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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

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UMUR
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" is the 10th full-length studio album by progressive metal act Dream Theater. The album was released in June 2009 by Roadrunner Records. Iīve lost a bit touch with the band in recent years and especially the release of the in my book mediocre "Octavarium (2005)" meant that I completely jumped ship. "Systematic Chaos (2007)" was a slight return to form IMO but with "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" I think the band again show what they are really made of.

One of the things I wasnīt too happy about, when I think of how the two predecessors sounded like, was the fact that I didnīt and still donīt think many of the songs on those albums stick out. They simply lack memorable moments. That has changed on "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". I could remember every song already after my first listen to the album. That can be a weakness in some cases but in the case of Dream Theater itīs not. There are still many complex instrumental sections to get lost in and get challenged by.

There are six tracks on the album. four of them exceed the 12 minute mark. I enjoy the three most heavy tracks the most. Opener "A Nightmare to Remember", "The Shattered Fortress" and the 19:16 minutes long epic closer "The Count of Tuscany". The latter is especially noteworthy IMO and even momentarily reminds me of their glorious past. The lyrics to that one is a kind of horror story not totally unlike the the concept album horror stories by King Diamond. The other three tracks are of varied quality. The power ballad "Wither" doesnīt do much for me but I have to give the band credit for being able to write a track like that anyway. Very professional. "A Rite of Passage" is the most straight forward heavy metal track on the album but still has a complex and challenging section. A pretty good track that one IMO. "The Best of Times" is a very melodic track. The lyrics is an ode to Mike Portnoyīs farther and while I can fully understand and appreciate the intention to write such personal lyrics I find the way the lyrics are written to be a bit cringe worthy to be honest. It should be mentioned that thereīs a strong Rush influence in "The Best of Times".

Thereīs been written and said much about the vocal section near the end of album opener "A Nightmare to Remember" where drummer Mike Portnoy sings using a rough/ raw voice. I would like to make a statement here that he might distort his voice slightly to get an effect but "HE DOES NOT GROWL". Actually he sounds one to one like Oderus Urungus the lead singer in infamous American heavy metal act Gwar which was probably not intended and for those of us familiar with Gwar that can only bring a smile to our face. I find myself enjoying that section as a new spice in Dream Theaterīs sound (as long as I donīt think of Oderus Urungus that is. I just canīt help laughing when I do). If you want to compare Mike Portnoyīs vocals to real growling vocals may I recommend that you take a listen to the vocal style in bands like Cannibal Corpse or Suffocation. Now thatīs growling vocals.

The musicianship is as always on an extremely high level. Tight interplay and lots of shredding solos both on guitar and keyboards. Note the blast beat (not the most fast blasts Iīve ever heard, but they are there) section at the end of "A Nightmare to Remember"! Finally Mike Portnoy gets to show that he loves extreme metal. The vocal lines are pretty well constructed for James LaBrieīs voice which has been an issue on some earlier releases. One problem with the vocals though is that Portnoy and Petrucci still sound like they lay down harmony vocals on some tracks. Thatīs a real shame as none of then are able to deliver vocals worthy of an inclusion on a Dream Theater album. Let James LaBrieīs do his own harmony vocals please. Just like in the good old days. Why let two mediocre singers do those harmony vocals when you have a skilled and powerful lead vocalist in your band?

The production is allright but itīs not excellent IMO. Once again I have to say that Portnoy and Petrucci need to stop producing Dream Theaterīs albums and hire a "real" producer. They create acceptable sound productions but Iīm sure that the bandīs music would sound even better with a "REAL" producer helping out.

Dream Theater are often hailed as one of the most prolific progressive metal bands on the scene and I have to say that they once again show whoīs the king with "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". Even though my dedicated Dream Theater fanboy days are long gone I (as a more casual listener) still think this album is an excellent release by the band. A 3.5 - 4 star rating is deserved.

UMUR | 4/5 |

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