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"New Era", the 2012 release by Swedish progressive power metallers Cloudscape, really is a new era for the band. Three fifths of the members are new to the band for this release, with only the duo of Patrik Svärd (guitars) and Michael Andersson (vocals) returning to the fold. Cloudscape's previous release, "Global Drama", saw the band wading stagnant waters and seemingly about to drown.
The new members have mercifully given Cloudscape the kick in the rear that they needed, as the band hasn't sounded this tight or energetic in years. "New Era" is a very modern sounding progressive power metal album, with clear influences from outside of the prog world. The album starts off with "Silver Ending" which combines the chugging of modern In Flames with near shred soloing and soaring vocals. "New Era" continues along the same path throughout, but with enough diversity to stay enjoyable.
The instrumentation on "New Era" is beyond tight. Choppy, galloping riffs fall into place right alongside the drum lines. The timing is spectacular, as both guitars get into a syncopated, galloping rhythm and the double bass drums match the palm muting perfectly. Cloudscape shines during their faster, power metal influenced sections, as each instrument is in top form. The guitars range from galloping power metal to some Van Halen sounding heavy rock riffing. The drums stay fairly fast for the length of the album, staying away from the run-on-the-double-bass style that permeates the genre, opting instead for a more modern Swedish post melo-death style instead, with double kicks and awesome fills. The keyboards inject some typical prog-ish pieces here and there, but the highlight are the electronic pieces that are added more often and keep the modern influence at the front.
Catchy riffs and fast-paced drumming dominate the album, but they don't drown out the vocals. The vocalist sounds very similar to Apollo Papathanasio of Firewind, although slightly higher at times and with a tendency to soar at the end of verses. Drummer extraordinaire Peter Wildoer (Darkane) lends his vocal talent, contributing screamy, harsh background vocals in several spots. Rather than being in the forefront, the harsher vocals are a bit buried in the mix, accentuating the clean vocals rather than being a centerpiece.
While most of the album is catchy and energetic, Cloudscape does drop the ball during a few points, most notably near the end of "Seen it All Before". When Cloudscape slows down and enters ballad territory the tightness and energy is lost and all points seem awkward. During the slower points, the vocals seem extremely forced, especially without the powerful riffing behind them. This happens a few times on the album and it's almost cringe-worthy, especially with how good the rest of the album is.
"New Era" is a prime example of new members breathing life into a stagnant band (much like Iced Earth's "Dystopia"). "New Era" is a tight, energetic, modern progressive power metal album that fans of the genre should find more than enjoyable. With more work on the slower sections, Cloudscape could be extraordinary.
Written for The Metal Observer