Saturday, August 31, 2019

Black Cloud - "Abstract Sounds" Album Review!!

It's now time for our 122nd monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and for a second straight month, we're looking at a new release from a solo artist, namely new local death/trance metal solo project Black Cloud's debut demo album "Abstract Sounds"! Independently released on June 27th, this is the first full length release from this project, as led by local singer/guitarist Peytan Andreola, who is the only credited artist on the album. On sale via Black Cloud's Bandcamp page as well as a homemade physical pressing, copies are available to download for $5 or more, but you can also stream the whole thing for free there as well. That said, consider buying the whole thing to support Peytan's work! As usual for albums on there, song names below are linked to their Bandcamp copies. With 9 songs running for about 43 minutes in length, let's begin our review of "Abstract Sounds" with it's opening track "Death March", which is also it's shortest song overall.

An instrumental track with a very deliberate pace, this song feels like it's going somewhere, but it's not overly polished, and it could really use a percussion track. The bass work isn't up to the guitar's promise, and while it has an ominous tone, it strikes me as the intro to a song that was cut, and the 7 second break in music at the 63 second mark wasn't placed well. I like where it's going, but it needed more time. Second is "Undead Hordes", which is more of a fully realized song that has good guitar work, and there is a percussion element via what sounds like a shaker of some kind in the background, which adds a bit of flavour! That said, the production quality isn't great, and I think Peytan needs to revise the structure of how this song is laid out, as after a while, it starts to wander around too much. It's an improvement on the opener, however!

Song #3 is Black Cloud's eponymously titled "Black Cloud", which is also the first song on the album with vocals. Peytan seems to have a good death growl with clear enunciation (I prefer clarity in my harsh vocals), but they're not mixed well with the music, so they can be hard to make out. Structurally, this song has the best layout and pacing yet, but I'd have had more substantial percussion than what's on offer here. The guitar work is solid, and overall, the album is steadily trending upward, which is a good sign! That's followed by "Meet/Greet The Reaper", which is much quieter and scratchier in sound than it's preceding tracks. I don't know what happened, but this sounds like it was Peytan's first recording ever and he chose not to re-record it with the rest. This is unfortunate, especially as this song has the best and fastest percussion track yet, but the vocals and guitar work are so inaudible, it negates the song's pacing and aggression, as there is a good song here!

Fifth up is "Stream of Dreams", which opens with a softer and more melodic guitar intro before diving into full death metal territory, a sequence which reprises twice later before ending softly as well. The song has far better sound and production than "Meet/Greet The Reaper", and has good aggression, with vocals mixed in a little cleaner, but the lack of percussion doesn't help at all. The song's pacing and structure could stand to be addressed again, but there's things to build on! Then we have "Wanderers", which has some of Peytan's most ferocious vocal work yet, which is nice to see being built up, but the music is more reserved and doesn't come across as heavy and in your face as you would expect. Percussion does return, albeit more like a hand drum effect in the background, but at least there's something. The song proper appears to be laid out better, but I wish the guitar was louder and more forceful, as the vocals far outshine them here.

Song #7 is the album's title track "Abstract Sounds", which has a solid and heavy riff, and the vocals are suitably aggressive, but this is a song that needs more structural variance and care. This has a few stop/start transitions too many, and the guitar can wander a bit, but the song isn't overly long, and the light percussion (which sounds programmed) does speed up fittingly to go with the guitar. Not a bad song for what it is! That's followed by "No Bares Holded (Soaked In Blood)", which is it's correct title with that spelling, including the presumed spoonerism of "No Holds Barred." Opening with a hand drum, the song proper gives Peytan a chance to showcase his guitar talents for a couple of minutes before vocals kick in. This is probably my favourite song on the album for intensity and compostion, with his guitar work particularly solid, and the vocals matched up well, but of course, this song could be filled out with more instruments.

"Abstract Sounds" closes with it's longest song "Nature's Wrath",  which also gives a good showcase to Peytan's guitar riffs, though here, they almost feel like parts of a few songs stitched together. I like the clear, enunciated vocals, and the song has a lot of good points, but I think it could have been tightened up musically, and some of the extended instrumental sections in particular could have used some editing, or at least added musical elements.

So, what are my final thoughts on Black Cloud's debut album? Overall, this album has a lot of promising components that I'd love to see Peytan Andreola build on, but it is a work in progress, at least at this juncture. Peytan is a good guitarist with death metal vocals to match, but much like earlier Blood Shed Productions solo projects, his music would sound a lot fuller and more complete with extra musicians, particularly a bassist and full-time drummer (even a drum machine more regularly would help.) As these songs stand, they are generally well performed, but the structure and pacing of many of them could use another pass through, and I don't know what happened to "Meet/Greet The Reaper." One thing I noticed is, despite Black Cloud's own advertising of having trance and world elements, I didn't get much of that here beyond the hand drums, and if Peytan implemented them more, he'd immediately stand out locally.

I did like a lot of the album though, especially later songs like "No Bares Holded", and if Peytan can iron out some of the kinks and give these songs some extra production and time, he'd have even more to showcase here. There's work to do, but Black Cloud are on the right track, and I hope they can build on things on future releases, but see what you think at the above links! I hope you guys liked this month's CD review, but what's coming on the site for our September 2019 album review? At the moment, I'm not sure, but our next "Where Are The New Albums?" post will give some hints as to new album releases that may be in line! In any event, our next review will not be of an Awokest, Inner City Surfers, or Treble Charger album due to our 6 month anti-bias buffer period between reviews of the same band. If we review an archive album next month, could we dip into the Oh!No artist well for something we haven't reviewed yet? Stay tuned for updates, and for more news & updates on the site soon! Thanks everyone!

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