CLOUDS – Departe

CLOUDS – Departe

We continue our series of the reviews for the British-Romanian atmospheric/funeral doomsters courtesy of recent Personal Records re-releases of "Dor" (2018) "Doliu" (2014), "Destin" (2017) and, this here, "Departe" (2016). I have already reviewed the debut "Doliu" (4/6) and the 3rd album "Dor" (4.5/6) and now it’s time for the 2nd album "Departe" followed by "Destin" coming up.

After the very promising but also flawed debut, "Doliu", Clouds’ mastermind Daniel Neagoe (vocals, drums) not only managed to maintain the original lineup: himself, Jarno Salomaa (guitars), Olmo "Déhà" Lipani (guitars, bass) (even if losing keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou) but kept guest Officium Triste’s Pim Blankenstein (Driftwood), recruited guest Barren Earth’s operatic vocalist extraordinaire, Jón Aldará (Migration), fantastic violinist, Chris Davies (I Gave My Hear Away) and, last, but absolutely not least, female vocalist Natalie Safrosskin-Koskinen (In The Ocean Of My Tears), and if that last name sounds familiar it is because Natalie was once married to the original Amorphis vocalist, Passi Koskinen. The final, but probably the most important, variable was the inspiration and dedication behind "Departe", the death and the memory of a dearest friend to Daniel and Clouds, Anita Nicoleta (1969-2013). This album is so powerful, evocative and deeply emotional because it is a living breathing sonic dedication to her.

"Departe" is, like "Doliu" (Mourning) before it, one mourning dirge but it is a deeper, more complex and more convincing message. While the songs are still as mercilessly monotonous and long, averaging from 8+ minutes to over 12, in some cases the length is well justified such as in the favorite, "In The Ocean Of My Tears" where the symphonic, violin entrance builds up slowly and gently toward a heavy funeral riff and a gorgeous folk melody (and, mind you, I’m not a big folk aficionado) sung by Natalie with lyrical message I can personally identify with, that our suffering covers a multitude of our sins. Natalie has a very unique tone of voice which combines an apparent numbness and an inner turmoil of rage, despair and hope. Sometimes it seems the numbness prevails, other times it seems to be conquered by the torrent of emotion but, somehow, the dirge never gets out of control whereby acceptance and hope prevail. Next to Anneke van Giersbergen when she was in The Gathering and sang those incredibly moving pieces on "Mandylion" or "If…Then…Else", Natalie’s is one of the most facinating and the most moving female voices in metal.

What makes "Departe" so effective and so superior to both "Doliu" before it and "Dor" after it is how the faminen and the male spiritual energy is addressed equally even though Natalie only gets one track. Her performance is so profound that it permeates Daniel’s and Jón’s contributions, merging with them and allowing Pim Blankenstein to naturally fill in on the excellent "Driftwood". Pim has a deep low growl but he could never be mistaken for anyone else, his voice is the stuff funerals, suicidal tendencies and despair are made of and he was given a very moving melodic texture to work with which instantly makes you think of Officium Triste which Pim defines at least as much as its keyboardist and drummer Martin Kwakernaak. His (Pim’s) performance paves way for the album’s conclusion and the most ambitious track, the magnifiscent "I Gave My Heart Away" starting out with an Insomniumic fade in (with which it later closes the track and album) with the fantastic violin of Chris Davies recalling the mastery of Ne Obliviscaris’ Tim Charles and Jarno’s and Olmo’s excellent melodic leads as well as a solo worthy of Pink Floyd’s "Numb", so likely not on accident, for the second perfect song on the album, next to "…Ocean…".

With "Departe" Clouds established themselves as one of funeral doom’s most innovative and evocative new acts. So much was right on this album despite some flaws, most notably "In All This Dark" being too monotonous, too long and not so varied that it would justify the over 12 minute length. After this album, which was the last one with full band lineup, came the EP "Destin" (2017), the last of the Personal Records Clouds re-releases, which I will review soon. Meanwhile, "Departe" comes strongly recommended.