Cloudscape: New Era

Competent musicianship is no substitute for innovation and uniqueness.


New Era

Label: Nightmare
US Release Date: 2012-09-11
UK Release Date: 2012-09-03
Label website
Artist website

In today's music industry, it can be a challenge to rise above mere emulation, and it's very easy to prefer commercial appeal over artistic distinction. In other words, many artists choose to copy their inspirations and follow set paths for success instead of claiming a unique voice for themselves. Unfortunately, in the case of progressive metal quartet Cloudscape and their newest LP, New Era, this inference couldn't be more accurate. Like most of the group's contemporaries, their musicianship and compositional skills are impressive, but with timbres and techniques that genre fans have heard so many times before, their work isn't very original or warranted. In fact, they might as well call themselves Dream Maiden.

Formed a decade ago, the Swedish outfit has previously released three albums. They describe their sound as "…melodic metal with progressive touches [that] will appeal to fans of Evergrey, Symphony X, Dream Theater, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, [and] Pagan's Mind…" Indeed, Cloudscape does incorporate elements from all these acts into its sound, but, in reference to these genre forefathers, as they old saying goes, "they did it first and they did it better." This band is so content to copy others that they don't implement an ounce of uniqueness into New Era, which results in a technically proficient collection of tired tropes and offensively derivative constructions.

From the opening moments of "Silver Ending", New Era declares its generic quality. The standard crunchy guitar riffs, sharp solos, embellished keyboard ambiance, and frantic syncopation are here, and they all sound extremely familiar. In addition, vocalist Mike Andersson conveys both the raucous intimidation and falsetto vigor of Bruce Dickinson, which is both a gift and a curse to Cloudscape's sound. Dickinson is inarguably one of the most distinctive and powerful singers in metal, so anyone else who can match his abilities is clearly talented; however, such blatant similarities deprive singers like Andersson from claiming their own identity.

While this formulaic approach persists throughout New Era, there are still some noteworthy moments. "Share Your Energy" conveys an admirable level of symphonic aggression and multilayered vocals, and the guitar solo on "Kingdom of Sand" manages to move beyond being just another cookie-cutter display of virtuosity. "Seen It All Before" includes a rather tranquil and melodically pleasing middle section (wherein the band calms down to allow emotion to pervade), and "Simplicity…" opens with, and utilizes throughout, quirky keyboard patterns. The affective piano playing near the end of "Before Your Eyes" adds a sliver of classical influence, too. Sadly, only about 1% of the album is innovative, so take that for what it's worth.

New Era represents a common problem with present day progressive metal—it's wholly devoid of individuality. Like so many groups, Cloudscape would be a revelation if their sound was new, but it isn't, and thus the music is nothing more than a synthesis of carbon copied ideas and execution. Admittedly, it's difficult to be inspired without being plagiaristic, but the genre is still full of artists who bring something new to the table, such as Opeth, Pain of Salvation, Agalloch, Between the Buried and Me, and Devin Townsend. Cloudscape needs to work on doing the same if it ever hopes to be a worthwhile endeavor.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.