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Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings CD (album) cover


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.43 | 1526 ratings

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4 stars If you're already a Dream Theater fan then you know the drill by now - complex prog metal with John Petrucci's guitar shredding solos and heavy riffing, Mike Portnoy hitting everything in sight with complex rhythmic structures, constantly shifting yet solid as a rock. Then there's James LaBrie's classic rock style vocal gymnastics. As usual John Myung's bass is buried in the mix and the excellent Jordan Rudess on keyboards constantly looking for a place to fit and be heard over Petrucci's guitar. So no great leaps forward stylistically, unless you count Portnoys unwelcome attempt at injecting some death metal style growling. Ultimately then it's down to whether the songs are any good or not. Well there's some excellent moments ( a few duff ones) but not enough to make it a 5 star classic, the only time dream Theater having achieved this is being on Scenes From A Memory.

It doesn't get any better than on 16 minute opener A Nightmare To Remember - a brooding dark sounding track, Portnoy showing the Axenrot's (Opeth) of this world that he too can play warp speed double bass drum rolls. The expected myriad of twists and turns keeping the track never less than interesting. A mid song lull adding some light and shade giving more impact to the heavier parts. It also features Portnoy's first attempt on the album to inject his death growls; no thanks Mike. Whether this is an attempt or not to come across as more contempory I don't know. Whatever it's unnecessary and not what I want to hear in Dream Theater songs. Fortunately it's short lived.

I first heard A Rite Of Passage on a free Classic Rock magazine cd a while back and thought at the time if this is as good as it gets then the new album is going to be a disappointment. Fortunately it turns out to be the worst track on the album - nothing particularly bad or good and is basically Dream Theater by numbers. Better is Wither the token ballad giving a break to the usual bombast of most tracks.

The Shattered Fortress is another of the better tracks, the final part in Portnoy's 12 step Alcoholic's Anonymous programme. Again nothing new to report on this particularly heavy track which would sit on Train Of Thought nicely. On the first verse LaBrie trades vocal lines with Portnoy's growls though the drummers vocals being no more than a supporting role. It's not all bombast though with a spoken word mid song lull brings things down a notch or 2 and then we're revisting themes from past songs of the AA programme and a fine Petrucci guitar solo.

The Best Of Times is Portnoy's moving tribute to his father who sadly died earlier this year. Not surprisingly it starts as one of the albums quieter more reflective moments. Petrucci adding some acoustic guitar and Rudess getting more of a look in. However a 13 minute track might get a bit monotonous if it stayed in first gear and turns into something more reminiscent of the earlier days of the band. Plenty of power but melodically based rather than the dark riffing of latter years, in keeping with the sentiments of the song.

The album closes with the epic 20 minute The Count Of Tuscany. It's full of trade mark blistering instrumental workouts and it's 4 and a half minutes before the vocals come in. The first half of the song packs a strong punch. A mid song Octavarium style lull brings things down for a while after which it never reaches the same heights again which is a bit of an anti-climax in some ways despite a good vocal performance from LaBrie.

Overall then another strong album from the band but ultimately one that is unlikely to end up being anyone's favourite Dream Theater album. With no great leaps forward if you don't already like the band then this is unlikely to make a convert of you, if you do then I'm sure you'll find much to enjoy here.

Nightfly | 4/5 |


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