Friday, March 20, 2009

Cloakwheel – The Crooked Path You’ve Drawn

I stumbled on these guys about three years ago, and at that time Cloakwheel didn’t have a vocalist. What I took from that early experience of the band was that they were hellishly talented musicians and they knew it. I remember the music being heavy and complex, but nothing to write home about. So, I made that ever so important mental note to keep tabs on the band. Now, fast forward to the end of 2008 and the band has released a seven song musical epic called The Crooked Path You’ve Drawn, complete with vocals, sharp production, and a distinct musical growth. Heavy in prog leanings, Cloakwheel doesn’t rely solely on technical brilliance and musical passages littered with the dried out husks of a million useless notes. These guys challenge the listener with odd time changes and quick start/stops to show one aspect of their musical talent. The other key characteristic to their progressive leanings is that the guitars don’t stay cranked to eleven with overdrive and distortion. Guitarists Vic Carreiro and Marcus Luscombe do an exceptional job of mixing different guitar tones throughout this disc. Also, and quite possibly most important, these guys bring melody to the music.

Opening track, “Smolder,” captures the essence of the band with its tension building intro, grandiose sound, layers upon layers of vocals and varying tones of guitar, and musicianship that makes us lesser talented musicians shake our heads in disbelief. This tune is well crafted and is exactly what I love about prog rock/metal. “Smolder,” broken down to its root structure, is a good song. Throw in the time changes and the unorthodox elements as Cloakwheel have done and you get a song that actually goes somewhere. It breaks out of the standard song mode and takes us to the future, past, and destinations within the fourth dimension. Plus, I’m a sucker for songs about the end of days and the apocalypse. On that point, I’d like to mention that the lyrics are written poetically enough to not sound cliché or trite, and force the listener to actually break down what is being said. See? Making the listener use their noodle. Prog leanings.

In classic prog fashion, there’s a three part epic that puts a bow on the whole disc. “Dreams Are Falling” is broken into three phases that when all put together creates this moving epic of a song. “Phase I” is a synth laden piece that acts as the intro to the rest of the story. “Phase II” is a burner of ripping scales and changing guitar tones, guitairst/vocalist Marcus Luscombe continues to push the story forward. “Phase III” opens with the rhythmic brilliance of the brothers Deutscher, John on bass, Pete on drums, and puts a nice neat bow on the whole tale. Make special note of the guitar solo on this one as it’s packed with emotional melody and technical virtuosity.

The high point of this album is “House of Cards.” What’s not to love? Great guitar work, solid and emotive vocals, technical drum work that is musical at the same time, and low end bass work that’s as strong as the weave of a Kevlar vest. All put together, the song flexes with heavy metal muscle and in the same breath, soothes with a feather light touch. Immensely broad in sound, Cloakwheel shines like a thousand suns. The instrumental break at the guitar solo is out of this freaking world! Carreiro or Luscombe's solo is a work of beauty, especially as he shifts from the heavy distortion and dousing of wah pedal, and drops into the cleaner, Spanish toned voice. Watch out for this tandem. They've got an approach to his instrument that is reminiscent of the gods we revere. If I could give this song 6 out of 5 stars, I would do so.

The Crooked Path You’ve Drawn is exactly what I look for when I want to hear progressive music. Sure, there are other bands out there that add beautiful melodies to their brand of prog, but those bands are far and few between. Too many times, I kick out the disc if it’s just a flurry of notes. I don’t care how many notes you can stuff into a measure. I’m not impressed. Cloakwheel have impressed me. God, such flavor to the songwriting and the performances from each individual member! Listen to “Transition Days” and tell me that’s not otherworldly. A cohesive unit that’s able to convey a strong musical message and emotion all while playing in a technically proficient manner. This is also one of those discs where I hear something fresh with each subsequent playing. That translates to more and more spinnings coz’ I’m never gonna’ get tired of this. Keep an ear out for these guys, Waveriders . . . Cloakwheel are for real.

-- Popejte

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