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Dream Theater Black Clouds & Silver Linings album cover
3.46 | 1785 ratings | 139 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Nightmare to Remember (16:10)
2. A Rite of Passage (8:35)
3. Wither (5:25)
4. The Shattered Fortress (12:49) :
- x. Restraint
- xi. Receive
- xii. Responsible
5. The Best of Times (13:07)
6. The Count of Tuscany (19:16)

Total Time 75:22

Bonus CD 2 from 2009 Special Edition (46:34)
- Uncovered 2008/9 (cover songs):
1. Stargazer (Rainbow) (8:11)
2. Tenement Funster / Flick of the Wrist / Lily of the Valley (Queen) (8:18)
3. Odyssey (Dixie Dregs) (8:00)
4. Take Your Fingers from My Hair (Zebra) (8:18)
5. Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two (King Crimson) (6:32)
6. To Tame a Land (Iron Maiden) (7:15)

Bonus CD 3 from 2009 Special Edition (75:22)
- Instrumental mixes:
1. A Nightmare to Remember (16:10)
2. A Rite of Passage (8:35)
3. Wither (5:25)
4. The Shattered Fortress (12:49)
5. The Best of Times (13:07)
6. The Count of Tuscany (19:16)

Line-up / Musicians

- James LaBrie / lead vocals
- John Petrucci / guitar, backing vocals, co-producer
- Jordan Rudess / keyboards, lap steel guitar (1), Continuum synth (1,4), iPhone app Bebot (2)
- John Myung / bass
- Mike Portnoy / drums & percussion, co-lead (1,4) & backing vocals, co-producer

- Jerry Goodman / violin (5,2.3,2.5)

Releases information

Artwork: Hugh Syme

2LP Roadrunner Records ‎- RRCAR 7883-1 (2009, Europe)

CD Roadrunner Records ‎- 1686-178832 (2009, US)
3CD Roadrunner Records ‎- RR 7883-5 (2009, Europe) Special Edition w/ 2 bonus discs: CD #2 including 6 cover songs; CD #3 including 6 instrumental mixes from entire album

Thanks to ccvp for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy DREAM THEATER Black Clouds & Silver Linings Music

DREAM THEATER Black Clouds & Silver Linings ratings distribution

(1785 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

DREAM THEATER Black Clouds & Silver Linings reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ProgBagel
3 stars Dream Theater ? Black Clouds and Silver Linings 3.5 stars

A nice return to form (sort of).

A new Dream Theater release always stirs a buzz around the progressive rock community. This one turns out be quite decent and my favorite since Train of Thought. Don't be expecting a softer album as this one remains marginally heavy, with some twists that were direly needed.

The first song is good, and Dream Theater seems to have a knack of starting their albums off pretty well, or making it deceiving depending on how you look at it. The first track 'A Nightmare to Remember' has some standard metal riffs and a breakdown that brings back the glory days from 'Images and Words'. Some vocals provided by Mike Portnoy are an absolute blunder and his worst yet, and that does in fact mean a lot.

The AA suite is wrapped up here in a good fashion, taking the best of the previous songs and throwing some original material in between was probably the only correct way of closing it, and it does get the job done.

The Count of Tuscany is also a song to take note of, one of Dream Theater's better epics, that started to build up in numbers after Scenes. Some string sections give this a good effect, but nothing is too different, just composed well I guess.

Other than that you can expect the same modern DT package. Hate to say the song devoted to Mike Portnoy's father 'The Best of Times' didn't grab me at all and while the lyrics are something that anyone would say to their passed father did not translate into a song setting, but a thoughtful thing to do. 'A Rite of Passage' is the single which if not liked, expect another 4 minutes of the same mess. Traditional DT ballad 'Wither' isn't too shabby.

DT fans can be a little surprised here. It's not too shabby of an album.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This, to me is quite possibly the most enjoyable Dream Theater CD I've heard (not that I've heard all of them, but I have heard quite a few). The songs are bombastic and very progressive. Even the somewhat maudlin "the Best Of Times" has it's good parts. And James LaBrie's vocals seem to stay away from the irritating upper ranges.

There are some almost death metal like vocals on some of the songs, but even these, while low pitched, are not the throw up in the back of your throat type that ruins quite a bit of modern metal. And having them say things like "Strength and dignity" almost makes it sound like DT is making fun of the genre. But I like it.

And while I'm not yet certain if "The Count Of Tuscany" is the best song Dream theater has ever done, it's up there with the best.

I purchased the "limited edition" version, with the instrumental disk, and the covers disk. The instrumental disk is nice, but I actually prefer the versions with vocals. And the covers, all listed here in PA as singles, plus "To Tame A Land" originally by Iron Maiden is a nice listen. "Odyssey", by The Dixie Dregs, is one of my all-time favorite songs, and DT does a superb job on it, but I wish they hadn't mixed John Myung's bass so far down. Andy West's spectacular lines were out front in the original recording, and Myung's should not be hidden here.

4.5 stars

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' - Dream Theater (8/10)

While Dream Theater is arguably my favourite band, I've found myself at least a little dissapointed by alot of the material they have released over the past decade. With the release of 'Systematic Chaos,' I was practically assured that the golden days of this band had long gone; and were condemned to releasing comparably mediocre material for the rest of their career.

I find myself fortunately mistaken.

What I found with 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' is something that I can say as being the best thing Dream Theater has done ever since their double disc opus 'Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence.' With four of the six songs on the album exceeding ten minutes, this is definately a return to progressive form for the band. After the failed experiments 'Train Of Thought' and the excellent (but critically disdained) record preceeding this one, this is, in a sort of way, Dream Theater's equivalent of Metallica's 'Death Magnetic' in the sense that it's such a nice suprise to see the band retracing their steps back to where they work best. I mean, it's not such a bad thing that the band was trying out new things, but the direction they were taking simply was not working. It's a damn good thing they figured that out in time for their 10th studio release.

The only low point for the album is the overdrawn and very tame 'A Rite Of Passage' which frankly bores me, with the exception of a cool solo section. With the exception of this small black spot, the rest of the album is filled with some pretty inspired material.

'A Nightmare To Remember' for example, was the first song on the album that I fell in love with (ironically, it is in fact; the first track on the album.) It is a very dark song, and really shows a heavier side of Dream Theater without being overly raw or corny (IE: 'The Dark Eternal Night.) At 16 minutes long, it was a bit daunting to have an opening song of that length, but it certainly doesn't dissapoint. It's an emotional rollercoaster; shifting between a plethora of moods. The middle section of the song was exceptionally moving, and during the chorus ('lost in this wonderful misery...') I found myself at the brink of tears. It's that beautiful!

The song that should have been the primary single is the ballad 'Wither.' I like to think of it as a much better, moving version of the 'Octavarium' track, 'The Answer Lies Within.' Using a rather mundane lyrical topic as 'writer's block,' you wouldn't expect a song that can really trigger emotions. A charming suprise, and one of the best ballads they've ever done, losing only to 'Wait For Sleep' and 'Disappear.'

'The Shattered Fortress' is a very hard hitting, heavy track. Personally, I love it. It takes all of my favourite parts of the past four songs in the '12-Step Suite' and compiles them into an epic finale that's certainly worthy of topping of an 8 year project. However, my only concern with this piece is that for many people, this will be their first foray into Dream Theater. By listening to this without the background of having listened to each of the previous songs, they will find this very choppy and disjointed; a fair warning to anyone not already familiar with the band.

'The Best Of Times' was without a doubt, the most emotionally powerful song for me. It is also the most honest, sincere song the band has ever done, despite being three times the length of the average song. The song's topic revolves around the death of Mike Portnoy's father (who, on a side note, was the man who came up with the band's name.) Listening to the song, it's clear that Portnoy really loved his father; he really puts his heart on the line. Things build up to a gorgeous solo at the hands of John Petrucci; which easily refutes any of the non-believers who think the man plays without soul or passion. 'The Best Of Times' is my favourite track on this album. A Dream Theater classic.

Now we come to the monster track; the song that everyone is calling the next great Dream Theater epic. Hmm... I am torn about this song. 'The Count Of Tuscany' is a very epic, great song, to be quite sure, but it is wounded by one thing. The instrumentation is fantastic, and leads up to a perfect musical finale... So what would be wrong with it?

...the lyrics, to be quite awfully certain.

The lyrics of 'The Count Of Tuscany' are probably some of the most hilarious the band has ever done, which is saying quite a bit (after the band's galavanting with 'dark masters' and 'dark eternal nights' after the previous album.) The epic's concept essentially revolves around the narrator taking a car ride with an Italian noble and going to his estate, then going to his basement and feeling scared.... The Count talks about wine, and soldiers, and then the narrator feels very uneasy about his surroundings and the Count. He thinks he is going to die and then... wait! No, that was a big mistake. The Count of Tuscany doesn't want to kill him! According to the song, Tuscans just naturally act cryptic and pseudo- murderous.

And then the song ends. The lyrics are honestly hilarious, and it's beyond comedy to listen to Mike Portnoy growl in a very hardcore manner about drinking 'fine vintages of wines.' As a result, I much prefer to listen to the instrumental version of the song (having bought the 3- disc Special Edition.) If you can look past the lyrics however, 'The Count Of Tuscany' (while not being quite as good as 'A Change Of Seasons') is an amazing track.

'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' is the best work they have done in almost a decade. Despite it's flaws, it works very well, and there are some monumental tracks on here. A very good album to represent the band's talent and strength. One of the best albums of the year.

Review by Zitro
5 stars 4.5 stars This is not just another Dream Theater album, this has the most inspiration and focus I've heard from the band in ten years. I do not hesitate in calling this as good as "Images & Words" and "Scenes from a Memory", if not the best album they ever did, especially if I focus on the last three songs of the album. (it is unusual how the best is in the end rather than the beginning, though at least their opener is very good)

Yes, the band is finally back. It does not mean that it sounds completely like their 90s period ('Best of Times' and 'Count of Tuscany' are heavily influenced by that period though) because it doesn't sound too different sonically from the previous two albums. On a positive note, they have improved on the riff department and generally avoided doing complicated riffs that don't work. Most riffs are tight, heavy, and appropriate to the mood. In addition, Portnoy (drummer) works with the riffs very well. Finally, "The Count of Tuscany" is probably the best epic they ever did. Apart from a couple of very slight flaws and some silly lyrics, it's nearly perfect.

To show the focus on songwriting, I'll describe in detail the first epic, which isn't really a highlight of the album but it's still excellent for the most part.

A Nightmare to Remember begins with a piano and then explodes into a massive wall of gothic metal chords, a dirty and tight metal riff introduces the rough vocals introducing the story of a brutal car crash that Petrucci experienced. A different riff with soloing on top is there for variation, the previous riff comes back. After it, there is a seamless transition into a more melancholic and beautiful chorus with a different tempo and time signature. Yet another riff introduces another section describing the car crash. The vocals/lyrics could have been a bit better tho but it quickly redeems itself with a beautiful vocal melody with instrumentation similar to the gothic intro, I'll call it the "Main Theme"

Another seamless transition introduces the hospital scene in an acoustic gothic fashion. There are various soft guitar motifs in this piece and Labrie is sounding much better than usual. It gets better when it gets to the longish chorus, with beautiful vocal harmonies in the 'beautiful agony' and 'wonderful misery' lines. The 2nd half of the choruses are fuller and uplifting. The second verse/chorus are variations of the first with electric guitars this time.

The soloing section is a bit flawed. While I am glad it brought back a previous riff, the guitar/keyboard duels go for a bit too long for a studio. Fortunately, it easily transitions to the "Main Theme". The guitar shreds very tastefully and carefully finishes in a way so that there is another great transition:

A very metal guitar melody introduces Mike Portnoy's rhythmic rough vocals and I can see why many criticize them. While I tolerate them , I do not like the two growls that come afterwards: he's no Opeth. What I should criticize are the lyrics nearly the end. It sounds odd hearing tough metal vocals with lyrics such as "it's a miracle he lived" "it's a blessing no one died" "everyone survived graaarg". I love how the cool metal riffs start blending and transitioning into more playful riffs only to reintroduce the 'dirty riff' in a different time-signature, which sounds awesome in 3/4 and the 6/4 chorus from the first section then is brought back. After a brief reference to the car crash riff, the "Main Theme" reappears while having in the background references from the part where Mike growled as well as the keyboards from the gothic wall of sounds that introduced the song.

Does this sound like a typical Train of Thought epic? No! They finally went back to writing songs! As a previously mentioned, the sounds of the guitars, keyboards, drums are more reminiscent to the modern Dream Theater albums. It's just the focus in songwriting (how the ideas seems connected especially), the inspired drumming, and Labrie's much improved vocals that is so refreshing (I dare call it his best moment in Dream Theater). I usually don't like his vocals but in here I almost always enjoy them.

There is a short ballad to show that they can write a nice radio-friendly song. It's called Wither and fortunately Labrie sounds excellent here, multi-tracking his vocals in the choruses. My favorite moment being when it's just a piano and Labrie until Petrucci plays an uplifting Queen-inspired guitar solo. Not a highlight and a bit poppy, but I like it.

The Best of Times shows more songwriting chops: it is a heartfelt song written for Mike Portnoy's father who died. They managed to write it before he passed away and showed it to him. While the introduction is very acoustic and melancholic and some lyrics in the middle can be heartbreaking, this is a positive song full of major chords, especially in the hard-rock parts that sound very much like Rush (instead of criticizing the band, I'll assume his father is a big fan of Rush). The ending of the song is similar in style to the soaring end of "Ministry of Lost Souls" of their previous album and is one of the very best Petrucci solos I've heard so far.

Also, showing their heavy chops, they succeeded in Shattered Fortress , the last part of the AA suite, regarding Portnoy fighting alcoholism. Many of the riffs and melodies in this song are variations of themes from the AA suite, usually improving on the originals. Therefore, this song has a very complicated structure and may seem a bit incoherent and all over the place at first listen, especially the first half. It makes sense after many listens and along with "The Count of Tuscany" is one of the best songs they ever did. The second half of the song, starting with the bone-crushing guitar riff with a synthesizer solo on top, is incredibly enjoyable.

Before writing about "The Count of Tuscany" which might be the best extended song they ever did, I'll talk about the weak song of the album: A Rite of Passage . It is unfortunately the single of the album, I suppose due to an excellent chorus that is catchy in a good way. It doesn't have that much more to offer and shows the weaknesses of the previous albums: weak transitions (chorus to verse), uninspired main riff overstaying its welcome (despite sounding cool in the undistorted intro), overlong soloing, and Ruddess playing aimlessly with atrocious timbres that just aren't metal.

Now, the masterpiece, I will not describe it in detail as it has as many musical ideas. You know from the elegant introduction that this is something special. This epic is quite like a summary of their discography, minus the soloing. You have the 00's wacky and/or catchy synthesizer riffs (they're all very good, especially the ones after the 2nd chorus), you have the Awake-inspired metal moments, Portnoy's rough backup vocals, stadium-friendly choruses like their modern albums and soundscapes that remind of Octavarium (song) and Trial of Tears. If you pay attention in the soundscapes section, you notice a melody that is played in the finale. The finale, by the way, is what does not fit as a 'summary' since it's different. It starts with acoustic guitar strumming and a gradual build up to a surprisingly restrained climax where you can notice in the background motifs from the beginning.

4.5 stars, but I round it up because I made my own version of the album with only the four long songs. In this tracklist that I recommend (Shattered Fortress after A Nightmare to Remember), you get an hour of non-stop entertainment, which is something I do not get in any album of theirs. This tracklist (without "Rite of Passage" and "Wither") is the best Dream Theater album.

Review by Roland113
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Black Clouds and Silver Linings: We haven't had enough reviews of this album over the past week so I had to chime in my two cents worth.

For starters, this is one of the best albums of the Rudess era, the music is great, Petrucci's playing is top notch, LaBrie's voice sounds better than it has in a while and Rudess doesn't seem to be trying to see how many notes he can fit in every single measure of ever single song. Ok, the last one may have been a bit of an exaggeration, how about this, Rudess really works well in a band environment on this album.

All six songs on the album are at least 'pretty good' in my opinion.

'A Nightmare to Remember' has a spine tingling bit in the middle, the 'beautiful agony' bit if you will. It's one of those classic Dream Theater moments with Petrucci playing a really tasteful background lick. LaBrie has the room to shine here, unfortunately the lyrics that he's singing are the weakest part of the album. More on that later.

'A Rite of Passage' is really catchy, strangely, I find myself singing this tune a lot, especially just after I've woken up. I think I'm secretly being recruited in my sleep. Eh, it gives me something to look forward to.

'Whither' is a decent ballad and 'The Shattered Fortress' is a good ending for the twelve step suite. The best of times is obviously a touching tribute to Mr. Portnoy's father and I can respect the sentiment.

'The Count of Tuscany' is the twenty minute epic finale to the album and tells the story of John Petrucci getting the heck scared out of him. It's a great song, the chorus is catchy, the guitar sweep solo at the end is really pretty as well.

My biggest issue with the album is that the lyrics are not on par with what Dream Theater is capable of. In many cases, most notably Nightmare and Tuscany, the lyrics are repetitive and immature. I think 'The Count of Tuscany' could have told a much more compelling story had the lyrics been better. Maybe a recount of a terrifying experience or an insightful look at the differences between different cultures. Instead, we get a sophomoric dialog that really detracts from the song. Please, there is no need to use the word 'Man' in every line, change it up here and there, try using the word 'bro'.

To a lesser extent, Mike Portnoy's growling vocals are over done in my opinion.

Despite my issues with the lyrics, this is a four star album, better than anything since Six Degrees at the least and possibly the best of the Rudess era.


Review by J-Man
4 stars Unlike most people, I loved "Octavarium". However, I can't deny that since "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" the quality of Dream Theater music dropped a little bit. So, after the decent "Systematic Chaos", and some comments from Jordan Rudess about this album entering the "gothic" domain, I wasn't very hopeful about this release. So, of course, I wasn't expecting an incredible album that I'd give a five star review. This is possibly the best album from Dream Theater since "Scenes from a Memory". This hints back at Dream Theater's earlier sound, while maintaining the more edgy prog metal sound that defines their newer releases. This has the perfect blend between the two, and makes for a very good release.

"A Nightmare to Remember"- The opening track was written about a car accident John Petrucci was in as a child. It starts out with a very dark, haunting piano melody. It turns into heavy gothic chords on organ with a choir. At one point Mike Portnoy even growls! No, he isn't Mikael Akerfeldt, but he does an okay job. It doesn't do his voice any justice, but this song highlights Mike Portnoy's drumming virtuoso. This has insanely fast double bass pedals and also shows how well he uses different cymbals. Now traditional prog fans, do not be worried. The whole song is not heavy gothic-influenced metal. It has some nice choruses and emotional sections. A great opener!

"A Rite of Passage"- This song gets way too much crap. Yes, it is a single. But so what? It is a very good one without a doubt. I find it almost hilarious that this song is 'too commercial', while "Pull Me Under" doesn't get any complaints, and that was a top 10 hit! I actually find this song to be better, but it almost proves how more recent Dream Theater gets unfairly criticized more so than their earlier releases. It has a nice main riff with a great chorus. I like LaBrie's voice more than I typically do on this song. A highly underrated song that is really good if you don't listen to what other people say about it.

"Wither"- The third song on the album shows the softer side of Dream Theater. It is pretty much a ballad with a nice build into the chorus. My favorite part of the song is near the end. It seems to completely die down, and it's just James LaBrie singing with a piano for a few bars. Then, almost out of nowhere comes a guitar solo that is the highest point in the song. The great thing about "Wither" is the way it builds beautifully.

"The Shattered Fortress"- This is the conclusion to what Mike Portnoy now calls the "Twelve Step Suite", instead of what used to be known as the "Alcoholics Anonymous Suite". This is completely mind-blowing. I not only love this song, but it go me to like the first two songs in the suite that, prior to this song, I didn't like. When listened to as one giant completed suite, the music has an epic feeling, and this actually got me to love the suite.

"The Best of Times"- This song was written by Mike Portnoy about his life together with his father. This was written prior to his father's death, and he got to show his father the song before his death. The song starts out with emotional piano chords, and then a violin melody comes in. This is then continued with guitar. And just when you think this is going to be a very depressing song a shredding guitar comes in. This goes into a more uplifting section that introduces a great chorus. It then has the great lyric "you can pray for a change/but prepare for the end". Then it goes back into the melody at the beginning of the song. There is another more emotional singing section that ends on a great guitar solo that is possibly one of my favorites from John Petrucci. It highlights how he can use speed and emotion perfectly. This really is a great song and is quite possibly my favorite song on Dream Theater's tenth release.

"The Count of Tuscany"- The closing epic on BC&SL. This is one of my favorite Dream Theater mega epics without a doubt. For people strictly against prog metal, still give this one a shot. This song sounds very much like Rush and Pink Floyd without many prog metal sections. This has great guitar work, and I love the way this song isn't laid out like many other Dream Theater epics of this length. Some DT epics were almost predictable at times, but rest assured. This isn't predictable at all. This is a softer epic from DT, and a great one as well. Dream Theater pulled off another great epic here.

Well, what more is there to say? This is a great album for anyone looking for a Dream Theater album that generally represents them best. Mike Portnoy described Black Clouds & Silver Linings as a Dream Theater album with "A Change of Seasons", "Octavarium", "Learning to Live", "Pull Me Under" and "The Glass Prison" all on one album. He certainly didn't lie. It has all the different sounds of Dream Theater on one release. It has some of their heaviest work ever and also has some of their lightest. This is a great place to start listening to Dream Theater. If you generally don't like prog metal, definitely get this. This could be the complete turnaround for you.

EDIT DECEMBER 2009: I think I was a little to quick to give Dream Theater's 2009 release a 5 star rating. I still think it's a great album, but I think it tires after about 10 listens. I've lowered my rating to a 4, but I still highly recommend this!

4 stars.

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you're already a Dream Theater fan then you know the drill by now - complex prog metal with John Petrucci's guitar shredding solos and heavy riffing, Mike Portnoy hitting everything in sight with complex rhythmic structures, constantly shifting yet solid as a rock. Then there's James LaBrie's classic rock style vocal gymnastics. As usual John Myung's bass is buried in the mix and the excellent Jordan Rudess on keyboards constantly looking for a place to fit and be heard over Petrucci's guitar. So no great leaps forward stylistically, unless you count Portnoys unwelcome attempt at injecting some death metal style growling. Ultimately then it's down to whether the songs are any good or not. Well there's some excellent moments ( a few duff ones) but not enough to make it a 5 star classic, the only time dream Theater having achieved this is being on Scenes From A Memory.

It doesn't get any better than on 16 minute opener A Nightmare To Remember - a brooding dark sounding track, Portnoy showing the Axenrot's (Opeth) of this world that he too can play warp speed double bass drum rolls. The expected myriad of twists and turns keeping the track never less than interesting. A mid song lull adding some light and shade giving more impact to the heavier parts. It also features Portnoy's first attempt on the album to inject his death growls; no thanks Mike. Whether this is an attempt or not to come across as more contempory I don't know. Whatever it's unnecessary and not what I want to hear in Dream Theater songs. Fortunately it's short lived.

I first heard A Rite Of Passage on a free Classic Rock magazine cd a while back and thought at the time if this is as good as it gets then the new album is going to be a disappointment. Fortunately it turns out to be the worst track on the album - nothing particularly bad or good and is basically Dream Theater by numbers. Better is Wither the token ballad giving a break to the usual bombast of most tracks.

The Shattered Fortress is another of the better tracks, the final part in Portnoy's 12 step Alcoholic's Anonymous programme. Again nothing new to report on this particularly heavy track which would sit on Train Of Thought nicely. On the first verse LaBrie trades vocal lines with Portnoy's growls though the drummers vocals being no more than a supporting role. It's not all bombast though with a spoken word mid song lull brings things down a notch or 2 and then we're revisting themes from past songs of the AA programme and a fine Petrucci guitar solo.

The Best Of Times is Portnoy's moving tribute to his father who sadly died earlier this year. Not surprisingly it starts as one of the albums quieter more reflective moments. Petrucci adding some acoustic guitar and Rudess getting more of a look in. However a 13 minute track might get a bit monotonous if it stayed in first gear and turns into something more reminiscent of the earlier days of the band. Plenty of power but melodically based rather than the dark riffing of latter years, in keeping with the sentiments of the song.

The album closes with the epic 20 minute The Count Of Tuscany. It's full of trade mark blistering instrumental workouts and it's 4 and a half minutes before the vocals come in. The first half of the song packs a strong punch. A mid song Octavarium style lull brings things down for a while after which it never reaches the same heights again which is a bit of an anti-climax in some ways despite a good vocal performance from LaBrie.

Overall then another strong album from the band but ultimately one that is unlikely to end up being anyone's favourite Dream Theater album. With no great leaps forward if you don't already like the band then this is unlikely to make a convert of you, if you do then I'm sure you'll find much to enjoy here.

Review by jampa17
4 stars I guess this is the usual stuff you can expect of these masters of the prog-metal. Well, I've been fan from them since Metropolis Pt_2 and I like more the "Kevin Moore Era" but still like the last albums from the band. Guess Systematic Chaos wasn't that good, but still rocks. Ok, I didn't have too much expectation to this album, but I found myself very pleassed after the third listening. What I say is, you have to let the songs grow into you... there are pretty long songs, with a lot of different moods a dramatic parts, so you have to dive in and let the song carry you to somewhere. It takes a few listenings to "get it" so give it a try.

Both the thematics and the music are well contructed and played, and their are interisting dispite that some people don't like the subjects, well, I say it is consistent and a bit dark, and that's ok, right?

You'll find the typical progressions, complex phrases and the usual devastating solos between Rudess and Petrucci. Well, is typical for them but there's a lot to listen to, great. Labrie does a great performance here. I know many people disagree, but he is a great singer, and still is getting better in each album. The only thing that doesn't feel right is the singing of Portnoy, really... that's what let a little bit down the songs, because he is only a backup singer, sounds great below Labrie's voice, but when he try to do the leads really sounds bad. So, You are aware now...

Then, this is a great album with some touching moments. The Best of Times is the best song I've heard from Portnoy, touching a dinamic. Wither is also sad a beautiful at the same time, so, I don't understand why people say they don't play with soul... listen to that and you'lll see how great it is... Enjoy it, you will find here everything we love about progressive rock... played by the masters... If you are a progressive fan, you HAVE to listen this record... cheers...!!!

Review by Menswear
2 stars Middle age crisis.

Some guys buy a bike, some others date a younger chick, well Dream Theater wears eyeliner and act tough. Everybody has it's thing.

When I played this in the car, 2 minutes of track 4, my wife gave me a 'look'. The look that said: 'Shut it off, now'. She got really annoyed because of the intensity of the songs in general; not really the soothing type holding the steering wheel. Okay honey, that's true, they pushed the throttle too much this time. But hey, there's not much more to this than brutal speed and road-rage music: it's just too loud, too fast, too angry and too repetitive.

Again, DT's gothier than before, with mean attitude. Let's put the word mean between quotes, because the band is as scary as fathers at the mall just out of Buffalo Jeans. When Octavarium got out, I was surprised how this modern-tech-goth edge suited well DT, but this is many steps towards ridicule: Church-Dracula organ, Metallica references by the dozen, pseudo-rapping and yes, the final step...growling.

I mean, if this album is your first ecounter with the band, you'll think you've discovered a gold mine, and true, the album has many qualities( but qualities that made their reputation 20 years ago. How about something refreshing? ). To the fan who followed them since 1993 (me), it seems like a complete lost in translation and I feel I"ve lost my little secret garden.

Where's the band that claimed Rush as their main influence?

Review by maani
4 stars As my pessimist friend once said to me, "There's a black cloud inside every silver lining." How does Dream Theater feel about that? Based on the compositions on this superb album, they straddle the line.

The boxed set of Black Clouds & Silver Linings contains three CDs. Let me start with the first, which is the album proper.

Disc 1

A Nightmare to Remember is quite simply among DT's greatest compositions, period. In fact, I laughed for a moment while listening to it (no, not because it's funny - it's anything but) because the thought that popped into my head was, "What took you so long to write this one?" It's one of those DT compositions that seems to have been pulled from thin air, incorporating everything that makes DT such a brilliant band. Using a post-marriage reception car crash as the theme, the opening mellotron Vox combined with Portnoy's mega-time double bass drums immediately alerts us that we're in sca-a-a-ry territory. Then Petrucci conjures up every sca-a-a-ry word he can think of - nightmare, pain, tragedy, screams, fear, sirens, agony, misery - with Labrie's gruff enunciation making every word count. And for my money, the eight lines of the break that opens with "Hopelessly drifting" are among DT's best in terms of lyrics, music, arrangement and overall effect. A stunning opener for this album.

A Rite of Passage uses one of Petrucci's trademark "simple but effective" guitar figures to undergird DT's take on the Freemason/Illuminati/Big Brother/NWO conspiracy theory. Nothing particularly new here, but a well-written, fun composition.

Wither is another great DT power ballad, with Labrie in fine form.

The Shattered Fortress continues Portnoy's use of DT's music as a vehicle for his continued recovery as an alcoholic. What began with The Glass Prison (Six Degrees) - and continued through This Dying Soul (Train of Thought), The Root of All Evil (Octavarium), and Repentance (Systematic Chaos) - finds its newest outlet in this excellent composition (which has both lyrical and musical "echoes" of some of those other songs). Here, Portnoy (the gruff voice) not only lists some of the recovery steps, but speaks the Prayer of St. Francis behind Labrie's always excellent delivery of Portnoy's self-inventory. Portnoy deserves great credit and respect for his continued recovery, and DT deserves equal respect for supporting Portnoy via their music.

The Best of Times is Portnoy's ode to his father, who died during the recording of the album. With a gorgeous extended opening intro of piano, violin (Jerry Goodman) and guitar, the song ultimately evokes Rush in its relative simplicity (for DT). And Labrie's delivery and DT's music prevent it from becoming maudlin or melodramatic. Bravo for the superb handling of this type of highly personal paean.

The Count of Tuscany is classic DT storytelling - though there is much controversy over what story is being told! With all of elements that make DT who and what they are, this 19-minute extravaganza is well-handled, including a particularly fabulous guitar solo by Petrucci using a volume pedal - and playing SLOW! (LOL)

The album has great jams throughout, and the production is absolutely superb - particularly the acoustic guitars. And although the album certainly has its "darkness," there seems to be something a bit more "fun" about it than the past few DT albums, including that the band sounds "freer" in some way, as if they are having more fun WITH the music - or maybe in spite of it.

Disc 2

Having covered everyone from Led Zep to Elton John on "Change of Seasons," DT here takes on a few bands with whom they have more in common. "Stargazer" (Ritchie Blackmore) gets the most appropriate treatment, with DT in the finest "cover" form I have heard them thus far. Next they take on the "Tenement Funster-Flick of the Wrist-Lily of the Valley" suite from Queen's "Sheer Heart Attack." Super work, with Labrie channeling Freddie perfectly. The Dixie Dregs' "Odyssey" gives DT a chance to flex some quasi-jazz muscles (with the superb Jerry Goodman on violin), which they do well. "Take Your Fingers From My Hair" (Zebra) gets a somewhat more perfunctory treatment. And while the band (again with Goodman) nails King Crimson's "Larks Tongues in Aspic Pt. 2" from a technical point of view, there is something about the delivery that sounds "flatter" than it might have. Finally, Iron Maiden's "To Tame A Land" is given a simple but stately homage.

Disc 3

Have you ever wanted to be James Labrie? To see how you would sound as the front man for DT? Here's your chance! DT has provided a "music-minus-one"-style offering of the six tracks on the album sans vocals. So play this disc, grab the lyrics, and see how good (or bad) you really are!

Setting aside the extra discs, Black Clouds & Silver Linings is not simply a worthwhile successor to prior DT albums, but easily stands alongside many of them as a must-have addition to any collection.

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I'm a known DREAM THEATER fan around these places so I'l keep my comments quick and simple. More in-depth comments can be found in my blog in my native language.

The album is a return to form for DT. After the cold and empty Systematic Chaos we finally have a record that in some ways goes back to the glory days of The Dream. The band ceases to try to sound like someone else and gives us a collection of pure DT-songs, even if not all of them reach the same levels of brilliance.

"A Nightmare to Remember" (10/10) is my favorite in the record and the best track DT has recorded since the title track in 6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence. From the fantastic introduction to the melodic and beautiful middle section, the song grows more with each listen. a minor flaw is the horrendous growling by Portnoy. But it lasts like 10 seconds, which is not enough to stop this track from being the best.

"A Rite Of Passage" (8.5/10) borrows heavily from "Home" in Scenes from a Memory, with a similar riff and pre-chorus. But the chorus is amazing, one of the best in recent times.

"Wither" (7/10) is forgettable, but enjoyable. The melodic singing by Labrie is outstanding. The song itself is nothing new, and DT has done better ballads before.

"The Shattered Fortress" (9.5/10) is a fantastic conclusion to the alcohol-suite, the best track in the 5-song project after "The Root of All Evil". The integration of all the themes from all the songs is made masterfully.

"The Best of Times" (9/10) takes some ideas from RUSH, especially after the loud guitars end the acoustic intro. The melody is beautiful, the final solo by Petrucci very memorable, and the track is a perfect tribute to Portnoy's father, and to all of ours.

"The Count of Tuscany" (9/10) starts incredibly strong, probably the best start of a song since "A Change of Seasons". The track seemed to be on its way to the pantheon of the band's absolute best right alongside the just-mentioned one and "Metropolis Pt. 1" until the band decides to make it too long. The instrumental section is useless and by the end we're just waiting for the song to die. A perfect start and a good conclusion marred by a weak middle part.

All in all, a great album that deserves 4.5 stars. As that rating is not available to me, I will round up, something I do in almost all cases. The Dream Theater is open again, and we have front- row seats to enjoy the show.

Review by Prog Leviathan
2 stars There is no way to say it nicely, so I'll just say it:

I have lost all faith in Dream Theater, who with this album, have dredged up the pointless, pretentious, metal banality from the mire they only disturbed with the terrible Systematic Chaos. This, what I had hoped would be a comeback album for them, is the nail in the coffin, and is 76 minutes of loud, unsubstantial, and at times insultingly "serious" metal music. Here's a quick run down:

The Good: A few new thematic styles found in the ultra-heavy, gothic Nightmare to Remember and Count of Tuscany. These are novel for the band and interesting enough to catch long-time fan's attention. Rudess' keyboards have a few new effects, which standout in one or two solos; kind of a sci-fi sound which is pretty neat.

The Bad: Musicianship is a noisy amalgamation of everything the band is known for, and will not impress anyone familiar with this group. There are no wow moments in the compositions, which are found in spades throughout all of their albums and, for me, is one of the big attractions to their sound. Compare, for example, the dramatic intensity of the group's playing in Dance of Eternity, Glass Prison, Sacrificed Sons, etc. Devoid of subtlety, meaningful emotion, and genuine power, the playing here is simply boring and unmemorable. Most will agree that the song Shattered Fortress, which uses melodies from old songs, is a standout track, but herein lies the terrible irony-- using aspects from those old GOOD songs only makes the suckiness of these ones stand out all the more... and remind the listener how much MORE awesome that older album is. So what's the point? Oh... and did I mention that you can't pick out a single lick of John Myung's bass throughout?

The Ugly: The instrumental playing is mediocre by itself, but when paired with the lyrics we have more than an hour of insultingly bad power-metal. Almost all the songs are very, very, topical, driven by a narrative devoid of metaphor or class. The lyrics are concrete, simple, and impossible to get into. The biggest offenders are the two big songs from the album, Nightmare to Remember and Count of Tuscany-- each of which tells a very simple, boring story using explicitly clear, boring, uncatchy lyrics. Labrie's singing is fine, but I can guarantee that the listener will neither care what he's saying. This strike against Petrucci and Portnoy balls my fists with frustration... whose lyrics were always silly but possessing enough class to remain cool. I feel like these two are approaching George Lucas status in their megalomanical artistic conceit; who feel that, given their past success, they can do no wrong. That's crap... and we've seen what happens when artistic control of awesome bands come fully under the power of a few.

Bottom line:

Weep Dream Theater fans... your favorite band has not only "jumped the shark", but is pretentiously swimming in the bloody mess its made for itself. At least we'll always have our Scenes from a Memory.

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 1 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What is your favorite DT album? For me is straight forward: 'Scene from a Memory'. Why? It has everything that I dream of a great composition. The tagline melody of each individual song is really wonderful, catchy, and of course memorable. I remember vividly the first time I heard 'Finally Free' which has killing melody, I kept playing that final track in my car audio with the loudest volume my car's stereo set can handle. Well, I love especially the last part where Portnoy plays his sticks like crazy, even though I also love the whole melody of the song. 'Scene' also has excellent harmonies in any musical segment in its individual song. Complexity? Give me break! They are the master of making such a complex arrangement, performed in speed like power metal and it changes style from one segment to another. Most importantly, the album has a very solid structural integrity that forms all songs into a one cohesive whole that supports the concept album.

What about DT songs? My first favorite is of course 'Stream of Consciousness' (ToT) followed with 'Pull Me Under' (I&W), 'Sacrificed Sons' (Octavarium) and 'Finally Free' (SFaM), 'The Root of all Evils' (Octavarium). Of course there are many excellent DT tracks but I mention the vital few.

As I have listened to Dream Theater tracks, I finally got used to the kind of music style they play. I can bet you that their roots were basically taken from UK (Bruford, Holdsworth, Jobson & Wetton) debut album in 1978. Do you have this phenomenal album? You must have it if you are a prog head or DT lover. Play the CD now and spin track no 3 'Presto, Vivace & Reprise' and see what you experience. Anything similar with DT music? Yeah, of course! You can see how DT have capitalized the staccato style in this UK track and they have been perfecting the style excellently. You should consider UK as the pioneer of progressive metal, don't you think so?

On being charted at number 6 position in US Top 10...!

As prog lovers we must give a big applause to Dream Theater's great achievement of cracking US Top 10 Chart at 6th position. I think this is quite weird, a band with progressive metal music playing song with long duration per song (more than 8 minutes) still can reach this chart. Wow! The forum at this site mentioned that this album has 6 songs, 6 cover songs (Disc 2), sits at number 6 position at the first week of the album sales (Released in June 23, 2009). Having listened to the album, it's basically nothing pop music like 'I Walk Beside You' or 'The Answer Lies Within' even though there is basically one mellow track, I really admire this achievement. I don't know what is actually the reason on why this 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' hit the Top 10 Chart. It could be because of the hypes made by the label (Roadrunners) by releasing one cover song every week since six weeks before the album was officially released. And I have to thank DT for covering songs of my favorites like Queen's 'Tenement Funster - Flick of The Wrist - Lily of The Valley', Rainbow's 'Stargazer' and King Crimson's 'Larks Tongue in Aspic'. These three tracks are truly classic, truly 70s tracks plus excellent 'To Tame A Land' cover of Iron Maiden.

For whatever reason, we have to appreciate DT for making such a great achievement!

Return to Form?

For me, 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' sounds like true DT music that returns to its original form. I don't hear any Muse, U2 or Pink Floyd in this album. Evreything sounds Dream Theater. The first spin did not impress me as I did not find any new things compared to their style: guitar shredding, heavy riffs, power metal blast, speedy drumming. Sometimes I feel boring with the heavy riffs, actually. That's why this album did not catch my attention at first. One thing that bores me is the alcohol sequel that has been appearing in every single album since 'Six Degrees' through 'The Glass Prison' and in this album represented by 'The Shattered Fortress'. With more spins I got acquainted with the new album, and this is my thoughts:

A Nightmare to Remember (16:10) has now become my favorite and it's probably the best track of this album for one distinctive reason: the overall melody is quite good and catchy (my taste) compared to the rest of the tracks. The lyrics are written by Petrucci based on his nightmare experience. The music starts ambient with symphonic opening combined with heavy riffs and speedy double bass drum pedals by Portnoy. When the music flows in its regular patterns Myung lys a foundation with his basslines combined with guitar soft riffs. The music moves in relatively fast tempo until it changes into grooves when LaBrie starts to sing his first lyrical verse. The interesting part of this vocal part is the groove as well as guitar at the back of the singing where it fills with great electric guitar lead in the vein 'similar to' Mick Box (Uriah Heep) style. The music moves energetically until approximately minute 5 when it changes into mellow style followed with LaBrie sings 'Lying on the table ?' as part of conversation with the faceless man he meets in the nightmare. It's quite good musical break, actually, after high energy music. During the dialogue with the faceless man, I like the way Petrucci plays his guitar backed with Rudess keyboard work. What then follows is the wonderful combination of wild guitar solo and inventive keyboard work. Well, I have to admit that this segment of the music after the middle of the track during guitar solo is really amazing! Oh by the way, Portnoy does his growling vocal in the later part of the song. It's not quite good actually, but it gives good variation to the music. One peculiar characteristics of the music are the tempo changes as well as style changes.

A Rite of Passage (8:35) talks bluntly about the impact of the new world order as the lyrics start straight with 'Since the new world order played upon our fears. Spreading accusations of radical ideas?". The music actually starts mellow with basslines followed with heavy guitar riffs. The basic structure of the music reminds me to ToT's 'As I Am' even though the overall music is different. The tagline melody of this track is quite catchy as it comprises notes that flow nicely into my ears, so is the case with the chorus line. The track moves in relatively medium tempo until the heavy guitar riffs enter at approx minute 5 followed with great interlude featuring stunning guitar solo which I really enjoy. The keyboard solo that follows is also wonderful and combined together they form amazing interlude.

Wither (5:25) is a poppy stuff with mellow style and it might be treated as Black Cloud's 'Forsaken' in mellower term. The melody is quite OK and in terms of style, it's quite consistent from start to end . For those who love ballad, this one is good.

The Shattered Fortress (12:49) is an epic that continues the sequel on alcohol, with an excellent intro part that consumes more than 1.5 minutes exploring the string section, double bass pedals and amazing guitar work. The heavy riffs still sound good to me even though I have been hearing them quite often. The music style starts to change into more metal at minute 5:30 with great intertwining sounds of guitar and keyboard. Of course there are parts that lend its melody from previous albums like those from 'The Root of all Evil' (Octavarium). Unfortunately I do not favor this part because it makes me getting bored. In my opinion, it's about time DT to finish the sequel, in fact since the last album 'Systematic Chaos' with the boring 'Repentance'. As usual, the lyric of this track was written by Portnoy.

The Best of Times (13:07) starts mellow with nice piano touch followed with soft string arrangement and Jerry Goodman's violin solo followed with acoustic guitar work. Approaching minute 3, theguitar solo in the vein of Rush' Alex Lifeson enters the music. It sounds like a disconnect with previous instrumental intro. The music flows in relatively fast speed. As the vocal flows throughout the song I can see the lack of catchy melody from this track, not even the chorus. At approximately minute 7 the music turns into mellow style accompanying heavy vocal line of James LaBrie. You may be interested with the guitar solo at the end of the track starting from minute 10 onwards. It's really stunning guitar solo!

The Count of Tuscany (19:16) is the song that has the worst melody in the album. The intro part is actually quite interesting in terms of guitar solo plus dynamic drumming. But as the song moves from one segment to another I don't see any excellent melody it creates. However the guitar solo that appears many times in different segments sound great to me, especially those combined with keyboard work. To me this epic that concludes the album lacks structural integrity as an epic. However, there are segments with excellent harmonies even though during changes of style. Interlude part with guitar and keyboard are really dynamic and inspiring. The musical break with long sustain keyboard work at approx minute 11 reminds me to Yes Relayer's 'Gates of Delirium' especially when enters 'Soon'.

Bonus Discs

My copy is the Deluxe Edition which comprises three CDs with Disc 2 contains band cover of Rainbow, Queen, King Crimson, etc. What surprises me is the song taken from Queen is 'Tenement Funster - Flick of The Wrist - Lily of The Valley' which represents my first experience with Queen. DT plays it not much different than Queen's original album. The other covers that I love are: Rainbow's 'Stargazer' and King Crimson's 'Larks Tounge in Aspic ? Part 2'

Bonus Disc 3 is basically minus-one of the original version. For me this disc is completely a waste because the vocal line is really gone and nothing is truly interesting to enjoy. It should be great if the vocal line is replaced by guitar solo or violin solo. It's gonne be really great.


Overall, DT still prove as a dominant power house in terms of progressive metal. I think no one does it better in terms of managing change (in style) from one segment to another in relatively fast tempo. This album does not offer something new about DT music. It does however have wonderful interlude parts which have great guitar and keyboard work in relatively complex music. In terms of production, I am disappointed with the cheap package of the CD ? the paper is quite bad and the three CDs are each just inserted in an envelope. At the same time I have IQ 'Frequency' which has great packaging. In addition, the sonic quality is not quite good and far from the best sound production in 'Images and Words'. However, I still consider this album as a recommended one to buy. Keep on proggin' ..! because proggin' is healthy ...

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by 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.

Review by 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. I´ve 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 wasn´t too happy about, when I think of how the two predecessors sounded like, was the fact that I didn´t and still don´t 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 it´s 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" doesn´t 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 Portnoy´s 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 there´s a strong Rush influence in "The Best of Times".

There´s 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 Theater´s sound (as long as I don´t think of Oderus Urungus that is. I just can´t help laughing when I do). If you want to compare Mike Portnoy´s 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 that´s 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 I´ve 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 LaBrie´s 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. That´s a real shame as none of then are able to deliver vocals worthy of an inclusion on a Dream Theater album. Let James LaBrie´s 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 it´s not excellent IMO. Once again I have to say that Portnoy and Petrucci need to stop producing Dream Theater´s albums and hire a "real" producer. They create acceptable sound productions but I´m sure that the band´s 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 who´s 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.

Review by poslednijat_colobar
4 stars The biggest injustice of the year!

The title of my review is indicative of my thoughts. Dream Theater is a big and significant band and this attitude it receives is unfair, especially after such return to form. Black Clouds & Silver Linings is one excellent album by Dream Theater. Of course, I admit it's not flawless, but if you see the list of the albums in 2009 it cannot makes impression on you about this big injustice. What I mean? It's a hundred of albums in the list above Black Clouds & Silver Linings... oh it's even not on the list for this best albums. All sorts of albums are there. It's extremely unrealistic for me.

This is one very good metal album, but it's very good progressive album, too. It's very harmonized album with very good songwriting and musicianship. The tempo shifts are made in absolute professional manner. There are some brand new fresh ideas like the inclusion of Mike Portnoy's death growls in the first song - A Nightmare to Remember. It's really fresh and interesting song - one of the best on the album. Otherwise, all songs are memorable.

Something really special comes with the last song - The Count of Tuscany. I consider it as one of the best all time songs of Dream Theater. It's really innovative and original and reveal all the potential of ideas of Dream Theater's career. The last part of these songs contains some sounds, that look like a tribute to Pink Floyd. Overall: one of band's best albums (probably the third one - after MPTSFAM and SDOIT). 4.1 deserve stars!

Review by progrules
4 stars I checked out this album simultaniously with Riverside's latest and thus it was interesting to see how both albums had their respective effect on me after many repeated listenings. What struck me immediately was the difference in accessibility of both albums. Anno Domini had a hard time getting into my system but this latest by DT had an immediate impact on me and the songs appeared not too hard to digest.

Nightmare to Remember was in fact the first track of this album I got to know because it was played often on Morow even before the officail release (same as A Rite .. by the way). I liked this because you get a bit of an idea what the album is about. So this opener was just a matter of getting to know it even better and listen more to the details and such. This is a real DT track to me, the ones you expect from the band, not excessively original but just a very good song. 4*.

A Rite of Passage is apparently chosen as the weaker track by most and gets bashed heavily I noticed so far. I always tend to give those an extra chance unless of course they really prove to be weak. This isn't poor or even mediocre by any means to me, ok it's not outstanding but to call it a total waste is too negative for me. I would like to call it (very) good but no more. 3,75*.

Whither is the lesser one of the lot for me though even this one isn't really poor. It's a typical "Octavarium" track, accessible and not really metal. 3,25*.

The real let off for me is The Shattered Fortress which is copying too much from DT in the past. Okay, I know it's part of The AA-suite and probably has an excuse because of that but it makes a cheap impression and unoriginal on me. On itself not bad music here but I can't appreciate it because of mentioned reason. 2,75*.

Fortunately DT saved the best for last with two near masterpiece tracks to finish with. First The Best of Times which is all things considered the best track of the album for me. Partly a ballad, partly simply a wonderful composition with even classical undertones at the start. 4,5*.

The most debated and maybe also debatable track of the album is The Count of Tuscany. With first few listenings I didn't pay too much attention to the lyrics (as a Dutchman I still have to translate to notice everything) and the composition was excellent (and even more than that) to me but then I did start noticing the lyrics and the track lost some of its lustre. After it all has sunk in more I can say the positiv feeling wins in the end. 4,5*.

So not really an equable album where my appreciation is concerned and certainly not a masterpiece in my opinion. Last two tracks save the album and the excellent status I have to say. So another four star effort by our leaders in the prog metal scene. A slight setback compared to Systematic Chaos but I wouldn't want to call it decline really.

Review by JJLehto
2 stars This is my re-review of "Black Clouds & Silver Linings"

When I first heard this album I hated it, so much so that I proclaimed DT had truly lost it, and by this point they should just retire. That was almost 3 years ago, and I feel differently now. This is an alright album, it's not that good but it's not bad either.

It's not really much a departure for DT, it's heavy and progressive...though maybe with more of the progressive mixed in this time. Let's say it's a bridge between the light "Octavarium" and they heavy "Systematic Chaos".

The album has 6 songs, and whenever you have a few, (generally long) songs there is a risk of the album being boom or bust. Well, of the 6 songs I like 3, and the other 3 are kind of bland so I guess they managed alright. 3 good 3 not so good, that's about as middle of the road as you can.

The 3 songs I like are ironically start, middle and finish: "A Nightmare to Remember", "The Shattered Fortress" and "The Count of Tuscany". The remaining 3 are not bad songs at all, but just kind of boring. They don't really do anything for me and I find it hard to finish them, at least without feeling bored.

"A Nightmare to Remember" is quite a way to start the album: heavy, progressive and operatic. There's a pretty dark tone to the song. It starts with a rainy, somber intro but kicks into a dramatic section complete with some gnarly double bass. Actually this song is one of the more intense outputs from Portnoy. Anyway, that's how to describe this song, heavy, progressive and operatic. It is all those things, it never gets stale since no part hangs around too long, and unlike some other DT songs I get a real sense of movement. There are some groovy riffs, intense drumming, melodic parts, guitar and keyboard solos, it has it all.

I'm not a big fan of LaBrie's vocals but on this song, and the entire album, they are actually fine. Don't blow me away, but they are fine...and for some time "A Nightmare to Remember", during the the quieter part, I really like them. Later on are the infamous Portnoy "growls" and I say that because they are not growls. If so then they are a weak ass attempt at growls! Anywho, it's actually not bad more laughable than anything, but not so terrible if you just go with it. The blast beats near the end are real weird, doesn't sound right...kind of like they just stuck em in there. A pretty good song though overall.

"The Shattered Fortress" is the conclusion of the epic "12 step suite" about Portnoy's problem with alcoholism. It contains musical and lyrical references to all the previous songs, and at first I thought this was a bit of a cop out, (yeah just stitch the previous together) but it's really a good song. Heavy and quite progressive, I like it. It's without the grandiose, operatic touches of the album opener...more of a heavy metal prog song that reminds me of my favorite DT album, "Train of Thought". Some epic riffs and sections, a damn decent song.

"The Count of Tuscany" is the 19 minute finale, and my favorite on the album. It's the only song I liked originally, and I now can say it's my favorite post "Train of Thought" song the band has done. Truly progressive, there is a great flow and feel throughout. I am quick to say how DT aren't the best songwriters out there, and often leave me a bit cold, but not this time. The actual music and song structure are well done, a very well composed piece. It never gets too heavy, too epic, some real cool riffs and movements, it's perfection.

The lyrics are weird and silly, supposedly based on a true story where Petrucci, I guess, was offered a car tour by the Count of Tuscany. Then he meets his weird brother and the whole experience has him fearing for his life, I don't know it's weird but I never was one for lyrics. More important are vocals and again they are quite fine. Those Portnoy "growls" pop back up but they are backing and not solo, and actually work! I'll be honest I love when they yell "I!". Great music, song structure and a good vocal display from LaBrie.

So there we have it. I have a bit of a rep as a DT basher so I decided to focus a lot on the songs I like, (see I can be nice). The overall album is decent, I quite enjoy half the songs and the rest I can easily live without. That is a middle of the road album, but not a bad one. DT fans will like it, haters won't, casual/moderate fans should get some enjoyment.

Two and a Half Stars



Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another two years, another Dream Theater studio release...

I found Systematic Chaos to be pretty mediocre to say the least although I did enjoy the last two tracks which made me believe that the album was slightly better then I gave it credit for. In fact, I was so impressed by those two compositions that I wrote "Hopefully it's a sign of the things to come".

When the first track details for this album were unveiled I got my hopes up since the tracks lengths indicated that the band was going towards the style that I enjoyed the most i.e. the lengthy progressive epics. After finally listening to the album I have to say that Dream Theater didn't really disappoint although it's still not enough considering this bands potential. Let me clarify:

A Nightmare To Remember is a decent tune although, just like everyone else, I'll have to criticize Mike Portnoy's vocal performance plus the solo bits felt really lame since it was just your standard Dream Theater affair. It wouldn't kill them to give us something new once in a while. Unlike most of the others I happened to like the two singles. In fact I think that A Rite Of Passage and Wither were the first two decent singles that Roadrunner Records have produced! Although I find the album version of A Rite Of Passage less appealing since the progressive parts feel disjoint in comparison to the rest of the song (plus the whole iPhone solo and stuff just sounds weird).

The Shattered Fortress is basically a rehash of the previous steps in the AA-suite with very little new material. I don't really see the point of adding on the motifs on every next track unless it's a full circle process, meaning that The Glass Prison should also include the motifs from The Shattered Fortress but that idea was apparently not implemented. Instead Mike and the band created new motifs for every new album without actually carefully crafting a a concept series.

The Best Of Times is a beautiful song that I probably enjoy the most from this entire album although it is way too long and could easily have been edited down to a 7-9 minute track. The final epic track titled The Count Of Tuscany is considered by most fans to be the album's one true masterpiece which is understandable if you only listen to the music and ignore the lyrics, but I just can't do that and have to experience some of the worst lyrics ever written by John Petrucci. Fortunately the more recent reviews have started sharing my pain which I'm grateful for.

Overall it's a decent effort but by Dream Theater standards, decent is never enough!

**** star songs: A Nightmare To Remember (16:10) A Rite Of Passage (8:35) Wither (5:25) The Best Of Times (13:07) The Count Of Tuscany (19:16)

*** star songs: The Shattered Fortress (12:49)

Total rating: 3,83

Review by Prog-jester
3 stars Their best since SFAM (except for TOT which I like a lot) and at the same time their worst album ever. Surprised? I'll try to explain.

For years DT have been accused of being more-than-influenced by other bands. Their recent opuses like "Prophets of Muse", "I Walk Beside U2", "Forsakevanescene" and "These Linkin Walls" just proved that DT's creativity is dying (if not dead). BC&SL was to be "make or break"-album for DT, and dare I say they reached both goals.

It's well-charting, it's heavy, it's dark, it's huge and epic. It's just the way Mike Portnoy described it: "a Dream Theater album with "A Change of Seasons", "Octavarium", "Learning to Live", "Pull Me Under" and "The Glass Prison". AND NOTHING MORE. It's completely devoid of any sign of creativity and fresh ideas. This time DT covering themselves, not RUSH or YES. In the light of this a bonus CD with 6 covers from QUEEN to KING CRIMSON looks like an inaccurate joke. Ok, down to music, putting the originality issue aside, what do we have? The whole record is quite enjoyable (especially for those progheads/metalheads who never listened to DT before), but the only worthy piece is a mid-part from "A Nightmare to Remember" - "hopelessly drifting" etc. This is where I heard that good old DT, without cloning someone (or themselves), without technical show-offs and stuff. But solo fill follows, then Mike growls (or tries to?), and here we are, magic is gone. Wither indeed.

DT has turned into a waste factory. I doubt that I would hear anything good and captivating from them in 2011 or another-year-the-new-album-is-scheduled-for. I'm disappointed and disillusioned

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I have such an appreciation for this band, not only for how influential they've been in the Prog-Metal world but for how technical these guys are. I mean these guys can play with anyone. While FATES WARNING are my favourite Prog-Metal band, DREAM THEATER is a band I respect and play often. Of their 10 studio albums I only feel that four of them are 3 stars or less. "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" is definitely near the top. It's a concept album of sorts about dramatic events that have happened in the band members lives. I just read a good interview with local boy James LaBrie in the Toronto Sun who said that while he didn't contribute a song to this album he did have at least one traumatic tale."In 1994, I was down in Cuba with my wife on vacation and I got serious food poisoning. I got so ill that that I ruptured my vocal cords when I was puking. It took me eight years before it started to come together again. But now, i'm in the best vocal shape i've ever been in". He also talks about how Mike Portnoy has on his computer every show they've ever played, and DREAM THEATER do everything it takes to not play the same song in the same city two tours in a row. In fact as James was being interviewed they were practising three completely different sets of songs for the first three shows they would be playing. Probably the only band I know of who doesn't play the same or almost the same set every night they play while on tour. "LaBrie estimates the band has about 80 songs in rotation".

"A Nightmare To Remember" opens with thunder followed by keys before it kicks in heavily around a minute. Check out Portnoy ! Here comes Pertucci ! The tempo picks up. Vocals before 2 1/2 minutes. It settles after 5 minutes. A beautiful section comes in before 7 minutes.Then it starts to pick up again after 8 1/2 minutes with some great guitar. Rough vocals from Portnoy 11 1/2 minutes in.The tempo shifts a lot the rest of the way. Killer opener ! "A Rite Of Passage" sounds so good when it kicks in. It's heavy duty with processed vocals at first. Here we go ! Check out Pertucci 5 1/2 minutes in. It settles after 7 minutes with vocals. It ends heavily. "Wither" is a nice mid-paced song with vocals. I like the bottom end here. I like the synths 3 minutes in as Portnoy pounds away. Great guitar 4 minutes in. My least favourite but it's still a good one.

"The Shattered Fortress" is building. Cool ! Heavy duty.Thunderous soundscape. Love the guitar before 2 minutes then it picks up even more. Vocals follow. It doesn't settle until around 7 minutes. Kicks back in before 9 1/2 minutes. Nice. "The Best Of Times" opens with piano then Jerry Goodman (MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA) comes in on violin. Acoustic guitar is next. It kicks in before 3 minutes.The drumming is fantastic ! Vocals 4 minutes in. It lightens after 7 minutes. Love the guitar after 11 minutes. "The Count Of Tuscany" is the over 19 minute closer. Laid back guitar to open then another guitar joins in. It builds before it kicks in heavily around 3 1/2 minutes. Killer sound 4 minutes in. Vocals follow. Great uptempo section. Rough vocals after 5 minutes. The guitar soars 10 1/2 minutes in then it turns dreamy. Cool section here that lasts until before 14 1/2 minutes when strummed guitar takes over. Reserved vocals join in. Emotion 16 minutes in. It ends in a pastoral way with nature sounds.

Easily 4 stars for this epic album, and who would have imagined that this would be Mike Portnoy's last with the band. Shocking !

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Black Clouds and Silver Linings - review #233

Time signature changes and virtuoso instrumental breaks result in an orchestrated triumph

The new DREAM THEATER album has been the talk of the prog metal world for the past months and from what I have read on the site here it has received mixed reactions gaining new fans while alienating old ones. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this latest entry, having heard and enjoyed all of DREAM THEATER's previous albums.

The album begins with the falling rain, a storm brewing, and a soul chilling piano begins. A chorus of voices over a distorted crunching guitar follows. Portnoy's pounding double kick drums are as ominous as thunder and it builds to the killer riff that rips through the stratosphere in head banging glory. Thus begins the ultimate DREAM THEATER track 'A Nightmare to Remember'. LaBrie sounds seriously aggressive as he blasts the enigmatic lyrics: 'The sky was clear and frigid, the air was thick and still, now I'm not one to soon forget, and I bet I never will,' the chorus breaks into a crawling pace, a chugging guitar is heard and the soundwave of a car screeching to a sudden crash. 'Stunned and bewildered, cold and afraid, torn up and broken, frightened and dazed...' at 4:55 it breaks into an off kilter acoustic flourish, and the sound of police sirens is heard. A gorgeous guitar lick follows and LaBrie's vocals are calmer reminding me of his performance on Ayreon's 'The Human Equation' and in fact the track here is a similar scenario: a man is put in hospital and close to death as a result of a horrific car accident. 'Hopelessly drifting, bathing in beautiful agony, I am endlessly falling' ... no doubt LaBrie was inspired by his Ayreon experience. The man in the scenario loses his memory in a similar way and is reflecting on his life. This scenario appears on other prog epics such as Spock's Beard's 'Octane' and is equally powerful. We learn that the man is lapsing into a recurring nightmare as he replays the events in his mind. At 8:36 there is a slick guitar solo with very fast picking and virtuoso musicianship from Petrucci. Rudess has a trade off moment with Petrucci as Myung pounds the rhythm; when these guys play off each other, the result is pure DREAM THEATER magic. It is played effortlessly and with complex arrangements: DREAM THEATER on a grand scale. At 10:30 the track changes direction in another time shift returning back to the main melody showcasing Rudess' keyboarding again. The bio- hazard-style vocals begin on the next verse with Portnoy and LaBrie singing similar to the 'The Dark Eternal Night' from the previous album. I prefer it when they steer clear of this gravel vocal style as it does not sound sincere and a little forced for my tastes. However, the music more than makes up for it. A classy riff begins at 12:00 which is off kilter and strange, not quite on time with the drums. The police sirens return at 14:00 ... the recurring nightmare signified by recurring riffing. It comes full circle with the minimalist piano and thunder. In conclusion, one of the best DREAM THEATER tracks and the definitive highlight of the album.

'A Rite of Passage' is the freemasonry themed track that features great power riffs and more special effects to enhance the style and feel. 'Beneath an ever watchful eye, the angels of the temple fly...' LaBrie muses on blood oaths, rituals, symbols and the illuminati; as dangerous as one may find it, the track is encapsulating on every level. The music is very melodic, sections that are heavy are counter balanced by calmer moments. At 4:50 the band launch into a breakneck power chord progression and Petrucci blasts out a lead break, with Rudess joining in: it is pure bliss to hear the band in full flight.

'Whither' slows things considerably with the beautiful ballad style that has become a mandatory trademark of DREAM THEATER albums. There is a memorable chorus and the lyrics are emotionally charged and sung with passion. There is an excellent soaring lead solo towards the end to cap off another very good track.

'The Shattered Fortress' features a glorious dark metal riff to carry it along. The growelling vocal trade off with Portnoy and LaBrie returns, and once again, not exactly a welcome addition, but I guess we are stuck with it now that DREAM THEATER seem to be relentlessly using this style. Moving onto the music, there are some amazing sections amidst this mini epic. The broken bottles artwork in the booklet reflects the mood that is punctuated by the broken drum patterns and shattered metrical shifts. Listen to that awesome instrumental break with Rudess and Petrucci duelling one another. The track is broken into parts continuing the magnum opus begun on previous DREAM THEATER albums, continued from 'Systematic Chaos' to this album. Part X 'Restraint' speaks of a 'fateful ascent through darkest fires, and now I have finally seen the light, sometimes you've got to be wrong and learn from mistakes'. Part XI 'Receive' includes a deep voice over of regrets and hopes: 'where there is doubt, faith' .... a similar theme to 'Systematic Chaos' tracks. The slow pace is welcome here to allow breathing space. The real treat for DREAM THEATER fans is the return to the familiar songs of DREAM THEATER history ... when heard it is likely to send chills down your spine, as the familiar melodies are heard, you will recognise the tunes immediately, and I felt that it showed great respect to fans to include these. Part XII 'Responsible' (the third Re-) concludes the saga that has relayed the trials and tribulations of Portnoy's alcohol soaked addictions ... a brave move to come out with this and it works as a lengthy saga that DREAM THEATER will soon be playing from start to finish in a live performance. These three parts cap off the saga beautifully bringing it to a final denouement as the rain falls solemnly washing away the pain and restoring peace.

'The Best of Times' took a while to grow on me and actually is yet to resonate with me in the same way that the rest of the album does. It feels very radio friendly and mainstream although it clocks at 13 minutes. The music is the real star of the track, as the lyrics and vocal performance are second rate in comparison to what has been heard previously. There is a terrific intro with a sublime violin and an acoustic solo. The rest of the track sounds like a different band and guaranteed to alienate many fans as a result. I was not taken with the style and hope they never return to this live ... it is an unwelcome transformation. Although, it is a nice paean to Portnoy's deceased father. The lyrics even remind us to 'seize the day' a familiar DREAM THEATER theme. The lyrics seem a bit over the top and I guess in the right mood you might be able to hook into this. Let's move onto the next track ... which is sensational.

The glorious epic 'The Count of Tuscany' explodes the myth that DREAM THEATER have forgotten how to construct lengthy compositions. The time signature changes and multi instrumental breaks are all here and this is an orchestrated triumph that will rate highly with any DREAM THEATER fan, alongside 'Octavarium' and 'A Change of Seasons'. It begins with an acoustic progression and a lead solo overlayed. Then the harmonics and cymbals are the calm before the storm. Portnoy takes off with triplets and drum embellishments, a melody locks in and it feels as if it is building to a crescendo. The intro is demonstrating the peak of DREAM THEATER's powers, the band are working as a unit, taking turns with solo sections until the riff slams into gear. It is a wonderful heavy riff that chugs along relentlessly. The way the riff breaks unexpectedly throughout, chopping off rhythmically, is prog at its best. The vocals are very good, and then the dreaded growelling vocals return ... tsk, tsk. Rudess has another solo stint and it's brilliantly executed. And the musical inventiveness and prowess of Petrucci cannot be underestimated. The track gets into a complex rhythm and then slows down at 10:54, and there is even the sound of tubular bells twinkling, and then my favourite part as Petrucci violins his guitar adding to the ambience and tranquillity: like sunlight bursting through clouds. I had never heard him play like this. The soaring violining continues for a few bars then at 14:30 an acoustic chord sequence is played with LaBrie turned up in the mix. 'Could this be the end, is this the way I die, sitting here alone, no one by my side... what did I do wrong, I just don't understand.' It is emotionally charged but this works as we really believe what he is singing. The heartfelt pleas continue and challenge our senses in a melancholy sense. At 17:00 the music builds again with another scorching lead solo. It is truly magical when DREAM THEATER lose themselves in these epics, and it is wondrous to get lost with them. It concludes with a beach scenario, gulls screeching and waves lapping on the beach.

Bonus CDs are always intriguing and here we have a full CD bonus disk 2 of cover songs as diverse as Zebra, Rainbow, Queen, Iron Maiden, and King Crimson. The version of 'Larks Tongues' is precision playing with reverance to the classic. I love the rocker montage from Queen and Dixie Dregs. It's great to hear these versions and well worth getting hold of this bonus disk.

Bonus disk 3 is the karaoke version of 'Black Clouds and Silver Linings' - it sounds empty without Labries vocals but its a weird experience listening to these instrumentals - sing along if you must or just listen to that musicianship and marvel. Soak yourself in the CD as a background noise or discard - your choice. I managed to get through three tracks before turning back to the original versions again.

Did I mention the booklet? It features sensational artwork and works well complementing each track, enhancing the experience, better than the usual artwork in CDs these days. The 3 CD package features a great layout, with each CD cover having a distinct look to differentiate between each, and the CD artwork itself is masterful. How does one conclude on all this? DREAM THEATER have formulated a successful return to brilliance. Each track captures the essence of the band: scorching blistering solo performances, reflective lyrics and epic themes. 6 tracks... 4 brilliant. Not quite a masterpiece, but its growing on me with each listen. Don't take notice of the reviews that are blasting this album: DREAM THEATER most definitely hits the target with 'Black Clouds and Silver Linings'.

Review by russellk
2 stars The album opens with what sounds like music from a Simpson's Halloween special. The most gawd-awful growling you'll ever hear, rendered abysmally by PORTNOY who insists, in the absence of all reason, on being heard. Lyrics to make a ten-year-old blush with embarrassment. Compositional indiscipline, songs without restraint, the aural equivalent of spending a week in a candy shop. DREAM THEATER needs a good editor.

There are positives. Powerful PETRUCCI guitar, technically superb musicianship, and some glorious tuneage and riffage in amongst the musical diarrhoea. LaBRIE mostly staying within his ever-narrowing limits. And that is it.

Overall, a torture to listen to. I find myself constantly thinking: 'still ten minutes to go...' I have listened to each song, but I cannot listen to the album all in one go without feeling swamped. Better than Systematic Chaos, but still nowhere near their best work.

Review by Muzikman
5 stars Dream Theater believes in giving their fans what they want and one of the focuses of their drummer Mike Portnoy is to give back what they have received. That philosophy is felt in equal measures with the rest of the band. What DT fans enjoy most are the epic tracks that offer everything the band has at its disposal. Featuring a literal all star cast at every position, this band knows how to please each other creatively during the recording process and in turn the listeners reap all the benefits when they release a new album.

John Myung (bass), John Petrucci (guitar), Jordan Rudess (keyboards), James LaBrie (vocals) and Mike Portnoy (drums) are conceivably the most unified and talented band currently recording and each member is a key ingredient in the Dream Theater machine. Although I put a lot of focus this time out on Mike, he truly deserves it. He is a thought leader musically, creatively and handles their business smartly. He is the heart and soul of this band and that cannot be denied.

Black Clouds & Silver Linings (Special Edition) was released in early June this year to coincide with Portnoy's brilliantly managed Progressive Nation Tour. Again this was designed to give it back to the universe by offering new bands to the genre some needed ears in a live setting. In a genre so specific with a smaller fan base worldwide (in comparison to rock or pop stars), everyone needs all the help they can get. It all works very well and I have been turned on to some new sounds in the past two years by attending the concerts. If it wasn't for Portnoy's belief in the bands that tour with them, it never would happen.

This is a three disc set, offered in various configurations, to hopefully please all the needs and tastes of their faithful followers and ever growing newcomers. A lot has to be said for a band with nearly 25 years together that is still new to so many listeners; the DT nation is growing daily and this release increased their incredible exponential growth. The first CD breaks down into six tracks of vintage DT metal and prog. I think with the passing of time it is safe to say that this is already being considered as a classic rendering of the metal-prog genre, giving further authority to the fact that this band has set the gold standard for everyone else to follow. The lead off track "A Nightmare To Remember" comes roaring out of the gate, setting the stage and atmosphere for what is to come. "A Rite of Passage" is a dark and ominous track with a first class video to accompany it. Every aspect of the DT process in regard to delivering their media has continued to get better with each passing year. Portnoy finishes out his story about AA and his battle's with the disease in "The Shattered Fortress" fittingly reviewing some of the other songs that made the story over the years by adding the lyrics in between all the instrumental anarchy. He also offers a touching tribute to his dad, who passed away recently with "The Best of Times." This is one of the more classic rock and pop influenced tunes I have ever heard DT perform and it's a fine song at that. The meaning is very special because of what Mike's father meant to him and the music seems quite fitting for the lyrics. The status quo attacking prog- metal would not work well with the subject matter of this song. '"The Count of Tuscany" is the magnum opus of the recording clocking in at an incredible 19:16, nearly an entire side if it was on a vinyl LP! (The vinyl version is available on the Roadrunner website). This song features a band in sync hitting on all their cylinders; it's like hearing a concert all wrapped up into one track. They are very good at setting the stage and taking you through complex time signatures and changes, offering different musical chapters to go along with the story they are portraying through the music. Let's not forget the ballad-like "Wither" that stands tall in the middle of this session. James LaBrie's voice is outstanding throughout but particularly smooth, succinct and emotionally powerful on this track.

The second disc features some excellent takes on classic rock tracks that had a hand in influencing all the members of the band. These are not the filler cover tunes or throw in bonus tracks you will find on many CDs; these are legitimate solid covers of great songs. Rainbow's "Stargazer" is superb, my favorite out of all six.

Now the ultimate addition to the package is disc three which are all the tracks on disc one without the lyrics. Now all of you James LaBrie wannabes can throw on this CD and sing along. In the same instance, all of the tech freaks and players of instruments will cherish this opportunity to play along or use the tracks to create their own special mixes. Dream Theater you have given us another classic prog-metal release, except this time it is loaded with all the extras that everyone loves, especially big fans of the band. What is not to like here?

5/5 Stars Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck November 6, 2009 ©

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is not just underrated album, but by many, it's also hated album. Which is quite sad, because this one has a lot to offer. It is melodic, indeed. Nothing experimental (and evil) like SDoiT CD 1 (where I love disc 2, but this first one is quite different. Very different). Nothing happening here.

So what, I don't care if Nightmare To Remember borrows here and there some elements, because this song after all is all that counts, sources of inspiration are only second category with not so weight. Is it progress, as it's mastering older themes together and doing something quite new (even it can remind older ones) and having great atmosphere (with exactly the feeling it want you to feel). All these tracks have, each is different and achieving this masterpiece status with slight alternated approach. After all, even The Shattered Fortress is right, isn't it ? It's not stealing and reusing their own ideas again, it's intended to be like that, it's purpose and serves in higher meaning. You know the story of this track, don't you.

But The Best of Times, let's grant entire paragraph just for this terrific song. It's one of the best prog metal songs I've ever heard, beating all their previous songs by sheer emotional overdose here. It reminds me my relationship with my own father a lot. Word by word, reminds me of my bond with him, even we're just 27 years from each other. Of course, I'm younger than Mike, but even I mourn for his father's departure and can't understand it as good as he did, this is one of the most beautiful "requiem" songs I've ever heard (OK, I didn't hear much of them, just Candle In the Wind which I hate and few others, but this one, oh yeah, I can enjoy it very well).

5(-), OK, not much to be said here, except clichés. You want some of them ? As you wish, so: I'm aware that every album has its own "deaf" places (not so good as other parts), but here, they're overshadowed/intelligently hidden.

What else can I give, except masterpiece rating. There's even no song that I hate and qualities are clear. And who wants to see mistakes will see them, be sure about that.

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 24 years after their formation, Dream Theater is still a force to be reckoned with, even if their ability to create the truly magical moments doesn't pop up too often these days.

In this latest studio effort the band serves up a production best described as a good example of solid craftmanship. The compositions are well written, well performed, have a good fluency throughout and should cater for most of their fans yearnings as far as new music goes. Add brillliant instrumentalists and a vocalist thankfully restraining and controlling his voice in a manner other metal singers should take not off, this in itself makes for a very good album. It's also rather interesting to hear how the works of bands like Medadeth and Metallica have influenced the sound of Dream Theater, in particular in the first two tracks, while there's quite a few nods in the direction of Canadian trio Rush in the final two efforts here, especially on The Best of Times.

But while this is a good example of high quality progressive metal - especially if skipping the rather cliched ballad Wither - the songs are predictable, and the number of passages that serves up breathtaking moods or sounds are mostly missing. The workmanship is excellent but the creativity somewhat on the barren side, lacking the finer details and subtle effects to take this production up into the brilliant department.

Even final effort The Count of Tuscany, which is a clear album highlight and indeed a brilliant number, is somewhat barren in that respect. But there are moments of sheer brilliance there, passages with eerie undercurrents and a subtle darkness that gave me associations to an artist like King Diamond. A nice little details that has the effect of transforming this workout, adding some uneasiness to the procedings whick makes this a number one wants to investigate time and time again.

I also think that most tracks here are a bit on the long side. Whileopneing number A Nightmare to Remember does have it's fair share of intriguing themes they could have been just as well explored in 10 minutes as in 16, and similar can be said of most tracks on this CD. And personally I suspect that some critical editing on all tracks would have resulted in a better album overall.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by The Quiet One
1 stars Black Atmosphere & Silver Solos: a.k.a. 'More of the Same'

Dream Theater's latest output, Black Clouds & Silver Linings, shows the band in the same path they've chosen since their highly acclaimed release, Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From a Memory. With the sole exception of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, the rest of the albums by this line-up, featuring keyboardist Jordan Rudess, follow the same trend of Prog Metal with a dark atmosphere, plenty of tasteless rapid solos, abundant boring in-your-face riffs, and an unidentified singer.

However, unlike previous releases which had at least one or two pleasant highlights, Black Clouds & Silver Linings has none, despite the length of most of the songs which seem to offer a lot.

Already with the first song, A Nightmare to Remember, you can predict it all. Ferocious guitar riff, unstoppable drumming, the same ol' keyboard solo by Jordan which the first time you hear it you think it's rather cool and unique, but then you go thinking 'Is that keyboard capable of producing any other damn sounds?!'. However, there is one surprise that I didn't foresee, but you surely already know about it, that is Mike Portnoy's additional ''growls''. Mike had showed us these ''growls'' before in Systematic Chaos, but I doubt anyone thought Dream Theater would add this for future releases. They don't harm much of the music, but still they're awful and awkward coming from a well-respected Prog Metal band.

It's really all the same: There's the expected lackluster ballad, this one being entitled Wither; you've got the straight-forward heavy metal track called A Rite of Passage; Black Clouds & Silver Linings features the last of the AA series called The Shattered Fortress, which is probably the weakest of that, the main issue being that it goes on for too long; then there's the long sensible song in the style of The Ministry of Lost Souls, this one is The Best of Times featuring some very annoying cheering melodies; finally, there's the ''epic'' lasting over 19 minutes, it begins well, reminding us of the worthy acoustic passages from the Moore-era, but after that it's all forgettable, it just seems another long prog metal track with nothing really noteworthy.

Yes, these guys indeed know how to play their respective instruments, but they've been showing us that since 1992 with Images & Words, so that's not really something to praise-of nor to give an award.

You must be surprised since I didn't mention the lyrics which seem to be an issue for everyone who has listened to this album. I can't say they're good nor thoughtfull, but I actually don't really care for lyrics unless they're interesting and add something to the music, this is definitely not the case of Dream Theater.

As for the rating, this must not surprise you at all: as much as I respect this very talented band, it has to be 1 star meaning that this is Dream Theater's poorest album to date, though not necessarily meaning that this is crap. If you've been seriously enjoying their latest releases like Systematic Chaos and Octavarium, Black Clouds & Silver Linings will surely have something for you. However, if you're someone that feels that Dream Theater has not been releasing any quality Prog Metal since Metropolis Part 2, then avoid this.

Review by 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.
Review by Flucktrot
3 stars Neither a fanboy nor a hater, perhaps I can offer new insight into a recent DT release. Or perhaps you already know whether you hate it or love it--perhaps even without hearing it!

DT brings out strange reactions like no other band, and some--particularly the haters--just can't wait to tear the band apart, often offering no specifics as to why. I can sympathize with this feeling, because for a decent amount of DT's material, I just can't stay interested...let alone have nice things to say about it.

Fortunately, that's not the entire album for me. I understand the nitpicks with Nightmare, but there are also some great positives as well. I love the 5/4 breaks--especially the one where Petrucci really tears things apart--and I like Rudess' contributions. It's really a fun song, although an unabashedly cheesy song to be sure.

i think Tuscany is also a highlight. That 9/4 rhythm during the main verse is deceptively tricky and effective, particularly in adding impact to the head-bobbing chorus. I also love the Petrucci solos, as well as LaBrie's restrained yet powerful vocals--in a world where too few musicians truly evolve, I have to hand it to LaBrie for doing exactly that. (I don't pay attention to lyrics, so they may be as cheesy as many have been saying.) I think it's a great song. If you can't enjoy anything from DT that doesn't sound like the Moore-era (but not too much, because that wouldn't be creative enough), then I feel just a little bit sorry for you.

Decent album with some definite keep-ables. I won't attempt to sell it as a masterpiece, but I will have to contradict those who believe Black Clouds only consists of material we've heard before from the Dream.

Review by Andy Webb
4 stars Hey! Let's go hate Dream Theater!

Yea, you know it. Dream Theater, probably one of the most important progressive metal acts ever (whether you like them or not you know it's true), have produced a rather disliked album. Black Clouds and Silver Linings, the band's tenth studio offering, is one of general animosity, with small pockets of almost surprising attraction to the album. The album was rather ambitious, the band's second on Roadrunner Records (which has been shown to ruin good prog bands), and was reported to be the band's darkest yet - and they delivered. Full of haunting tracks, daunting melodies, cheesy lyrics, and some really great moments for the band, it really is an overall balanced album, which teeters more towards one of the band's better albums of the past 10 years.

I can't say much more than what's already said. I could talk about the generally cheesy lyrics (although there are some nice lines here and there), the almost metalcore feeling on some of the tracks (exemplified by the breakdowns on "Rite of Passage"), the heaviness of the music, or the (some might say unnecessarily, but not this guy) long songs all over the album (lengths: 16 min, 8 min, 5 min, 12 min, 13 min, 19 min), or a host of other "cons" that reviewers have pointed out. But I won't. I like this album. Even through some of the "bad" parts of the album, these guys have really churned out a good album, which can be seen as return to form from the more mainstreamed Systematic Chaos two years prior. The band, although darkened by the haze of a new metal scene, still can create a beautiful atmosphere, with songs like Wither and The Best of Times (which is even more heartfelt because it is a memorial to Portnoy's dad passing away) have great melodic structure and show the band's willingness to break away from the heavy metal they beat to death on many of the other tracks. Overall, however bad other reviews may make this album sound, it truly is a good album.

With such conflicting opinions on the nature of this album, one might wonder, "what is it - good or bad? Why?" I'll tell you why this album is good. Of course one must note Dream Theater is my favorite band of all time so my ratings may be slighted on the upper scale, but only for good reason. This album is a haven for metal fans. The heaviness saturating the entire album may make it hard to digest for more prog-based fans, but damn will a metal fan be pleased by the crushing riffs and intense atmosphere of the production. No stranger to complex composition, however, the band still weaves a fantastic proggy backing to enhance this metallic masterpieces. And, to please the lighter fans, the band has recorded an entire second disc of covers of lighter (well, compared to the album) covers from prog favorites such as Dixie Dregs, Queen, and King Crimson. Overall, this album, if you were wondering (which I'm sure you were) is quite good. 4- stars.

Review by Isa
3 stars |C|

Dream Theater have always released quality material in my book, even what I consider one of their worst works Train of Thought had an objectively solid level of composition level to it. And this album does as well. However, it seems to me the band stagnated a bit with this album, and I wouldn't be surprised if Petrucci had a good amount of writer's block composing this album (nicely advertised in Wither, which is actually about his writer's block). The material itself is well structured and has a good flow to it, and survives its first 10-15 listens pretty well.

Pretty much everything you could expect in a Dream Theater album is in here. Not that I think that is a bad thing, I think its pretentious to dislike an album solely because it isn't an artist's progression in sound. With that bit of "logic" we might as well dislike over 90% of Bach Cantatas, even though they're almost all quality music. No, this album pretty much sums up everything the band has done in their career all over again, and they do it damn well. So, I do I like this album.

However, I can't help but feel that the general material in this work, the riffs, melodies, etc., even the solos, seem less interesting than previous albums, and get even less interesting with subsequent listens, quite the opposite of my experience with their more highly rated albums. Their work still has a good sense of dynamic and emotional contrast and flow, some really cool parts even. The poetic quality of the lyrics is probably what has suffered the most slack since the previous album, sometimes even dreadful and not very well put to into vocal melody (this I feel most strongly in Count of Tuscany, which though good has some pretty musically awkward moments).

Basically the members of the band are experts in their field (understatement of the year), and I think they sold out a bit and didn't try hard enough to be creative with this album (you can have the same sort of material and still be creative with it; Iron Maiden proved that). I'm hoping that their following output, especially given their circumstances during the writing of this review, will have more to chew on than this album. This album is good, but not fully satisfying for me.

Basically, if you generally like Dream Theater, you'll probably like this album to some extent, as I do.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
3 stars 6/10

"Black Clouds & Silver Linings" has some new branches, but they all come from the same tree.

Dream Theater seemed to have lost quite a bit of their respect with "Systematic Chaos", even tough die-hard fans never lost faith in the band and cherished that album as well. There is an overall acceptance of the follow-up, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings", the last album that features drummer and one of the founders of Dream Theater Mike Portnoy. For me, this album is definitely an improvement from the previous effort, but it is a little far from being a great album.

Dream Theater, we all know this, is the band that has given progressive metal its ideal band, and stereotype as a consequence: heavy riffs accompanied with keyboards ( not always), complex and long song structures, and breathtaking technical skills. None of this is new. So I couldn't help feeling disappointed with BC&SL, I couldn't sense much difference from other albums that DT released i these recent years. However, metaphorically speaking there are some newer branches, but they all come from the same tree. Also, the structure of the album is a little similar to "Systematic Chaos", under a few points of view, like the order of the songs based on their nature ( for example, the last song is an epic, and the one before that is an overall calm and haunting piece, but very long as well).

I couldn't help noticing however that this album has a lot more personality than many DT albums, it has attitude and a somewhat dark feel to it, even lyrically speaking (sometimes a little too corny, but that's how the band's lyrics roll, pretty frequently). I think the title of the LP could imply that pretty clearly.

But these musicians, in the end, despite having a few issues, always are able to write an excellent song, no matter what. Heck, in every one of these songs there is at least one part that I enjoy a lot. "A Nightmare To Remember" is the opener, a sixteen minute epic, that has some cheesy moments, like the band in more than an occasion proved being able to do, but some others that are pretty cool, like the beginning with its organ-esque, haunted castle feel. "A Rite Of Passage" is a song I actually really liked, and I know not everyone does. I love the melodies, and the second part of the song is composed by mind-blowing solos. "Best Of Times" is the typical "song before the epic" that I implied earlier, but it does have some beauty to it, especially the intro, and the build-up of that. But my favorite track is, no doubt, the epic finale, "The Count Of Tuscany" that has some amazing passages, an it is the clearest tribute the band has ever recorded to the band Rush.

Overall "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" is an album I wanted more from, even though it had its moments. It was nice to see that the personality of the album was clearly influencing the music radically, making it, in a way, a unique album for Dream Theater.But strictly speaking i didn't get excited about, not in a particular way. A must, I suppose, for all Dream Theater fans, but if you do not know this band well enough, I recommend you hear everything they' ve done before this, it could be useful in some parts.

Review by Hector Enrique
3 stars Accustomed to long albums and long-standing songs, Black Clouds & Silver Linings is no exception in DREAM THEATER's discography, with over an hour and 15 minutes for just 6 songs. Despite being a good work and having some songs of great brilliance and superb virtuosity, at times it becomes predictable and repetitive. That acts against it and drives points away to round out an excellent job.

The album begins with the disturbing A Nightmare to Remember, one of the darkest and most contrasting tracks on its discography. References to the corrosive genres Black and Death metal by bursts (Mike Portnoy with a guttural voice and an infernal double bass drum stamp of both musical currents) and nods to the 80s Rush define the song, where the unbridled keyboard of Jordan Rudess and a chaotic guitar-solo by John Petrucci.

After such an intense start, the revolutions go down to the half-tempo of A Rite of Passage, a simple and recognizable chorus that dominates much of the theme until once again Petrucci and Rudess show their virtuosity with an exalted counterpoint between the two. The delicate ballad Whiter, in my opinion, one of the best in DREAM THEATER, is enveloped by melancholy in its development and marvelously guided by James Labrie with a decisive and impeccable vocal part until the denouement with a short and thunderous solo by Petrucci.

The Shattered Fortress is a combination of snippets from previous works brought together in a fast-paced and maddened rush of thrash metal with a reflective couple of minutes in the middle of the song. With it concludes the so-called "12 step suite", which was worked in parts since the previous Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Train Of Thought, Octavarium, and Systematic Chaos. Composed by Portnoy and related to his troubled past with alcohol, The Shattered Fortress lacks, in my opinion, a solid identity of its own.

The Best of Times is a heartfelt tribute from Portnoy to his father, with an unplugged beginning of guitars, cello, and piano in its first 3 minutes, then becoming more festive, taking again references from Rush, always maintaining a respectful and intimate memory: a subject full of feeling.

Finally, it is the turn of the fantastic The Count of Tuscany, the jewel of the album. Almost 20 minutes of pure prog- metal. Excellent arrangements, great harmonies, and a soundscape of the best of the DREAM THEATER repertoire of all time. From the huge acoustic intro, the great mid-stage development (hello, Xanadu?) to the epic finale, there are no fractures or lapsing moments. An excellent theme to listen to and enjoy tirelessly.

From the covers disc included in the special edition, it is always appreciated the reappraisal spirit of DREAM THEATER towards the rock legends, and its constant recognition of them. With great success in cases like Rainbow's Stargazer or Iron Maiden's To Tame a Land, and in others risking beyond the limits as with the trio of Queen songs taken from Sheer Heart Attack, the complicated Tenement Funster / Flick of the Wrist / Lily of the Valley, or the ramblings in part two of Lark Tongues in Aspic, by the band led by Robert Fripp.

Black Clouds & Silver Linings could be better, but it's not bad at all. These New Yorkers are great musicians, and that is always good news because even in the less well-done songs, their quality allows them to maintain a standard that very few groups can reach.

Review by The Crow
3 stars The last Dream Theater album featuring Mike Portnoy was their best record since "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" in my opinion.

So it's sad that the drummer parted ways after this album, but maybe that was the right thing to do because the music included in "Black Clouds & Silver Linings", despite its quality and being no doubt better than "Octavarium" and "Systematic Chaos", added basically nothing new in the band's career.

Nevertheless, if you like prog-metal you will easily enjoy the 6 fine tracks of the record if you can forgive the "I don't remember, I don't wanna day" cheesy lyrics, the predictable singing and the inability to explore new ways to expand their style.

Best Tracks: A Nightmare to Remember (strong and complex pure prog metal), The Shattered Fortress (some Metallica influences here) and The Best of Times (I love the Rush's feeling of the song)

My Rating: ***

Review by Warthur
4 stars Little did they know it at the time, but this would be the last album that Dream Theater would record with Mike Portnoy at the drum stool. (It's lucky, then, that it includes The Shattered Fortress, the end of his Twelve Step Suite - would have been a bit awkward if he'd had to get that out on a Transatlantic album or something.)

If the band had any hint that a change was brewing, however, there's no sign of it here - if anything this is business as usual, with ballad Wither's five-and-a-bit minutes amounting to the only sub-epic song on here - everything else is over 8 minutes long, and 4 of the six songs here are over 12 minutes long.

As it stands, Wither ends up offering a bit of a breathing space of the running order, coming as it does between two heavier pieces (A Nightmare To Remember in particular taking the band further towards extreme metal territory they've ever gone) and The Shattered Fortress, which picks the ferocity back up with its intro. This is perhaps the most straight-ahead epic of the album; Portnoy himself has said that in retrospect, he found he'd written himself into a bit of a corner with the Twelve Step Suite, and with hindsight he might have instead just one song covering all twelve steps back when the band were making Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It's not that I think it's outright bad - but perhaps because it's trying to maintain a thematic and musical link to material spread over the previous four albums, it doesn't quite feel fresh.

The Best of Times, by comparison, lets things pick up, with a beautiful, restrained opening giving way into a light and positive-sounding song, a real breath of fresh air after the band had spent not only much of this album but a fair chunk of previous recent albums looking at darker material. It reminds me almost of a tribute to Rush circa Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures in some respects. The album closes off with The Count of Tuscany, a foreboding narrative about a strange encounter overseas which presents perhaps the album's most classically proggy sections.

Overall, I can't quite give the album full marks, but it is another impressive entry in the Dream Theater discography; if Portnoy never works with the band again, he can at least be proud of going out on a high note.

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Report this review (#537743) | Posted by sv_godspeed | Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars It is a bit strange to admit it as a reasonable big DT fan, but this is only my fourth review of a DT album. That's two studio and two other albums. To this date, this is their most recent album. It is an album I feel where the band run a bit empty in a symphonic prog metal formula. Dream Theat ... (read more)

Report this review (#506368) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Saturday, August 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Many people have wrongfully written this album off. Look at the last ten or fifteen negative reviews of this album, then look at the negative reviewers' review history. Most of them have made less than five reviews total. Hmm, odd that they should choose newer Dream Theater albums to review out of e ... (read more)

Report this review (#476630) | Posted by TheMasterMofo | Tuesday, July 5, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Sure, Mastodon hit it big (Billboard no. 11) with "Crack the Skye," but the masters of Prog Metal broke into the top 10 with Black Clouds & Silver Linings (hitting number 6 on the Billboard 200 chart). Not that there's a competition; I'm glad that prog is finally selling to a larger audience. ... (read more)

Report this review (#442820) | Posted by BobVanguard | Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars My first reaction to this album was pretty negative but I've listened to it a couple more times and it's grown on me a bit. I have a feeling I'll notice more things I like with further listens, as is common with DT's typically complex arrangements. Right now I think it deserves 3.5 stars but I'm ... (read more)

Report this review (#438935) | Posted by robertw | Monday, April 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Too much band, too little feel. I have been a huge fan of Dream Theater over the last ten years or so. Reason number one: Their music is 10 % genius. (Plus 40 % good, 30 % mediocre and 20 % annoying). I love them for that genius, which is unique. Reason number two: The band are awesome musician ... (read more)

Report this review (#414051) | Posted by stig | Thursday, March 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is one of the rare albums that added nothing new to the sound and universe of Dream Theater. They have tried it all: Soft and dreamy progressive rock pearls like on "Images And Words", complexe conceptual structures like on "Scenes From A Memory", very dark heavy and thrash metal epics li ... (read more)

Report this review (#379072) | Posted by kluseba | Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars " Look in the mirror...what do you see? " I've always been a huge fan of Dream Theater, so I'm biased their albuns.To exception of his debut album, I never gave a rating of less than 5 stars to any of the other band's albums, I like even "Falling Into Infinity ". After the controversial "Syste ... (read more)

Report this review (#319889) | Posted by voliveira | Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars 2.5 stars really. Guess I should have got the special edition.......the one with the all instrumental mix. The first thing one notices on this album is just how downright awful the lyrics are. I mean, really, someone needs to have a serious chat with John Petrucci about this because my 9 yea ... (read more)

Report this review (#313274) | Posted by infandous | Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Review Permanlink

1 stars No Silver Linings here... Dream Theater's worst album. Bluntly said. The band has completely lost its way. There are a bunch of long tracks on the album, but no refined composition. You can easily take one section from one song and swap it with any other section of another - it doesn't matter ... (read more)

Report this review (#295879) | Posted by strayfromatlantis | Monday, August 23, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars great album. t00 me, this is an awesome way t00 get me into Dream Theater. On July 1 2009, i went t00 Wal Mart cuz my mom got paid. i saw that they had the album. so i looked at it and i found that it had some long songs and on the back cover of the album, i found that the album was mixed by ... (read more)

Report this review (#289147) | Posted by DiehardTheRushFan | Sunday, July 4, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars So as we draw to a close on this the Dream Theater Discography (so far) with this their latest release is it as strong and as much of a comeback as everyone says it is? well yes and no the epic songs are just fantastic and the singles (A RITE OF PASSAGE and WITHER) are very very melodic and catc ... (read more)

Report this review (#284264) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Sunday, May 30, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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