Black Clouds & Silver Linings review by Dream Theater

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  • Released: Jun 23, 2009
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 9.2 (352 votes)
Dream Theater: Black Clouds & Silver Linings
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Sound — 8
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.

Lyrics — 7
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).

Overall Impression — 8
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.

120 comments sorted by best / new / date

    merrill_howard
    i thought the UG review was excellent. finally someone who agrees with me about DT. they're going downhill and its about time someone realized it with me!
    matosh.lee
    AEnima18 wrote: matosh.lee wrote: having a trouble deciding on which album to buy alxisonfire or DT..... i dont have enough money for both Bit of a no-brainer, has to be Dream Theater! I think AOF are good but nowhere near as good as DT are!
    no kidding. i listened to the small clips on itunes and made my choice pretty darn quickly. but i cant listen to it until i get home from church practice. i listened to wither though. man i wish my ipod is fixed soon.
    MyUserName777
    I'm generally a fan of all DT albums with the exception of maybe SDOIT. What I fail to realize is, the UG Team attacks the album as being too familiar, yet isn't the sound what makes the band. When I listen to Dream Theater, I want that familiar sound that fans have grown to love considering the band has probably been pushed as far as they can go. Dream Theater should be applauded for not trying to go mainstream because that's the kind of bullshit so many bands succumb to when they 'experiment'. As far as Shattered Fortress goes, I think it's one of the best songs on the album. Reminiscing on past songs 'steps' is probably the best way they could have ended the AA suite but I also have a bias towards those songs. Part of the reason I love this album is because so much music nowadays sucks. While the formula for the band might not have changed, it's refreshing to hear a band like Dream Theater in comparison to other music. While the lyrics are cheesy at times, I still think this is a kickass album despite what people say.
    BenRaah
    I can't see why so many people are complaining, I haven't listened to a single DT album I don't like
    TomD03
    I personally loved this album, I've had it *cough* downloaded *cough* for the past month, but on pre-order for the same amount of time. I love every track to be honest. I've been a Dream Theater fan since Train of Thought came out, and I'll stick with them till the end. I personally think this may be one of the strongest albums they have put out in a very long time.
    GustavLW
    I completely agree with the review. While I think that A Nightmare to Remember and A Rite of Passage are good songs, they just aren't... progressive. They're long, technical and all that, but the feel and the vibe from their earlier records is completely gone. Because I have a weak spot for ballads, Wither is a big winwin to me. The Shattered Fortress is just lame. Hell, I didn't think you could get away with 70% recycled material. Best of Times is a really nice and great feel-good type of song. The Count of Tuscany is my favorite on the album, and I actually like the nonsensical lyrics. I mean, when Portnoy barks "sucking on his pipe, distinguished accent!!!", I can't help but to lol a bit. Musically, both of these songs are excellent. Oh, and the iPhone solo thing is true - Rudess played a solo on an iPhone when I saw them live at Sweden Rock Festival.
    DualReaver
    I didn't really dig this album all too much. The lyrics in The Count of Tuscany make me cringe.
    flashmdg
    well all mastodon sing about is monsters and there are no comments about crack the skye being lame are there?
    Bombardana
    complain as you will about every nuance of this recording... it's still way better than systematic chaos
    OctavariumX
    Dream Theater's first attempt to step into the metal genre with ToT was fantastic. Systematic Chaos was a ****ing joke. I thought that The Dark Eternal Night at the time of it's release was one of the worst songs ever written by a Progressive Band. Songs about monsters? Songs about ****ing garbage in my opinion. On this album it's the same garbage...I am absolutely in love with anything Dream Theater has done before Systematic Chaos. On the new album there are some parts that are OK. But generally it gets ruined by things like a full verse from Portnoy. Dream Theater is dead to me. In my opinion their career ended with Octavarium. .. By the way...Rite of Passage has surpassed The Dark Eternal Night for worst Dream Theater song...ever. They need to quit while they are ahead.
    lyonk55
    Martindecorum wrote: Xubnormal wrote: It looks as though DT fans are no longer satisfied with the band's characteristically brilliant music. After a while, even brilliant gets boring. They are probably the only metal group I've ever liked. LaBrie's singing is absolutely terrific on this album. It's true that Myung's bass was almost completely overshadowed by the more, ah, powerful shredding by Petrucci and Rudess. Overall, it was quite an interesting album, and equally interesting reviews. for some reason DT fans are the hardest to satisfy i swear each album its a 50% love 50% hate, no matter what but all in all, everyone is satisfied when DVD's are released and no COMPLAINTS from live show performances of even the most "hated" DT songs lol
    I've noticed this aswell. People always seem to favour either the prog or the metal side of Dream Theater, so unless they make a perfectly balanced album someone will be disappointed.
    AEnima18
    matosh.lee wrote: having a trouble deciding on which album to buy alxisonfire or DT..... i dont have enough money for both
    Bit of a no-brainer, has to be Dream Theater! I think AOF are good but nowhere near as good as DT are!
    'Leviathan'
    almostdvs222 wrote: Im listening to it now, im only on the first song but soo far BAD ASS
    multipleofone wrote: Scenes was an exceptional album. Just got this album, haven't listened to it yet. I heard a Rite of Passage a couple of weeks ago and thought it was terrible. Hopefully this album is way better
    Heminator89 wrote: fatAbbot27 wrote: Everything since Scenes from a Memory (a very average album in my opinion) is just uninspired crap. All the riffs are the same, no bass, lyrics suck so badly, the drumming so technical that it makes no sense, Petrucci's solos are just so... meh I mean fast yeah but good? These REALLY prove your ignorance. Riffs aren't the same, they are continued parts of the same song. And drumming ought to be technical. It's Prog for crying out loud. And scenes was an exceptional album.
    Good to see some people who still stick with the band. I thought the album was amazing, even if a little on the metal side of things, and TCoT is a masterpiece of songwriting.
    multipleofone
    Scenes was an exceptional album. Just got this album, haven't listened to it yet. I heard a Rite of Passage a couple of weeks ago and thought it was terrible. Hopefully this album is way better
    ZamoraZ
    imo the album was pretty good, some of the lyrics are weird but instrument wise they delivered, I really would've wanted Myung to stand out a little more but other then that I liked it. Best tracks for me are The Count of Tuscany and The Best of Times
    Heminator89
    fatAbbot27 wrote: Everything since Scenes from a Memory (a very average album in my opinion) is just uninspired crap. All the riffs are the same, no bass, lyrics suck so badly, the drumming so technical that it makes no sense, Petrucci's solos are just so... meh I mean fast yeah but good?
    These REALLY prove your ignorance. Riffs aren't the same, they are continued parts of the same song. And drumming ought to be technical. It's Prog for crying out loud. And scenes was an exceptional album.
    hammerhead_500
    i'm quite shocked to see the review that this album recieved i've been listening to dream theater ever since scenes from a memory released, i got a little worried when i first heard systematic chaos, it wasnt their greatest stuff, except for in the presence of enemies i think that the best album they've released in the past 4 years is octavarium, some great stuff in that album i really like how it functions like a cycle, these walls was an awesome song.
    Martindecorum
    Xubnormal wrote: It looks as though DT fans are no longer satisfied with the band's characteristically brilliant music. After a while, even brilliant gets boring. They are probably the only metal group I've ever liked. LaBrie's singing is absolutely terrific on this album. It's true that Myung's bass was almost completely overshadowed by the more, ah, powerful shredding by Petrucci and Rudess. Overall, it was quite an interesting album, and equally interesting reviews.
    for some reason DT fans are the hardest to satisfy i swear each album its a 50% love 50% hate, no matter what but all in all, everyone is satisfied when DVD's are released and no COMPLAINTS from live show performances of even the most "hated" DT songs lol
    Xubnormal
    It looks as though DT fans are no longer satisfied with the band's characteristically brilliant music. After a while, even brilliant gets boring. They are probably the only metal group I've ever liked. LaBrie's singing is absolutely terrific on this album. It's true that Myung's bass was almost completely overshadowed by the more, ah, powerful shredding by Petrucci and Rudess. Overall, it was quite an interesting album, and equally interesting reviews.
    starfire666
    Ever since Scenes From A Memory DT stopped being exciting and starting to bore the living crap out of me. Although still by far my favourite metal band, I hate to say that the songwriting really downhilled on this one. We still get awesome solos from Mr. Petrucci, but what really IHMO ruins the majority of the songs is Mr. LaBrie and his lame approach to singing. For instance, at the end of The Shattered Fortress and The Count Of Tuscany you can actually hear him contemplating "Am I going to really pull of some high-pitched good quality note like I know I really can or am I just going to continue to produce these crappy Ahs and Ohs in a half-assed mediocre lower-range way whilst thinking to get away with it?" Well, sadly, the answer is obvious. I think that the new album is fairly decent, but not really great or stunning. But what would you expect from a band whose drummer loves the new Metallica record?! :
    ivan_2894
    The count of tuscany will enter to DT's hall of fame, believe me... It's the next Change of seasons/learning to live (despite sucky lyrics)... i liked overall the album, it couldnt be any worse than SC IMO. The first track is kind of TOO "riffy" IMO, rite of passage is nothing new, wither is OK, its a nice yet not commercial ballad, on The shattered fortress ive got 2 theories, 1) its is great to close the saga, goes back to all of its origins (the ending of this song is brillant!!)...2) they could come up with something new :S to kill us all... Best of times is ok to me, nice lyrics, nice melodies, nice song overall, but nothing else... Count of tuscany has got sucky lyrics, yes. However, i personelly believe its a masterpiece musically speaking... IMO, you should listen this album 12 times before having your own opinion, since it willl change constantly until you really get to know the album. see ya!
    fatAbbot27
    I just finished registering on UG deliberately so I could post for this... Why cant the UG team give this album a 4? I mean its DT but the album is complete Eye-wash! It is just so so bad... I mean Images and Words was a fantastic original album that rocked on so many levels. Everything since Scenes from a Memory (a very average album in my opinion) is just uninspired crap. All the riffs are the same, no bass, lyrics suck so badly, the drumming so technical that it makes no sense, Petrucci's solos are just so... meh I mean fast yeah but good? Come on!!! DT have been flogging a dead horse for the last 5+ albums... its so frustrating
    CptRevell
    I really have been having problems getting into these latest DT albums. Tend to get tired of listening to teh songs about halfway through the album
    Virtuoosi
    its an ok album. seems kinda meh after systematic chaos. Its good and all, but to me it just seems like a minor step back. Not coming out here til tomorrow by the way
    Martindecorum
    I like DT lyrics "Hopelessly Drifting bathing in beautiful agony" How is that cheesy thats ****ing awesoem
    enselmis
    SoulSlaughter wrote: omg, what's with the : bla bla bla systematic chaos sucks?? GO BLOW YOURSELF!
    . Hey! Buddy! This is a dream theater comments page, where people actually act civilized, so chill. Album was fair, covers were nice.
    supreamoverlord
    i just got the album and omg DT did it again i thought systematic chaos was a beastly album but i was wrong
    'Leviathan'
    To be completely honest, I've been listening to this album non-stop since I bought it a couple of days ago, and I think it's fantastic. It may not be on par with the likes of Images & Words, Scenes of SDoIT, but this album really seemed to have a certain charm about it. I really don't mind the direction the band wants to move in, I really think they make very good use of the whole 'Metal' direction. In my eyes, there are two eras of Dream Theater; The 'Pre-ToT' era and the 'Metal era', and I really like both of them. Honjestly, I have no complaints about the album, and it was DEFINITELY worth the wait and the $30 price tag... yes, I really did like the whole 'culmination' of the previous AA Suite songs in TSF, but I do wish it had a few more original portions. Either way, I love the album and I would write a review, but the past 7 I've written have been rejected, so... don't worry about it.
    Hammerzeit
    I quite like this. Maybe it's because my taste is more metallic than most DT fans but it's not too bad. Dream Theater are becoming quite formulaic though and the similarities in structure to Systematic Chaos are obvious. Theres the lenghty opening track (ITPOE pt1/Nightmare to Remember), a ballad(Forsaken/Wither), A metal influenced single (Rite of Passage/Constant Motion), An AA song (Repentance/Shatteres Fortress) and a lengthy epic closer (ITPOE pt 2/Count of Tuscany). Lucklily the songs on Black Clouds (with the exception of Rite of Passage, which is weaker than both Constant Motion and the Dark Eternal Night) are all better than the Systematic Chaos Equivalents. Also Lyrically this is poorer than previous efforts. Nightmare to Remember and Count of Tuscany are awful, far too basic. And like the UG reviewer said, Myung is choked to the point of asphyxiation in the mix, unlike on Images and Words where he was clearer. Thats just how Heavier stuff is mixed though. Talented though they are, their best work was Images and Words and they will never recreate that.
    Specblue
    Ok I've been listening to this album since about 6am this morning. A few things have become clear to me. I can honestly say that the lyrics have been horrible since John Myung stopped writing (last lyrics on the Falling into Infinity album). Once Portnoy put the rule in place that they had to present a completed set of lyrics, Myung quit writing. Myung wrote in poem form and the rest of the band didn't like having to sort out his ideas. Well guys you probably need to go back to mining Myungs ideas for gold cause thats the only place you're going to find it. Go back and it's easy to see that Kevin Moore and John Myung were the best lyricists this band had. The band as a whole are amazing musicians, but with Portnoys and Petruccis lyrics I had pure cheese seeping out of my speakers from this album between the two of them. Next; Mike stop singing! You sound like a half-assed cookie monster. Also, why does James sound so far back in the mix? I know he's a sticking point for many fans where I for one could not think of this band without him. A rite of passage is the only song I can take, mostly because of the main verse riff and the lyrics. I've always had a interest in lyrics that are social, political or topical(i.e. older Queensryche, older Rush and...older DT). God it hurt to write that, I've loved this band since I&W and have just about every CD or DVD any of these guys have put out over the years (music and instructional). This was by far their weakest album to date. Ill see them on tour this year but I hope they dont bring out allot of whats on this album.
    Czechs Mix
    Mathdio24 wrote: "Everything is never enough".. Remember these lyrics? Whatever this band (like any other) will release people will never be happy and it's very sad. This album is amazing.. as any DT album. These guys are pure genius.. is it so hard to admit?
    Dream Theater is awesome! Love the new album!
    GustavLW
    While long and complex, the first two songs doesn't really feel progressive. I can't put my finger on it, but they just doesn't have the right vibe. Still good music and all. I have a weak spot for ballads so Wither is a winner in my eyes. The Shattered Fortress have waaay too much recycled material for me to feel like a real songs. The Best of Times is purely a beautiful, nice and feel-goody song. One of my favorites and this one will probably be given more than just a couple of spins. And The Count of Tuscany... Is just pure fantastic, musically. I also happen to like the nonsensical lyrics. The instrumental section before the ambient part is bit stale, but otherwise, it's flawless.
    Bass of Grunge wrote: instrument wanking. who cares if you can do a 5 minute solo?
    Oh cut your pretentious fxxxing bullshit. I don't care if you don't care, Dream Theater are geniuses in so many ways and means a lot to a lot of people, so your pointless remark over how you doesn't appreciate complex music is completely pointless.
    tristan_deity
    Bass of Grunge wrote: instrument wanking. who cares if you can do a 5 minute solo?
    I do...
    Karlboy
    Though it doesn't even come close to Metropolis, it is still a great album I believe.
    justin_fraser
    I have listened to the album and first impression is that its kind of weak. Now dont get me wrong, I love DT as much as the next guy, but there is nothing that really sticks out at me. Octavarium is by far my favorite album because they dont try to force the long songs. And they end it was that epic finale that shares its title with the album name. Thats what an album should be.
    bones12x2
    I'm new to Dream Theater, and I listened to this album and really loved it. Than I came on here and found all the negative reviews and I'm just not sure what to think anymore. Are they not a fresh and different band than a lot of the stuff radio stations play? I think any band with the technical prowess and epic sounding tracks deserves more than the hate it's receiving. I don't know, maybe i'm completely off on this one.
    Don't worry about what other people say, if you like it than great. Alot of DT fans are kind of pretentious and think that DT owes them for their stalwart fandom. They forget that most bands (especially prog. bands) write music for themselves and hope other people happen to enjoy it. DT doesnt sit back and read forums so they can plan their next album to perfectly please everyone but themslves.
    lethaldosage45
    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 theyll 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. This is the first review... and he nailed it. I felt like after being a fan of them for so long, that I could pretty much predict what was going to happen and it made me angry!
    Connah
    pretty okay album. agree with first review though, some parts did sound predictable. the solos are okay. the shredding is good and tight, its just not interesting sometimes, its jsut shred. i liked the first 4 songs, but didn't like the last two that much.
    Upon_Belail
    This is a bitchin album anyone who wants the old dream theater should **** off that portion of their career is over. They still make good music and uh i really don't see anyone else making even close to as amazing songs as dream theater does, if there is a band out there let me know but Petrucci and Rudess are some of the best musicians at their instruments and no one has the right to say whether they had a bad album or not these guys are the best in their genre period end story.
    ThatsAgood1jay
    I dont think anyone here, or the reviewers for UG realize what Dream Theater is about. Everyone's main argument is "Well, its not an Images and Words". Fuck yes its not, Dream Theater has never been a throw back band that panders the same sound album after album like Iron Maiden or Megadeth. Did anyone expect"Awake" after "Images And Words"?. Dream Theater is a Progressive Metal band, and probably the only band that has stayed true to their music. Every album is different on so many levels, there is never going to be another Images and Words, or another SFAM. because thats not how DT works. They are constantly changing their sound to fit their mood as a band. [/rant]
    Colohue
    'Like reflections on the page, The world's what you create.' I love this album.
    PorwegianNussy
    I'm new to Dream Theater, and I listened to this album and really loved it. Than I came on here and found all the negative reviews and I'm just not sure what to think anymore. Are they not a fresh and different band than a lot of the stuff radio stations play? I think any band with the technical prowess and epic sounding tracks deserves more than the hate it's receiving. I don't know, maybe i'm completely off on this one.
    Mathdio24
    "Everything is never enough".. Remember these lyrics? Whatever this band (like any other) will release people will never be happy and it's very sad. This album is amazing.. as any DT album. These guys are pure genius.. is it so hard to admit?
    Fly-By-Night
    I'm a die hard DT fan, The only album i never really got into was Falling Into Infinity. Scenes, SDOIT, ToT, and Images and Words are my favorite albums they have released. This is where this album falls a little short for me, the new album doesn't bring the presence or feeling that the older material did, the only thing that really jumps out at me as pure DT is Jame's vocals. I like the album, but do i love it, no. IMO it's on par with Systematic Chaos as my least favorite DT album.