Least hated: CLOUDS 'We Are Above You'
Revisiting Clouds full-length 'We Are Above You' some 13 years after its release.
Here at Lambgoat we have a reputation to uphold, so we can’t say that these are our favorite, time-tested, go-to albums. Let’s just call them Lambgoat’s least hated instead.
Dragged through the corporate rock and roll machine of a major label, metalcore pioneers turned shapeshifting weirdos Cave In officially went on hiatus in 2006. While their RCA debut, Antenna, released three years earlier, may have been viewed as a failure in the eyes of their mass-market focused record label, the album was an enjoyable fusion of their effect-laden space-rock tendencies with a more approachable alternative-rock conciseness. Though, without a hit single or overwhelming bottom line, the label proclaimed the album “dead in the water,” ultimately dropping the band. And while they regrouped to release their heavier sounding return to Hydra Head Records, Perfect Pitch Black, the frustration, showcased lyrically in songs like “Trepanning” and “Tension In The Ranks,” pushed them to take a break.
Cave In’s hiatus was a productive period for the band's individual members, who each began to explore their own separate eccentricities through a handful of other projects. Though the psychedelic pop rock of singer/guitarist Stephen Brodsky’s The Octave Museum and Pet Genius (which also featured drummer J.R. Conners) as well as the crushing post-metal of bassist/vocalist Caleb Scofield’s Zozobra delivered excellence, the directions that each of them had taken were not completely surprising – Brodsky’s new bands were a continuation of an arc set forth by his previous solo releases, Scofield’s an extension of his side project Old Man Gloom. But guitarist Adam McGrath’s new band, dubbed Clouds, was in a category of its own.
Clouds' Legendary Demo, released in 2007, showed a band with a lot of promise. The lineup, including Boston hardcore veterans Jim Carroll (The Hope Conspiracy, The Suicide File) on guitar and Michael “Q” Quartulli (The A-Team) on drums, steam-rolled their way through rock and roll party anthems like “New Amnesia” and “Magic Hater,” the latter of which featured a nod to 1970s freak gurus Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. Clouds' mixture of grimy blues, stoner rock grooves and hardcore intensity resulted in an infectious, fun, and completely badass sound, which the band only solidified further with their sole full-length, We Are Above You.
We Are Above You found the four-piece expanding their sound and opening a wider array of material. The riffs had gotten bigger and the choruses catchier. McGrath and Carroll played off each other, often with one chugging away while the other drove ahead on a blues lick, while Q was holding the entire album together with his perfect percussive complements to the songs. The band brought in bassist/vocalist Johnny Northrup, who was also playing in The Octave Museum and Pet Genius, adding a third singer to the lineup, which Clouds utilized to the maximum. Aside from alternating lead vocals between tracks, We Are Above You boasted a number of raucous chorus sections, employing all three singers in some sort of unhinged anti-harmony. The yelled, screamed and sometimes sung voices all coalesced into the perfect gritty blend for their booze-soaked hooks.
We Are Above You runs through a number of song styles, starting with the stoner-rock-riff-centric “Empires In Basements” and closing with the slow-burning, off-kilter “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” But even when Clouds veer into the arena-rock sing-along of “Glass House Rocks” or the more hardcore “Horrification,” the album never slips off the tracks. In fact, the variety of material only helps to make it stronger. The band even throws a jagged piano line into “The Bad Seat.”
Throughout its run-time, the psychedelic, jammy vibe never wanes. Producer and engineer Kurt Ballou (of Converge fame) did a great job capturing the band's performances, mixing them into a dense slab of hard rock. The result was an incredibly lively and jovial sound that matches the feeling of the material, something that translated into their live sets.
Clouds were a short-lived endeavor with Cave In regrouping in 2009, but in their brief existence they toured with the likes of Torche and Boris, putting on energetic shows, yet somehow never became the underground household name they should have. Hydra Head Records has a lot of great albums under their banner, and We Are Above You is up amongst the best.
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Here's the album https://cloudsrock.bandcamp.com/album/we-are-above-you
I nearly forgot about this album. I really really liked it.
the cover will forever look like a goofy stack of pancakes