Before I start this review, I have to acknowledge the band for sending out the most beautiful promo package I ever received. Alongside the digipack, poster and other nicely printed info, a more than fine bottle of their own Armed Cloud beer has been added to the package. And, as you might know, beer and music go pretty well together.
But, it's all about music on armed Cloud's third full album; Torque. Music that has evolved and perhaps slightly changed since their previous album; Master Device & Slave Machines (2017, see review). One of the reasons for this change is the absence of one of the initial members, songwriter and guitar player Wouter van der Veen, who has left the band and was replaced by newcomer Kay Bouten. Kay's guitar playing is a bit more metal and alternative than the heavy progressive approach of his predecessor. The other change are the songs itself. In my opinion, the band has left the well paved paths of progressive rock and metal and found themselves on the outskirts of powerful metal. Armed Cloud seems to be more extreme than before. Vocalist Daan Dekker shows more of his influences than just Geoff Tate or Ray Alder. During the tracks, you can also hear influences from guys like Lane Staley, Mike Patton, Daniel Gildenl÷w and even some Iggy Pop.
All the above already shows during Heat Of Darkness, the first track, after the short opener Torque. During Heat Of Darkness the interaction in the band sounds perfect; nasty, heavy powerful guitar riffs, a pronounced bass and solid drums leave enough room for Remco van der Veen to show his fabulous skill on the keyboards. And as I referred to earlier, Daan is going to the extremes. Guitar sounds referencing Rage Against The Machine and a beautiful arrangement make Big Bang Theory one of my favourites on the album, the wonderful guitar solo nicely contrasts to the composition. After the short interlude Torque II we seem to head back in time a bit, both keyboard parts as well as certain parts of the guitar take you back to the eighties, while the other half of the guitar parts are referring more to modern rock during the instrumental Cloud Overture, which seemingly flows into Under The Horizon. A song where Daan shows emotion and anger during some intense vocal parts. Especially the second part of this track is very interesting; more experimental, great drumming by Rico Noijen and wonderful keyboard and guitar parts. During Wound In My Heart elements of Pain Of Salvation pass by, but also some fine grooving bass playing by Boris Suvee, fine keyboards and even some Rammstein referring riffs, but I guess I hear those all thru the album. Highlight of the album is the over twelve minute clocking epic Awaiting The Sound Of The Chimes. A wonderful track that builds so nicely . The perfect showcase for Rico, who's drumming is brilliant, but also the bass, guitar combination created a nice haunting atmosphere. Remco is not afraid to do some experimenting during this song and Daan gets so sing and scream his heart out for the last time on this great album. The guitar solo ices this wonderful layered cake.
Wow, what a great ride this new-born Armed Cloud released. Torque definitely is their most mature work since they started. The interaction between the instrumentalists is amazing, leaving each other more than enough space to excel on their individual instrument and I love how Daan's search for the extremes worked out. Torque is a huge step forward on the musical ladder, a step this band really deserves. Thank you for the music and beer!
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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