(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Pennsylvania’s Clouds Collide.)
Black Gaze, the marriage of shoe-gaze to black metal, has been met with mixed results. Deafheaven and Alcest became two big names of this sub-genre, and of course began to amass many imitators. Clouds Collide is in a sonic zip code closer to where Alcest used to live back when they were more of a metal band.
Never has a project’s name so fittingly conveyed what they sound like. The album floats into the horizon with almost Death Cab For Cutie-like vocals hovering over it. It’s not until the second song that the harsher vocals come in. When they do, they are the only element with an edge to it. The blast beats provide an undercurrent for the vocals to moan over in an abstract path. While the melody becomes more defined the blast beats become a blur.
The problem with clean vocals on most metal albums is that most of the singers just don’t have the pipes, so it comes across weak or flat. This is not the case here; they are way more focused than most bands of this ilk, where they are way back in the mix and monotone. You can keep the Alcest comparison out of your head until “Perihelion”.
This project’s creativity is allowed to flourish more at under 200 bpms. It’s not a matter of can the drummer hack it; the heavy sections face the same question hundreds of other black metal bands face — how can you get blasty in a more creative fashion? The album finds its peaks when it is heavier sonically than it is heavy metal, like the swelling build of “Eternal Warmth” that is much closer to post-rock until the screaming comes in.
Overall, bands could learn from this album, as it stands out against both its influences and its peers. It uses clean vocals as an instrument, not to hit you with what they hope to be hooks. Its overall effect catches you by surprise at the beginning, then finds new ways of using the colors to paint these songs.