Black Clouds & Silver Linings — Dream Theater

I recently purchased Black Clouds & Silver Linings by the progressive metal band Dream Theater. I must say, I am quite impressed and would expect nothing less of one of my favorite bands. This is certainly their most heavy and aggressive album to date; considering they’ve been progressively getting that way, especially since joining Roadrunner, this is not surprising. At first look, the six track album offers little in regards to length, but don’t be fooled by the number of songs. Of these, only two stay under a pleasant twelve minutes, while the remaining four span from twelve to more than nineteen minutes. Here I shall be reviewing each, but not in too much detail; an review of an individual song would be an essay in itself. Alright, here I go.

1. A Nightmare to Remember: 16:11 in length, this song tells the story of a young man’s experience going through a car crash, and how it has traumatized him ever since. It starts of with a crack of thunder and a soft mix of guitar and the piano before exploding into a fast-paced riff. The song mostly keeps up a fast pace, with a slow part in the middle, and ends as strongly as it started. This song is probably my favorite off the album, being the great first impression I received and it easily receives a 9/10.

2. A Rite of Passage: A more conventionally written song, as far as structure goes, this 8:36 long song, I believe, describes a Totalitarian Utopia, similar to that of 1984. A catchy and memorable riff plays throughout most of the song that never gets old and it keeps up a mid-pace for the length of the entire song. This song is probably my second favorite of the album, and I would give it an 8/10.

3. Wither: This song is the shortest song of the album, a simple 5:26, and also follows a conventional structure. A slow-paced song, Wither seems to describe emotions of insecurity and the concept of giving up and letting go of dreams. This song is the most out of place on the album, but it is still a good song nonetheless and I’ll give it a fair 7.5/10.

4. The Shattered Fortress: 12:49 in the length, this song starts off as easily the most aggressive of the album. Part of the series of songs relating to dealing with alcoholism (along with The Glass Prison, The Root of All Evil, and others). This song directly references Repentance, The Root of All Evil, and the rest of the songs within the suite by taking particular verses and incorporating them into the song with slightly different lyrics. This is an amazing song and an excellent closer (?) to this series of songs. I would definitely give this song a 10/10.

5. The Best of Times: Another softer, but more elegant song, if anything, this 13:09 song describes a man’s memory of his father, how his time with him were the best he had ever had and how he would never forget. This song is very touching, and for the most part upbeat, that inspires tears. I give it a 9/10.

6. The Count of Tuscany: The longest song of the album at 19:16. This song describes a man on vacation in Italy and meeting a noble, the count of Tuscany, who invites him to his estate, offering an adventure. This adventure soon becomes a nightmare for the man who soon begins to fear for his life. This one is a very interesting one to listen to, and never fails to lose the listeners interest like one would expect from such a long song. But Dream Theater has proved this wrong time and again with songs like Octavarium and a Change in Seasons, and now The Count of Tuscany. I would say this is an almost perfect song to an almost perfect album, 8/10.

And that’s Black Clouds & Silver Linings, an album I instantly fell in love with, and one that I will probably love even more upon further listening. Dream Theater has done it again with this album and they prove once again that they still have it. Based on the grades I gave each of the songs, it would be safe to assume that this album in its entirety deserves a 8/10. Yes, if you haven’t noticed, I give generous gradings, but even if you don’t trust the numbers, trust me that this album is an amazing new chapter in the Dream Theater discography and leagues better than most bands out there today.