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

BLACK CLOUDS & SILVER LININGS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.44 | 1199 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Signs of thunderstorms...

With Black Clouds and Silver Linings, Dream Theater have made an attempt to return to their roots after they were so painfully shot down by the majority of the progressive community with the release of their previous album, Systematic Chaos. The songs are long and epic, the solos have been cut down to a digestible length and the emphasis is more on song writing and structure than on instrumental wankery. The overall result is a pleasing one, but it's irritating to think that the band could have done better. Many are calling this one of Dream Theater's best albums, and at it's core it should be. The problem is that the disc feels like it's trying to appeal to too many groups at once and the band sounds tired. A return to 'form' was not what the band needed, they needed to continue on the direction they were going, and while the band definitely does turn some new corners (that have been explored by others already, mind you), it's kind of a case of two steps forward, ten steps back.

As with Rush's Hemispheres it would appear that the band spent too much time into writing a whole bunch of long songs and not focusing on the content too much. The majority of the album are songs that span over 15 minutes, and while any prog fan would cream their pants just seeing this number it would appear that they've forgotten how to write songs this long. Don't expect some amazing stories and tales as we've heard from the band before - gripping epics like In The Presence Of Enemies, Scenes From A Memory and Octavarium are not to be found here. The musical content is kicking (if tired), but the lyrical content is completely absent. The band seem to have wandered into territory where they want to apologize for their every move. The opening track, A Nightmare To Remember is a story about a car crash victim telling his tale of the event and rehab - but the whole thing feels G-rated, and at the end it's a case of ''whoo, that was tough - but I'm fine, don't worry about me''. Honestly, this does not accurately portray the horror that it could have gotten across. The music is among the best on the album, but the same Metallica inspired riffs are getting old, even if they're a little darker this time around.

After a couple of shorter songs, obviously meant to be singles we make it into some more of the beefy material. The Shattered Fortress finally.... FINALLY concludes Dream Theater's AA Saga which started in 2001 and got old around 2002, the 13-minute long song goes through all the different song parts that have been built up over the years and features some of its own sound, which makes it very cool overall. However, I'm very much looking forward to the next DT album where they'll have to (*GASP*) write an album that DOES NOT rehash the riff from The Glass Prison for the fifteenth time. The formerly mentioned short songs are wildly different in quality - the first single A Rite Of Passage is a wickedly evil piece that really captures the overall sound that DT was going for on this album and winds up as one of the standout pieces, while Wither is a sappy-sweet slow song that borrows a lot from Forsaken.

Then we have the best and worst of the album. Let's start with the best. The Best Of Times signifies everything that Dream Theater is good at, and ironically, is the only song on the album not drenched with the neo-progressive-emoness that seems to have befallen every prog artist in the world right now. This is a song dedicated to Mike Portnoy's father and is pretty much the exact opposite of Honor Thy Father from Train Of Thought. This one must have been written while Portnoy was listening to Elton John, because the structure from the song borrows heavily from Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding. A picturesque opening turns into an uplifting epic that is almost tear jerking at time thanks to its honest and touching lyrics and emotional playing. Very well done, and easily the best piece on the album.

Then we get to The Count Of Tuscany. It is beyond me how so many people can be head over heels in love with this song and dislike the majority of Systematic Chaos. This is everything that album was, only more poorly written, cheesier, and with a terrible ending to the tale. Granted, this song was based on a true story and the music is relatively decent (although not enough so to support 20-minutes of music, and yes, I did hear that Rush interlude in the middle. boys... buying yourself time, eh?), but the lyrics are absolutely grotesque, and I don't say that in a good way. I respect Petrucci for this writing and playing skills, but to have lines like ''Like The finest wines/improve with age'' or ''sitting in his chair/sucking on his pipe'' in a song that's supposed to make you feel scared like the main character... come on! The lyrics are just plain laughable and make the more troubadouric side of progressive rock look like a 10th grade English assignment. The only thing that saves this song is some of the impressive playing at the beginning and end, and even then you might miss it from laughing at the lyrics so hard.

Overall this album is good, but disappointing. Apparently the band are tired and don't want to play this kind of music anymore, they were much more energetic and much better off going the way they were going before. The unfortunate thing is that so many people seem to think they're better off on this album rehashing everything they've done before and never touching new grounds. Listen to this album again and look for anything truly new in it. There is barely anything! Compared strait across to their masterworks like Awake and Six Degrees this album is nothing but a black cloud on the horizon. Fans only. 1.5 out of 5.

Queen By-Tor | 1/5 |

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