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

BLACK CLOUDS & SILVER LININGS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.44 | 1230 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars For the first several listens of this 2009 Dream Theater album, I thought it was a decent effort but a decidedly lackluster one. Now I have discovered a newness in it. It does not compete with the masterworks that involve dead girls becoming living men or a suite of psychological disorders, but it has the wanted ingredients. There are several typical but memorable Dream Theater melodies with right plenty going on behind the scenes (from a memory? No, but still good). There are six (degrees from inner turbulence? No, but still good) tracks on this album, and all of them are rather excellent.

"A Nightmare to Remember" Opening with an eerie rumbling of thunder and a dark piano, a cataclysmically grim heaviness overtakes the atmosphere. James LaBrie snarls over chugging guitar and double-bass drumming. In contrast, his typical powerful tenor washes through in an amazing melody with a gorgeous flow of instrumentation behind him. John Petrucci refrains from guitar soloing until almost nine minutes in, and when he cuts loose, it is clear that he must have been suffering from the itch to play, because the shredding takes off in his usual soullessly yet somehow creative manner. Jordan Rudess follows with further technical expertise. The growling vocals seem rather immature, but I do not mind them. Even though the piece continues full speed ahead for several more minutes after all of this, I find it has run out of gasoline.

"A Rite of Passage" Beginning with an Alice in Chains- like riff, the song becomes suitably yet predictably heavier. The refrain is the best part of the song, while the soloing in the middle pretty much blows over like the overblown mess it is. Overall, this is a remarkable effort, as it merely suffers from overindulgence in the electric guitar department.

"Wither" Perhaps my favorite track on this album, the one softer piece shines through as a brilliant metaphor regarding writer's block. This song is absolutely cliché in terms of both style and technique, but I do not care- the aural flavor, the vocal melody, and the lyrics are more than enough to mark this as my second favorite soft song under the stunning "Hollow Years."

"The Shattered Fortress" During my first listen from this album (on Internet radio), I felt Black Stars & Silver Linings was going to be a promising addition to the Dream Theater discography. Rising quickly from silence, the band carries this jarring riff into fruition with a shared vocal between Mike Portnoy's growls and the harsher side of the usual lead vocalist's tenor. Occasionally in rock music, the backing riffs overshadow the solos in the front- this is a good example of that very phenomenon. In the spirit of the Twelve-Step Suite that spans multiple albums, the lyrics are commanding, and there's even a reprise of the masterpiece, "The Glass Prison"

"The Best of Times" Gentle piano and a breathtaking violin begin this penultimate piece, with acoustic guitar taking over the melody the second time. At almost three minutes, a lightning-fast guitar passage emerges from the shadows, bringing in the full band in 7/4 time. It is a pleasing song with an bright feel.

"The Count of Tuscany" In keeping with the bright feel, this begins with a light electric and acoustic guitar duo, soon joined by a nice guitar lead. The following riff, keeping the same sound but utilizing harmonics and soon the fullness of the band, introduces yet another passage, which is quite a symphonic affair. Jordan Rudess's synthesizers are technical and yet subtle, creating a desirable texture. While the lyrics can reasonably be construed as cheesy, the story is present nonetheless, and, as a consolation, the refrain is a refreshing aspect of this extended piece. The middle passage is seemingly unrelated to the rest of the piece- as beautiful as it is, with swelling electric guitar and bright synthesizers, it acts as filler, especially since it is followed by an unrelated acoustic guitar. Speculation has it that Petrucci met the brother of Pietro Pacciani, the "Murderer of Florence," who was the "cannibal curator" that inspired the character of Hannibal Lecter in the Thomas Harris series. So perhaps the man's fears were reasonable. At any rate, he does not play his guitar as though he is afraid, and while I can see some scoffing at this one, I rather like, so there.

Epignosis | 4/5 |

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