Review – “The First Empire” – Scattered Clouds

the first empirereviewed by Michael Thomas

There isn’t really a metaphor or simile that can accurately sum up the eerie darkness Scattered Clouds have made into music for their first full-length. With vocals reminiscent of Timber Timbre and instrumentals mixing the creepiness of Last Ex and TAIWAN, each of the album’s six songs makes its presence felt.

Given the makeup and location of the band, it shouldn’t be surprising that they do eerie really well. Band leader Philippe Charbonneau has previously blown us away as part of Her Harbour, and here he plays an astonishing array of instruments with his co-conspirators. E-Tron Records is starting to become the home of “eerie” bands and it should continue to embrace that.

The First Empire is a collage of quiet and forcefully loud moments, often within the same track. If the song isn’t making you feel like something is following you, it’s threatening to make your heart stop with a layer of noise.

The title track is firmly the latter, a seven-minute odyssey with a steady, repeating percussion and loud guitars. Charbonneau’s vocals aren’t that distinguishable beneath the loud sounds, but they don’t need to be. It grants only the briefest reprieves from the tireless onslaught with a few tinkling synths.

“People Walk” configures that wall of sound into something almost resembling a groove (at least as far as post-apocalyptic rock is concerned), punctuating the song with bass and the subtlest bit of percussion.

As far as horror is concerned, “Enchanteresse” may be the most terrifying of the six tracks. Heavy, dark synths and post-rock guitars open up the song only to quiet down completely when Charbonneau sings of the song’s mythical figure. “She stings your mind” is such a simple but scary lyric, and it’s repeated throughout repeated throughout.

Opener “Fallen” is a good introduction to the album, relying mostly on synths and percussive taps to set the creepy scene, before turning up the volume for the chorus. “Deepest Night” is a song that never in one position too long, from delayed waves of guitar to a blast of instruments near the end.

The antithesis to all this is “Floating Underwater,” the fourth song in the rotation and a brief, instrumental oasis from all the darkness. Bright synths and tropical beats promise to put your mind at ease for the song’s roughly three-minute runtime.

Scattered Clouds couldn’t have chosen a better name for their band relative to what they do. Scattered clouds in the sky suggest something darker might be on the way — so too does the band.

Top Track: “People Walk”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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