Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)

For a normal band, six songs is not nearly an album, it is closer to an EP. But for a band like Dream Theater, six songs can easily lead to a full-length album that is well over one hour. This was a clear sign that "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" would be one of the bands most progressive albums to date with a total of four songs that reach beyond the ten minute mark. So yeah, this is easily not an album for those faint hearted nor an album for those who have no patient. This is an ultimate Dream Theater album for the ultimate Dream Theater fan.

Let us start talking about the two song that is under ten minutes long. The songs are "A Rite of Passage" and "Wither" and both of them made it as singles. "A Rite of Passage" is probably the closest thing the band has ever come to repeating their only super hit "Pull Me Under". The structure is similar and the choruses are both singalong friendly. But when it comes to epicness I feel that "A Rite of Passage" is falling behind "Pull Me Under". Still a great song though. The other single, "Wither", is a beautiful ballad that in the same time has a level of epic no previous Dream Theater ballad has ever reached. The power in the chorus makes the song really grand but at the same time also fragile in a very good way. One of the bands best ballads in their carrier.

So the "short" songs hold a high standard but what about the longer songs? Fortunately, they do not drag down the album into the dirt. The opener "A Nightmare To Remember" is a song about a car crash John Petrucci was involved in as a child. A great song that throws you between hope and despair, darkness and light, horrible memories and a man without a face. So yeah, "A Nightmare To Remember" is just like a thrilling rollercoaster where the excitement never seem to end. Never seen the likes of a more versatile song. Then we also have "The Shattered Fortress" which is the last song in Mike Portnoy's twelve-step suite about the AA and that song includes both familiar themes and musical parts from previous songs in the suite. For instance, the part around 8:30 comes from "The Root of All Evil". It is a sprawling song but it is a worthy finally of the suite. "The Best of Times" is also written by Portnoy, about his father who died from cancer. Now I do not want to be disrespectful to neither Mike, his father or this song but "The Best of Times" is the weakest song in "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" because it is hard to remember anything from it. It is bland all through. But I am still sure that Mike's father would be proud if he heard this piece before he died.

The last song is "The Count of Tuscany", the longest song in the album with a length of 19:19 and is about an encounter that John Petrucci had in, you guessed it, Tuscany, Italy. Is it just me but is that not a weird topic to sing about? No matter what, this song ends "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" in the same way "A Nightmare To Remember" started the album, in an exciting epic that is some of the bands finest moments ever. I know, the lyrics is a little to direct but that has very little matter when the music is so well composed and perfectly executed. Just magnificent.

In the end, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" is the hardest album since "Train of Thought" and with the extra approach towards the progressive part we have ourselves the best album since "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory". But with the few amount of songs I surprisingly get an urge for wanting more from the band even though the play time is well over one hour. Well screw it, this is a fantastic album that should make the mouths of every progressive metal fan very wet.

Songs worthy of recognition: A Nightmare To Remember, The Count of Tuscany, Wither

Rating: 9/10 Shattered Fortresses

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