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Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings - 85%

whitefrozen, April 30th, 2010

Dream Theater ranks as one of my all-time favorite bands. There's nothing about them I don't like; from the insanely long and complicated songs and solos, the virtuosity of every member of the band, the self-referencing that appears on ever album, everything. I love this band, and I say that about very few band in the metal world.

Black Clouds and Silver Linings is the tenth full length album from Dream Theater, and in my opinion ranks as one of the best albums they've put out. I'm not a huge fan of their earlier music, from When Day and Dream Unite(their first album) until Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory, which I consider the bands high point and the high point of the entire progressive/rock/metal scene. I'd honestly put that album above Pink Floyds Dark Side of The Moon as the greatest album of the genre. While BCASL isn't quite on that level, I'd certainly rank it in the top 3 or 4 best albums Dream Theater have ever made.

After the previous album, Systematic Chaos, (which wasn't a bad album on its own, but for Dream Theater, it was pretty weak) I didn't have terribly high hopes for this album. Thankfully the band decided to basically do the opposite of Systematic Chaos, which is to say that they put a heck of a lot more effort into the songwriting than on SC. The writing here is the strongest its been in years; from the heavy and hard-hitting opening track to the gargantuan 20 minute Count of Tuscany to the arena rock ballad of Wither, the band is in absolute top form. This is Dream Theater firing on all cylinders, and the result is amazing. John Petrucci really gives a stellar performance (as always) on guitar, with some insane solos, heavy, complex riffs and some fantastic acoustic playing. Mike Portnoy is his usual brilliant self on drums, with a few really fast double-bass and even blast-beats thrown in, which is a first for Dream Theater if I'm not mistaken. Keyboards and bass, handled by Jordan Rudess and John Myung are both brilliant as well, though both are slightly more in the background than on previous albums, with less keyboard and bass shredding and placed in more supporting roles, though the keyboards do break out in a shred on occasion.

My favorite part of Dream Theater, however, is James Labrie, whom I consider to be one of the best male vocalists alive. I absolutely love his voice, and I think I'm in the minority for this, but I consider him to be a brilliant singer. While he's not hitting those ear-splitting high notes like on the first DT albums, he still puts on quite a show, with highs, lows, and everything in between belted out perfectly. While I happen to think his best vocal performance was on the Score 20th Anniversary tour for Dream Theater, this is definitely one of his finer moments.

Black Clouds and Silver Linings is Dream Theaters best album in years, and is hopefully a good indication of where the band is going musically in the years to come. Highlights from the album would be The Best of Times, a tribute to Mike Portnoys deceased father and one of the best Dream Theater songs ever written; Wither, a terrific power ballad; and A Nightmare to Remember, which is one of the bands heaviest songs in years. For anyone who likes virtuoso playing, brilliant song-writing and all around flawlessly executed music, this album is for you.