Since their formation in 2013 Clouds have been making music “dedicated to departed ones, loved ones who now are no longer amongst us.” And their Doom metal sound makes you expect nothing less than poetic lyrics that make Katatonia’s Jonas Renske wish he’d written them. Two full lengths –Doliu and Departe– and one EP –Errata– preceded Destin, which will be released digitally on August 1st and physically exactly one month after that.
The five-headed doom act is hailing from all over Europe. Originally they even included Faroese vocalist Jón Aldará (Barren Earth, Hamferð), who wasn’t involved in the making of Destin and never even played a gig with Clouds due to travelling costs. However, mastermind behind the band, drummer/vocalist Daniel Neagoe invited several other singers from all over the world to take Clouds’ sound to the next level.
Destin kicks off with The Wind Carried Your Soul, which features Chilean guest-vocalist Ana Carolina (Mourning Sun). The mood is set from the first second with a slow repetitive guitar line that gets company from a moving piece of violin during the intro and a minute later from the rhythm section providing a lot of depth to a melancholic chord progression. A little break just before the clock reaches four minutes announces the warm voice of Ana. Supported by the violin we heard in the intro she gradually moves towards a brighter and almost hope-full sound as we “trace the meaning of loss.” While the instrumentation increases on grandeur, Daniel Neagoe takes over with a thunderous grunt before the song concludes with the same words “And trace the meaning of loss”. Singing those last words his clean voice is actually reminiscent of Aldará, but rather than sending cold sorrowful shivers down your spine it somehow warms the heart. Thematically Clouds’ discography may be full of grief and sorrow but I can’t help but notice that hopeful silver lining shining through.
Fields of Nothingness, the track featuring Swallow the Sun’s Mikko Kotamäki (Finland), made fans shed a tear earlier this summer when it was released as a single to promote the album. As opposed to The Wind Carried Your Soul this composition isn’t about the gradual built-up, but rather about the contrasts between the intimate and melancholic parts and the grim and gloomy passages. The clash between clean vocals and grunts however feels very natural and the underlying chords provide a continuity that’s organic and blends emotions of sorrow and anger extremely well. I’m not sure I ever heard such a great mix of a clean and a grunting voice singing the same lyrics simultaneously. Speaking of a great mix; how about that snare sound!!
“Throughout all these fields of nothingness, I should curse the day I left all my hopes and all these dreams behind.”
Third track on the album, Nothing but a Name features Mihu from Abigail (the Romanian band, not the Japanese one). While the intro wouldn’t look bad on a Sólstafir record it doesn’t take long before Clouds’ signature sound takes over. The duet between Mihu and Neagoe tries to bring extra colour to an otherwise fairly repetitive beginning. It may be the contrast with the superb duet I mentioned earlier but the harmonies seem a bit underexplored to me. Even though both are great singers with a timbre very suitable to the genre they don’t seem to reach their full potential here. Which is very unfortunate given the fact Mihu will be part of the bands live line-up during a hand-full of gigs. For the majority of the song Neagoe shows off his deep grunts, but it’s the perfectly balanced guitar solo that really brings home the bacon.
The final guest-vocalist is Greece’s Gogo Melone (Aeonian Sorrow). Clocking in at 7’20’’ In this Empty Room is the shortest track so far. And though it has a verse-chorus structure atypical to the band it’s very diverse thanks to the extraordinary voice of Gogo Melone. She brings a very personal and powerful dimension to this track. Effortlessly she floats through her big range both as lead vocalist and as backing vocalist. And above all, her timbre is simply beyond compare. Aeonian Sorrow may not have released any music yet, but if the rest of the band is half as good as Clouds I will buy their debut album without any hesitation.
Re-mixes and re-imaginations
After the guest performances we don’t really get to hear any new compositions anymore. After you replayed In this Empty Room a bunch of times, like I did, you’ll figure out the record continues with an acoustic rendition of You Went so Silent. Without the grunting there’s obviously a bit less diversity to it than the Doliu version, but the added violin part and the warm sound of the acoustic guitar make this version more intimate and personal than the slightly artificial sound of the keyboards in the original.
Even if I Fall isn’t merely a shorter re-recording of Doliu’s album-closer, but rather a re-imagination of that track. This version has no guitars or drums but just voice and keyboard. Comparing this to the original the progression Daniel made as a singer becomes even clearer now than when comparing both versions of You Went so Silent, because his vocal lines are even more out in the open .
Destin concludes with Errata. As far as I can tell it is just a re-mixed version of the only song on the EP with the same title, so I shouldn’t need to convince you how great it is.
Merch worth your money
I wanted to end this review with recommending you guys to check out the Facebook and Bandcamp page of Clouds for their unique, often handmade and limited edition merchandising. They make real pieces of art and not only musically. And last but not least, keep an eye on our Pick Your Poison-column (and its Facebook page) for the upcoming review of the Clouds beer, brewed by De Glazen Toren.
Release date: August 1st (digitally), September 1st (physically) 2017
1. The Wind Carried Your Soul feat. Ana Carolina (Mourning Sun)
2. Fields of Nothingness feat. Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun)
3. Nothing but a Name feat. Mihu (Abigail)
4. In this Empty Room feat. Gogo Melone (Aeonian Sorrow)
5. You Went so Silent (acoustic Destin version)
6. Even if I fall (Destin version)
7. Errata (re-mixed)