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Dream Theater

Black Clouds & Silver Linings (Roadrunner Records)

Aug. 18, 2009
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Dream Theater ranks among America's most consistent metal bands, both in terms of output and critical acclaim/reproach. Black Clouds & Silver Linings continues that trend. The group's 10th studio release in 20 years contains such signature Dream Theater elements as long, overworked songs (six songs in 75 minutes); muscular and complex musicianship; technical albeit catchy arrangements; repetition of musical motifs; and James LaBrie's far-reaching, occasionally aggravating vocals.

But Black Clouds & Silver Linings is more diverse than it appears, unveiling a human side of Dream Theater with "The Best of Times"-a moody heart-in-throat lamentation for drummer/co-producer Mike Portnoy's father, recently claimed by cancer. Arguably the most universal song in the band's catalog, it is punctuated by John Petrucci's glorious guitar playing. And "The Shattered Fortress" is the ferocious finale to a 12-part song cycle that began five albums ago about the 12 steps of addiction recovery.

A three-CD version of Black Clouds & Silver Linings includes revealing covers of deep cuts from the Dixie Dregs, Iron Maiden, King Crimson, Queen, Rainbow and Zebra, plus a disc of the album's instrumental mixes.

Dream Theater will perform with Zappa Plays Zappa at the Riverside Theater on Aug. 22.

-Michael Popke


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