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Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings

  • Review by: AJ

This band is one of the most respected leaders in modern progressive metal. They are known most for their experimentation, length and speed. Therefore, this album has been one of the most anticipated albums from the band post their arguably well-accepted last release, Systematic Chaos in 2007.

This album seems like a response to a set of fans who demanded more aggression in DT’s albums. Hence, one can notice the band’s response. Still, the aggression isn’t assertive enough to be complemented with such a respected band. Sure, in the past two releases DT had been heavier than their previous releases, but they maintained the integrity of the band by drawing a line in disguise of their respect to the genre – progressive metal.   This utmost zeal to quench their audience’s expectations or rather preferences makes bands to crack, if not breach the modern metal doctrine. And, this has an effect on the band’s integrity.

Undoubtedly, there is a lot of retro-vibe, the 80’s influence from Rush and Yes especially in a few vocal sections and quite a few of the instrumental sections. But, at the same time Rudess especially reminds us of the experimentation trend running through making the old vibe infuse with the new wave. But, in the song The best of times, one can unmistakably detect the 80’s vibe more than modernism. By the way, this song is a tribute to Portnoy’s father. Nevertheless, the distance from originality almost fails to impress. Otherwise, this is a good song.

Petrucci has delivered some decent solos dancing between flurry tempos and time signatures, but when the baton is passed on to Ruddess, one cannot help but question, “Umm, okay, that is nimble!, but, where is the soul?”. But, I guess, that will not be asked because most of the audience will exclaim, “That is cool, dude”. Huh!

Having written that, in A nightmare to remember the heavy riffs from the guitarist are intensified with the atmospheric touches by the keyboardist. Here is where, I loved the experimentation touch to the track. Portnoy has been criticised for his appalling growling vocals, yet he renders it in this track thereby affecting the otherwise good experience. Even shockingly annoying and sad is the unchanged manner of vocal delivery when the lyrics change to being happy.

Despite the catchy chorus in A rite of passage, the track turns extremely boring. It is because it is overtly simplistic, with a strong introduction and fairly decent solos. Also, after repeated listens, one shall suspect the disjoints in the song; as if the solos were added to create a balance between the fans who like DT’s singles and the ones who like DT’s long tracks.

The pop-ish feel rises to the brim in Wither; need I write more? It makes for a good power ballad though. The instrumentally strong A shattered fortress, is slightly let down by, if I may, the pseudo-growls by the vocalists in the band. Again, although The count of Tuscany is musically strong, the lyrics fail to justify the cause of the feel.

This album does not carry the originality, the strong song writing skills and the progressive sound that the band’s previous albums carried AKA this is not traditional DT. It is just an attempt to widen their appeal, increase their audience population and ultimately sell more records. This tries to impress the ones who love intelligent progressive songs and the ones who want to head bang and the ones who prefer catchy tunes. Umm, apart from impressing the progressive metal fans, this album manages to impress the rest. But, that very factor dents their integrity – this is a progressive metal band!

None of the highlights in the album (mentioned below) help sell or discard the record which makes it in a very doubtful position. However, sales are in the “success zone”, that might be because of a major shift in the age of the target audience; hmm, there is something to ponder about. Weak lyrics, overtly experimental instrumentals possibly implying their attempt to mask the lack of innovation, imitation of classic bands; do I still need to mention how I feel about this album? Although the aggression and the melody “may” be there, it is too melodic to border lining poppy; ahem, that is not good, be it progressive or just head banging metal.

To conclude, Wither is based upon Petrucci’s fear of writer’s block. It wouldn’t hurt to think the fear is evident via the overall poor lyrics in the album, would it?

Highlights of the album: A Rite Of Passage, A Nightmare To Remember, The Count Of Tuscany

Links: http://www.dreamtheater.net/

http://www.myspace.com/dreamtheater

Ratings: 6.5/10

Originality: 6

Instrumentation: 8

Lyrics: 6