Black Clouds & Silver Linings review by Dream Theater

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  • Released: Jun 23, 2009
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.2 (352 votes)
Dream Theater: Black Clouds & Silver Linings

Sound — 9
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.

Lyrics — 7
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.

Overall Impression — 8
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.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    which is entirely up to Myung to do it, as mike has said many times if Myung writes lyrics they will use it, mind u he has only written lyrics for 4 songs
    best DT since 8va i say. GREAT solos from jp (especially wither, TBOT, and TCOT) TBOT intro reminds me of spirit of radio. i love Jordans keyboards in TCOT, that melody is killer. a great improvement over SC imo and a great album!
    Anybody who has anything negative to say about this album are obviously jealous musicians who feel the need to be critical over the slightest thing. The truth is DT in my humble opinion are one of the best bands out there, possibly of all time...the creativity, the skill, the passion are simply out of this world and I think Black Clouds is a climax of the past four albums. I read on this forum that they have done nothing new with this album, all been heard before, well thats ridiculous because when an artist paints a picture, that artists style can be seen through his whole portfolio, and its the same with DT, the good thing is their style is simply out of this world and never gets boring or tedious unlike most metal bands nowadays, when you've listened to the first song you've practically heard the whole album thus having no lastability, not so with DT, they sure know how to stir emotion, being sensitive and aggressive and for certain PROGGY! I love these guys and deserve more credit for their acheivements and ability because in a world where new music seems to be getting drabber, DT are a breath of fresh air and Black Clouds is no exception, I LOVE this album and i love DT
    "I read on this forum that they have done nothing new with this album, all been heard before, well thats ridiculous" Yeah, it really is! Train Of Thought doesn't sound like Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, Octavarium doesnt sound like Train Of Thought (at all), Systematic Chaos doesn't sound like Octavarium and this album sounds dark like In The Presence Of Enemies, but overall it doesn't sound like Systematic Chaos. They always alter their sound. Yeah, they always sound like Dream Theater (the way they play, the technical riffs, etc...), but what's wrong with that? It's as if some fans wanted them to change their sound drastically, throw away everything that makes their sound and start sounding like a completely different band.