New Jersey-based DIY Rockers The Black Clouds bring to the table their latest offering, the full-length, thirteen track heavy-hitter ‘Better Days.’
The album kicks off with the instrumental ‘Prelude’ which is a very melodic track, layered with clean guitar work and minor key tonality. It serves as a mellow introduction to the album, keeping the listener guessing as to what will follow.
The album continues with ‘No Reason’ which sounds like a classic homage to the Grunge era of the early 90’s. From the Alice in Chains-like opening bass and guitar riffs (which carry with them the signature distortion and overall dark feel) to the vocals of Dan Mathews (which are reminiscent of the late Cobain) this is a legitimate Grunge-inspired throwback for the modern era.
Delving into the meat and bones of this album, the Grunge influence is prominent throughout. The band does a solid job of capturing the essence of the 90’s within the music without simply becoming a carbon copy of those that have come before. While some may pan this effort as trying to resurrect the Grunge bandwagon, others may praise that very same effort, viewing it instead as showcasing the signature Grunge sound and making it accessible to an entirely new generation. Regardless of which side of the argument one falls, the level of musicianship throughout is palpable.
On ‘Again’ Mathews laments: “We’re stuck at the bottom again…again.” Where the musicality goes, the lyrical content follows. The vast majority of lyrical themes throughout ‘Better Days’ is very brooding in subject matter. We find themes of frustration and isolation, combined with melancholy, pessimistic principle, content that not only served as a hallmark of the Grunge era, but also permeates this effort. Judging by the prevalence of such themes, it brings into question whether the title of this record is meant to be ironic.
The band showcases some versatility with ‘Fray,’ breaking away from the Alice in Chains mold to deliver a track that plays almost like a ballad, displaying a level of vulnerability that has not been seen up to this point. It’s slower tempo adds a welcome change of pace midway through the album, abandoning the heavily distorted guitars and swapping them for cleaner tones. The bridge solo is a nice touch, adding another layer to the overall work.
The Black Clouds sound is something along the lines of a neo-mash-up between Nirvana and Alice in Chains. ‘Better Days’ steps into moments of genius, and recycled, re-hash territory within the same stride. Having said that, this is neither the time, nor place for such debate. As mentioned previously, regardless of which side of the argument one falls, ‘Better Days’ is a solid record.