Sound — 10
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.
Lyrics — 8
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.
Overall Impression — 9
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!