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

BLACK CLOUDS & SILVER LININGS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.44 | 1202 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What is your favorite DT album? For me is straight forward: 'Scene from a Memory'. Why? It has everything that I dream of a great composition. The tagline melody of each individual song is really wonderful, catchy, and of course memorable. I remember vividly the first time I heard 'Finally Free' which has killing melody, I kept playing that final track in my car audio with the loudest volume my car's stereo set can handle. Well, I love especially the last part where Portnoy plays his sticks like crazy, even though I also love the whole melody of the song. 'Scene' also has excellent harmonies in any musical segment in its individual song. Complexity? Give me break! They are the master of making such a complex arrangement, performed in speed like power metal and it changes style from one segment to another. Most importantly, the album has a very solid structural integrity that forms all songs into a one cohesive whole that supports the concept album.

What about DT songs? My first favorite is of course 'Stream of Consciousness' (ToT) followed with 'Pull Me Under' (I&W), 'Sacrificed Sons' (Octavarium) and 'Finally Free' (SFaM), 'The Root of all Evils' (Octavarium). Of course there are many excellent DT tracks but I mention the vital few.

As I have listened to Dream Theater tracks, I finally got used to the kind of music style they play. I can bet you that their roots were basically taken from UK (Bruford, Holdsworth, Jobson & Wetton) debut album in 1978. Do you have this phenomenal album? You must have it if you are a prog head or DT lover. Play the CD now and spin track no 3 'Presto, Vivace & Reprise' and see what you experience. Anything similar with DT music? Yeah, of course! You can see how DT have capitalized the staccato style in this UK track and they have been perfecting the style excellently. You should consider UK as the pioneer of progressive metal, don't you think so?

On being charted at number 6 position in US Top 10...!

As prog lovers we must give a big applause to Dream Theater's great achievement of cracking US Top 10 Chart at 6th position. I think this is quite weird, a band with progressive metal music playing song with long duration per song (more than 8 minutes) still can reach this chart. Wow! The forum at this site mentioned that this album has 6 songs, 6 cover songs (Disc 2), sits at number 6 position at the first week of the album sales (Released in June 23, 2009). Having listened to the album, it's basically nothing pop music like 'I Walk Beside You' or 'The Answer Lies Within' even though there is basically one mellow track, I really admire this achievement. I don't know what is actually the reason on why this 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' hit the Top 10 Chart. It could be because of the hypes made by the label (Roadrunners) by releasing one cover song every week since six weeks before the album was officially released. And I have to thank DT for covering songs of my favorites like Queen's 'Tenement Funster - Flick of The Wrist - Lily of The Valley', Rainbow's 'Stargazer' and King Crimson's 'Larks Tongue in Aspic'. These three tracks are truly classic, truly 70s tracks plus excellent 'To Tame A Land' cover of Iron Maiden.

For whatever reason, we have to appreciate DT for making such a great achievement!

Return to Form?

For me, 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' sounds like true DT music that returns to its original form. I don't hear any Muse, U2 or Pink Floyd in this album. Evreything sounds Dream Theater. The first spin did not impress me as I did not find any new things compared to their style: guitar shredding, heavy riffs, power metal blast, speedy drumming. Sometimes I feel boring with the heavy riffs, actually. That's why this album did not catch my attention at first. One thing that bores me is the alcohol sequel that has been appearing in every single album since 'Six Degrees' through 'The Glass Prison' and in this album represented by 'The Shattered Fortress'. With more spins I got acquainted with the new album, and this is my thoughts:

A Nightmare to Remember (16:10) has now become my favorite and it's probably the best track of this album for one distinctive reason: the overall melody is quite good and catchy (my taste) compared to the rest of the tracks. The lyrics are written by Petrucci based on his nightmare experience. The music starts ambient with symphonic opening combined with heavy riffs and speedy double bass drum pedals by Portnoy. When the music flows in its regular patterns Myung lys a foundation with his basslines combined with guitar soft riffs. The music moves in relatively fast tempo until it changes into grooves when LaBrie starts to sing his first lyrical verse. The interesting part of this vocal part is the groove as well as guitar at the back of the singing where it fills with great electric guitar lead in the vein 'similar to' Mick Box (Uriah Heep) style. The music moves energetically until approximately minute 5 when it changes into mellow style followed with LaBrie sings 'Lying on the table ?' as part of conversation with the faceless man he meets in the nightmare. It's quite good musical break, actually, after high energy music. During the dialogue with the faceless man, I like the way Petrucci plays his guitar backed with Rudess keyboard work. What then follows is the wonderful combination of wild guitar solo and inventive keyboard work. Well, I have to admit that this segment of the music after the middle of the track during guitar solo is really amazing! Oh by the way, Portnoy does his growling vocal in the later part of the song. It's not quite good actually, but it gives good variation to the music. One peculiar characteristics of the music are the tempo changes as well as style changes.

A Rite of Passage (8:35) talks bluntly about the impact of the new world order as the lyrics start straight with 'Since the new world order played upon our fears. Spreading accusations of radical ideas?". The music actually starts mellow with basslines followed with heavy guitar riffs. The basic structure of the music reminds me to ToT's 'As I Am' even though the overall music is different. The tagline melody of this track is quite catchy as it comprises notes that flow nicely into my ears, so is the case with the chorus line. The track moves in relatively medium tempo until the heavy guitar riffs enter at approx minute 5 followed with great interlude featuring stunning guitar solo which I really enjoy. The keyboard solo that follows is also wonderful and combined together they form amazing interlude.

Wither (5:25) is a poppy stuff with mellow style and it might be treated as Black Cloud's 'Forsaken' in mellower term. The melody is quite OK and in terms of style, it's quite consistent from start to end . For those who love ballad, this one is good.

The Shattered Fortress (12:49) is an epic that continues the sequel on alcohol, with an excellent intro part that consumes more than 1.5 minutes exploring the string section, double bass pedals and amazing guitar work. The heavy riffs still sound good to me even though I have been hearing them quite often. The music style starts to change into more metal at minute 5:30 with great intertwining sounds of guitar and keyboard. Of course there are parts that lend its melody from previous albums like those from 'The Root of all Evil' (Octavarium). Unfortunately I do not favor this part because it makes me getting bored. In my opinion, it's about time DT to finish the sequel, in fact since the last album 'Systematic Chaos' with the boring 'Repentance'. As usual, the lyric of this track was written by Portnoy.

The Best of Times (13:07) starts mellow with nice piano touch followed with soft string arrangement and Jerry Goodman's violin solo followed with acoustic guitar work. Approaching minute 3, theguitar solo in the vein of Rush' Alex Lifeson enters the music. It sounds like a disconnect with previous instrumental intro. The music flows in relatively fast speed. As the vocal flows throughout the song I can see the lack of catchy melody from this track, not even the chorus. At approximately minute 7 the music turns into mellow style accompanying heavy vocal line of James LaBrie. You may be interested with the guitar solo at the end of the track starting from minute 10 onwards. It's really stunning guitar solo!

The Count of Tuscany (19:16) is the song that has the worst melody in the album. The intro part is actually quite interesting in terms of guitar solo plus dynamic drumming. But as the song moves from one segment to another I don't see any excellent melody it creates. However the guitar solo that appears many times in different segments sound great to me, especially those combined with keyboard work. To me this epic that concludes the album lacks structural integrity as an epic. However, there are segments with excellent harmonies even though during changes of style. Interlude part with guitar and keyboard are really dynamic and inspiring. The musical break with long sustain keyboard work at approx minute 11 reminds me to Yes Relayer's 'Gates of Delirium' especially when enters 'Soon'.

Bonus Discs

My copy is the Deluxe Edition which comprises three CDs with Disc 2 contains band cover of Rainbow, Queen, King Crimson, etc. What surprises me is the song taken from Queen is 'Tenement Funster - Flick of The Wrist - Lily of The Valley' which represents my first experience with Queen. DT plays it not much different than Queen's original album. The other covers that I love are: Rainbow's 'Stargazer' and King Crimson's 'Larks Tounge in Aspic ? Part 2'

Bonus Disc 3 is basically minus-one of the original version. For me this disc is completely a waste because the vocal line is really gone and nothing is truly interesting to enjoy. It should be great if the vocal line is replaced by guitar solo or violin solo. It's gonne be really great.

Conclusion

Overall, DT still prove as a dominant power house in terms of progressive metal. I think no one does it better in terms of managing change (in style) from one segment to another in relatively fast tempo. This album does not offer something new about DT music. It does however have wonderful interlude parts which have great guitar and keyboard work in relatively complex music. In terms of production, I am disappointed with the cheap package of the CD ? the paper is quite bad and the three CDs are each just inserted in an envelope. At the same time I have IQ 'Frequency' which has great packaging. In addition, the sonic quality is not quite good and far from the best sound production in 'Images and Words'. However, I still consider this album as a recommended one to buy. Keep on proggin' ..! because proggin' is healthy ...

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Gatot | 4/5 |

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