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If You're not Pleased with this...... - 93%

ExMachina28, June 25th, 2009

...You Won't be Pleased with Anything.

Since Dream Theater's "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" many naysayers have complained of the latest albums made by the band; 'Train of Thought' being too boring, 'Octavarium' being too commercial, and 'Systematic Chaos' being too "dull". In my opinion, none of those albums was bad, in fact, they were masterpieces. But then we find "Black Clouds & Silver Linings", and let me tell you, if you're not pleased with what this album has to offer, you won't be pleased with anything that DT releases after this. Metal Fans are too complex: when a band continues with their style along their albums, their reviews are called "More of the Same" however, if they change their ways and decide to experiment, the reviews are instead called "Why didn't they stick to their old ways?" and none of this arguments is valid when it comes out to review this album. So let's begin with the Album to see why:

"A Nightmare to Remember" opens, and in an awesome way. A heavy riff with some Jordan Ruddess' synthetizer notes. James LaBrie singing styles in this song are low toned, and fit perfectly in the song. It specially makes me think what would happen if "Awake"'s mysterious atmosphere, "Systematic Chaos" melodies and "Train of Thought" heaviness were merged together and synchronized in a new, but spectacular song. The only thing that I found annoying was Mike Portnoy's singing part.... it didn't fit anywhere. Portnoy might be good doing backing vocals, but he looks absolutely ridiculous when he does main vocals. Good Ruddess-Petrucci solo, and is a sign of how progressive this band can get (In fact, the tempo-changing parts make up the awful Portnoy-singing part). "A Rite of Passage" is next. At first it seemed like an average song. Nothing special, good chorus, good vocals. Until the tempo changes and the solos apear. I can swear that this part is the one that sticks you into the entire song. It makes the first part appear attractive, and the rest of the song appear awesome. "Wither" follows. A good ballad, and reminds me of the "Falling into Infinity" days. It is almost perfect: Good singing, good melody, good solo, good drums. The Keyboards might be a little missing in this song, but it doesn't make a big difference.

"The Shattered Fortress", the next song, is the last song from the "Twelve-Step Suite" which started with "The Glass Prison". In my opinion, this is the best final part that the Twelve-Step Suite could ever get. Glass Prison references are everywhere, nonetheless it has its own melody and style. The drums of this song left me astounded, and it's a great evidence of Portnoy's drumming skills nowadays. An awesome Petrucci-Ruddess solo again like in The Glass Prison is present in this song. The Repentance-like spoken part in the middle of the song is kind of boring, but it isn't a long part.

"The Best of Times" is a rare but somewhat soothing ballad. Reminds me of the soft part of "Octavarium" At first it has nothing special to offer and it stays that way for the first 2 minutes, but then it turns out to be a really emotive and powerful song. Unlike "A Nightmare to Remember" Portnoy does good backing vocals on this song. But what I found best is John Petrucci's solo, one of his best in the last decade. It seems that he's playing with his soul instead of his hands, and that solo, in part, saved the rest of the song. An emotive, good masterpiece overall. "The Count of Tuscany" is, by far, the most progressive Dream Theater-ish track of the song. The lyrics aren't good, but the music itself is stunning, making it a 20 minutes masterpiece. Jordan Ruddess work stands out in this song (Specially in the relaxing, soft part), as well as James' vocals. An awesome way to end an awesome album.

Overall, this is a very well balanced album. Soft parts, heavy parts, loud vocals, low vocals, it has everything that Dream Theater has to offer. The dedication from Octavarium, the technique from "Systematic Chaos", the heaviness from "Train of Thought", and a special, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" sound that makes it unique. This special balance between tradition and experimentation makes this album another masterpiece made by DT, and maybe their best album in the last decade.