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