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Album Review: Black Clouds & Silver Linings – Dream Theater



Release: 2009

Artist: Dream Theater

Label: Roadrunner

Track Listing: 1) A Nightmare to Remember 2) A Rite of Passage 3) Wither 4) The Shattered Fortress 5) The Best of Times 6) The Count ofTuscany

Two years after releasing one of their greatest albums to date in Systematic Chaos (2007), Dream Theater attempt to build upon their recent run of impressive releases. Returning to a more gothic tone that hasn’t been fully exploited anywhere else other than on Train of Thought (2003), Black Clouds & Silver Linings is a much darker album than its predecessor.

The beginnings of A Nightmare to Remember reveal that LaBrie has returned to his snarly vocals that worked brilliantly on The Dark Eternal Night. There, he sounded remarkably like James Hetfield whereas here they’re not quite that extreme. Upon returning to his regular clean vocals later on it immediately feels more fitting – less forced. They return during a brilliant mellow section that manages to be uplifting, dramatic and catchy.

After the expected soloing from various band members, some rather unappealing ‘roars’ from Portnoy come into light. Unfortunately this doesn’t disappear here as it will come up again in various places of the album and they don’t sound too good. Perhaps they thought they would give the sound a bit of needed angst, or maybe they did intend it to be a bit of a joke; either way it kinda dents the seriousness of the music. However, the whole sound can relate to this with Rudess delivering some ‘haunted house’ style keyboard runs and Petrucci’s guitar mimicking the epic horror sounds. This opener clocks in at over sixteen minutes.

You can’t really describe anything by Dream Theater as being ‘commercial’, but A Rite of Passage feels like a single and it was to become the first off this record. It’s still lengthy at over eight minutes with the band attempting to recreate the magic of Pull Me Under albeit a tad heavier in places. A fine ballad follows, Wither bringing a temporary break to the tech-gothic theme in returning to the Dream Theater of old, think Another Day from Images and Words (1992) and you’ll have an idea of the musicality on show.

The second half contains three long journeys: The Shattered Fortress and The Best of Times are both around thirteen minutes and The Count of Tuscany stretches over nineteen. So if you like long and interesting tracks, this album is definitely for you. The band shows their Rush influences as well, in some cases a bit too much with the ending number containing YYZ moments that are a bit too inspired. The Count of Tuscany develops into the band’s latest epic venture that matches the genius of A Change of Seasons and Octavarium. A dreamy mid-section is an enjoyable slice of space rock, Rudess and Petrucci executing a much needed break from the technical madness.

Overall Black Clouds & Silver Linings is a good album. Dream Theater’s choice to go gothic has its ups and downs but the lengthy tunes are solid structures to be admired upon by all who care to listen. The compositions are technically amazing as always, however this time around there is less in the way of memorable tunes. The collector’s edition contains a disc of instrumental takes of the whole album which is very enjoyable, worth it for the lack of irritating roaring. The third disc however is yet another batch of rather uninspiring cover versions ranging from Rainbow to King Crimson (this doesn’t affect the album’s overall score).


Rating: [6/10]



1)      A Nightmare to Remember

2)      The Count ofTuscany

3)      Wither


Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 16/01/2010


Album Review: The Devil You Know – Heaven & Hell



Release: 2009

Artist: Heaven & Hell

Label: Roadrunner

Track Listing: 1) Atom and Evil 2) Fear 3) Bible Black 4) Double the Pain 5) Rock and Roll Angel 6) The Turn of the Screw 7) Eating the Cannibals 8) Follow the Tears 9) Neverwhere 10) Breaking Into Heaven

Following the release of their reunion live DVD/CD, Heaven & Hell release their highly anticipated debut album. Don’t be fooled by the name, this is Dio-era Black Sabbath, the line-up that gave us Mob Rules (1980), Live Evil (1982) and Dehumanizer (1992) with the switch of Appice to Ward for Heaven and Hell (1980). Those of you who heard the three new recordings on The Dio Years compilation will be pleased to hear that they were, in all their brilliance, just a taste of the almighty beast on the horizon. The Devil You Know blows all the current metal bands out of the water as the grandfathers of metal (with a combined age of 235) return to show everyone how it’s done.

If you’re expecting something along the lines of Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules then you’re in for a surprise. Imagine Dehumanizer but heavier and more brutal, that pretty much best describes what lies in store for you. The riffs are slow, heavy and bone crushing. Most of this album is best described as doom metal. So for some this may be a disappointment, for others it’s a welcomed return to form.

The mammoth doom anthem Atom and Evil is first up. A brief drum intro from Appice gets things going before the swirling current of Iommi’s riffs take over. Immediately Dio’s presence is made clear, he’s still got it and his vocals pack a mighty punch throughout. The track gets elevated as we’re welcomed by the first guitar solo, then it all falls back into the pre-chorus with various guitar parts churning away, adding to the madness.

The tempo is increased a notch with Fear, an eastern-sounding riff swirls round before switching to jabbing stabs and then returning to a doom sequence. Bible Black was the first single released and is one of the longest tracks here at six-and-a-half minutes. It opens with an acoustic section, similar to the kind of intros found previously on Children of the Sea and Anno Mundi (The Vision) where the track soon explodes into some chunky riffage. After a wild west-style soft opening, the song is the most energetic so far and captures the Sabbath days of old.

Double the Pain’s intro sees Butler step into the spotlight, executing the main riff through a synthed bass, this track is also fairly fast and the most upbeat one yet. Rock and Roll Angel provides the most interesting track musically, fusing energetic heavy metal with blues. During the track, everything is dropped to provide space for Iommi to play a heartfelt bluesy solo before bursting back into the main sequence, if you came here looking for solos then this is the best of the bunch.

The first half is definitely the stronger half, the album progressing through Turn of the Screw and Eating the Cannibals, decent tunes but not standouts by any means. Then we hit Follow the Tears and the record comes back to life. Here lie the darkest six minutes, a lengthy opening allowing Iommi to deliver his heaviest riffage in a long time (matching the likes of Into the Void and Zero the Hero). This is the track that truly reflects the evil of the artwork, this is Heaven & Hell.

The tempo is lifted once again with Neverwhere, proving itself another speedy number before Breaking into Heaven rounds off the album with the way it started, a fitting end to an excellent collection of songs.

The Devil You Know is the glorious return of Black Sabbath. It stands as one of their heaviest offerings and as one of their best, a definite improvement on Dehumanizer that takes on a sound of its own. The album art represents the music perfectly, horrifying and artistically masterful at the same time.


Rating: [9/10]


1)      Follow the Tears

2)      Rock and Roll Angel

3)      Atom and Evil


Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 11/01/2010