Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. Ladies and djentlemen, this 72nd TBT kicks off a month featuring a genre that grows more and more popular each year – yet somehow stays largely out of the glare of metal's limelight, relegated to a niche among technical-minded, progressive-loving metalheads. June brings us a time in which we will focus on chugs, slower deeper chugs, chugs strung together, and tightly produced music. Let us djently slide into the Djent June with Cloudkicker's second full album Beacons.
RELEASE DATE: September 2010
RECORD LABEL: Self-Released (BandCamp)
The Discovery, Cloudkicker's 2008 freshman album, is an apt name for this album for those among us who haven't explored the vast, new world involving djent music. Djent metal is often characterized by the low-low end sound of a downward (often palm-muted) lightening-fast strum of the bottom guitar strings resulting in the onomatopoeia 'djent'. The sound is almost mechanical and inorganic, as music involving djent often utilizes digital processors resulting in blaring, yet controlled, distortion. A contradiction in terms, the music which incorporates this deep, distinctive sound has sprung fourth another sapling under the limbs of the gigantic tree of metal with this new genre.
Originating some time in the mid 90's, djent's notoriety didn't swell until the later in the 00's. Surfing the crest on the wave of djent's water flooding the underground metal consciousness was Cloudkicker. Beacons, Cloudkicker's sophomore album, burst onto the scene in late 2010. Cloudkicker, already known for the aforementioned album The Discovery and various EPs, offered Beacons to purchase at a 'pay your own price' cost on his Bandcamp artist page.
The one-man band known as Cloudkicker, piloted by creator Ben Sharp, raged forward in vision and composition with Beacons. Check out track "We're goin' in. We're going down":
Playing with octaves makes the song sound massive right from the get go. The use of djent here creates an even fuller texture for the odd time signatures to play in, highlighting melody in a wordless sea of intricate drum work and one-note synth. What Sharp does brilliantly with Cloudkicker is create a mess of noises that all somehow come together to create a smooth, dynamic, supremely enjoyable song. This controlled chaos is a hallmark of Sharp's sound and Beacons shows off just how talented Sharp is at creating balance. Tracks like "Oh God" lead with powerful emotion, eschewing speed, and slowly build to create atmopshere:
The song titles on Beacons are notable and strange. In a 2015 Reddit AMA, Sharp explains the origins of his title choices, "Since Portmanteau I've been giving every album a theme, it's fun for me. I come up with the album title first and then think about how the titles can relate to that." In 2017 Facebook post, Sharp mentions that the titles are from a book. The Reddit AMA goes on to say, "The titles on Beacons are one of the last few lines from cockpit voice recorder tapes."
What makes this album, and Cloudkicker, even more interesting is the fact that Cloudkicker is a one-man-band. Playing each part himself, Ben Sharp distinguished himself early on with his solo vision and creativity. Since the release of his earlier albums, Cloudkicker has sent a precedent for many ambitious and incredibly creative one-man bands such as Plini and David Maxim Micic.
As this 2014 interview explains, Cloudkicker eventually went on to tour live after releasing Beacons with progressive geniuses in Intronaut as his backing band. He would considering touring again.
Beacons is simply full of wordless, compelling, beautiful music. If you're thirsty for new material from Cloudkicker, as of this year Intronaut is working with Sharp on a new album.