Dream Theater: Black Clouds & Silver Linings
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Ah Dream Theater. Where to begin with this band.
Despite being a Rush fan for years, and being somewhat acquainted with the whole genre of "prog rock", I hadn't really delved into the somewhat heavier realm of "prog metal". That was, until I heard "Pull Me Under" by Dream Theater. Released in 1992, Images and Words quite frankly blew me away. Thus began my long love of progressive metal.
Yet I cannot say that Dream Theater has been a constant throughout these past 18 years.
As with any band, some albums have been brilliant, while others have been firmly planted in that large field known as "mediocre". However, even their most brilliant albums at times irritate me. There is just something about the band and their music. Sometimes I love them and proclaim them on of my favorite bands. Others, well, I couldn't care less.
Lately, the latter has predominated. When Octavarium was released, I hailed it a true return to form for the band. However, in retrospect I find this album just as uninteresting as much of their other work. Systematic Chaos was a real mis-step, and Black Clouds & Silver Linings continues this current vein. Musically, the band sounds just the same. If you are a real fan, that will please you. However, for a "progressive" metal band, there has been zero progression. The band seems stuck in a rut they just can't get out of.
Long songs that feel even longer than they are (e.g. the snoozer "The Count of Tuscany" clocking in at over 19 minutes and feeling like a good half-hour wasted), excessive and painfully self-indulgent guitar and keyboard wanking, and truly embarassing lyrics combine to create an unsatisfying record. Jordan Rudess continues to insist on using tacky keyboard effects. Mike Portnoy inflicts his "signing" on the listener time and again. John Myung, a truly talented bass player, continues to be buried in the mix. James LaBrie is certainly talented, but his attempts at sounding menacing are coming off as more and more forced. Finally, John Petrucci is a very techincally gifted guitarist. There is no question the man can shred. However, someone, for the love of all that is decent, take the pen away from that man! No more lyrics John, please! The lyrics are truly cringe-worthy.
Final verdict: 2/5
Give me some progression. Mix things up a little bit (other than a steady downward spiral in lyrical quality). I would love to hear the band take their collective musical talent and do something innovative and interesting. Instead they are treading water, just keeping themselves afloat, writing and recording the same ideas, over and over again with no apparent effort to experiment. Rather than being at the forefront of American progressive metal, Dream Theater is continuing their slide into irrelevance, having been eclipsed by much more talented and innovative bands. Ultimately, it would appear that Dream Theater is no long "for me".