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


Dream Theater


Progressive Metal

3.44 | 1546 ratings

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Tarquin Underspoon
3 stars As a Dream Theater diehard fan, I must say that I was not disappointed by this album, but it could have been much much better. The idea, musically, behind this album was to make an "album of epics". Some moments truly are epic, and some moments just are silly.

I absolutely love the album opener. "A Nightmare to Remember" is a fantastically heavy metal song that comes out and hits you in the face from the first second (which is a spine- tingling thunder clap). The heavy parts are indeed the focal point of the song, but there is a truly beautiful quiet section about halfway through. Then Dream Theater returns to the heaviness once more and reminds you that they can be as heavy as anyone, and yet beautifully melodic, in the same song. I would like to take this opportunity to clear up something: Mike Portnoy does not, in fact, use growls on this song. If you are familiar with his vocals on "Constant Motion", then these vocals are nothing new to you. He does not pull a Akerfeldt. It is not drastic. Do not worry. The real worry comes when he utilizes blast beats near the end of the song. They sound out of place to my ears, and frankly are rather embarrasing. However! I must say that this is the best album opener since The Glass Prison, and arguably their best song in 3 or 4 albums, if you like their heavy side.

Then we have the first single from the album, "A Rite of Passage". A nice chorus saves this song from total failure, but I still think this song will go down in history along with songs like "Forsaken" and "As I Am" in the category of potentially-commercial songs that just don't reach Dream Theater standards.

Next comes "Wither", a power ballad about writer's block. Dream Theater proves once again that they can do radio rock as well as anyone out there, but they will probably never get any mainstream radio exposure. However, if they ever will, it will be when this song is released as a single with an accompanying video. A good, solid, accessable song. Reminds me of Another Day.

Then we have the ultra-anticipated finale to the 12 Step Suite. What a letdown! I'm sorry, but I've heard this song before. This song has little or nothing to add to the saga. It doesn't even seem like an adequate finale to me. It merely seems to tie up all loose ends. I must say, there are some wonderful moments here, and it's good to hear some "old friends" resurrected for a last hurrah. I just feel like a more epic ending was in order. This seems thrown together at the last second to me.

Then comes "The Best of Times", a personal song about Mike Portnoy's father, who passed away. Some touching lyrics here, very personal indeed. The song opens with a piano and a violin playing a sad theme. It is beautiful, but it is cheesy. Then, out of nowhere, comes a John Petrucci guitar bit that sounds a bit like a tribute to The Spirit of Radio, especially when the band explodes around him in a Rush style. This leads to an upbeat, happy section recalling "days of yesterday". It is a truly awesome combination of music, melody, and lyrics. However, all of a sudden....the song stops. And another song, all too familiar, seems to take over. It is a variation of the opening theme played with a full band. It sounds totally and completely stale to the Dream Theater fan, as it has been copied on such songs as "The Ministy of Lost Souls". The finale guitar solo is indeed impressive, but....why is it there? One of my main nitpicks with Dream Theater.

The finale, the epic...The Count of Tuscany. It is embarrassing. I absolutely love the opening. It is beautiful and moving, and truly makes you feel like this is the DT song you've waited for since 6DOIT. For a few minutes, you find yourself in musical heaven, but then...oh no! The song changes. It doesn't change to a bad song, but it does change abruptly and confusingly. Then...James LaBrie comes in with the most atrocious lyrics these ears have ever choked down. John Petrucci wrote them about an encounter he had with a strange Italian man, in which he suspected he was in danger, but soon found that he was not. That is the story, in a nutshell. A very cool part of the song is a Petrucci guitar bit that is probably the most roomy and minimalistic minute or so in DT's catalogue. I quite like the soaring guitar notes that seem to come out of an empty sanctuary. The finale returns to the opening themes, and would be most satisfying if it weren't for the fact that the lyrics are too distracting. It had promise, but I think a simple lack of wise songwriting killed this song early on.

It is worth noting that I purchased the special edition,complete with 6 cover tunes.They are actually very enjoyable, I love the reworking of Queen, Rainbow and Zebra classics! Well worth the extra 5 dollars or so, especially when you throw in the CD of instrumental mixes. Although I must say that these mixes are not anything special. Just a nice addition that lets the listener listen to The count of Tuscany without wincing.

In conclusion, this is a good album. Despite all its shortcomings. I must note two things that I dislike about this album, in general: -Still too much technicality for its own sake -There seems to be an inability to switch between musical themes smoothly, as it actually sound like they combined 2 or 3 songs just because they could.

But! I have to say that this shows flashes of brilliance in A Nightmare to Remember, The Shattered Fortress, and the final two songs. Truly moving melody and incredible musicianship still save Dream Theater and this album for me.

It's a good album that should satisfy DT fans, but not many others. So my rating? 3 stars. Simply because I know these guys could have done so much better.

Tarquin Underspoon | 3/5 |


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