Cons: Someone tell me why they let Mike Portnoy do his growl/rap/talk/singing.
The Bottom Line: A must have
They are the masters. Not only of the prog metal scene, but also in how to market their product. For their most recent release, Dream Theater has put out not one, not two, but three different versions of the new album Black Clouds & Silver Linings. After seeing what they all had to offer (and the price for each) it is clear that this version is the best bargain by far.
The special edition consist of three disc. First you have the fantastic new album. Then you have an instrumental version of Black Clouds & Silver Linings. Last you get a third disc of cover songs by the band that put new meaning into the art of doing a cover.
Let's start with the cover disc. First off as usual, Dream Theater picked songs not for their popularity, they chose very dynamic tunes from a wide array of artist who have a unique outlook on music in their own right.
With superb renditions of the Rainbow classic "Stargazer", the instrumental Dixie Dregs tune "Odyssey" and the Iron Maiden classic "To Tame A Land" these guys give you a great dose of music that you may have missed on the first time around. Then add to that the Zebra song "Take Your Fingers From My Hair" and a wonderful cover of the King Crimson instrumental "Larks'Tongues In Aspic Part II" and you have a disc that is far better than 99% of the cover albums out there. Then to top it off, Dream Theater makes this a disc you would purchase all by itself by giving all a good fix of Queen with the medley "Tenement Funster/Flick Of The Wrist/Lily Of The Valley" and they show you that when they put their mind to it, they are the best cover band in the world!
You are not buying this disc for the cover songs though. There is a brand new selection of Dream Theater classics on here that will make you wonder just where has this band been for the last couple albums. With a fury at times that has not been heard since their Train of Thought album, this disc is a blend of the harshest sound they have done in years combined with the melodic mastery they have shown recently.
Black Clouds consist of only six songs. Don't fret though as four of them fall within the thirteen to eighteen minute range. DT has taken the epic piece to new levels and on here has shown that they do not intend to try and commercialize the sound, just the opposite.
Sweeping epic tunes on a grand scale that culminate in the nineteen plus minute opus "The Court of Tuscany". This song is the highlight of the disc for me as you receive the full Dream Theater treatment. With grandiose style the keyboards of Jordan Rudess blending into the magic of John Petrucci's guitar with all the style that you have come to expect from these guys. Totally enthralling this work stands as one of their best efforts period.
"The Shattered Fortress" is Mike Portnoy's final piece to his twelve-step suite. You will hear pieces that sound vaguely familiar as he revists some of the melodies that are found on the previous parts of this opus. Put together, this is another fine example of a band of superior musicians at the top of their game. The ebb and flow of this song carries you to many stops along along the musical highway and every one of them are as good as the one before.
When you first put this disc into the player, there is a feeling of "what is going on" as the serene keyboards of Rudess have you wondering who is this. That is until the gothic sounding crash of guitar by Petrucci welcomes you to this dynamic work on the opening song "A Nightmare To Remember". This is as metal as they have been since way back in the Train of Thought days. As heavy as they get, they show their growth as a band by taking this song from crunching metal to a beautiful interlude before ratcheting it up a few notches again. This is definitely Dream Theater!!
The other monumental song on this disc is the thirteen minutes of absolutelystunning musicial ability called "The Best of Times". Here the guys create a soundscape that is as breathtaking as looking out on the Grand Canyon! Mind boggling is the term that comes to mind as the work of Petrucci is the most stirring and majestic he has ever done. Along with that James LaBrie brings a poignant touch with his amazing voice in this song that is for Mike Portony's dad who died of cancer. What a magnificent tribute.
The other two songs on the disc are the first single "A Rite of Passage" and the power ballad "Wither". Both are as very good but they seem to get lost in the shuffle with all the epic metal they are surrounded by. The guitar work on "A Rite of Passage" is one that any aspiring six or seven stringer should listen to for inspiration. This song about secret societys and the Freemasons is a dynamite song that if not for the eight minute plus length, would easily find its way onto many radio stations.
"Wither" is the song where you might go crack a cold one or answer the call of nature. It is not a bad song at all but is very much like many tunes that you have heard before from these guys.
All in all, this is one of the best efforts by Dream Theater. It is one that reflects on the best they have had to offer in their past and meshes it with a new and fresh approach.
The last disc in this package is the instrumental version of the album. The songs are arranged a bit differently but I bet you would be hard pressed to tell it without having both played at the same time. This is a very cool idea and I can see having this playing in the background as you putter around the house or want to see if you can match LaBrie's vocal talents.
This one is a no brainer. You should have it in your collection already. I have had the good fortune of receiving an advance copy and it has been a constant soundtrack in this house ever since. If by chance you do not own it yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up.
Great Music to Play While: Hanging With Friends
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I am an avid music buff and write reviews for many sites. I have managed bands and frequent concerts in Michigan and photograph them. If it is good music, I will be there!
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Special Edition CD includes the full album, a CD of instrumental mixes of the album and a CD of six cover songs. Personnel: James LaBrie (vocals); John Petrucci (guitars); Jordan Rudess (keyboards); John Myung (bass instrument); Mike Portnoy (drums). Dream Theater's tenth long-player is about as dense and challenging as any album in the band's discography and emphasizes not only the virtuoso members' stupefying musicianship, but also their most aggressive and thoroughly metallic songwriting tendencies. The sixteen-minute opener "A Nightmare to Remember" quickly establishes this agenda via frequently thrash-paced staccato riffing, some of John Petrucci's most blistering guitar solos ever, and the return of drummer Mike Portnoy's syncopated growls, which provide contrast for singer James LaBrie's soaring melodic elegance. "The Count of Tuscany" is a heady prog-metal magnum opus brimming with more ideas, notes, and time changes over 19 minutes than most bands bother with over a ten album career. In fact, "W... Song List: Disc 1 1. Nightmare To Remember, A 2. Rite of Passage, A 3. Wither 4. Shattered Fortress 5. Best of Times 6. Count of Tuscany Song List: Disc 2 1. Stargazer 2. Tenement Funster/Flick of the Wrist/Lily of the Valley 3. Odyssey 4. Take your Fingers from my Hair 5. Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part II) 6. cover song #6 Song List: Disc 3 1. Nightmare To Remember [Instrumental], A 2. Rite of Passage [Instrumental], A 3. Wither [Instrumental] 4. Shattered Fortress ...