Dream Theater is the most prolific band when it comes to progressive rock and metal. Their technical and musical abilities are second to none and records like: Images And Words (1992), Awake (1994) and Scenes From A Memory (1999) are absolute classics. The amount of individual side-projects is also work of legend, but I feel it has taken its toll on albums like Train Of Thought and Octovarium. They are both great records in their own way, but simply not as focused as their older material. Black Clouds & Silver Linings is the lastest Dream Theater record , so let us see what it is made of.
Black Clouds & Silver Linings uses the same musical template as Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, Octovarium and Systematic Chaos. It features a couple of really long compositions from: A Nightmare To Remember, The Shattered Fortress, The Count Of Tuscany and some obligatory ballads like: Wither and The Best Of Times. Besides these they also use something in the middle like A Rite Of Passage. This makes “Black Clouds & Silver Linings a familiar, yet predictable affair.
Another familiar Dream Theater element is the endless keyboard and guitar solos by Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci. Impressive as they are, they certainly add to the feeling that songs like: A Nightmare To Remember, A Rite Of Passage and This Shattered Fortress are long improvised musical jams intended to show of their individual musical skills, rather than show of their actual songs. An art Dream Theater seems to have lost since their Awake and Scenes From A Memory Days. A pity really.
The presence of Wither and The Best Of Times does not improve things either. Vocalist James LaBrie really shines on these songs, but the sappy character of those compositions really damages the overall cohesion of Black Clouds & Silver Linings.
On the positive side of things this album contains some very interesting music as well. The Count Of Tuscany is a great track with its unpredictable twists and turns, and the aggressive drive of A Nightmare To Remember and A Rite Of Passage is quite impressive as well. Production wise everything is top notch, as always.
Black Clouds & Silver Linings is a very traditional Dream Theater record very much in the same mould as its predecessors. It certainly has its moments of greatness, but it is a very safe and predictable album as well. I guess it is a matter of personal taste of your own interpretation of what progressive rock/metal is all about, but I prefer the latest releases by Riverside, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and Cynic any day. I sincerely hope that Dream Theater dares to venture into uncharted waters with their future releases.
written by Raymond Westland