Sweet Dutch prog dessert
Just by looking at the artwork, I knew this was gonna be a good album. Sometimes, you just know. The cover art reminded me Dream Theater’s seminal album Awake with the wide array of details and the odd characters. I think it’s charming and represents their genre pretty well as it’s intricate and nuanced. Fortunately, the album lived to my expectations and it’s one of the best progressive metal record I heard in 2015. Obsidian Desert,the debut album of Armed Cloud manages to be a modern yet interesting and fresh take on classic progressive metal/rock. The quintet has all the ingredients to play this complex form of music, an engaging bass presence, super talented guitarist and keyboardist, a singer who can actually sing very well and a versatile drummerwho’s not afraid to use some blastbeats.
While they’re obviously technically skilled and that’s proven at numerous occasions by the guitar solos and the way the keyboard interacts with the rest of the instruments, they’re very emotional and has this frank desire to write compelling songs instead of flashing their technicality, a concept often plaguing their peers,like the later Dream Theater work to give an obvious example. They have a symphonic flair intertwined with some pop tendencies but it’s thoroughly enjoyable and it’s not saccharine. I think the ballad “Meltdown” is really beautiful and fits their identity as it remains highly atmospheric.
Daan Dekker has a particular voice, powerful and with a lot of range but it’s also soft and rich. A track like “My Own Kind” is a good showcase of his abilities. For some reasons, I thought of Ray Alder when I first heard them but I enjoy him more than the Fates Warning frontman who never managed to beat John Arch in the heart of many. The vocal melodies are well written and the addition of some aptly placed back vocals add an epic touch to the songs (see “Pyramid of Charlatans”). In fact the band reminds me of the American legends from Connecticut in their capacity of mixing technicality, songwriting and emotions in one solid package. There’s also some influences from progressive alternative rock like Muse, Gazpacho or later days Marillion in the vocal department and considering I’m a big fan of these bands as well, it’s a big bonus for me.
Augment their formula with obvious nods to the more progressive side of power metal (see Kamelot or evenAngra) and you have a very solid mix of influences. Furthermore, compared to many progressive metal acts, their songs are cohesive and on the shorter side except perhaps the eight minute closer “Wasted” and the excellent “In Your Mind”. Sometimes, it feels like they’re a more streamlined version of some of Ayreon’s stuff. There’s no fluff as the album is a little bit under a hour and it doesn’t feel this long either. There’s no self indulgent long ass instrumental track but there’s a serene, symphonic one before the last track and it gives the listener a break and a change of atmosphere.
To conclude, If you like your progressive metal with solid solos but still in possession of its soul, Armed Cloud is a band that you should check out.