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

BLACK CLOUDS & SILVER LININGS

Dream Theater

 

Progressive Metal

3.44 | 1220 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" is an album that took me a few weeks to properly enjoy, but now I'm convinced that I'm in front of yet another great musical work by these prog-metal monsters. The Dream Theater guys have really improved on their previous effort "Systematic Chaos", which I felt a bit tiring in spite of comprising some undeniably great moments. In comparison, SC&BL proves a more colorful and kaleidoscopic despite the similarities I find concerning sound production and compositional approach. In this way, the greatest moment in the album happen to be more related to "Octavarium" albeit with a more prominent presence of Petrucci's guitar labor. The progressive element is meticulously worked on, reaching pinnacles of sophisticated glory in long tracks such as 'The best of times' and 'The Count of Tuscany'. Rudess shines again as a master of technological novelties for the sake of providing augmented sources of sonic energy to the whole DT scheme, while Myung, Portnoy and Petrucci remain untouched as magicians on their respective instruments. Naturally, we also have LaBrie, of course, who still manages to convey his vocal range and style in full communion with lyrics exclusively written by Portnoy and Petrucci, making them his own. The opener 'A nightmare to remember' benefits right away with the creepy intro and the ballsy development immediately after, a piece that most certainly catch the attention of both lovers and haters. It is, indeed, a great concert opener, as I am proud to testify (DT played for the first time in Lima on March 22nd, great!!!). Further permutations include a softer passage filled with a sense of expectation and a growling section that brings an enhanced darkness to the magnificent whole. Next is 'A rite of passage', an entertaining song that brings close memories of the "Systematic Chaos" thing (on the good side) ? it includes an aggressively cosmic solo by Rudess on his Ipod synth. 'Wither' is another song that reminds me a bit of "Systematic Chaos", perhaps in the mold of 'Forsaken' but with a more inspired melodic development and a more moving mood. It is certainly one of my favorite DT ballads ever, with the recurrent guitar arpeggio feeling closely related to the melancholic moments of "Train Of Thought". 'The Shattered Fortress' is the final delivery of the AAA opus that Portnoy instigated throughout the last five albums. I'm in two minds concerning this piece: on one hand, I value it as a well-crafted recapitulation of motifs from the previous four songs, but I also feel that this saga looks like it has outgrown itself and that this recapitulation eventually happens to be redundant and a little futile. Anyway, 'The glass prison' and 'The root of all evil' are, in perspective, my fave songs from this otherwise great chapter in DT's history. Also bearing lyrics penned by Portnoy, 'The best of times' is better in musical terms: based on al alternation of emotional slow sections and vivid celebratory passages, it does reveal the ever-present ability of the band to create inspiration and energy out of their musical ideology. Perhaps the final guitar solo is too long (a defect we can find in many Spock's Beard songs, for instance), but the overall result is plain beautiful, just like that. But the best of times and beauty is provided by the final song, 'The Count of Tuscany' (a great concert closer, as I can proudly testify, because you see, DT played in Lima for the first? sorry, I've already said that, didn't I?). 'The Count of Tuscany' epitomizes the band's historical influences ? Rush, Iron Maiden, Yes, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Fates Warning, Kansas. The all-guitar intro is captivating in its reflective drive, while the main body generates an intelligent display of complex, electrifying rock. The interlude is just amazing, with Rudess cleverly filling spaces and bringing in orchestrations in perfect sense with the rhythmic scheme and Petrucci's riffs. There is also a spacey section that finds Petrucci's lead guitar and Rudess' ornaments create a hybrid of PF, Yes and Rush, in this way slowly opening a door for the emergence of the lyrical sung section that wraps things up in a majestic way. The sound of sea waves and seagulls is sort of cliché, but never mind, it certainly provides an air of distinction to the song's last seconds. In short: IMHO, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" clearly states that Dream Theater is still healthy and in good shape, after a lot of studio and live albums and DVDs and on the verge of their 25th anniversary.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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