Sound — 8
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.
Lyrics — 8
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.
Overall Impression — 9
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.