Dream Theater
Black Clouds and Silver Linings

I’ll make a confession and tell you that I hadn’t had much faith in Dream Theater since they brought out their timeless masterpiece Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes From A Memory back in 1999. While its successors Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence and Train Of Thought both had their moments of brilliance and assured the listener that there was life remaining in the old dog, I had rather confident expectations that the “dog” would soon be out of any new tricks. 2005’s idle attempt Octavarium didn’t convince me otherwise and just cemented my belief that their better days had passed. Not that the great five-piece from Long Island had turned into a worse band, they simply hadn’t turned into a better one, which became particularly noticeable when on the horizon started to appear fresh forces of Progressive Metal, trail-blazers like Voyager, Seventh Wonder, Communic, Circus Maximus, Suspyre and many others. Happily, my worst fears were never realized as 2007’s Systematic Chaos showed glimmers of creativity flickering in the Dream Theater camp once again, giving us a fine collection of songs that closely recalled that of their earlier glory days. I, along with many other progheads, was put on watch and started waiting impatiently for their next step.

Fortunately, their next work, this year’s gem Black Clouds And Silver Linings, has come as one massive annihilating counter strike upon all the unbelievers. Dream Theater have proven once again that they are quite rightfully considered the kings of Progressive Metal. Having finally realized that songwriting should be the main priority to get into the good graces of their listeners, they have composed six mind-boggling pieces whose melodies and dynamics keep on living and resounding long after the final chords of the album’s majestic, nearly twenty-minute finale “The Count Of Tuscany” have faded away. Arguably, I don’t find any real lows with the new repertoire despite the fact it doesn’t offer anything drastically new. It may be repetitive at times, and perhaps a bit self indulgent, but even these supposed faults are easily nullified by the extremely memorable and emotive melodies which this disc abounds in.

The ever-changing rhythms and smooth transitions from the darker to lighter tones are so captivating that you are likely to be reminded of their era that was ruled by classics such as “The Miracle And The Sleeper” and “Finally Free”. Moreover, there is enough room for heaviness too, and the tracks like “Nightmare To Remember”, “The Shattered Fortress” and “The Count Of Tuscany” confirm it in full with their mighty leads, ominous atmospheres and intense pacing. But once again, none of them would be so good but for the beautifully memorable melodies cropping up here and there. For instance, “The Best Of Times” starts with the enormously mesmerizing pianos, violins and acoustic guitars but then goes beyond this tranquility morphing into the burning lava of dense riffing and growing rhythms. However it doesn’t forget to cascade down into the beauty and reverie of the starting theme time and again. It’s nearly impossible for me to single out a track or a part that I enjoy most of all. You just literally hang onto every note and line heard from your speakers, devouring one gorgeous lick after another. Yet the unforgettable motifs of the mentioned “The Best Of Times” and dreamy half-ballad “Wither” will probably be most responsible for luring me back to this album for many years to come.

Maybe Dream Theater aren’t capable of doing anything else but stealing their own thunder any more, yet they do it so fervently and impeccably on Black Clouds And Silver Linings that you just take it for granted and forget all about the fact the moment you get caught up in the music. I’m not sure yet whether it’ll hold out as my album of the year (currently it is), but there is no doubt that it will end up somewhere in my top five. And one more thing, don’t miss out on purchasing the 3-CD edition of the album, consisting of the new release, a disc of covers including such immortal classics as Rainbow’s “Stargazer”, King Crimson’s “Larks Tongues In Aspic Pt.2” and Iron Maiden’s “To Tame A Land”, and a third disc of an instrumental version of the album, along with a marvelous expanded artwork booklet. This purchase is worth every penny.

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Written by Igor Stakh
August 7th, 2009


  1. Commented by: Staylow

    Good review Igor, and good to see you back again! I’m not quite as impressed with this album as you are, but I think it’s miles better than the last two albums. I think the last 8 minutes of The Count of Tuscanny and the ballad Wither could have been left off entirely, and it would have been a much better and flowing album, but that’s just me.

  2. Commented by: xaden

    i heard 2 advance tracks from this album a few months back and thought the riffs were the lamest-black album era rip offs i had ever heard.i’ve never liked this band but i always give bands a chance and this album didn’t impress me in any way.

  3. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Great review again bro! I love this album too. Easily one of the years best, and a crown jewel in the Dream Theater discography.

  4. Commented by: stilllife666

    Great review. I agree completely. Great, Great album

  5. Commented by: AARONIUS

    I have to say I like this one a lot more than the last two albums however………….

    The Count of Tuscany has to have some of the worst and cheesiest lyrics ever written for a song.

    Also it is unfortunate that one of the best songs on the disc is basically a rehash of a lot of songs from their earlier albums. Yes I know that song is the finale to the whole glass prison saga, but DT is sadly at this point not only copying other bands like Rush and Metallica, They are also now ripping themselves off.

  6. Commented by: Dimaension X

    I’ll have to give this album a chance. Systematic Chaos was way better than Octavarium, which except for the title track sounded like Journey trying to play Pink Floyd covers.

  7. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I tried to like this one so much. I will say it has one of my favorite Dream Theater passages in a long long time – the ballad section at the center of Nightmare to Remember. It’s simply fucking gorgeous and James just soars on it. Love it love it love it.

    As for the rest of the album though, I thought the remainder of Nighmate was a bit clunky, especially the “death vocals” (although it’s still my fave track on the album). Rite of Passage is forgettable in the same way that Constant Motion was, although I will say that Wither is nice.

    I like listening to Shattered Fortress but since it’s a rehash/reprise of moments from Train of Thought and Systematic Chaos, I don’t feel like I got a new song out of the bargain.

    Best of Times is just cheesy as hell, despite the heartfelt lyrics. It comes off like some happy weird version of Red Barchetta at times.

    And Count of Tuscany, man I don’t know why people love it. The only memorable thing there is the post-rock dreamscape, and there are plenty of other bands I can listen to if I want that. I want to be blown away by a DT composition. Oh and wtf is the story about?

    Sorry Ceno. Great review though as always.

  8. Commented by: ceno

    That’s ok, bro. It would be dead boring if we agreed on everyfuckingthing metal gives us.

  9. Commented by: Dimaension X

    Well, I finally hit that point where I’m actually bored with a Dream Theater album. This album presents nothing that we haven’t heard before on every other album. More of the same.

    I actually turned it off and started listening to Sleep’s “Dopesmoker” which I found more interesting.

    I still respect Petrucci and Co. for their incredible technical mastery of their instruments, but what could they possibly do different now without pissing off a boatload of fans?

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