Dream Theater - Black Clouds and Silver Linings
This review will be quite extended because Iíve been looking forward badly to the release for Black Clouds & Silver Linings. I could be considered a modest Dream Theater fan, I havenít been to a concert but I do appreciate all their albums. And Iím happy to say that they didnít dissapointed their fans like they did with their last two albums. I donít consider myself as one of those fans, cause the simple reason that I love Octavarium and I think that In The Presence Of Enemies is easily one of their best songs. Octavarium was also my first album and the title track is epic.
Anyhow Black Clouds & Silver Linings has a really Dream Theater-like feeling. Thereís not many surprises in the songs, but the fans love this kind of music so thereís no need to change music style when people love it. So basically it feels like youíve heard this before, and that feeling is extended when listening to The Shattered Fortress where thereís a lot of parts taken from previous songs, but more about that later on.
So thereís three versions of Black Clouds and Silver Linings: the 1-disc version, the 3-disc special edition and a limited Deluxe Collectorís Edition Box Set. I got myself the 3-disc special edition, and boy was I happy that I did. The extras are amazing. Theyíve added instrumental versions of every song on the album, and as a surplus thereís six covers from bands like Queen, King Crimson and Iron Maiden. They did anounce this quite a while ago, and suggested that it would be impossible to guess the covers and that they woudl surprise the hell out of everybody. But I didnít really felt surprised, King Crimson is considered the founding band for progressive rock, theyíve already covered Queen, Iron Maiden and Dixie Dregs before. So the surprise was not with the artists they choose, but more with their performance. Dream Theaterís cover for Queenís Tenement Funster / Flick Of The Wrist / Lily Of The Valley, is amazing. The original version of these three songs were already considered heavy, so this fitted perfectly into Dream Theaterís profile. But not let us get ahead of ourselves, thereís 18 songs on this album, so letís begin right off with A Nightmare To Remember.
You could consider A Nightmare To Remember as one of their better openening songs. Itís intro is very metal-like, a 8-note piano part that ends with all the instruments jamming togheter. After a few minutes of this, Petrucci plays a guitar riff a little bit to long, and then the vocals begin. This reminds me a lot of something weíve heard beforeÖ Strange Deja Vu from Scenes from a Memory has quite the same feeling. The song tells about a car-accident and the same way as they presented a story in Scenes the lyrics are just describing the event. Nothing wrong with that, if it works. Luckily it does with A Nightmare To Remember.
After about five minutes of story-telling, thereís a break with some slower instrumental parts and some nice vocal-sections which ends in the typical solo duel between the guitar and the keyboard. Thereís a bit of Petrucci and a bit of Rudess all over the place for the next 3 or4 minutes, when the main melody kicks in again. What happens next is still a question to me, Portnoy tries something heís tried before: some sort of shouting-rap-I-have-no-idea. Luckily this doesnít go on for ages, so after this thereís some riffs here and there and then after 16 minutes the song is over.
The first single of this album A Rite of Passage has a great chorus and mild verses. The whole ďfree-masonsĒ-subject is sometimes irritating because the lyrics are sometimes just stupid (this also counts for some other lyrics on this album). Anyhow, this is a typical heavey metal song, and something youíd expect on any Dream Theater album. One sad thing thing about this album is that the keyboard solo sucks. The guitar solo is pretty great, and the keyboard solo begins pretty good. It kinda feels like a robot whoís producing music from itís speakers in the beginning. But then suddenly the robot explodes or something and thereís just random sounds being bombarded all over the place. Itís sad, because this really affects the whole song.
The next song Wither is a rock balad alike the ones theyíve done before. Something between Wait For Sleep, Anna Lee and The Answer Lies Within. A lot of people that like rock but arenít into all the heavy stuff will definitely appreciate this song. Itís very steady and has beautifull lyrics. The guitar solo is also very calm and not the usual 10-time-signature-changes. Dream Theater has done a great job making a great rock balad.
The Shattered Fortress is the ending of the Twelve-step Suite also known as the Alcoholics Anonymous Suite. The whole Suite consits out of 5 songs spread over 5 albums:
The Glass Prison (6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence)
This Dying Soul (Train of Thought)
The Root of All Evil (Octavarium)
Repetance (Systematic Chaos)
The Shattered Fortress (Black Clouds and Silver Linings)
The song is basically a summary of the four previous songs. Thereís a lot of reference and sometimes just copies from the previous songs. I love how they mix all the songs into one final conclusion song. If you liked The Glass Prison youíll love this for sure. Itís heavy, itís wild and itís awesome! The connection between the different songs is very subtle so it doesnít really disturb you, even though they switch to different atmospheres all the time.
The best of Times begins very peaceful and Iím sure as hell that Iíve heard the intro before but I canít seem to place it. After this calm intro thereís a lot of riffs flying all over the place and then the vocals take over. The vocals feel familiar as well, it has a 6DOIT-feeling and something else that I still canít place. The guitar solo is much like the one from Wither, very calm and beautiful. Again they delivered us a great rock balad that I for sure will play over and over until I canít stand it any more, then wait a few months and then some. And after that itíll start all over again.
The last song on this album also has the worst lyrics on the album. Itís quite a shame, because it really doesnít make me like sharing this song with my friends. The count of Tuscany is musically above average and has a great ďadventurousĒ intro. The keyboard and guitar work in the intro are really great and stop just right on time, because after four minutes I kinda felt like listening to some vocals. Anyhow, the lyrics suck but the vocals are okay. Thereís some heavy singing and Portnoyís voice really ads a lot of feeling to the song. Sometime later the instrumental break starts, with great solos. But what happens after this is quite surprising. They build up to the finale, and when I feel like the song is about to stopÖ it didnít.
Anyhow, the song is only halfway and whatís next really makes me go nostalgic to 6DOIT. This part can be best described as Goodnight Kiss meets Octavarium intro. Anyhow, after this keyboard break, thereís some great vocals featering aweful lyrics. But I kinda feel like Iíve mentioned that before.
The album ends in something thatís quite like Close to The EdgeÖ but wait! Thereís more: covers for 6 songs by some great bands. These covers are really worth the extra few dollars youíve got to add to get the 3-disc version. I really loved how they covered those songs on A Change of Seasons LP, but these covers are even better.
My conclusion for this album is that it was definitely worth the wait. I would be surprised if the fans would bash these albums like they did with the two previous ones. A Rite of Passage is a good single, but I wouldíve prefered Wither as their first single. But I kinda feel like itíll be the next single. Anyhow, get the 3-disc version because itís worth it! Enjoy!