clouds_departeSometimes a piece of music is entirely about a single, specific feeling, be it rage, joy or sadness. Departe, the second album by atmospheric post-doom super group Clouds, is definitely about the latter, and it attempts to drown the listener in a vast sea of chilling, cloying melancholy without offering the slightest hint of hope or beam of light. Formed by members of The 11th Hour, Eye of SolitudeRapture, Barren Earth and Shape of Despair, the line up reads like doom royalty and their vast experience helps make this one of the bleakest, most depressive listens of this year or any other. Departe is a long, draining emotional journey through the shades of despair, and it’s not an easy one. Nor is it appropriate for the casual doom fan. Though there is great beauty in the execution of the material, this is the kind of album that will only appeal to a niche set of the already niche doom market – fans of long, drawn-out odes to pain and unhappiness (i.e. fans of My Dying Bride and A Swarm of the Sun). If you count yourself among those unhappy few, read on, grim spirit, read on.

Departe is composed of 6 tracks, most running in excess of 10-minutes. At 1 hour and change, this is a sprawling album overflowing with unrelenting heartache and the songs all take their sweet time getting where they’re going. This could easily be a recipe for disaster, but in the capable hands of these veterans, it works far better than it should, creating a doom album with more shades of gray than any dime store BDSM pablum. Opener “How Can I Be There” starts life like something off a mid-period Anathema album, as soft, despondent strumming meets tranquil clean vocals that slowly weave forlorn tendrils around your soul and hypnotize your psyche. Around the 3:30 mark you get the first real doom riffs and the monstrously guttural death vocals by Daniel Neagoe (Eye of Solitude) and Pim Blankenstein (The 11th Hour). The music is simplistic, consisting mostly of bare bones riffs and subdued piano, but when teamed with the excellent clean and harsh vocals, the song really takes on a dark half-life of its own and holds you rapt for the entirety of its mammoth runtime.

That’s the template for the rest of Departe as well. The music is stripped down and minimalist, at times almost feeling forgotten altogether, but something holds the compositions together. “Migration” features horrific death roars alongside beautiful clean singing by Jón Aldará (Barren Earth, Hamferð), accompanied by the most basic of doom riffs and soft keyboard tinkering. No matter how many times I spin it, I’m surprised it’s as effective and moving as it is. “In the Oceans of My Tears” offers a haunting and beautiful Irish tin whistle and violin intro sure to bring you down, and it’s not until the 4-minute mark that plaintive female vocals arrive to further depress the spirit. It’s a stark, evocative piece with not the slightest glimmer of positivity, but it quickly became my favorite cut. “In All This Dark” is like a deft merger of Warning with Anathema and it’s melodic, downcast and gorgeous across its full 13 minutes, with clean vocals so exquisitely anguished they’ll leave a gaping hole where your little black heart once was.

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Downsides? As good as much of the material is, the sheer length of the songs and the album itself is daunting, and while I can take it in one sitting, by the 45-50 minute mark I’m struggling to stay focused. Another issue is the tendency of these drawn-out post-doom compositions to sound too alike and ultimately this can lead to a feeling of monotony by the 5th or 6th track. Some trimming would surely help. Also, Departe is front-loaded with the best material and by the final third, the overall quality drops ever so slightly.

Without linear notes it’s not always possible to tell who is doing what vocal-wise, and while it sounds like Daniel Neagoe handles the bulk of the mega-deep death croaks, Pim is present on some tracks as well and both are impressively brutal. The real star of the show for my money is Jón Aldará, whose impassioned cleans pull at the heartstrings whenever they appear. The female vocals on “In the Ocean of My Tears” are also very impressive, but I have no idea who performs them. The guitar-work by Jarno Salomaa (Shape of Despair) and Deha is as understated as can be, largely foregoing traditional solos and usually opting for simple post-doom/post-metal static trilling or sedate background strumming. The heavier doom riffs are not very attention-grabbing either, mostly chugging along in low-gear. This leads to a sense of flatness over such a long-winded album. The violin playing by the infamous Shawn MacGowan (My Dying Bride) often takes the spotlight from the guitars and while that generally works, a bit more guitar presence would have led to a more dynamic listen.

Departe is an album that falls just short of brilliance, but even in failing manages to be one of the most emotional releases of the year. When their style comes together, it’s a frightening thing to behold, and there are some amazing set pieces here sure to inflame the soul of doom fans. With some restraint, editing and diversification, Clouds could be the next big thing in doom. They’re definitely a band that deserves a lot of attention. Hear this thing and see what it does to your peace (piece) of mind.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Release
Websites: doomclouds.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/clouds.visions
Releases Worldwide: November 1, 2016

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  • Reese Burns

    Hadn’t heard a word about this until today, fixing that ASAP!

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Kept this one quiet, Steel… I can’t get enough!

    • Don’t hide the metal.

      • Ferrous Beuller

        You kept it quiet, you scamp.

        • Oh. Yes, I’m a metal hoarder from way back.

          • Ferrous Beuller

            Metal horder.

  • pfk505

    This is precisely the sort of doom that I love, and it takes me back to a time when the genre meant everything to me. It takes everything that is great about its associated acts and ramps up the atmosphere and melancholy. For me it’s the best doom album of the year and ranks among the very best examples of doom done right. Just as good as their debut.

    Edit: according to commenters elsewhere, the incredible vocals on ‘In The Ocean Of My Tears’ are performed by Natalie Koskinen (Shape of Despair).

    • Grymm

      I thought I recognized that voice!

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Digital only. :(

    • Scourge

      There is a CD. I won’t tell you where because I don’t want it to sell out before I can order it…

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Oh, c’mon, man, don’t be like that! I spent like a half hour yesterday trying to find somewhere I could order this from, to no avail. Well, I’d at least be grateful if you’ll fill me in after you order it. :}

  • Hammersmith

    Is Rapture still a band? Silent Stage was ’05.. so maybe not. I googled it, but only got hits about the other The Rapture band. Anyway, consider my interest piqued.

    • Nope, they’re pretty much dead and buried.

      • Simon Shrimpton

        I actually ordered this album a couple of weeks ago after it was advertised on the Rapture facebook page with the first track (yes, I’m not ashamed that I’m still, against all rational hope, waiting for a new Rapture album). Enshrine was my album of the year last year because it sounded suspiciously like Rapture, and I’ve a feeling Clouds might do it this year because I can feel them in the guitar work.

        Dammit I miss Rapture.

        • You’re not alone. I still spin their albums regularly and also had Enshine as my Album o’ the Year. They deserved it on their own mertits but I won’t deny they reminded me a lot of Rapture too.

          • Nag Dammit

            Echoes is such a monstrous track from Singularity – can listen to that endlessly. Pretty much anything Jari Lindholm touches is awesome actually. On another note I’ve never been able to get hold of any Rapture material so will remedy that immediately.

          • Bert Beukema

            Enshrine, by which band? Thanx!

          • The band Enshine. They have 2 albums, both great.

    • pfk505

      Rapture are such an awesome band and they are the ones I always point to as the quintessential example of that ‘melo-death-doom’ hybrid of yesteryear. Futile is a legitimate all-time classic album which should be heard by everyone.

      • Requiem

        When you named the album Futile my mind was cast back to Eudaimony’s stellar record of the same name. That album stands as my joint favourite sad metal album of all time, tied with Draconian- A Rose For The Apocalypse.

        • Futile is such a haunting album. I’m torn, on one hand I desperately want another Eudaimony album. On the other hand I have my doubts that a follow-up could match the power of their earlier release.

          • Requiem

            I wholeheartedly agree. It’s difficult to know what to expect when the bar is set so damn high.

      • Wilhelm

        Futile was amazing, but their two following albums “songs for the withering” and “silent stage” are both great albums, and more original as futile was maybe a little too dependent on Brave Murder Day.

        • pfk505

          I like both those albums too, don’t get me wrong. I just listened to Futile so many times, and every track is incredibly strong, that it holds a special place in my heart.

    • Wilhelm

      Little had been heard of Rapture in the past decade, Metallum lists their status as unknown, which is as good as anyone’s guess.

  • We, the niche of the niche are indeed a small legion, for we are sparsely many. And I, for one of the dozen of us, eagerly await my death by drowning in the gloomy mental abyss of Departe.

  • funeraldoombuggy

    I love this record… obviously.

  • Arjan Zwamborn

    This is so goddamn excellent. Thanks for the review Steel! This will make me depressed all winter, in all the right ways.

  • Chris

    Wow. Never heard of these guys, but that embedded track just completely blew me away. Boughtened.

  • This is what I’d imagine Ulver’s Shadows of the Sun would sound like if it were a metal/doom album. I’ve only listened to 3 tracks (1,5 and 6), but it’s pretty damn awesome, especially I Gave my Heart Away. This is probably the most atmospheric release of the year.

  • ArtifeX

    The overall atmosphere of How can I be there reminds me of Lacrimas Profundere. Good stuff.

  • Requiem

    This kind of music reminds me of my childhood. Reminds me of how hellish it was, how close I came to not being here right now, how far I’ve come. It evokes a pain I find incredibly important to keep me going.

    Sat alone in that miserable house, with only Eudaimony, Draconian, Doom:VS and the various other bands in that vain scattered in my playlist, I expected to die at the hands of my various abusers before I turned 17.

    I never expected to realise myself as a trans woman before 16.

    I never expected to live beyond 15 before that. 14 before that. 13 felt like a miracle before that.

    I turned 18 a couple of months ago.

    I finally escaped him and the corrupt police force who were tormenting me November 2015, shortly after my 17th. I found real help shortly before, escaped that house January. Finally found some important diagnoses- PTSD, OCD, dysthymia related to my gender and hyperalgesia- around May, and realised I needed to leave school for my mental health’s sake. June, I realised I had developed a restrictive eating disorder. I’ve gained weight and muscle mass, going from 45kg to 54kg without medical oversight (my situation has prevented me pursuing it.)

    Turning 18 has helped me break the chains of psychological torment my parents have put me through, as realising I’m not a man shattered the dysthymic haze dragging me even further down.

    I no longer feel my death as an imminent inevitability, I no longer see myself as broken. I no longer lack perception of my future. Hope is a recent and welcome relief, as the indescribable catharsis in finally referring to my trauma in the past tense.

    I may not be entirely out of the woods yet- I have to travel from New Zealand to England, as our family’s attempt at residency has failed, and there is innate danger in the turmoil that brings- but in the moments I forget myself and the progress I’ve made, I rely on music like this to remind me of the demons I’ve overcome.

    I have this site to thank for occupying a portion of my troubled mind with something other than abject torment, and cluing me onto a substantial portion of the music that’s guided me through those dark times- even if the occasional album is too heavily connected to that suffering (I’m thinking of Futile by Eudaimony when I say this) to bear listening to frequently anymore- and thought you may appreciate knowing that. <3

    • Choodi

      Wow. Stay strong, be yourself and remember that you belong in this world and have something to contribute that is worthwhile.

      • Requiem

        Thank you. That means a lot.

    • We do very much appreciate knowing that! Thank you for sharing what must be a very painful and personal reflection. I’m glad we could help you through things in some small way. Stay strong!

      • Requiem

        Thank you so much <3

    • Vic279

      Pain is always temporary never forget that!

      • Requiem

        I’m starting to realise that recently, trying to keep it in mind as much as I can <3

    • TLFernandes

      Impressive and mature words from such a young soul… Aren’t we all troubled spirits? Stay strong!

    • De2013

      Thank you for sharing. Yes, keep hope alive. That and keep believing in yourself. It will get better.

    • Requiem

      It’s coming up to a month since I uploaded this comment. I’m blown away by all the supportive, positive feedback. Thank you all so much!

  • herrschobel

    “more shades of gray than any dime store BDSM pablum.” great line.
    keep ´em coming. I start reading the reviews whether or not i am interested in the actual records.

  • Bas

    One of the guys wears a Faal t-shirt, great ! Faal and Eye of Solitude released such a good split ep this year… really, sooooo good!
    Officium Triste (Pim’s ‘regular’ band) is also solid doom death, highly recommended.
    I will get a copy of the Clouds album asap. It sounds very good.
    Lets see if it can ‘beat’ Mourning Beloveth, who untill now released the best doomdeath (full) album of the year (even though it was a bit short, but better a bit short than dragging on too long…).

  • Wilhelm

    I’ll call this one Funeral Shoegaze ;)

  • John Abraham

    Excellent work on reviewing this band. I’ve been listening to this album past week and I’ve exactly the same things to say. I just wish heavier riffs were a little more interesting because the mellower sections are very effective.
    Please review the new Eye of Solitude also.

  • Having listened to the whole thing now and loving it, I can say there is one thing that bothers me about it and that’s the occasionally spitty transients on the drums. With headphones it can be quite annoying, for me anyway. Another little thing is the slightly wonky clean vocals in some parts.

    Apart from that though, I don’t think it’s front loaded in the slightest. The final track may even be my favourite. I think it’s extremely consistent. It is quite samey, but I don’t think that works against it. They’ve created a truly engulfing atmosphere from start to finish. The simple riffs, if you can even call them that, fit the music like a glove. The chord/note progressions are just about perfect. I think anything more complex would diminish the atmospheric aspect of it.

    I think any other doom release has come close to this in 2016, but then it is also unlike most of the others too.

  • De2013

    Well winter is coming, and the long Indian summer has resulted in a way too warm fuzzy feeling, so I embrace the “vast sea of chilling, cloying melancholy without offering the slightest hint of hope or beam of light” with open arms. I’m new to this post doom super group, but will definitely check them out. Thanks for the great review.

  • doom-erik

    Not bad! Similar to last year’s release by Swarm of the Sun, but more structured, and less BGM-like. The clean vocals sound a bit like a young Vinnie Cavanagh at times, and sometimes like the clean vocalist in Mourning Beloveth.

  • Pim

    Just to add that I (Pim) only did vocals on the track Driftwood.

  • Bert Beukema

    After work and listening in total darkness, this album is monumental. Takes some steel nerves to listen in it’s entirety but truly rewarding. It’s also a sure suicide inducer ?