I'd like to invite you to look at the cover art of Forge of Clouds for just a moment. This is one of the few times I've ever looked at a cover for an album and said to myself “Yes, this is exactly what this music sounds like.” Every detail of this Polish quartet's music is captured in this image—the heavy sludge, the atmospheric droning, the dark ambiance...this image perfectly conjures up the ferocity of Remission-era Mastodon with the songwriting sensibility of Isis during Oceanic.
In fact, one of the great strengths of this album is the band's obvious gift with writing interesting and enjoyable riffs and melodies. A lot of the tracks on this album are delightfully above average. “Queen on the Garbage Throne,” “Blind Run,” and “Shame” are all exemplary pieces of sludge metal. Even the weaker tracks on the album, like “Boot,” “151,” or “Epinephrine,” have redemptive moments that make them worth multiple listens. This album's chaff is better than most other bands' lead singles.
One thing that does irk me about this album is the treatment of the drum mix. All of the drums, particularly the snare, sound far away and removed from the recording. It sounds like, while the band was recording, the drums were playing in the next room over. While it is a legitimate stylistic choice, I can't say it works particularly effectively on this album. It even creeps into the lead guitars at times, causing an odd aural distortion that is difficult to mentally reconcile. You may find it atmospheric; I personally find it dreadfully annoying and feel that it diminishes the experience.
Somewhat sadly, the music itself isn't terribly original. This is all music we've heard before from the likes of Baroness, or Cult of Luna, or The Ocean Collective. While Forge of Clouds certainly perform capably and above the norm, they aren't exactly pushing any boundaries or thinking far outside the box. It's well-performed and recorded music, but it's not groundbreaking.
I'll happily admit: Forge of Clouds are a cut above a lot of the sludge metal we hear these days. Taking into account that this is a debut showing from an unsigned band, and that it is still available for free download, this album is a must-have for fans of sludge and post-metal. It doesn't approach the classics, but it is still a noticeably above-average.
6.0 / 10
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