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