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All the finest wines, improve with age - 96%

extremesymphony, November 7th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Roadrunner Records

Dream Theater’s tenth full length studio album is a continuation of all the elements that the pioneers of progressive metal have over the years defined: Lengthy songs with a complex structure, highly technical complex timed instrumental sections, personal-themed lyrical subjects and a fair mix of catchiness and complexity. Dream Theater, on this record, do not venture out in wild territories with experimentation but rather perfect and refine all the elements that they have helped define to work together in a cohesion such was never seen since the days of Awake.

Nothing should be said about technical performance on a Dream Theater record since all of the gentlemen involved are absolute masters of their crafts and so I’ll use my praise here quite frugally only in saying that the technical performances are nothing short of brilliant and are consistent with the standards that the band has now set up for themselves. Where the record works, is in the composition of the six majestic tracks, tracks whose individual sections flow into each other almost magically just as well as the tracks evolve into each other. The composed music turns out to be an uphill task, both for the players to play and listeners to digest, so very technically challenging and profound does it get; a complex layer upon layer and layer after layer of smoothly evolving notes flowing smoothly as the waves of a calm ocean. It may be technical, but “mindless wankery” are definitely not the two words that can describe the music as it encompasses the emotions in the lyrics of the songs very perfectly. The six tracks presented are highly consistent in excellence of their quality so that this very well might be their most consistent effort since the masterpiece Awake.

Among the individual tracks, I would like to single out A Nightmare To Remember and The Count Of Tuscany to heave most of my praise upon. The opener, A Nightmare To Remember, plays with genres and bends them to its will, as in the space of 16 minutes it goes from its atmospheric opening to a choppy and even thrashy section which then evolves into an almost psychedelic part which then transforms into a blast beat section, with all of the above said transitions composed and executed with a flair of such professionalism as was seldom seen. The Count of Tuscany features some of best composed instrumental sections and structures throughout the band’s career with an exceedingly catchy middle section. I would also like to single out The Best of Times for its emotive lyrics and an out-of-the-world guitar solo by John Petrucci towards the end.

Black Clouds and Silver Linings is highly recommended for fans leaning more towards the progressive side of the genre. The album is strong in its composition, rich in its musical variety and consistent in its quality and is sure is a great and fulfilling musical achievement in annals of the band.