Dream Theater's tenth studio-album is again a prog metal gem. Systematic Chaos was already difficult to exceed, but anyhow these guys managed to do so. DTís multi-layered music is still the best you can enjoy on this planet, that is: if youíre into prog metal. A Nightmare To Remember opens with a rather spooky piano introduction followed by amazing riffs and a rather light guitar pattern. James LaBrie sings like a young prog metal god and the keys of Jordan Rudess howl as they always do. The almost grunting vocals in the middle of the song are redundant as far as Iím concerned but nevertheless, this song is a fantastic musical journey to start an album with.
A Rite Of Passage features some eastern influences and the chorus is a bit anthem-like, but the smashing guitar solo lifts this song to a higher level. Wither is a harmonious ballad, nothing special, that is: according to Dream Theater standards, but John Petrucciís guitar solo is very pleasant to listen to. The Shattered Fortress is a personal piece of drummer Mike Portnoy concerning his addiction to alcohol. Again, you hear growling vocals, but you can hear the opening riff of the Octavarium-track The Root Of All Evil as well. This song often varies in mood, timbre and metre, making it an exhilarating prog metal roller coaster ride. The Best Of Times deals with the death of Mike Portnoyís father and is a real old-school DT song. Listen to the Petrucci-riff that resembles the one on The Spirit Of Radio, a song of my other favourite rock band Rush. The last song on this album is, in my opinion, also the best one. The Count Of Tuscany is a killer song, a true prog metal monster! Listen to the instrumental overture and you will surrender immediately, check out the bombastic riffs and the countless melodies and you witness the birth of a true Dream Theater-classic, just like A Change Of Seasons. Conclusion: with Black Clouds And Silver Linings Dream Theater made itís most balanced album since long. For me, this is without doubt the best prog metal album of 2009.
On the bonus disc, you can enjoy six covers from Rainbow, Queen, Dixie Dregs, Zebra, King Crimson and Iron Maiden. Especially Stargazer, Flick Of The Wrist, Lily Of The Valley and Odyssey are worthwhile listening to and this is mainly due to the amazing vocals of James LaBrie. By the way, who says this man cannot sing?
***** Martien Koolen (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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