Cloudscape - Crimson Skies


Year of Release:
Label: Nightmare Records
Catalog Number: NMR-262
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:17:00

So? I've been listening to this off and on since the band was announced for some festival or another - probably last October's (2006) ProgPower Europe festival, if memory serves (or maybe it was ProgPower USA?) - although it arrived here ahead of both. Cloudscape take their cues from fellow Swedes Evergrey - at least if we take this album, Crimson Skies as evidence. Vocalist/keyboardist Mike Anderssen has a bit rougher voice than Tom Englund, but there's no reason you couldn't easily hear Mike sing Evergrey material and visa-versa. This is no complaint, mind - what it means is that you get intense yet melodic prog metal of a high caliber. I think Evergrey might have edge between the two, however. Basically, if you liked In Search Of Truth, then you'll like this as this album has very similar feel and tone. Don't worry, no guttural growls or anything; slightly grizzled clean vocals, but you probably assumed that the minute I mentioned Evergrey (and if you have no clue who they are, get a clue! :-) )

This is the kind of prog metal I love, heavy, chugging, yet with enough pretty elements (guitar solos, keyboard solos, etc.) that it isn't a dense pummeling (unlike that that the more extreme regions of metal pursue). In the broad view, the songs do sound a bit alike, as structurally they're quite similar to each other -- mid-to-fast tempo chugging metal (and that darn verse/chorus/verse pattern that's been a part of music for quite some time?), so don't expect elaborate structures like, say, Yes, for example. That said, this is all delivered with an intensity and passion that makes each piece seem urgent, and some ways, cathartic. That's another thing I love about this kind of music, the valleys only intensify those peaks, and Anderssen handles both with aplomb.

The well-worn words like texture, contrasts, etc. all apply here. While each piece has a certain movement as a whole, within, each instrument charts its own path, playing off of and with the other instruments. Painting with those broad strokes overlooks all the hidden keyboard elements, an instrument that comes to the fore with "Psychic Imbalance." And uh, that's played off against a pummeling tattoo of bass and drums -- so okay, there is a little -- but it's scene setting rather than scene stealing. "Will We Remain" is pretty propulsive, too, leavened by the "lighter" element of the guest vocals of Anette Blyckert pared with Anderssen's -- and I don't know if it's she or he that reaches for the rafters at one point, but it sure came as a surprise, as the vocals hadn't previously soared quite that high - thankfully, it sounded good and not all shrill. And this track features the single "calm" moment as everything but drums and vocals drops away. The only "calm" moment, excepting the keyboard lead "You Belong," that is; a bonus track on the US edition that has a slightly more prog rock/AOR direction. It's a previously unreleased 1999 demo.

Crimson Skies does not hesitate at all getting started; from the first track, which zips by all too quickly, all systems are go -- but why does the braying elephant sound that begins "Shadowland" sound like something lifted from Genesis' "No Son Of Mine"? Maybe it's just me. This track has a chorus that will linger after the song and album ends ? even if the title now seems so clich?.

Highlights? Strong songs, ones that draw you in to their story (though my edition doesn't have the lyrics, so I've not yet figured them out yet). Great, dynamic vocals -- I've mentioned Englund, but Symphony X's Russell Allan deserves a comparative mention here, too. Epic guitar solos from Bj?rn Eliasson and Patrik Sv?rd; so much energy is on display, that you feel a little exhausted afterwards ? which means it's good that "Hope" throttles things back a gear. It's still metal, but this has a touch of the ballad at its fringes. Great use of keyboard, present and integral without the "add on" feel they sometimes have. Songs that standout for me are "Shadowland," "Someone Else" (mainly for the chorus; it's a song that, along with "Breach In My Sanity" has a baroque church organ element to it, the latter steering the music to a classical-influenced prog metal style without losing any of the chugging-metal drive).

So? the key word is great. Maybe not masterpiece great, it's not perfect; but it is darn good enough that calling it great seems an apt term to use.

Also released by Metal Heaven (00020) in Europe - www.metalheaven.net


Tracklisting:
Shapeshifter / Shadowland / And Then The Rain.../ Take The Blame / The Last Breath / Psychic Imbalance / Hope / Breach In My Sanity / Demon Tears / 1000 Souls / Someone Else / Will We Remain / You Belong

Musicians:
Mike Andersson - vocals and keyboards
Bj?rn Eliasson - guitar and keyboards
Patrik Sv?rd - guitar
Haynes Pherson - bass
Roger Landin - drums

Discography:
demo (2003)
Cloudscape (2005)
Crimson Skies (2006)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin SE

Added: August 4th 2007
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.cloudscape.se
Hits: 1919
Language: english

  

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