listens to the hidden meaning underneath it all, like most DT songs have, they will find themselves pleasantly surprised and eotionally moved.
Vocally, James is back in top form again which is amazing to hear. His vocals on this album are at times gorgeous and passionate, and other times screaming and powerful. He also lives up to his reputation at excellent delivery and proficient knowledge on when to sing operatically, and when not to.
Portnoy's vocals on this album are the same average grunts. Nothing amazing, and at times they are even out of place. But for the majority of the album they fit the section well, but I do think they belong in the background more than the foreground. However his vocal backing for LaBrie in "The Best Of Times" is some of his best back up singing work. It's actually beautiful and his father would be proud. // 9
Overall Impression: This album as a whole when placed on a scape where it is alone and the only DT disc ever, it is amazing and nothing short of brilliant. But once you place this album up to DT's other mammoth albums such as Images And Words, Scenes From A Memory, and Octavarium, the album is dwarfed almost immediately. It really isn't DT's best work, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of Systematic Chaos and Falling Into Infinity. It is placed more along their middle ground with Awake, Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (which almost should be in the top albums category), and Train Of Thought. The most impressive songs on this album are probably "A Nightmare To Remember", "The Best Of Times", and "The Count Of Tuscany". All great songs which will undoubtedly join DT's classics. "The Shattered Fortress" when placed with the other songs in the suite is an amazing song as I said, but alone, it just isn't nearly as strong. I love the fact that DT is moving more towards their roots again, it leaves me to believe their next album will be another mammoth magnum opus much like I&W, Scenes, and Octavarium. But at the same time there isn't much I dislike about this album. Upon first listen I was bothered by how much heavy metal litters about 50% of the album, but after a few listens it grew on me and I began to understand that it is a very important and incorporable element to the album as a whole. Though I really wish MP would stop his grunts, they are better for a solely metal band, and don't really have much a place in DT, I prefer his deep baritone vocals for LaBries background along with JP's baritone backings. If this album was stolen, I'd definitely buy it again, it is a terrific album as a whole, just not one of DT's best. It however gives us a look at the future for a possibly more mammoth DT album that possibly lies just over the horizon. // 8
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
Junior#1, on june 29, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: The overall sound of this album was up to par for the most part. I was not greatly impressed by any of it, nor was I greatly disappointed. The musicians show us they can still play at a level we all expect from them. The harmonies are spot on as usual. The editor did a great job mixing this. Every instrument has a significant part in the music. One is not too loud or soft.
As far as style, it's a typical Dream Theater album. It has an excellent contrast of fast, driving, heavy parts and slower, relaxed, mellow parts.
Those of us who are fans of this band know that the songs "Another Day", and "Take Away my Pain" were written for John Petrucci's father. If you don't know, Another day was written while he was struggling with cancer, and JP wrote Take Away my Pain after his father died. Well, now there has been another tribute. Mike Portnoy wrote "The Best of Times" after the death of his father, Howard, late last year.
This album also has the the conclusion to Portnoy's Twelve-Step Suite, based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps of the Suite are strewn throughout Dream Theater's career. The first 3 parts are in the song "The Glass Prison" off of their Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence album. Then, parts 4 and 5 are in "This Dying Soul" off of Train of Thought. This is followed by parts 6 and 7 in "The Root of all Evil" from Octavarium. Parts 8 and 9 are found in "Repentance" on Systematic Chaos. And finally, 10, 11, and 12 are in "The Shattered Fortress"
The high rating on this album is mostly due to the vocals of James LaBrie (which will be reviewed in the "Lyrics" section of this review, and the mixing of Paul Northfield. The excellent mixing and fitting together makes this album a great listen. It earns a 9. // 9
Lyrics: A lot of people don't like James LaBrie's vocals. After listening to this album, I don't know how you could hate them. He really knows how to raise the bar. He is perfectly fitted for this band. With his wide range, he can provide excellent vocals over excellent music. For the heavier riffs of this album he really digs in and gets a dirty gritty sound that compliments the songs beautifully. And as usual, his softer voice fits for the softer music.
The lyrics were fairly weak. It's evident that Petrucci is running out of ideas as he wrote the song "Wither" about writer's block. As usual, Petrucci writes most of the lyrics for this album. Portnoy wrote "The Best of Times" and "The Shattered Fortress" due to their personal meaning to him. I give the lyrics a 7. // 7
Overall Impression: As stated, I was not impressed, nor disappointed by this album. It's a good album, but DT has done much better. But I suppose after 23 years and 10 studio albums, they just don't have the same spark they used to. Back when they wrote Images and Words, their reason for it was to try to outdo themselves and their first album, When Dream and Day Unite. For Black Clouds & Silver Linings, they just wrote the music because they love it. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you don't try to go over the top and beat yourself with every album, then it will always just be average. For Dream Theater, the word average means good prog metal. It's not they kind of album that will make you love this band, but it will most likely peak your interest. Overall, this album merits an 8. // 8
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
Acid_Rainmaker, on july 09, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Dream Theater is a band that's known for doing there own thing and not letting the record companies shape their songs or their sound. So when they release a new album you never know what to expect out ofit, no one can tell what their sound will be like on any new recording, the only things you can count on are long songs and incredible musicianship. With their latest release Black Clouds & Silver Linings the DT boys do not disappoint. The styles and influences on this album range from everything from Yes and Pink Floyd to Metallica and Opeth. They have certainly let their heavier side take the drivers seat on this album with powerful songs like A Nightmare to Remember, The Shattered Fortress and The Count of Tuscany but still not afraid to let their softer side show with Wither and Mike's heartfelt tribute to his father The Best of Times. Overall the album shows all the sides of the band and shows they are not afraid to try new things. // 9
Lyrics: Dream Theater's fictitious story-telling lyrics from Systematic Chaos have been put to rest, the lyrics on this album all deal with real life events that in most cases are personal to members of the band.
The album opens with the first of many of the epics on this album A Nightmare to Remember. This song really brings out the heavier side of the band. The lyrics were written by Petrucci, it deals with a car crash he was in as a child and the emotions he felt throughout that experience. LaBrie's vocals are in top form, he has his darker singing style brought in complimenting the music perfectly. After the extended solo break mid-song Portnoy enters with his growling vocals which were most likely inspired by his good friend Mikael Akherfeldt from Opeth.
The bands first single A Rite of Passage is probably their strongest single since Pull Me Under. The song again written by Petrucci deals with the content of Free Masonry. The chorus is one of the catchier ones they have ever written I can only picture everyone in the audience singing along when this one is played live. Incredible solos by both Petrucci and Rudess tossed back and forth on this song.
Wither is the shortest song on the album at only five and a half minutes is a beautifully written song by Petrucci who not only wrote the lyrics but he composed this entire song without any help from the other members. Although the song is about writer's block the lyrics are written in such a way that it can be interpretted into more personal experiences and allows the listener to extract their own meaning. LaBrie's voice fits this song perfectly.
The Shattered Fortress is the first of two songs written by Mike Portnoy. This song is the long awaited closer to Portnoy's 12-Step Saga which began back in 2002 on Six Degress with The Glass Prison. This song brings together parts from all of the previous songs in the saga while also bringing in new riffs and one of the most incredible instrumental sections on the album. Portnoy has stated in interviews that he plans on performing the entire saga in its entirety to release on DVD.
The Best of Times is Portnoys tribute to his father Howard Portnoy who passed away during the recording of this album. The lyrics are more of a tribute to all the years they have had togetehr and teh memories they shared. The opening is beautifully sounding with piano and violins Petrucci plays an acoustic for portions of the song, when it picks up the song is very reminiscent of early Rush.
The final song on the album is a tale writeen by John Petrucci based on a Count him and his guitar tech met when they were on tour in Italy. John actually feared for his life. The lyrics deal with Petrucci's encounter and his fears and feelings he had during this time. The song is a true prog-metal epic, clocking in at 19 minutes it encompasses all you think about when you hear the name Dream Theater. The song shows off all of the bands different styles and influences. The only downfall this song has is the lyrics, Petrucci has become quite literal with his lyric writing instead of using a lot of metaphores like he did in the earlydays in the band which does not leave much room for personal relation to the lyrics or the songs. // 8
Overall Impression: It is hard to compare this album with any other Dream Theater album. Each album their sound evolves and they are constantly experimenting with new sounds and ideas. Which is not a bad thing, with a prgrossive band like the Dream Theater the listener should expect each album to be completely different from the previous efforts. All of the songs have their own strengths as a new listener to the band A Rite of Passage or the Shattered Fortress would be good jumping off points to check out the bands sound and style. For a more experienced listener of Dream Theater you would definetely want to check out The Count of Tuscany or A Nightmare to Remembe. The instrumental parts on the album are by far some of the strongest in their career, as I stated previously the only major downfall I have of the album is the lyrics, not that the lyrics are bad but they just don't leave a lot of room for personal interpretation and relation with the exception of Wither.
I highly recommend this album to anyone curious about the band and fans who have followed Dream Theater throughout their career. This has quickly become one of my favorite albums in my ever expanding CD catalogue, and after a few listens it will grow on you and I'm sure it will become one of your favorites too.
Keep the Dream Alive
~Mike // 9
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
Hammerzeit, on august 06, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Having given this (Dream Theater's 10th release) a month or so to settle in to my music collection, I feel that this is the correct time to rate it, so that any initial bias or general feeling can be removed from the brain and a true judgement can be made. It may only consist of 6 tracks but I would still say that Black Clouds and Silver Linings is the group's best album for 10 years or so. The general sound seems to me like a mixture of the best bits off all the Dream Theater albums from Train of Thought onwards, with a bit of oldschool "Images and Words" Dream Theater sneaking in somewhere amongst the mixture. It still has it's faults but for the most part this is a pretty decent offering
Opener "A Nightmare to Remember" could fit seamlessly onto Train of Thought, but is better thought out than anything off that album. The intro and the bludgeoning riff that follows really gets the blood pumping and leads well into a verse and a huge chorus delivered excellently by a much improved James LaBrie. This then leads into a more tranquil (but not at all impotent) Pink Floyd-esque section then back into a heavy metal crescendo, featuring excellent guitar and keyboard solo's from Petrucci and Rudess, who finish the section in an excellent and technical unison. The Portnoy "Metulllz" vocals are back but work slightly better this time and fit the song much better than any such attempt on Systematic Chaos did. The song returns to the chorus and back to a melodic and haunting piano line which closes the song. This was a pretty good effort and is an effective opener, but it could have easily been made shorter but cutting the lengthy intro and outro and shortening the mid section slightly, which despite being beautiful and much needed, overstayed it's welcome ever so slightly.
The second track is the first single "A Rite of Passage". When Mike Portnoy described the album as having songs akin to "A Change of Seasons", "Octavarium", "Pull me Under", "The Glass Prison" and "Learning to Live" on it, this is definetly the "Pull me Under" of the Bunch. To compare it to "Pull me Under" would be foolish, though. There is hardly any of the Images and WordsDream Theater sound in this song. Sonically it could have been on "Octavarium" or "Systematic Chaos" and is probably a fair representation of the modern Dream Theater sound. The Mid section could have been written by Metallica, although the solos from Petrucci and Rudess are infinitly more competant than anything Kirk Hammett will ever come up with. The main riff is catchy and the verses heavy and it's well sung by LaBrie. This is by no means as good as "Pull me Under" but it's a good song in it's own right and the best choice as a single.
Track three is the only track not to have been written collectively by the band, with both Lyrics and Music written by John Petrucci. The song is a short ballad and is concise, to the point and unusually for Dream Theater, quite straightforward in terms of structure. I would liken it to "Forsaken" off Systematic Chaos but it is well beyond that, and probably lies somewhere inbetween Forsaken and "Vacant" from Train of Thought in terms of where it is sonically. The song has serene verses, a huge chorus, soaring keyboard led instrumental breaks and a Brian May style guitar solo from Petrucci. At only 5 mins long this is at odds with most of the album but is strong enough to merit a place on the album and is a welcome break from the heavier progressive madness that fills the other space on the disc.
Track 4 "The Shattered Fortress" is the final installation of Mike Portnoy's 12 step "Alcoholics Anonymous" suite, and it ends up being like a Dream Theater clip show, featuring extracts from the previous installments. Some people may slag this off as being uncreative and lazy, but I disagree, they still had to put it together and make it work. You have to judge it as you see it and what it is is a very good ending to the suite. The song stands up well in it's own right and had you not have heard the rest of the 12 step suite, you would probably not notice that it was part of one. It's well put together and there are some excellent moments in there. I especially enjoyed the Keyboard solo which was superbly delivered and despite being rather long, did not drag. This was a fitting end to the 12 step suite and I hope one day they play the whole thing live.
Track 5 is the "Best of Times" and was written by Mike Portnoy for his recently deceased father. The song was initially my favorite but is now my least favourite track on the album. The intro is acoustic based, which then leads into a rush like section and guitar intro to the main song. Labrie's vocals shine on this track, but it seemed to me right from the start that I'd heard the main hook of the song several times before. I realised where from. The string lead section at the end and Petrucci's initial guitar melody could be out of any epic movie soundtrack, which lead me to dislike it as it seemed a bit cheesy. The guitar solo at the end was pretty cool, but i'll deal with my main gripes about this section in my review of the lyrics in a minute. Not a bad track, not a great one either.
The final track is the outstanding "Count of Tuscany" which is a fitting and epic end to a solid album. The song recalls the "Images and Words" sound that define Dream Theater in the first place as well as incorporating the best bits of newer Dream Theater. The song also contains the best chorus on the album as well as the 2 most beautiful melodic moments (the first section of the intro and the last 8 minutes of the song are outstanding). The solo's are not overloaded with technical wankery, the riffs and time signatures challenging but not ridiculously mind baffling and the vocal delivery is sublime. It's 19 minutes long, but unlike the opening track of this album, it does not drag on for one second. The best Dream Theater track for years and a fitting end to the album. // 9
Lyrics: For all their musical brilliance, Lyrics are Dream Theater's achilles heel. Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci can be very capable lyricists and tracks like "The Shattered Fortress" (in fact, all of the AA saga has incredible lyrics), "A Nightmare to Remember" and "Wither" have lyrics of a suitable quality that wouldn't disgrace any bad. However some of the lyrics on this album are weak. Although heartfelt and loving, the lyrics to the "Best of Times" don't really fit the song and the end section "My heart is bleeding badly, but I'll be okay etc..." is pretty cringeworthy and the melody is pretty ordinary and cheesy. Kudos to Portnoy for giving his father an upbeat song rather than a depressing one though. Petrucci's lyrical nightmare occurs in "The Count of Tuscany" which has a strange subject matter which doesn't translate well in relation to the music and some weird lines which are completly out of place "come and have a taste, a rare vintage, all the finest wines, improve with ages" seems pointless to me, though the last part of the song (Could this be the end?...) seems competant enough.
James Labrie's vocal performance however is almost unfaultable. His voice seems much improved since Systematic Chaos, and while he will never regain the power of his voice from the 1990's, he still does an excellent job in delivering the lyrics, and making said lyrics seem better than they actually are. He is not responsible for any of the lyrics on this album (he had singing lessons when the band was writing) and in my opinion should contribute more, as his lyrics are usually better than at least half of Petrucci's and a few of Portnoy's. His voice saves the lyrics and the score in that I was going to award this section has risen because of him. // 7
Overall Impression: On the whole, this is one of the better albums out this year and Dream Theater's best since "Scenes from a Memory". It has it's faults which is have mentioned above. It is not overly formulaic (most bands have a formula, it's how they get their signature sound) but it is cohesive and fairly potent in places. Dream Thater are still the king's of prog metal and on this showing will possess their crown for a long while yet.
Download (if you must!): The Count of Tuscany, A Nightmare to Remember, Wither. // 9
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
AJSaw, on august 19, 2010 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Dream Theater, a progressive metal band, is known for their unique sound, from heavy guitar riffs to Rush-like vocals, as a powerful band. Black Clouds & Silver Linings is their 10th studio record, and shows the bands growth in their sound, and shows they are not done yet. // 10
Lyrics: The lyrics, as in all Dream Theater songs, are VERY well written, often by John Petrucci or Mike Portnoy, and are very well performed by James LaBrie.
01. A Nightmare to Remember: a powerful, haunting song about a car crash that John Petrucci was in as a child. The long intro to the song brings tension, and when complied with the lyrics and fast double-bass drumming, this is a very strong, and long, song.
02. A Rite Of Passage: a song with a lyrical theme of "freemasonry", is a very memorable song. With powerful guitar and keyboard leads, with changing time signatures and tempos, this is a classic Dream Theater style song. Definately Reccomended.
03. Wither: a slower song, with a similarity to "Another Day" off of "Images and Words", with the slow ballad type verses and choruses, and a great guitar solo. The lyrics were written by John Petrucci, about the character having a "writers block". Overall, a beautiful song.
04. The Shattered Fortress: Lyrics written by Mike Portnoy, it is the final piece to the "Twelve-Step Suite", which started on 2002's "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence". Heavy 7 string riffs, and a suprising melody from "The Root Of All Evil" with changed lyrics, this song is a masterpiece.
05. The Best Of Times: Yet another song written by Mike Portnoy about his father, who died of cancer. Lyrics are strong and heartfelt, and a truly beautiful song. There isnt much else to say.
06. The Count Of Tuscany: Listening to this song is like reading a story. A very good story. You may be discouraged by looking at the length (more than nineteen minutes), but this is truly a standout song. The lyrics were written by John Petrucci, about a actual event that occured to him in, well Tuscany. This is a very good song, and if it was the only song on the album, I would definately pay full price for it. // 10
Overall Impression: This album is another Dream Theater masterpiece. Everything about it is simply amazing. The most impressive songs are, actually its every one of them. No fillers on this album! I love everything about this album, and would replace it in a heartbeat if it was stolen or lost. Do your ears a favor and buy this album. // 10
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
Alexwtsi, on september 06, 2010 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
This album has an amazing blend of guitars and keyboards, like in the opener, "A Nightmare To Remember." Rudess effectively uses quirky, "Halloweenish" Keyboard tones over some muscular riffing by Petrucci to make for a fairly unorthodox, but sonically amazing atmosphere.
The actual song arrangements have taken a huge leap forward. Dream Theater have done away with most of the arbitrary instrumental excursions that flooded Systematic Chaos. Although they are still present, they seem to have more of a purpose in the song rather than being just a jam session that was pasted to the end of a 5 minute song.
The melodic hooks are still very present, especially in "A Right Of Passage", "Wither", and "The Count Of Tuscany."
John Myung's bass track is almost inaudible for about 90% of the album. One would think a band that has gotten respect for being "musical innovators" would find a more creative way to incorporate the bass so that it's even somewhat in the foreground.
"The Shattered Fortress" is by far the weakest track on the album. It is a montage of a montage of a montage of a montage of Dream Theater songs. Having already listened to the preceding four songs of the 12 Step Suite, I could pretty much predict every melody, modulation, and tempo/feel/time signature change. // 8
The overall lyrical theme of the album, as stated in the album title, is triumph and defeat, light and darkness, etc. They seem to have tried to write more personal songs to reflect this theme. Yes, this means no more fantasy, sci-fi, or horror themed lyrics, which is to me, a pro. The lyrical subjects include a car accident, free masonry, fear of writers block, alcoholism (predictably), personal loss, and something to do with a count.
The lyrics from "The Shattered Fortress" that aren't extracted from other 12 Step Suite songs are very well written and truly sum up the saga (not the album) very well.
The lyrics to "Wither", and "The Count Of Tuscany" are written in a very whiny and melodramatic tone. Writers block is a song topic that only someone, well, with writers block should write about, and judging from the intensity of "The Count Of Tuscany" one would think Petrucci was tortured in a dungeon by this guy. I am assuming this is not true... // 8
Overall Impression: If you love Dream Theater, you will like this album, if you hate Dream Theater, you won't. This album isn't breaking any ground, it will only re-enforce your love/hate of their music. Over all it is a solid 8/10.
Standout tracks: "A Nightmare To Remember," "A Right Of Passage" and "The Count Of Tuscany". // 9
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
God_Petrucci, on november 19, 2010 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Dream Theater albuns after Scenes from a memory lost a bit of magic and the progressive sound the strogest aspects on their music! Even Scenes from a memory has guided the band in a diferent way. Sistematic chaos the last album before BCSL was a bit bad, to much metal sound and lyrics and the producing was nothing special!
I think Mike Portnoy wanted to control all and wanted to be the center of attencions and that was a bit selfish of him thinking he can rule DT with so much talent in there! BCSL was a great hope for DT, the album is their best since 1998, I think petrucci got more control in this album and he was truly inspired giving us awesome musics! Mike Portnoi did a good job on best of times too! // 9
Lyrics: Black Clouds and Silver Linings has some strong lyrics! Some about a car accident that Petrucci haved when he was young, about Portnoy's dad that passed away and a master piece called a The Count of Tuscany!
01. A Nightmare to Remember - Well this song has an epic and heavy Intro, that like Petrucci said remind us a Tim Burton movie, with a tipical minor progressions, the lyris is about a car accident that petrucci haved when was young,has awesome chorus parts and a sick solo section done by Petrucci and Jordan Rudess, i realy didnt like Portnoy rapping the rest of the song is awesome!-9
02. A Rite of Passage- Good choice for a single, this song remind me more the old Theater with a oriental arabic riff that remind us musics like Ytse jam, pull me under has a sick solo section that show us that Jordan and Petrucci were made for each other!-9.5
03. Wither - The Balad of the album, this is a more commercial way from Theater but is an hell of a balad, very beatifull chorus parts from petrucci, nice melodies from Jordan Rudess! the solo remind us Brian May solos from Queen is wonderfull great piece from Petrucci the lyric is realy the sadest from Mr.Petrucci!-9
04. Shatered Fortress-> Its a big compilations of musics done by Portnoy, well is the metal that Portnoy did all this years, I liked the way that they played this dying soul part they transformed a pure metal on a beatifull chorus piece, the solo from Rudess I didn t liked, the solo of Mr Petrucci is the best solo that I ve heard from him, ok he has great solos on great songs on this career but I dont know why he chooses this song to make a awesome solo like that!-8
05. The Best of Times -First one of the best pieces that Mike Portnoy created, he was doing to much metal lyrics to my taste! This song is dedicated to his father that passed away a real good honor to the man that named this great band! Has some beatifull major melodies and then turns on a sad a tipical natural minor progressions with epic chorus parts! The Solo is so beatifull remind us classics solos from Rhodes, great job by John Petrucci, fuckin amazing!-10
06. The Count Of Tuscany - One word for this One EPIC, this song talks about a encounter that Petrucci haved with the Count of Tuscany, this song basically has evertthing that dream theater has,John Petrucci realy did his career!-10 // 9
Overall Impression: Well I think this album was good and DT is heading on a good way! It was a shame that John Myung didn t appear on this album ok he was good doing his bass parts but simply didn't show in this album and just was apart! I liked Jordan Rudess work his best since he is part od Theater! Labrie voice was good he was forced a bit to sing some parts that was not is best, listen the first verse of A rite of passage or the song Shatered Fortress! Mike Portnoy did great job on drums but please get out of the mic please and just focus on the music side of the band and leave production and let the other members being part of the criative process of Dream Theater! John Petrucci realy Shines on this album, awsome lyrics, solos and his guitar sound like heaven in this album! Lets hope the next album it will be better! // 8
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
OctaVariuM8, on january 07, 2011 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: To me what is interesting about this venture for Dream Theater is its sound. They kept the metal vibes but added a much more dark tone to some songs (namely A Nightmare to Remember and some portions of The Shattered Fortress). Now, both Mike and JP are huge fans of metal so this comes to little surprise, but overall I find the tone and sound of the album to be quite pleasing. // 10
Lyrics: The lyrics on Black Clouds and Silver Linings are a little hit or miss. You come across gems like "The Count of Tuscany" or "The Best of Times"...heck even "A Nightmare to Remember" is well versed, but you also come across songs like "Wither" or "A Right of Passage" (the latter of which is a complete mess of a song lyrically) which just stink in general. They also completely rehash the lyrics of the past songs in the AA suite to make up a rather poor composition (but the mood of the song as well as the tone and music as a whole make up for it).
I love how John writes about a childhood accident he was involved in on "A Nightmare to Remember." Getting to listen to his aspect of the story made for an interesting song lyrically. I also really enjoy the passion and love for his father that Mike writes with for "The Best of Times." That has got to be one of the hardest songs a person could write. // 8
Overall Impression: I am going to attack this in the exact order given in the example.
Does it compare to other albums or artists?
Simple, yes. It is quite similar to Systematic Chaos with the balance of light and dark themes throughout (In the Presence of Enemies deals with that perfectly on SC), the mood of the albums are somewhat similar (though you get a sense of more emotion on this album, as Mike and John both deal with events in their lives. I do not think this was as strong as some of their more recent outings (Octavarium was strictly better in my opinion from a concept and tone standpoint).
What are the most impressive songs from this album?
Well, the black sheep of the herd is definitely "The Count of Tuscany." This is a beautifully composed song that lacks almost nothing and in my mind sits alongside some of their other epics in the skyward Pantheon of Dream Theater greatness.
What do you love about it? What do you hate?
Well both of these are very easy to answer. I love that they drew from personal experiences to write all but one song on the album (A Right of Passage being the exception). I also love that they are still writing in their comfort zone, I would hate for them to just go all out on something new and just fall flat on their faces (then again once the next album rolls around this is going to get stale).
What I hate is not too much really. Being a HUGE Dream Theater fan I am a bit bias..but I do have a few things they can improve on. 1. Stop making singles. With DT they always suck (Here's looking at you Constant Motion and A Right of Passage). 2: Let Labrie do what he wants. I feel he is limited by what the band feels is right for him, if you let him improvise like he does in live performances, these forthcoming albums as well as this one will/would have benefited.
If it were stolen/lost, would you buy it again or get something else?
I would definitely buy this again. Not to mention, the bonus disc of cover songs is just as good if not better than the album itself. They do a better job on the Queen Suite and Take Your Fingers from my Hair (by Zebra originally) than the bands who put them out in the first place. The full album price is worth it for the 3 main songs that are good (I mentioned them before, so go look in the lyrics section), and everything else is just a bonus! // 9