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Cloudkicker – Beacons: Review

On September 16, Cloudkicker released a new album entitled Beacons. It is a progressive metal – math rock album, so it goes without saying that it is filled with musical complexities. Being an independent, unsigned artist, there are very few who will have even heard of Cloudkicker or this new record. Still, this does not stop Cloudkicker from putting out a “Cloudkickass” album (The Golden Bird’s September Album of the Month).

The Music (rating: A-)

  1. We are going to invert…
  2. Here, wait a minute! Damn it!
  3. We’re goin’ in. We’re going down.
  4. Oh, god.
  5. I admit it now. I was scared.
  6. We were all scared.
  7. Push it way up!
  8. …it’s just wide-open field.
  9. It’s bad. We’re hit, man, we are hit.
  10. Amy, I love you.
  11. untitled

I would not say that Beacons is a typical instrumental math rock album, but it does have many defining characteristics of the genre. For example, the guitar tone has a resemblant math rock crunch and melodic and atmospheric similarities. Also, there is no shortage of unorthodox time signatures to add to this stylistic feel. There is a vast range of dynamics, ranging from hard riffing to atmospheric presence. It’s complexity is mainly rooted from its rhythm as opposed to its key usage. So yes, it is a progressive, math rock album, but it is far from standard.

The album starts with a short introductory guitar track that has odd timing and stoppages, setting the tone for an intricate, progressive record. The second song kicks in boisterously, showing excellent guitar work using high-end time signatures. At this point, it is clear how diverse the album will be. It is remarkable how well-done each song is given how varied they are. In particular, the guitar is of fine craftsmanship. Whether in the background creating atmospheric leads, or in the foreground with the in-your-face riffs, the guitar is top-notch all around. The bass and drums are also great in quality, but are not as impressive as the guitar. But like the guitar, the bass and drums serve well in the numerous different musical settings they are placed in. Beacons truly stands out in its song diversity and the instrumental execution in each feel.

Another respectable aspect of Beacons is its song structures. What is meant by this is how well Cloudkicker recognizes and realizes the potential of the musical melodies and rhythms in the record. The passages are not at all overdrawn, nor do they leave the listener unfulfilled and anticipating more. They are simply as long as is warranted. In addition, the transitions between (and within) songs is highly adept in adding to the album’s fluency. They are very natural, despite the high levels of rhythmic activity the music undergoes. In turn, this creates a strong sense of completeness to the album. Quality math rock is expected to give advanced and well-constructed song structures, and Beacons is clearly no exception.

I would not call it a shortcoming, but I do feel that some melodies and guitar rhythms are not as grasping as they can be. And because this is an instrumental album, this can be problematic. Key changes are much less prominent than rhythm changes in Beacons, which may be a cause of this “issue”. At times, it feels as though the music is trapped in a key. In a slight sense, the music can feel restricted. Despite this, the rhythmic wonders more than compensate for what little is debatably missing on the melodic side.

All in all, Cloudkicker has given added an excellent album to the collection with this release. It is an extremely intelligent, musical album, and has much value due to its appreciable execution and commendable diversity. I do feel that Cloudkicker can do better, but major improvements are impossible with this record. No doubt, it is one that will stay on the playlist for weeks to come. And since it is streaming for free on the Cloudkicker myspace page, I would highly recommend a listen; it is definitely worth the price. For those who want more of Cloudkicker in the future (such as myself), you can also purchase a digital copy for whatever you wish to pay (no minimum), or you can buy a hard copy for a $10 minimum. With Beacons, Cloudkicker has earned my respect and support, and I truly hope to see a future for this artist.

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