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BEACONS

Cloudkicker

Experimental/Post Metal


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5 stars Cloudkicker has vastly improved in compositional skills since his last few releases. When you compare this to The Discovery, it's obvious how he's changed. While the music remains a bit repetitive to the average listener, making is slightly more unaccessable, the riffing is more diverse and is no longer strictly "djent." The atmosphere, almost a Ben Sharp Trademark, is there and will most likely always be there as long as this project continues.

This album is a concept album of sorts without the lyrics. The titles were taken from a website devoted to transcriptions of cockpit/cabin recordings of plane crashes.

We are going to invert... (0:42)

The album starts off with a short 5-second guitar riff repeated with small quarter-second moments of silence in between. There's nothing much here, but it does set you up for the mysterious repetitive tone of the rest of the album.

Here, wait a minute! Damn it! (1:48)

If you happen to be familiar with Cloudkicker and have already built up the patience required to not stare at the time bar on your ipod, the start of this track will take you by surprise, causing you to jump a little. The strong and firey sound of Cloudkicker begins literally out of nowhere, truly introducing you to his style. This track manages to encompass several themes in its short run time, making it less repetitive than others.

We're goin' in. We're going down. (5:15)

This is the "Dysphoria" of Beacons. It's pretty much the main track and would be the single off the album if Cloudkicker released singles. It has a strong Celtic vibe at the beginning turning into more chaotic sounds. While the first theme is repeated a good number of times after the middle of the track, it still manages to keep me interested throughout. The post-rock ending is of course beautiful.

Oh, god. (5:41)

This track is heavy, but not as heavy as the last two tracks, classifying it almost strictly as post- rock. It's very relaxing and transforms the direction of the album into the next two tracks nicely.

I admit it now. I was scared. (2:05)

This soft post-rock track grows slowly throughout its short run time. It's a very nice harmony repeated throughout. Simple, but effective.

We were all scared. (2:30)

I consider this to be paired with the last track because of its title and continuation of a similar feeling. It can be compared to "Everything's Mirrors" because it follows a similar format and uses the rhythmic echo effects used in that track.

Push it way up! (7:17)

This track is sort of an enigma to me. While I can normally "tolerate" the repetition that Cloudkicker uses, I never guessed I would "tolerate" it to this much of an extreme. This track takes us from the quiet post-rock tracks back into the loud and heavy metal flow. The first two minutes host a variety of motifs, but at 2:01 a groove is introduced that repeats for the rest of the track. It's a very interesting groove carried out the way Cloudkicker would normally write grooves. It's 5 minutes of just that, yet it manages to capture me more than any other moment in the entire album. I've listened to it several times and never felt like changing to another track like I'd expect knowing how repetitive it is. This is something that really only Cloudkicker can do; when you introduce me to any other artist that does this I tend to get bored.

...it's just wide open field. (2:22)

This is another slow post-rock track that introduces two new styles that I haven't necessarily heard from Cloudkicker before. The chords give it an acoustic feel (though it's a clean guitar being used), and the melody played above the chords gives it a jazzy feel. Very relaxing as always.

It's bad. We're hit, man, we are hit. (6:02)

Another heavier track, though I particularly like the lighter post-rock break within it.

Amy, I love you. (7:57)

An excellent way to end the album, considered the "epic" as it is the longest track on the list.

untitled (2:17)

This serves as the epilogue of the album, and is similar to track 8 in its use of an acoustic chord feel.

Overally very enjoyable, definitely something I can listen to all the way through and never get bored despite its repetitions. While this album won't expand Cloudkicker's fanbase in terms of stylistic variation, it's still a bit more accessable than his other efforts.

9/10 > 5/5

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Send comments to WizMystery (BETA) | Report this review (#299636)
Posted Saturday, September 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
progkidjoel
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Sharp's strongest effort yet!

Cloudkicker, the solo project of multi-instrumentalist, has developed over the years to become an incredibly strong and full fledged outlet for great metal, and this album demonstrates the subtle evolution since his debut album of 2008. What we have here is a much more mature, diverse, technical and overall interesting Cloudkicker, still capable of blasting beats and eardrums.

The music here is much more diverse and less djent than Cloudkicker's previous album, The Discovery, with a much more melodically driven tone and feeling. This album also seems to be sonically better than his previous releases. The album starts slowly with the intro then jumps into full Cloudkicker mode with the opener 'Here, Wait A Minute! Dammit!', a progression which continues throughout the whole album through several climaxes and peaks.

The album is still full of headbanging and air-drumming spectaculars, with evenly paced levels of heaviness and head pounding rhythms. The music here is much more likely to please straight metal fans, as the sound is slightly more radio friendly than his previous releases - although this is not a bad thing. On the contrary, B. M. Sharp manages to make his own mix of prog, djent and metal into a much more thoroughly thought out and well structured record. Tracks like 'Oh, god.' also have a refreshing emotional sensibility to them. This album is worthy of any progger, mettaler or djentleman's record collection.

4/5 stars, although incredibly close to being a 5 star album, I feel this album could have been a bit more solid throughout, and does become slightly repetitive in sections.

Regardless of my minor tiff with one aspect of the album, this 44 minute slice of delight is highly recommended to any and every music fan.

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Send comments to progkidjoel (BETA) | Report this review (#302365)
Posted Wednesday, October 06, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Beacons is one of the greatest surprises 2010 has offered. Ben Sharp's sound has evolved far since the days of Meshuggah-esque riffing on his first album, and his second full-length album displays his new sound in all of it's aural rapture. While his use of polyrhythms and post-metal interludes is still intact, the pieces sound more complete and more satisfying. While the song-interlude format of The Discovery remains intact, the pieces as a whole sound more cohesive and centralized than his first album. And all of these factors together create was is undoubtedly his best work yet. Sharp has undoubtedly matured as a musician, and it pays off. The tracks "We're goin' in. We're going down," "Oh, god," and "It's bad. We're hit, man, we are hit" are highlights, though you really should listen to the album in its entirety.

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Send comments to msphelps (BETA) | Report this review (#305561)
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ben Sharp is the mind behind the one-man-project Cloudkicker. "Beacons" is third album, and comparing it to the previous ones it becomes aparent how much he has improved in his compositional skills. The single songs and the album as a whole are telling a story of remarkable intensity, which is even more of an achievement because the album doesn't include any lyrics, just the titles of the songs give a general idea of the topic. Musically there are similiarities to bands like Explosions in the Sky or Russian Circles in the general Progressive Post Metal genre. Cloudkicker however conquers new terrain with this album, combining Meshuggah-like riffing with meoldious parts that slowly build up tension, as often used by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. For every fan of this genre, this album is a definite must have! You can download it on Cloudkickers bandcamp homepage, for a price you can choose yourself.

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Send comments to caedes (BETA) | Report this review (#306838)
Posted Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars Wow, this was a new experience to me... Sorry but I can't admire the great improvement in composition, because I haven't listened to any "Cloudkicker" albums until now.Although "Experimental" and "Metal" are a bit scary for me, the high place in this year's top made me courious.Also, as I liked "Anathema"'s and "Orpaned Lands" releases in the same category, I thought it's worth giving a try to "Cloudkicker", especially with the high praises reviews. I am always trying to broaden my tastes and discover new masterpieces. I am totally disapointed by this album, for me the music is too noisy, too repetitive, not melodic enough. No ofences meant to the fans of this music, but everyone is entitled to an opinion and "de gustibus...". I find this to be a "niche" music which can appeal only to a limited category of listeners, and so many "masterpiece' ratings in a "Prog" dedicated site can be deceiving. Because for me it is unlistenable and there is no "0" stars available, i will give it "*" for the effort.

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Send comments to idlero (BETA) | Report this review (#307447)
Posted Saturday, October 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
2 stars Lately the funds have been low for purchasing new music. So I've been searching for stuff from the past 2 years or so that I can listen to for free...legally. This is a recent album that gets lots of good reviews. I don't share the enthusiasm. There is nothing wrong or bad about the music here. I admire Ben Sharp's one-man-band approach. He knows how to play his instruments. He uses the Radiohead model of "pay what you want". The biggest problem I have with this album is...it's not really prog.

I don't listen to a lot of modern metal, but I have friends who do. Most of the metal they listen to is in the non-prog variety. A lot of it sounds similar to this but has screaming and growling. This is instrumental metal. Good instrumental metal. But not very proggy. One of the biggest problems I have with most metal music that gets labelled 'prog' is that the metal aspects far outweigh the prog ones. I honestly don't hear anything here that wasn't already being done in 2000. If you like modern instrumental metal, then you will probably like this. If your looking for something proggy you will be disappointed.

I like the song titles here; sounds like a few sentences broken up. "I Admit It Now. I Was Scared" is the one song that caught my attention the most. Some nice volume pedal swells here. I don't know how much volume pedals are used in modern metal, but it sounds good here. In the 1970s everyone from Yes to Aerosmith were doing the volume pedal swells thing. Usually at the beginning of a song. "It's Bad. We're Hit, Man, We Are Hit" is the only other song that did anything for me. Especially the middle part.

I wish Mr. Sharp the best. This is a decent metal album, but not much more. In general I am not into most metal with the 'prog' tag. Listening to this just reminded me I got to do that Unexpect review I've been meaning to do. 2 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#307856)
Posted Monday, November 01, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Beacons' - Cloudkicker (7/10)

The second full-length bout from the mysterious djentleman Ben Sharp, Cloudkicker's 'Beacons' is defined by it's higher highs, and lower lows, when compared to it's predecessor. Maintaining Cloudkicker's deep root in post-metal, the sound here goes even farther from the typical Meshuggah soundalike this one man instrumental project started with in 'The Discovery.' While 'Beacons' is certainly not as consistent as the evenly-flowing debut, it remarks a very distinct development in the sound of Cloudkicker, and is a satisfying follow up from this quality project.

While there's certainly a change o sound witnessed here, the essence of Cloudkicker is still here in droves. The emphasis in the music is still about atmospheric, larger than life textures, gradually building tension and sound that only gets more complex as the composition progresses. Like 'The Discovery,' 'Beacons' is comprised of a song suite; each track is generally seamlessly connected to the next, giving a very continuous and pleasantly flowing product. However, 'Beacons' doesn't sound as much like a front-to-back composition as much as a seamless string of smaller compositions, the effect of a well- flowing album definately gets across.

A very interesting thing about 'Beacons' is it's concept. While there hasn't been any discernable binding concept in any Cloudkicker work before this, the theme here revolves around black box messages found on crashed airplanes. While the music itself is instrumental and relies completely on the talented guitarwork of Ben Sharp, the music does reflect the atmosphere of panic and desperation quite well. Of course, there are always mellow sections here to give a respite from the mathematically complex metal-leaning music here, including the quiet flourishes of 'I admit it now, I was scared' and '...it's just wide open field.' These softer compositions are deeply rooted in post-rock, and generally trail back into the heaviness before they can go anywhere of much value. However, in the scope of the album, they work beautifully as interludes.

While 'Beacons' is a strong record, the two problems here concern the less consistent nature of the album, and the overbearing concept of repetition in the album's composition. Things here are performed and produced beautifully, especially considering that for all intents and purposes, this is an indie release. However, there are times when Ben Sharp's musical ideas are stretched out a little too much beyond what they're worth. Musical themes will be repeated over and over again, and while this can be very effective for some of the more atmospheric sections, the less captivating sequences can go as far as being boring. Fortunately enough however, around the time the nerves start to wear, a new musical idea comes forth to save the day. Overall, 'Beacons' doesn't leave as much of an impression as 'The Discovery.' Perhaps this is because I now have high expectations for the talented one man project, but in any case, this album is a very welcome contribution to Cloudkicker's catalogue... and despite the flaws here, this is indeed a welcome contribution to an impressive discography.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#325979)
Posted Friday, November 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It is a delicious B(e)acon, you must eat it!

Cloudkicker's second album, Beacons, was my way in its fantastic music. the band is nothing but a one man project, driven by the Ohio-based musician Ben Sharp. Playing every instrument on every Cloudkicker release, as well as writing every music himself, Ben's solo project made co9me to surface some ofthe most interesting and new pieces of heavy metal music I have seen recently.

Released a bit earlier in this same year and led by Ben's guitar-based music, that mix intricate and technical parts with ambient and groovie themes, Beacons constatly finds itself having multiple guitar layers with different leanings. There are, throughout the whole album, at least two guitars in every song: one responsible to, at least, set the basic groove or pace of the specific song and another responsible for playing the solo parts, nothing new concerning the traditional rock or heavy metal rhythmic and solo guitars.

However, quite constantly it is possible to see up to four or five (!) guitars in a single song, responsible for the second solo guitar, or the second rhythmic guitar (or even both) or a guitar with lots of feedback, for the distinct ambient setting characteristic of post-metal. In every of the mentioned instances, the technical proficiency of Sharper's guitar playing abilities are always being shown.

In fact, the guitars are the only instrument that shine here. Every other instrument that do make an appearance in the album is only there to be some kind of base for the guitar work. Hell, even the other guitars appear to make way for more guitars!

Composition-wise there is not much to complain. The album has very good songs from start to finish, but its progress is bumpy somehow. When there is a change of pace in Beacons, the song simply end and another one starts, no welcoming cards, no goodbyes said. Still about the compositions, i find the style of music played here to be very interesting. It could be described as some kind of mix between Blotted Science and Messhuga, but fully instrumental, much less heavy and a little bit less technical, with post-metal and ambient touches everywhere.

Grade and Final Thoughts

Having Beacons as my way in Cloudkicker's music was, for me, very good. the album, in spite of not being the best thing since the invention of music, is a very solid and acomplished release. The instrumental work is done very well and, unlike some other instrumental metal albums, it does not get tiresome over time.

If you like guitar-driven progressive metal, this would a great place to stop by and give a try. And did I mentioned that it is available for free? Great music for free directly from the artist's website. It does not get much better from that.

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Send comments to CCVP (BETA) | Report this review (#334029)
Posted Thursday, November 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Cloudkicker is a one-man metal project around Ben Sharp, a gifted musician with a good ear for details, delivering an album that sounds surprisingly organic, mature and professional for these types of one-man endeavors.

The music can be roughly described as modern instrumental metal, incorporating the technical riffery and syncopated rhythms that were introduced in metal by the Prog Metal bands from 20 years ago. These things have since become rather "mainstream" or better "standard" in today's metal so whether this is still progressive or not has already been contested on this page and is indeed up for debate. At least it has a certain level of originality in fusing math metal with post-rock. Also the fact that it's instrumental makes it more arty then your normal metal platter.

The quality of the material on the other hand is not up for debate. It's downright good and entertaining throughout, incorporating the math-metal and atmospheric post-rock aspects into nicely moody and harmonious pieces such as Push It Way Up! and the album's highlights It's Bad, We're Hit and Amy I Love You. But at times I miss a good vocal that could make the material more memorable and distinguishable.

More kudos go to the tasty artwork and the altruistic distribution methods of the artist, who spreads his music through his website for whatever amount you wish to pay. It's probably the way of the future, but even though I almost exclusively listen to mp3, I still prefer to have a real physical copy of the music, it's just so much more fun browsing through real CDs then opening a bunch of files in Windows Explorer or one or other media library.

Anyway I'm getting carried away. And the reason is that, even though I think this album is very craftily made, it can't fully capture my unwavering attention as it misses that little extra that would push it to exceptional. 3.5 stars it is.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#392824)
Posted Wednesday, February 02, 2011 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Losing Steam, We're Going Down, Mayday!

One man djentleman Ben Sharp, aka Cloudkicker, named most of the songs on this album after lines that might be uttered in the cockpit of crashing plane. While the explosion is not imminent, BEACONS feels like a vessel that's running out of steam. I loved Sharp's first offering, THE DISCOVERY, and he's certainly continued to create some solid music on subsequent EPs and now this, his second full album. But there's something missing. The riffs are actually tighter, the production is a little sharper, but ironically, there's actually less sense of danger on this record than this first. Where the DISCOVERY really seemed to take me on an emotional journey, I often find that BEACONS has played all the way through and I didn't even notice it.

For newcomers to Cloudkicker, don't be scared off. Sharp makes some of the best djent / post- rock fusion out there, and it's free! (well if you want it to be, voluntary pricing). I prefer his work alot to related artist Chimp Spanner, and Sharp has disposed almost completely with most of the djent movement's metalcore leanings. The music is moody and atmospheric, but heavy. It's what post-metal was meant to be, and occasionally approaches. But it's better. The riffs are more interesting, the passages less monotonous (most of the time), and the musicianship obviously very careful. This last element, one of the most specific and common of all the math- metal types, is what really grabs me. There is nothing sloppy here at all, and unfortunately many metal bands delight in their slop.

I've read that BEACONS is actually Sharp's most atmospheric and varied album to date and on very careful listen it is. As is common, as I give closer attention, my inclination is to move my rating from a 2 to a 3. Sharp is still giving us good stuff. He's certainly matured a bit, but the process has robbed as much fire as it has added nuance for this particular listener. Others clearly disagree.

I've made my point. Get THE DISCOVERY first, move forward. If you enjoy that, you'll still get something out of BEACONS.

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#394066)
Posted Friday, February 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I normally despise djent. I love MESHUGGAH and mathy textures and angular rhythms, of course, being that I'm on a prog website. But the subsubsubsub-genre takes way too much from a single band's sound to really do anything for me. And the only doses of other sounds typically come from metalcore, a genre I just cannot deal with at all.

So along comes CLOUDKICKER. His first album, THE DISCOVERY, was passed along to me by some friends who know that I like the heavier end of music, and I applauded them for their efforts, but it didn't quite hit the mark. The sounds felt a bit too derivative for me, sticking much closer to "traditional djent" boundaries. I've since changed my opinion of the album, but at the time, it didn't register very high.

Jump forward a couple years later. A different friend sends me a link to listen to Cloudkicker's newest, BEACONS, for free. I figured I deserved to give him another shot; not because I liked The Discovery, which I didn't, but because my friend gave a glowing review of the album. I was hesitant, but I decided to go for.

What I found was unlike what I was expecting: There are angular textures, sure, but this focuses much more on post-metal atmospherics and textural guitar playing. Gone are the out-of-place metalcorish clean tones, replaced with a satisfying distortion. It causes all of the guitar lines to bleed together, but not in the sense of diluting them. Instead, it's more like... say, cutting an oak down and looking at the rings. They are clearly separate, but also part of one thing. These lines feel like they would be weak alone, but together make a surprisingly minimalistic sound. There are lots of bits, but none of them sound terribly complex, working more as complementary simple components. The shorter tracks tend to be these thick guitar textures acting as more melodic pieces, offering him room for simple but very emotive clean guitar work. The longer tracks tend to be more atmospheric and groove-oriented, offering something akin to MOGWAI at their heaviest (see: MY FATHER, MY KING) or ISIS, possibly even ROSETTA STONE.

All in all, this is a fantastic piece of music, and considering that you can get it for free, there is no reason for someone not to have this. I paid for a CD because it was 10 dollars and the music is wonderful, but that's because I love album artwork and things. Chuck the guy a couple bucks. He deserves it for this wonderful album.

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Send comments to Gorloche (BETA) | Report this review (#409398)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Silent film

I have really mixed feelings about that record. Cloudkicker's second album, BEACONS, is undoubtedly very interesting effort and given the fact it's released for free, it's even more awkward to rate it with 3 stars. I promise, I'll explain myself. But now for something completely different...

Damn those tricky one-man baaands! They use computer generated drums and think they're cool. Well, they are. Cloudkicker is anyway. Both his drums, guitars and bass sound convincing. As for drums, they're not as realistic as drum set from hell in CATCH 33 by Meshuggah but still realistic enough. Guitars feel a bit too sterile for my tastes but the fact they're heavy and perfectly executed is undeniable. For a homemade album the sound is just amazing.

Less original and more personal yet still technical. That simple phrase describes the music in BEACONS pretty well, but I'll elaborate on the subject in order to seem more intelligent. So, despite being an instrumental collection of songs, BEACONS is a concept album with a story told in... song titles! It's a story about a plain crash, or should I say a desperate report from the crew, just before the crash. I must say that's what's best in the album - dramatic tension that pervades the whole concept is thrilling. It's like a silent film created with sounds instead of images. Stylistically, Cloudkicker went completely opposite way of what I've expected though. Instead of developing his progressive side, Ben Sharp focused on drama and more traditional approach to riffs and melody. So-called djent is still there, but now it's more of a spice than a defining factor. Don't get me wrong, it's an album loaded with excellent riffs and emotion provoking build-ups ("Amy, I love you" shines here) but its repetitious nature makes it tiresome just too many times.

All in all, BEACONS is a solid album with some great features and some really bad ones too. It's still among the best records in djent as it presents a new approach to the style unlike the mass of young djent bands that have nothing interesting to offer (besides making Meshugah's style more accessible and melodic). If you're into post metal, you may love it. Well, get it to find out, it's free anyway!

TRACKS BY RATINGS: 8/10[great]: Amy, I love you.; Push it way up! || 7/10[very good]: We're goin' in. We're going down.; ...it's just wide-open field.; It's bad. We're hit, man, we are hit. || 6/10[good]: Oh, god.; We were all scared. || 5/10[not bad]: Here, wait a minute! Damn it!; I admit it now. I was scared.; untitled ||

-- Originally posted on METALMUSICARCHIVES.com --

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Send comments to bartosso (BETA) | Report this review (#630658)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars As others have said, it's good, but not in a different or innovative in any way. However, I would be more impressed if it was a finished backing track for lead parts. It seems prog gets thrown around a lot, like "oh it has weird timing and it was written down, that must make this prog" and I can see how this album has made it's way on here, but like a couple I have a pretty big gripe with this one. No Solos, I've listened to it several times and I'm certain I didn't miss it. I don't understand how this dude can come up with all this good material and not include one measly solo, not even an attempt! I want to enjoy it, I really do, but this Djent stuff is getting old quick. 2 stars.

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Send comments to broseidon (BETA) | Report this review (#752108)
Posted Saturday, May 12, 2012 | Review Permalink

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