Album Review: Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings

June 23, 2009

The best part of a Dream Theater album is the cover art.

Concept: Dream Theater produces another technically impressive but musically tired soundtrack for a movie based on a videogame, making an extra effort this time to be morbid with the aid of an autobiographical close call.

Sound: Like most…okay, all prog rock bands, Dream Theater borrows quite a bit from King Crimson and Rush. As far as I know, though, few bands make it this painfully obvious, besides perhaps Coheed & Cambria. You know what this also means: it’s almost impossible to take them seriously. Even the opening track, which attempts to recreate a traumatic car crash from lead guitarist John Petrucci’s childhood, is simply hilarious. The experience seems draped over the same gothic shtick they’ve been clinging to, and doesn’t feel like a part of the music at all. Then, in the middle of one of the band’s incessant series of breakdowns, there is the sound effect of squealing brakes and shattering glass carelessly tossed on top of everything like a member of the recording crew was watching a pertinent B-movie in the back of the studio or something. The whole album is more or less like this: double-bass, loads of standard virtuoso sweeps and widdly-wees which occasionally hit the sweet spot sheerly by the law of averages, thirty-second doses of mixed meter, stock minor keys and power chords thrown everywhere. It’s all well and good at the end of the day, and there were no big complaints to be made way back when the band could keep it instrumental, but Dream Theater doesn’t jam as much as plod nowadays, and I would attribute this to the fact that now they’re trying to accomodate a singer and an aesthetic. The vocalists need to leave. Now. They’re doing that thing where they accidentally imitate an accent, which is only tolerable when you’re decent at it and/or you’re a frilly techno Darcy boy-man like that guy from The Killers, not when you’re a middle-aged sentient beard with a body attached who picked up all his Bri-ish quoting Family Guy at the Renaissance Festival. See below for more substantial points against this menace.

Lyrics: Geddy Lee got away with painfully overt conceptual name-dropping because he could fit into whatever his band was doing and keep up the pace. Listening to this guy is a chore. He crosses his fingers and stretches each word out in hopes that it will seem epic that way. I picture a turkey jumping off the edge of a canyon in an effort to soar. It fits. I suppose that’s sort of epic. Also, one thing Lee knew to use sparingly which oft brings prog bands to a fiery doom (looking at you, Mastodon) is storytelling. A quote, if I may —

“Let me introduce my brother/
I’ve been a gentleman historian/
Sucking on his pipe/
distinguished accent/
You’re making me uptight/
no accident/
I wanna stay alive/
Everything about this place just doesn’t feel right/
I don’t wanna die/
Suddenly I’m frightened for my life.”

“Over and over, scene by scene/
like a recurring nightmare haunting my dreams/
How could you prepare for what would happen next?/
No son should ever have to see his father such a mess/
It’s a miracle he lived, it’s a blessing no one died/
By the grace of God above, everyone survived/

Quick And Dirty: Mediocre metal nostalgia that goes best with Castlevania and Doritos. (♦♦½)


One Response to “Album Review: Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings”

  1. […] Mention: Portugal The Man – The Satanic Satanist, Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings, Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West, The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love) […]

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