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Black Clouds & Silver Linings

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Album Review

After finally running out their 13-year, seven-plus album deal with a poisonously indifferent Atlantic Records via 2005's workmanlike Octavarium, progressive metal standard bearers Dream Theater took advantage of their well earned free agent status to enjoy a heated courtship from several interested labels, before eventually settling on the artistically simpatico Roadrunner. But, ironically, Dream Theater's first album for the label that heavy metal built, 2007's Systematic Chaos, was relatively accessible by the group's standards, complementing every epic and complex composition with a comparatively concise and hooky song, thus leaving it to its 2009 successor, Black Clouds & Silver Linings, to really flex the band's progressive metal muscles to their maximum girth. And in fact, Dream Theater's tenth long-player is about as dense and challenging as any album in their daunting discography (and certainly the darkest of spirit since 2003's Train of Thought), by emphasizing not only the virtuoso members' ever stupefying musicianship, but also their most aggressive and thoroughly metallic songwriting tendencies. Sixteen-minute opener "A Nightmare to Remember" and its half-as-long follow-up, "A Rite of Passage" (later edited further for release as the album's first single), quickly establish this agenda via frequently thrash-paced staccato riffing, some of John Petrucci's most blistering guitar solos ever, and the return of drummer Mike Portnoy's syncopated growls (no doubt inspired by his pal Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth), providing contrast for singer James LaBrie's soaring melodic elegance. Third track "Whither" — a tender ballad and mere babe at five minutes in length — is this album's only concession to commerce (and one of Dream Theater's better stabs at the form it is, too); but after that it's right back to prog rock in excelsis, via the final chapter in the band's "AA Saga," "The Shattered Fortress," which references songs from previous albums such as "The Glass Prison" and "The Root of All Evil," in emulation of the "Conceptual Continuity Clues" method favored by one of Portnoy's heroes, Frank Zappa. Only two, not surprisingly massive song suites remain now, and interestingly, both pay evident tribute to Rush! First up, "The Best of Times" boasts an extremely Alex Lifeson-like lead guitar motif and verse chords that were clearly evolved from "The Spirit of Radio," later showcasing the most versatile and classically steeped performance on this record by keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess. Second, the revealingly named "The Count of Tuscany" (surely a thinly veiled allusion to the Rush's famed instrumental, "La Villa Strangiato") catches Portnoy in the act of outright Neil Peart worship, colluding with Petrucci on their own version of "Xanadu" before leading their bandmates into another heady prog-metal magnum opus brimming with more ideas, notes, and time changes over 19 minutes than most bands bother with over a ten album career. That last bit sound at all familiar? That's because, at the end of the day, one must admit that Black Clouds & Silver Linings, for all its abundantly positive qualities and minor but clear distinctions from prior efforts, is still an archetypal Dream Theater album; one that's unlikely to broaden their audience all that much, but is conversely guaranteed to thrill their hardcore converts with its renewed devotion to the most exigent and stimulating facets of the band's chosen musical domain.

Customer Reviews


If Jesus and Chuck Norris formed a band and made an album, this album would still be better

Another absolute masterpiece by the Masters of Progressive Metal

Ok, so I'll start off by saying that I pre-ordered the Collector's Edition Box set and much to my surprise, it came 5 days early in the mail. And for the record, I've been listening to this thing nonstop since Friday. Black Clouds & Silver Linings is an absolute powerhouse of a record. From start to finish this cd will keep you hooked in a chokehold and won't let go. A Nightmare to Remember is a monster of a song and at over 16 minutes is pretty long for an opening tune, but well worth it. With many time and riff changes, it never fails at any moment to make you want to skip to the next track. Mike Portnoy also throws in some blast beats near the end which is just insane. (10/10) A Rite of Passage is the first single and an all around great track. I found the parts of the song reminicent of In The Name of God and the instrumental passage perfectly defines what Petrucci & Rudess do best. (8/10) Wither is the baby of the cd, coming in only at a mere 5 & 1/2 minutes.It's set to be the 2nd single from the album. This is a really beautiful track that was written solely by JP. Jordan's keys on this really makes the song stick out and I can imagine hearing this live. (9/10) Next, is The Shattered Fortress and the final song in Mike Portnoy's Twelve Step Suite. The song is almost entirely built from the past 4 songs of the saga. Easily the heaviest track on the cd, this will stand as a DT classic. (10/10) The Best of Times was written for Portnoy's father and although you can feel the strong connection in the lyrics, this song fits well for any father/son pair. A beautiful passage by Jordan at the beginning. (9/10) Last on the cd is The Count of Tuscany. This is the epic of the record. This one is a monster and will stand the tests of time and is sure to become a Dream Theater classic. I find this song reminiscent of A Change of Seasons and In The Presence of Enemies. A beautiful key and guitar bridge will capture your imagination and take you on a ride. Easily the best on the cd. (10/10) Black Clouds & Silver Linings is a 5 star record and if I could give it more I would. Don't miss out on this one boys and girls. If you don't grab it, you'll be missing out on alot.


God, I wish DT fans would stop falling over themselves over this regurgetated pile of dung. Seriously, this band, as amazing as they have been and so talented, sound like they are trying SO HARD to be something they are not - Metal. I seriously had MAJOR hopes for them when Octovarium was released. Finally, the band sounded like they had found a sound that could really capitolize on their amazing talents: Great songs, Amazing playing, but most of all - DYNAMICS. Now they sound like they are trying to compete with all the other faceless metal acts out there. The whole concept that Petrucci and Portnoy have settled on - writing and recording their last two discs at the same time in the studio - has done nothing but allow them to indulge in every single riff they come up with and not understand that self-editing is a good thing. Seriously, the re-quoting of older material is getting tired and the 'metal-growls' sound so forced and contrived. This band is so amazing musically and so talented and has made such an amazing career for themselves on their own terms, but lately I think they are suffering from a MAJOR identity crisis. Personally, I think they need to stop trying so hard to be so 'metal' and really hire an outside producer who isn't from the same genre, someone who will push them both creatively and personally to explore the deeper side of their abilities, because honestly, this disc is such a let down, I had to say something. I thought it couldn't get worse than Systematic Chaos, but it did.


Formed: 1986 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The technically proficient guitar playing of John Petrucci elevated Dream Theater to the upper echelons of contemporary heavy metal. While its lineup has continuously evolved, the Long Island-based quintet has consistently delivered sharp-edged music. Dream Theater is known for its high-energy concert performances. While they've released several live albums — Live at the Marquee, recorded at the London club; Live in Japan, recorded during the...
Full Bio
Black Clouds & Silver Linings, Dream Theater
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Metal, Prog-Rock/Art Rock
  • Released: Jun 19, 2009

Customer Ratings