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(57:54, ‘Armed Cloud’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Obsidian Desert 5:58 2. Jealousy with a Halo 4:14 3. Wounded Healer 4:47 4. Meltdown 6:05 5. My Own Kind 5:55 6. Morningstar 6:23 7. In Your Mind 7:27 8. Pyramid of Charlatans 4:39 9. Aftermath of Moral Hazard 4:04 10. Wasted 8:22 LINEUP: Remco van der Veen – keyboards; vocals Wouter van der Veen – guitars Daan Dekker – vocals Boris Suvee – basses Rico Noijen – drums
Prolusion. Hailing from Holland, ARMED CLOUD launched their career with the release of an initial EP back in 2012, and have since also been doing well in talent competitions. "Obsidian Desert" is their debut album, released through the fledgling label Maxxive Records in early 2015.
Analysis. Armed Cloud is a self-described symphonic metal band, and cites artists such as Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Rainbow, and Sonata Arctica as influential to their sound. All of which is a tad misleading. I guess many will place them somewhere inside a progressive metal context, but as far as I'm concerned, they aren't overly typical of symphonic metal or progressive metal either. To my mind, this is a band that resides on the border somewhere between conventional melodic metal and progressive metal, with distinct traits from both. Their compositions basically come in two different varieties: The ones that are fairly straightforward in structure throughout, more clearly residing within more of a mainstream metal format, and the ones that do feature occasional alterations in pace, intensity and themes, exploring what, by and large, belongs inside a progressive metal context, albeit without being overly challenging in any department, as the band appears to have a much stronger focus on melodies, harmonies and a generally broadly appealing expression. Tight and occasional gnarly dark-tone guitar riffs have their place just as much as gentler wandering and plucked guitar details, Armed Cloud being another band that knows how to explore the contrast between gentler and more vibrant passages in an efficient manner, but their focus on melodies is a bit more stringent than what one might expect from a band of this kind, I guess. Rich, floating keyboard textures are a mainstay throughout, but we're also treated to the occasional strictly guitar- or strictly keyboard-dominated sequences to add variety. Elegant guitar and keyboard solo runs are found aplenty, and with a strong focus on harmonies and melodies in this department too. Alternating solo runs and combined harmonies both have their place here, as well as the more traditional lead and support instrument for solo runs, interludes and the occasional transitions within the compositions. One of the stronger points of the band are the lead vocals of Daan Dekker, whose powerful, emotional and rather dramatic style probably won't be universally appreciated. But for those who favor a vocalist of this kind present in a band whose brand of metal is a broadly appealing one, his presence will be regarded as a positive and probably elevating element, adding a lot of tension and intensity to the compositions. Personally I wasn't all that taken with this band, I'm afraid, but at their best they are capable of producing some really alluring atmospheres, best represented by the track In Your Mind, whose chorus section impressed me in particular.
Conclusion. Armed Cloud is a band that appears to have a set foundation in exploring music with a strong focus and intent on melody and harmony, alternating between mainstream melodic metal and an accessible and easy-to-grasp variety of progressive metal, occasionally combining these approaches. A band bordering progressive metal more than exploring it, as I experience it, and to my mind ,one that will primarily appeal to those with a taste for the most accessible varieties of the progressive metal genre alongside those with an affection for elegant and artful melodic metal of a more traditional kind.
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