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Clouds : Destin (EP)

The latest EP from Clouds evokes a by-now familiar sorrowful beauty with their usual deft touch.

Well, Clouds. Is there anything really left to say about them? I mean, you've heard it all already - the extreme Doom supergroup that rocked up from literally nowhere, slapped down an exquisite expression of funereal grief with debut 'Doliu', and let it carry them to the Doom - and beyond - equivalent of a household name. Hell, it even made me wish I was forty-odd years younger, just so I could have it as the soundtrack for that first teenage angst when, as Doctors Of Madness put it, "I broke my heart on a girl who came from France". That was the sort of impact that the band (comprising members drawn from about a million already huge Doom bands) had on the scene.

In hindsight, it was also almost the dictionary definition of setting yourselves up for the "difficult second (and potentially every other) album". Having hit that almost perfect target first time out of the blocks, that doesn't leave many places to go which wouldn't require radical reinvention. And while I'm sure that Clouds have the skills to come up with, say, an Industrial Drone/Noise crossover, it's hard to see how that would convey the band's 'raison d'ĂȘtre' - of honouring the departed - in quite the same way. So, full credit to Clouds' main man Daniel Neagoe for being extremely smart in inviting various different guests to contribute their own (largely vocal) stamp to proceedings: tweaking and refining the basic blueprint to keep it similar, yet different. It worked for sophomore 'Departe', and it largely works here - on the latest EP, 'Destin' - too.

Obviously, the framework for any given track isn't a massive variation on previous Clouds outings: drawing from both Shape Of Despair and Eye Of Solitude's styles, sparse and atmospheric intros gradually build to overwhelmingly emotive crescendos, mixing up harshness and lushness in roughly equal amounts. So far, so expected. It's the detail touches - the different voices given to the instruments, and especially the choices of vocalists, which give it character. In this case, it's the female contributions which shine brightest. Opening with 'The Wind Carried Your Soul', Mourning Sun's Ana Carolina adds a layer of delicate, plaintive ethereality, while closer 'In This Empty Room' includes a standout performance from Gogo Melone (Aeonian Sorrow), starting out with a downbeat 'Room Of Angel' cadence that switches up to soaringly powerful drama as it unfolds. In between, the sometime-Anathema-esque 'Nothing But A Name', courtesy of Mihu Ilie from Romania's Abigail, holds up very well. Only 'Fields Of Nothingness' lags just a little, perhaps just because Swallow The Sun's Mikko KotamÀki has already covered similar ground with his own band.

The remaining 25 minutes of bonus tracks comprise two acoustic versons of older songs, plus the 2015 single 'Errata'. The latter is a typical Clouds piece which I'd assume most fans have already downloaded at some point; the former - well, I guess to me they highlight both strengths and weaknesses of the band, in that they sound almost exactly like I expected they would on seeing the 'acoustic' descriptor. The strengths are obvious, in the talented musicianship and the beautifully clear, clean vocals, and the intimate delivery - particularly the piano/vocal duet of 'Even If I Fall' - shows those off to poignant effect. However, stripped of the full arsenal of extras and escalations normally brought to bear, they do also emphasise the relative simplicity and strict reliance on emotional loading within the songwriting.

And that's really the crux of what Clouds do. Rather like the audio equivalent of a Spielberg movie, they present their epic visions of tragic grandeur with all the emotion already in place, the music flawlessly and inexorably directing both empathy and feeling. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that - it's what makes them so accessible both within and without the Doom world - but it does mean that once the initial resonance with their naked heart-on-the-sleeve vision has washed over you, there's little in the way of newness, depth or challenge to plumb. So, if you need something to carry you away into familiar realms of guaranteed sorrow, 'Destin' hits all the right notes. Its 35-minute main oeuvre keeps things slghtly tighter and more interesting than 'Departe', the presentation and production is immaculate, and the extras may well appeal. The only thing it won't do is surprise you - but if you don't need surprises, feel free to add on an extra mark or so for reaffirming the heartstring-tugging Clouds message in style.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. The Wind Carried Your Soul
2. Fields Of Nothingness
3. Nothing But A Name
4. In This Empty Room
Bonus tracks (CD/Download)
5. You Went So Silent (Acoustic)
6. Even If I Fall (Acoustic)
7. Errata

Duration : Approx. 35 minutes (60 min. with bonuses)

Visit the Clouds bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-10-22 by Mike Liassides
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