Vocals can be an important focal point in progressive music, and this is especially true within a genre that prides itself on being a rich playground for ideas, stories, and concepts. Although some degree of instrumental prowess and interplay tends to be the key reason many “musician types” gravitate towards the genre, there are many more listeners who I’m sure could largely care less about intricate meter shifts and time changes. These people just want a nice, forward thinking melody and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Vocal driven prog is just another side of a very multifaceted genre.
With that being said, Will of the Mountain attempts something fairly ambitious on “Cloud Walking”. The record comprises eight tracks, with each being sung by a different vocalist. The upside to this, as I see it, is the potential to explore new styles and different ranges unique to each collaborator. The downside is that a huge weight is placed on the songwriters and vocalists in carrying this differentiation through to some sort of viable term. “Cloud Walking” hits about as much as it misses.
As a musical experiment the “many vocalist” approach sounds quite interesting, but in execution some vocalists are more up to the task than others. “Mountain” starts off the record fairly strong, and a nice string of vocalists carry the listener through the next few tracks. By the time “In Your Shadow” and “Sanctuary” come around in the middle of the record, I found my personal tastes not syncing up with the vocals on display. Ultimately, none of these performers are bad singers per se, but certain songs don’t seem to stylistically cohere into a greater whole, or their respective vocalists don’t match the material as well as they should. The mixture of Axl Rose/Bon Jovi type vocals on “Sanctuary” seemed a bit off to me, although the vocalist is definitely giving his all. Similarly, “In Your Shadow” features some more powerful singing, but some questionable melodic choices pulled me out of it by the song’s end.
As the final third of the record begins, “Starlight” creates a nice atmosphere with some airy female vocals that reminded me quite a bit of Florence and the Machine (that’s a good thing). This was definitely a highlight of the record for me, as I happen to love this type of ethereal vocal. The final duo of tracks similarly take some stylistic turns into an almost Kings X/Ty Tabor grunge vibe on “Take Flight”, and a modern rock approach on “Cloud Seeker”. Although stylistically varied, the songs themselves didn’t really grab me, and I found myself wanting more.
Musically, the instrumentation mirrors the vocals in terms of a tendency towards unevenness. Once again, everything is played extremely well, and the performers give it their all. The issue instead lies in the use of soft/heavy dynamics and the sense of almost forced sounding metal elements at times. A soaring vocal, or atmospheric Anathema-like passage often segues into pummeling and bludgeoning down tuned riffs, and, at least for me, these transitions didn’t really work, or missed their mark. I would be interested in hearing a record that is all soft, and focused exclusively on this element, because I feel like this collective could really shine if freed from the trappings of trying to be heavy. In fact I would say that the best moments of the record stem from the occasional emphasis on post-y atmospherics and dynamics over an impending sense of “heaviness”.
That mixture seems to be what the band is shooting for on “Cloud Walking”, and they definitely get points for trying. The whole concept has an experimental air, and simply because it didn’t completely work this time doesn’t mean that it can’t. I look forward to seeing where this group takes their unique sound in the future, and hope that time can hone it into something truly special.
- Haze of Dawn
- In Your Shadow
- Take Flight
- Cloud Seeker