“Black Clouds and Silver Linings” is Dream Theater’s last album with Mike Portnoy.
The opening track “A Nightmare To Remember” is 16 minutes plus. Four songs in one to sink your teeth into.
The opening 2 minutes could have come from a black metal act or a thrash metal act. But it didn’t. It came from these Jersey dudes. Then from about 1.50 to 2.20 some of the best hard rock bands in the world wished they were writing head banging riffs like this.
The first verse riff is palm muted, with the swagger of Guns N Roses “Appetite For Destruction” album. Then John Petrucci brings out the wah wah pedal, showing Kirk Hammett how it should be used and the. its back into the head banging verse riff.
And the song’s music just keeps morphing as the lyrics detail a car accident that John Petrucci’s family had when he was young.
I really like the clean tone section from the 5 minute mark. It’s very “Diary Of A Madman” and it connects immediately. It’s like a different song, and that chorus like section when James LaBrie sings “hopelessly drifting” is super melodic.
And by 8.30 that clean tone part is done, as Petrucci moves into a jazz fusion solo, then Jordan Rudess starts to solo on the keys and the instrumental section of the song is before us.
They trade solos until the 10.30 mark and the song is back to the black metal style intro with a lot of chromatic style soloing. Portnoy takes over on the vocals here, bringing a growl element to it. It was hated by reviewers and elitists but we liked it. As I’ve said before, you need to accept the cheese elements with Dream Theater.
Then at about 12.10 it moves to another instrumental section. This section has got more of a “Learning To Live” vibe from “Images And Words” which I like.
And at 13.20 its back into the singing, before it moves into a few familiar riffs played throughout the song and then back to the intro black metal riff to close the song off. This time, Portnoy brings out the blast beats.
And at 16 minutes, the ride is over.