Black Clouds and Silver Linings
If you have been paying attention to my recent DT reviews, you'll see that once I hear an album I think it's the best thing they've put out in a while, and then like 6 months later, I dont like it all that much. Octavarium lost it's luster for me and now I pretty much just listen to I Walk Beside You and hate how Jesusy-yet-catchy it is. Systematic Chaos, which I praised now is just The Ministry of Lost Souls for me. Black Clouds and Silver Linings is better than both of those, and the best album they've put out since Six Degrees. Lemme tell you why.
First off, DT seems to have abandoned any notion of creating songs (or albums in the case of Train of Thought) in predetermined styles. So you will not hear any Tool, Muse, Evanesence, or Metallica nonsense in this album. Instead you will hear Savatage. I kid, I kid... though the main riff of Rite of Passage hints of Jesus Saves. Ha.
Lyrically, we arent talking Shakespeare here, but you can chart the innaneness of DT's lyrics as a slow decline since the WDADU days. Also, I once said that DT needed more Mike Portnoy vocals. Well, I should have amended that to say DT needs more Mike Portnoy lyrics that dont sound like he's doing a bad Nathan Explosion impression. The only other thing the album could do without is Jordan's keyboard nonsequiturs. I know some people eat that stuff up, hence the old "OMG KURZWEILLLL!!!!!!1" (nowadays "OMG CONTINUUM!!!!!!!1") saying, but give me Kevo or Derek's subtlety anyday.
Seeing the track lengths concerned me at first, giving me flashbacks to Train of Thought, where every song is about 2-3 minutes too long, but the only song that seems to drag is A Nightmare to Remember, and thats only at about the 13 minute mark. Rite of Passage has a super catchy riff and some serious Petrucci shredding (followed by the obligatory Rudess good solo + stupid keyboard noise). Wither is the radio track of the album, clocking in at a scant 5:25 of adult friendly melody... and it's actually pretty decent.
The Shattered Fortress finally ends the Alcoholics Anonymous suite which started over half a decade ago with The Glass Prison. It's pretty much a hodgepodge of the main riffs of The Glass Prison, This Dying Soul, The Root of All Evil and Repentence, but somehow it works. Probably because its a solid bookend with TGP to the stream of crap that went between. And that's even with Mike's Mirror-esque shouting of random words (Courtesy! Justice! Move Zig! ok maybe not that last one).
The Best of Times and The Count of Tuscany are super epic songs. Best stuff DT has done since Blind Faith (Ministry of Lost Souls not withstanding). The former blasting out Red Barchetta optimism the latter channeling a Dream Theater sound not heard since Six Degrees.
Black Clouds and Silver Linings, as of first impressions, lies just outside the top 5 DT albums. DT is sounding like DT again, and knowing that, I don't feel this album will lose its lustre as quickly as the last three.