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Another solid release from Dream Theater. - 87%

EchoesofImpact, June 25th, 2009

Dream Theater has received a lot of crap from fans and others alike in recent years. I'll admit, I even have lost interest in their whereabouts at times, but there isn't a single album by them I can honestly say is bad. That trend continues with their latest, Black Clouds and Silver Linings.

Right from the beginning, with "A Nightmare to Remember" the sound is perfect, the instruments compliment each other, and there is some very strong harmony, as well as a lot of interesting tehcniques on the drums, compliments of Mr. Portnoy. It's obvious the guys have been listening to quite a bit of Opeth these days, as their influence comes quite clear in this opening track. While Portnoy's drums are solid, his increasingly abundant stabs at singing are still awful, and we, as the listeners, are subjected to a decent chunk of the song featuring the man himself singing solo, and trying to sound as tough as possible. It's absolutely terrible, but aside from this, the song is one of their best.

Speaking of the vocals, I have to admit, they could've used some work. James LaBrie is often considered the weakest link, but I've always maintained that he IS the voice of Dream Theater, and I've been very pleased with his work on each and every release so far. Yet here, for some reason, he just sounds worse somehow. It sounds like they chose to not layer his voice nearly as much as they've done in the past, instead opting for backing vocals on the part of Petrucci and Portnoy. This comes off as very weak, and his vocal melodies as a whole are a lot less emotional and powerful as they sound be. This is only minor, however, as he still sounds great, but probably could've sounded better.

"A Rite of Passage", and "Wither" are considerable different than the opener. The former is a nice addition to the album; very catchy, sick solo, and rather memorable. In fact, aside from the verse, which has a little too much going on with the added effects in my opinion, the song is fantastic. I wish I could say the same for "Wither". This review might have been a 97 if not for this song. It's cheesy, it's generic, and it sounds like crappy filler for a mainstream rock band. It is easily amongst the worst the band has ever recorded. I've always enjoyed Dream Theater' ballads, as they usually try to bring something more to the table than just being a "soft song for the ladies", kind of approach. "Wither" isn't even at that status. It's bland, it's typical, the lyrics suck, and above all, it's just fucking boring.

The rest of the album is fantastic, however. "The Shattered Fortress" is a magnificent closer to the Twelve-Step-Suite, although it is probably their most UNoriginal song, as it's basically riffs and lyrics from the other installments played slightly differently. It's still very good, however, and another Highlight of the album. "The Best of Times" is a great song, but I have to say that it didn't click with me as much as the others. It's still a good listen, and definitely solid. That brings us to the end, with "The Count of Tuscany". I have to say, DT's lyrics have gone downhill in a while, as have their song titles. I wasn't expecting much out of this one, but goddamn, it blew me away. The first half is just incredible, and features LaBrie's best vocals on the album by far. The second half tones itself down a little bit, and might get a little boring, but it brings itself to a beautiful close. At the end of it, you know that you've just listened to a good fucking CD. It's sure to be remembered as one of the better additions to their catalogue. While I liked Systematic Chaos, this blows it out of the water, and will hopefully be called into the setlist often from now on.