Black Clouds & Silver Linings
DREAM THEATER

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DREAM THEATER - Black Clouds & Silver Linings cover
3.63 | 108 ratings | 18 reviews
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Album · 2009

Filed under Progressive Metal

Tracklist

1. A Nightmare to Remember (16:10)
2. A Rite of Passage (8:36)
3. Wither (5:25)
4. The Shattered Fortress (12:49)
5. The Best of Times (13:09)
6. The Count of Tuscany (19:16)

Total Time: 75:25

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

Total Time: 46:34

Bonus disc: InstruMental Mixes
1. A Nightmare to Remember (instrumental) (15:39)
2. A Rite of Passage (instrumental) (8:36)
3. Wither (instrumental) (5:28)
4. The Shattered Fortress (instrumental) (12:47)
5. The Best of Times (instrumental) (13:20)
6. The Count of Tuscany (instrumental) (18:47)

Total Time: 74:37

Line-up/Musicians

Dream Theater:

- James LaBrie / vocals
- John Petrucci / guitar and backing vocals
- Jordan Rudess / keyboards, Continuum
- John Myung / bass
- Mike Portnoy / drums, percussion and backing vocals

Guests Musicians:

- Jerry Goodman / Violin on "The Best of Times", "Odyssey" and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two"

About this release

Label: Roadrunner Records
Release date: June 23, 2009

Available as a single disc edition, three disc special edition and a deluxe collectors’ edition boxed set. Packaged in a silver foil embossed black velvet box the set includes the 3 Special Edition CDs, a 180-Gram Double LP, a DVD with isolated audio tracks for each instrument, a lithograph of the album cover, with only 100 being signed by Hugh Syme, and a mouse pad. Those who pre-ordered were able to download a newly recorded cover song each week beginning on May 19, 2009 until the album's release. 100 box sets contained a "silver ticket" entitling the purchaser and one guest to a meet-and-greet with the band. Only 14,000 copies of the box set were made.

Thanks to Stooge, Vehemency, Time Signature, Pekka for the updates

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DREAM THEATER BLACK CLOUDS & SILVER LININGS reviews

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arcane-beautiful
After the success of “Systematic Chaos” due to a popularity rise from their record deal with Roadrunner records, the band went back into the studio to record another. Now before it's release, Portnoy's mouth didn't stop running, saying that this album would be like “having “Octavarium”, “Pull Me Under” and “A Change Of Seasons” all on the same album.” Now this isn't true, basically there's an 8 minute song and 2 songs that are near 20 minutes. But what really is this album like...well to tell you the truth when this album came out...I was disappointed and to this day I'm not as disappointed...but I am still not loving this album.

Musically the band decided to go into a more darker direction. The band have been promising a darker album for ages, so this is what we get, with a lot more focus on minor chords and such. Now, tone wise this isn't too bad. In fact most of the problems lie with the material, which mostly is good. It's just fragments of the songs which really let the tracks down. Some are too long and some are quite weak. One big positive is that this may be the best I've heard James' voice in a very long time, with him pulling off some great vocal moments.

The special edition of this album would be worth getting a buy, because it does feature a bonus disc full of cover songs. Now, the band does do covers pretty well and I won't dwell upon them too much, but there are some interesting versions of these songs. The Queen melody for one is brilliant with a very interesting vocal performance from James LaBrie. “Stargazers” and “To Tame A Land” are also brilliantly crafted too.

The album opener “A Nightmare To Remember” is another song which could have been a brilliant and classic Dream Theater song. Starting off with a riff which is pretty much a slower version of Cradle Of Filths “The Promise Of Fever,” showing off extreme metal and black metal influence. The main body has some great twists and turns but the real catcher of this track would have to be the slower part. A brilliantly crafted melody with some great vocal harmonies, this is one of the shining moments on the album. Sadly the track goes into some mediocre instrumental passages and then it happens. A section of the song which has a death metal influence...so the bands crazed drummer decides to take the mic and do one of the worst impersonations of death metal. This has to be one of the most embarrassing moments on the bands career. Luckily there is a live version the band did with Mikael from Opeth doing the growls, and it sounds way better. The song does close off pretty well with some surprising blast beats and luckily it doesn't drag too much. I do feel a lot of this song needed to be trimmed off, but there are moments on this song which are incredibly majestic.

The first single to be dropped from the album “A Rite Of Passage” is probably one of my least favorite Dream Theater songs. It starts off pretty well with a pretty good riff, but the first verse is terrible with stupid effects and reverb on the vocals. Luckily the chorus is pretty good and the second verse does pick up and become more enjoyable, but the instrumental section comes out of nowhere, but I did like the noisy and interesting keyboard solo from Jordan. The lyrics are also a bit poor due to a lack of knowledge about the song's topic (it's about Freemasons by the way). Probably the poorest song on the album.

The song which I would probably agree has no problems on it would be “Wither.” The ballad for the album, the song is perfectly crafted and beautifully written. It does verge on cheese at times, but a bit of cheese never hurt anybody. The lyrics which deal with writers block are beautifully written and the wordplay is pretty good too.

“The Shattered Fortress” being the last of the 12 Steps Suite does seem to be a song which is supposed to tie loose ends. Now, after the release of this album, Portnoy did explain that this suite did almost seem like homework at times for the band. Some moments on this song do have some nice moments, but other than that it is basically a re hashing of old ideas from previous songs. I will let some riff slide, but it is very deja vu.

Trying to lay into the “The Best Of Times” is rather tough due to the nature and background of the track (with it being about Portnoy's dad who sadly passed away), but there are some minor flaws. The intro is absolutely beautiful, with some beautiful piano work from Jordan and a brilliant violin accompaniment. Then the song goes into ultra Rush mode. Now being heavily influenced by Rush and Rush being one of Portnoy's father's favorite band, I will let the obvious rip off fly. The lyrics are decent being very direct and personal to Portnoy, but I did prefer his lyricism on “A Change Of Seasons” (being about the death of his mother) to be better due to better crafted metaphors and word play. The song is one of the strongest on the album, but it still could have been handled way better.

“The Count Of Tuscany” starts off with one of the most beautiful sections the band has ever composed with some amazing guitar work from John Petrucci. As the idea expands it then crashes into a metal riff that easily could be found in a Trivium song. Now, riff wise it's not too bad, with LaBrie doing a great delivery of Petrucci's lyrics about a man he met on holiday in Tuscany. The chorus is really what lets this down. While having a great melody, the chorus is ruined by Portnoy's failed attempts at death growls. As the song moves on the instrumental sections are enjoyable with some Zappa influenced synth sounds. Then the song slows down with a Pink Floyd interlude. Then the last 8-9 minutes is one of the best compositions Dream Theater has composed. Very simple in nature, it tells the rest of the story perfectly with some beautiful instrumental passages. Sadly this song could have been so good, a staple in the bands career, but it missed the mark just slightly.

In conclusion, this is probably my least favorite Dream Theater album. But...this album has some of the bands best moments in their whole career. In fact, I find that mostly every song would be a brilliant track, but due to arrangements is usually left feeling very flawed and uninspired. I do blame Portnoy's almost obsessive control over the bands music. Luckily after his departure the band re ignited their former passions. I would recommend this for certain moments, but other than that this album is the perfect example of so close but yet so far.

6.9/10

Genres: Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Extreme Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock. Symphonic Metal, Symphonic Rock

Year of release: 2009

Country of origin: USA
Sinkadotentree
Going through DREAM THEATER's discography has given me a new appreciation for this band. Yes Prog-Metal is a genre of music that i love and so liking these guys should be a given right ? Well as long as they stay clear of that sappy style that they do drift into at times i'm happy. Their albums always "sound" so good too and this certainly is no exception. When this came out i don't think anyone saw that it would be Mike Portnoy's last with the band. It's still quite shocking to me actually. Anyway this particular album is filled with epic tracks as we get four songs worth almost 13 minutes or more. Classic Prog-Metal really. Each of these guys are gun slingers but it's always been Portnoy that has stood out for me, and he's in fine form creating some thunderous grooves. Cool to hear Jerry Goodman formerly from the legendary MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA playing some violin on "The Best Of Times". This is easily 4 stars and the second winner in a row along with "Systematic Chaos".
The Angry Scotsman
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
UMUR
"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.
Phonebook Eater
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.
adg211288
The premise is this, Dream Theater is one of the biggest names of the progressive metal genre and Black Clouds and Silver Linings is their tenth album. It's next in a long string of really exceptional and consistent progressive metal albums and very easily the band's best since Metropolis pt 2: "Scene From a Memory", which came out in 1999. It doesn't quite top that album but let me assure you, it has a real good go at it!

Dream Theater is one band that just keeps getting better and better. There's a lyric on here within the closing near twenty minute epic The Count of Tuscany: "All the finest wines improve with age", and it seems so does Dream Theater! But anyway I guess that's enough of the fanboyism and time to talk about the album proper.

The first thing I want to say from the off is what you're reading now is actually a heavily edited review for two reasons. The lesser reason is that my writing skill has improved in the couple of years since Black Clouds & Silver Linings was released (this is a 2011 edit, and at the time of writing this new paragraph you're reading now the band has just released their next album). The main reason though is that although everything you just read in the first two paragraphs (which remains unchanged) still stands, I don't actually regard this album quite as highly now as I did back when it was released. I still feel that this was at the time the best album since Metropolis pt. 2, but's it's not quite the absolute masterpiece that I originally thought it to be. This said, much of the original opinions in this review remain as they were, so we're not talking any major going off of the album, just a little weathering.

Black Clouds kicks off with the epic 16 odd minute opus A Nightmare to Remember, a true story about a car accident which Jorn Petrucci had as a kid. It's one of my personal favourites from the album. It is also noteworthy for more extensive use of Mike Portnoys more gutteral vocals as well as James LaBrie, who I might add sounds great on Black Clouds & Silver Linings. These are some of the best vocals LaBrie has put down in years.

Next are a couple of the shorter songs of the album, short meaning that they clock in at under the ten minute mark. The first of these is the album's lead single A Rite of Pasage. It's not my personal favourite from the album but I'm putting that down to my personal preference for the longer epics that Dream Theater offers on the album. It's a solid song and fits in well. Wither follows, it's the most commercial song on the album and the lighest but it is also very good and like A Rite of Passage fits in very well with the rest of the release. Though over 5 minutes in length its the shortest song the album has to offer.

The Shatterned Fortress is another favourite of mine and is the final part of Mike Portnoys's Alcoholic's Anonymous saga. It is like parts taken from the previous 4 songs in the series The Glass Prison, This Dying Soul, The Root of all Evil and Repentance all put together and then some new stuff thrown in for good measure. It's damn good and a great way to end the saga which, although split up over 5 albums, is essential one big song and when looked at like that it makes it a longer piece than even Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. It's well worth a listen as such let me assure you.

The Best of Times is a tribute to Mike's late father. A solid song, but not a favourite of mine, (and this is really why I don't regard the album overall as much as I used to) despite the fact that it may be considered an epic with it's thirteen minute duration. If there is a weak link on Black Clouds this is - rather sadly considering the subject matter - it. However don't let that remark but you off because this isn't a bad song at all, I'm just trying to be neutral about the album since fanboy ravings will help no one.

The Count of Tuscany is the third of my favourite and it is nearly 20 minutes in length. As the main album's last track it does a good job of ending the album. It's another true story from Petrucci's past. This is easily the finest track on the album and when it starts the slightly poorer The Best of Times is just forgotten.

Black Clouds & Silver Linings is all things considered one of Dream Theater's best albums, even if it hasn't weathered quite as well as I'd have thought. For the three main epics and general consistency though the album is worth an exceptional score.

Now for some notes on the special edition content:

Covers disc that comes in some editions isn't bad either. My personal favourite of the covers is Iron Maiden's To Tame a Land, a song Dream Theater felt needed reviving in some way since Maiden don't play it live, a sentiment I agree with.

Can't say I bother with the instrumental disc, I like the vocals too much, but its there if anyone is that way inclined, since the music alone is awesome too.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 9.0/10 - "Very Exceptional Album" - updated September 2011)
The Block
Dream Theater's 10th and newest album has left nothing behind. It is awesome from start to finish with it's lyrics and musical ability. It has picked up where "Octavarium" and "Systematic Chaos" left off, though it's a bit heavier. Another great in the line of DT albums. Here are the songs:

1/6 "A Nightmare to Remember" starts off with thunder and sets the seen for a dark but very good song. Then Petrucci starts with a little keys that turn into Portnoy drumming. This song tells the story of a car crash from John Petrucci's past. It is alsmost told to you instead of singing but it has a good sound to it. Mike Portnoy's growl midway through the song really adds that DT touch and you can almost feel how Mr. Petrucci must have felt. When I first listened to the album I thought it was one of the best growls I had heard, but after I got more into metal I realized that it was more mediocre than good.

2/6 "A Right of Passage" is not one of the best DT songs but is has some good parts as in the begining were it starts with what sounds like guitar than transfers into drumming. You here a man talking then it goes to a deep growl. Overall the song has catchy choruses and playing that show some of Dream Theaters talent.

3/6"Wither" is another straight forward song though it is more like a ballad. It is compared to "Vacant" from Train of Thought. Though the comparison is not the best. It is mostly lead by the vacals and drum playing.

4/6"The Shattered Fortress" is the last step in Mike Portnoy's 12 step suite talking about his alcoholism. Portnoy and Labrie trade of vocals and Mike Portnoy adds his growls to make this blend in good with the other songs in the suite. It is also very instrumentally strong.

5/6"The Best of Times" is a tribute to Mike Portnoy's father(R.I.P) and the time that they spent together. It starts with opening piano that leads into a string section of the song. The lyrics show how Portnoy felt using the lyrics " the young boy and his father idol and best friend". Some people have even compared this a little to Rush. Has very strong emotions in it cansidering the topic.

6/6"The Count of Tuscany" is a very instrumental song that stats off with good guitars and what sound like either synths of keys. It is one of the best DT epics and the best on the album. Supposedly written about Mr. Portnoy meeting a strange count in Tuscany and being freaken by it. The song certainly shows his emotions and if you have only listened to it a couple times it can be unperdictable at times.

Great abum all the way through that includes one good epic and an awesome epic. 4 stars.
Time Signature
A metal album to remember...

Genre: progressive metal

The first track I heard from this album was "A Rite of Passage" (on one of the Prognosis discs), which starts out sounding a bit like a generic 90s alt. rock tune - something which I heard plenty of back then and which never really impressed me much, so I was a bit disappointed. Of course, the song quickly morphed into a style of progressive metal that was much more up my alley.

Although "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" has received mostly positive reviews and ratings on MMA, it has also received a lot of criticism, one of the points of criticism being that the album lacks innovation, and that the band just keeps treading a worn path stylistically. I disagree. I think that there are in fact many interesting elements on this album that show that Dream Theater are indeed evolving. For instance, Mike Portnoy makes use of blast meats on "A Nightmare to Remember" (being Dream Theater, they are, of course, in a triple meter), and the band also draws extensively on Gothic metal, which is also unusual for Dream Theater (true "Train of Thought" was dark in athmosphere, but never really Gothic, and "Forsaken" was a song about vampires). Of course, there are the Dream Theater trademarks of odd time signatures, instrumental virtuosity, genre transgression and compositional complexity.

The three disc version contains a disc with cover tracks on it, which is also a very interesting listen.

I'd recommend this album to fans of progressive metal who are not afraid of musically dark athmospheres, as wel as more adventurous fans of gothic metal.
Conor Fynes
'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.
Pekka
After the disappointing Octavarium and even more so Systematic Chaos I had more or less given up hope on Dream Theater. I made a stern decision that I wouldn't rush out to buy their next album without hearing it first, and thanks to Spotify I was able to give this one a test listen very soon after the release. It was in the middle of the night when this happened, and the first thing I did next day was rushing out to buy the album, three disc edition even. As far as my playlist goes DT were certainly back from the dead.

It's not quite that easy to pinpoint the difference between this album and the disappointing predecessors. There's not that much variation between the DT albums of recent years, but while Octavarium can easily be seen as perhaps their lightest album and Systematic Chaos the darkest and heaviest, Black Clouds & Silver Linings does a very good job combining the two extremes, and with better songwriting in my opinion. Perhaps my favourite track of the album is the opener A Nightmare to Remember which begins with a very dark feel but includes also some absolutely gorgeously beautiful passages. And unfortunately a couple of rather clumsy flirtings with extreme metal better left undone.

Systematic Chaos was an album that had a good part here and there but only one completely good track, but this time they stepped up and actually wrote six really good tracks with weak parts here and there. One thing I'm particularly happy about is that my least favourite member Jordan Rudess is on fire. Fine sound choices all the time, and even the freak out continuum solo in A Rite of Passage is enjoyable. Another highlight of that song is the melodic chorus, which is one of my favourite DT choruses of all time. Wither is probably the least great track here, but a very solid one nevertheless. A bit alarming is the fact that it's already the second John Petrucci Writer's Block song in their last three albums. The Shattered Fortress brings the AA saga to close with style, perhaps my second favourite part after This Dying Soul.

Despite the way too obvious Rush influence in The Best of Times the track is definitely one of the highlights of the album with its sentimental, touching and honest homage to Mike Portnoy's father. John Petrucci gives a great performance in the closing solo, one of the finest things he did last decade. Which unfortunately cannot be said about the lyrics in The Count of Tuscany. Such an epic track of great composition would deserve a deep and meaningful set of lyrics, but what we get is a rather silly story of a frightening fella met on a vacation. Brings a potentially brilliant track down a great deal, but it's still a very enjoyable one.

What's great about this album and especially the last two songs is that it seems to bring back some of the spacier arrangements of the early albums with Petrucci's guitar not necessarily dominating the soundscape with chugging riffs but giving room for John Myung and Rudess while complementing their playing by tasty textures. All the instrumentalists feel equal for the first time in a long time, that's the DT sound I fell in love with on Images & Words and A Change of Seasons.

For the first time in years I have expectations for the next DT release.

Members reviews

kluseba
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 like on "Train Of Thought", silent and orchestral progressive metal like on "Octavarium" and rather modern stuff like on "Systematic Chaos". Now, "Black Clouds And Silver Linings" reunites all of this in a single whole album, leaves us the unnecessary and watering parts and simply presents the stunning quintessence of the band's philosophy. To keep it simple, this album is far away from being original or surprising but it is simply the most consistent and in my opinion best album this band has ever made. If you are a newbie and interested in the band's works you should take this album as an introduction and a greatest hits compilation at the same time.

"A Nightmare To Remember" is a very dark and atmospheric killer that opens the album on a very depressive mood that sends shivers down my spine. The nightmare is immediatly present and this songs makes you living it in all its high paced emotions and rare moments of tranquility. It is maybe the most addicting and intensive song the band has ever written and is a voyage to the core of your deep hidden emotions. This is better than cinema and the sixteen minutes pass extremely fast so don't be afraid to begin the album by watching the track's running time. You will highly appreciate every minute of this epic masterpiece that mixes styles from the dark "Train Of Thought" with the epic mood of a "Octavarium".

"A Rite Of Passage" is the addicting single that comes along with oriental and very atmospheric keyboard and guitar sounds and a highly addicting and epic chorus. This song is like a "Innocence Faded" meets "As I Am" meets "Constant Motion" but still has a very unique approach with its Oriental influence sthat remind me of "Home". Useless to say that the guitar and keyboard solos are fast, melodic, addicting, diversified and well executed.

"Wither" is the ballad of the album and this time it is a rather dark and atmospheric song and not a commercial piece of kitsch. This very melancholic and dreamy song reminds me of "Surrounded", "Vacant" or "Forsaken". James LaBrie is doing an excellent job and his voice perfectly harmonizes with the dark but soft melodies.

"The Shattered Fortress" is the last part of Mike Portnoy's famous Twele-step Suite or Alcoholics Anonymous Suite. This songs reunites passages from all other four songs before ("The Glass Prison", "This Dying Soul", "The Root Of All Evil", "Repentance") and adds a couple of few new melodies. Some people may say that this song only repeats the previous tracks but I would rather say that this song is a perfect conclusion and resumee to the whole topic and makes us voyage on the waves of space and time forwards and backwards to remind a let us live again what we have heard before. I see this track as a grand finale to a unique and highly interesting suite and experience in the universe of the progressive metal music.

"The Best Of Times" is dedicated to Mike Portnoy's father that died soon before the release of this album. His son had still found the moment to play this song to his dying father with his own vocals. This version is even more intense and touching than the actual album version with James LaBrie on the vocals. The lyrics are very insightful and interesting. Musically, this song has a strong progressive rock touch and reminds a lot of Genesis and especially "Rush". The guitar leads and harmonies have a strong late seventies or early eighties touch and this song might also please to people that normally rather avoid Dream Theater because it really has a different approach that has nothing to do with metal but with pure rock music.

"The Count Of Tuscany" is a stunning and epic piece that tells us a disturbing and weird story. Musically, the song takes its power out of its tranquility and reminds me of the silent moments of a "Octavarium" or "Space-Dye West". This song is mysteriously floating through wind and wuthering and is really addicting and relaxing. I would give King Crimson's "In The Court Of The Crimson King" or Genesis' "Wind And Wuthering" as references to this sound. The track also has some nightmare passages like this album opener and a strong chorus but really focusses on an eerie and quiet atmosphere where especially the keyboards do an amazing job. This song is a perfect and calm album closener without being an ordinary ballad. Together with "A Nightmare To Remember", this track is my favourite one of this record and in the top five of my favourite Dream Theater tracks of all times.

All in all, this is an intense, atmospheric and diversified masterpiece and a perfect last album for Mike Portnoy that has parted ways with the band now and who left with two extremely strong tracks to finish his epic Twelve-step suite and to honour his own father. I think that this is the opus magnum, the masterpiece, the maximum that this band is able to do. But I am ready to see and listen what they are working on for the near future and if they try out something new or try to copy and follow the compilation sound of this grand resumee. To keep it short: Get this record if you love atmospheric music and if you are ready to take your time to get addicted and hypnotized by music to be ready for a voyage of the grandest kind.
Valarius
I listened to the song 'A Rite of Passage' when it became available to download from the Roadrunner website, and have to say that at first I was a little worried that this album wouldn't be that good. Thankfully Dream Theater proved me wrong, leaving me in shame for even doubting them for a second.

The first time I listened to 'Black Clouds & Silver Linings' I was a little unsure of what to think, but thankfully multiple listens gave each song a chance to grow on me. As a diehard Dream Theater fanatic, even I can admit that to date this is probably Dream Theater's weakest release. The songs sound similar to what the band has been releasing over the last ten years, and the lyrics seem fairly rubbish compared to some of the stuff they'd written in the past. But this is Dream Theater dammit! And even at their worst, they are miles ahead of every other band on the planet.

With only six songs, ranging between 5.30 - 19.00 minutes in length, it'd be easy to say that any song on this album could be seen as an epic. Whether it's the dark, gothic mood of opening track 'A Nightmare to Remember' to the uplifting 'The Best of Times', each song has its own identity. And then there's 'The Count of Tuscany'. Every album has that one song that stands out above the others. This is it.

Included in this set is a bonus disk of six cover songs. Whilst I wasn't familiar with all of the songs, each has grown on me and I think, after hearing the originals, Dream Theater have done a fantastic job here, especially with the Queen and Zebra covers.

Sadly, the third bonus disk, an instrumental version of the album, seems rather pointless. The music is of the highest order, no doubt about it. But I'm pretty confident I'll always go for the version with vocals. Good disk, just pointless really.

In conclusion, this is a great album! I have no problem admitting that it's not quite 'Images & Words' or 'Scenes from a Memory', (and not many records are!) but it's still an amazing album definitely worthy of five stars. I bought the box set version of this, and whilst it should really only be worth getting for fanatics like myself, I think everyone should at least own the one-disk version.
Nightfly
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 in 2009. 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.

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Black Clouds & Silver Linings Contents

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