Glass Cloud


Image from kickstarter.com

Metal has so many subgenres that the terminology used to differentiate them has begun to lose meaning. I’ve been listening to this music for half of my life and the categorization has probably caused me to mistakenly ignore as many great bands as awful ones. I recently discovered a band on a reddit thread that’s placed into a subgenre called “metalcore,” which I remember from my youth with disdain. As my taste in metal developed, I began to stray from the genre and its bands like Bullet for My Valentine, Atreyu and Killswitch Engage, dismissing it as generic, commercial, entry-level metal. I don’t know what makes Glass Cloud, the latest addition to my music collection, a metalcore band aside from the fact that both clean and screamed vocals are present. Their first album, The Royal Thousand, is like nothing I’ve ever heard.

Glass Cloud is a super-group (though hopefully not just a side project like T.R.A.M or Exivious) that features Jerry Roush, famed vocalist from Sky Eats Airplane and Of Mice & Men, and Joshua Travis, the eight-string guitarist from The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza. The Virginia-based four-piece also includes bassist Travis Sykes and drummer Chad Hasty and the music that they produce is the first thing I’ve headbanged to in a while. The rhythms are tasteful, not terribly difficult to follow and lend themselves to this activity. That’s not to say that the songs lack technicality. The drums and bass are extremely crisp and always audible, especially in the beginning of a track called “Memorandum,” in which Hasty and Sykes get a one-minute jam. Travis, who toned down the noodling and mathcore riffs he used in his previous band, never overpowers the other instruments and drives Glass Cloud with inventive chord progressions, heavily palm-muted riffs and sections where he shows off his insanely fast picking and tapping. Roush noted of his band mate on Glass Cloud’s Facebook page, “From the moment [Travis] became involved in this band, he was sending me fully finished tracks left and right, songs that were blowing my mind. Musically, Josh is a beast…the dude is a musical machine.”

The most startling aspect of Glass Cloud is how their songs fluctuate and flow in terms of energy. “If He Dies, He Dies” starts out peacefully with clean guitars and Roush’s singing, before the instruments cut out and the listener is blasted with a heavy guitar section and Roush’s growls, only to flow back into a calming verse. I suppose this is where the metalcore aspect comes in, as the genre tends to have a more apparent verse-chorus-verse-chorus-breakdown structure but Glass Cloud is the farthest thing from generic. Travis said of the band, “We are trying to introduce something organic and ambient into heavy music,” and that’s just what they’ve done. Nothing sounds forced. In an interview, Sykes said that Glass Cloud’s name “is more strategy than meaning,” but it is appropriate. The tracks are at times razor-sharp and at others cotton-candy-soft. Lyrically, the songs are actually meaningful (Sykes wrote the lyrics and vocal arrangements). “Ivy & Wine,” perhaps the best track on the album, makes reference to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, ritual madness and ecstasy. The song begins with a screamed section on Dionysus’s origin. Son of Zeus and a mortal mother, he was sent by the jealous Hera to be killed by the Titans, who ate everything but Dionysus’s heart before Zeus could save him. Zeus then took the heart and recreated Dionysus in his thigh, but Dionysus had to live with the knowledge that he was neither god nor man. The song’s emotional climax occurs when Roush sings the lines, “Where is the new wine? Dying on the vine. I want roses in my garden.”

The music video for “Ivy & Wine,” which is composed of footage from a live show with the song dubbed over it, reveals Glass Cloud’s passion and energy for the music they create. Roush bounces around stage expressively delivering vocals, Sykes swings to the rhythm in his short shorts, Hasty rules over his drum kit with intense focus and Travis, a huge man, at one point spins around on one foot. The Royal Thousand has been on repeat on my iPod since it came out in July and I’m curious to see what this ambitious band will come up with next. The metalcore label almost made me ignore Glass Cloud, had it not been for an accidental click that led to their YouTube videos. The experience has left me a changed man, no longer a genre-ist, though I admit that Viking metal will never be heard through my headphones.

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Comments

  1. Good way of seeing things – I’m a little more of a black and white person, myself

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