Armed Cloud - Nimbus

(CD 2024, 54:54, MEY Productions, MEY-007)

The tracks:
  1- Safety Word(5:01)
  2- Angel Of Frost ft. Marcela Bovio(5:25)
  3- Desolation(5:41)
  4- Demon I, Demon You(5:26)
  5- The Ones Who Are Lost(4:15)
  6- Handless Thief(5:21)
  7- Stitches(6:04)
  8- Nimbus(3:39)
  9- White Wine(5:14)
10- Social Sludge(8:48)

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Three years after the release of Torque (2020, see review) Armed Cloud brings their fourth album, titled Nimbus, to the market. For those who are unknown with Armed Cloud: this band is one of the flagships of the Dutch progressive metal.
On all previous albums, Armed Cloud mixed progressive rock and metal with alternative hard rock. Personally I think that the progressive rock/-metal was the base of most of the tracks. Every now and then the band made a foray into heavy metal and grindcore. These were always brief passages and I could handle this as a progressive rock fan.

When I listened to the album for the first time, my first feeling was that things had changed a bit. I think Armed Cloud has become a lot heavier and with Nimbus they deliver their heaviest album ever. The new album is more a band effort, every member participated in the writing. Despite this, the album has become a coherent whole. Personally, I think it is important that an album radiates unity and is not a hodgepodge. After playing the album a few times, my brain got used to this new sound.

On Nimbus the band is pushing the boundaries and influences as Amorphis, Voyager, Korn and Pantera are clearly audible.
The line-up isn't changed with regards to the former album. The band consists of Remco van der Veen (keyboards, synths and backing vocals), Kay Bouten (guitars), Boris Suvee (bass), Rico Noijen (drums) and Daan Dekker (vocals). Marcela Bovio (Ayreon, Stream of Passion) is present on the second track.
With Daan Dekker the band has an outstanding front man. Daan Dekker is gifted with an impressive voice, but also with infectious energy. A Background Magazine colleague described his voice as a crossing between Geoff Tate (Queensryche), Ray Adler (Fates Warning) and a little bit of Geddy Lee (Rush). I think this is accurate.

As said Nimbus is a much heavier album than the predecessors. Of course this comes at a cost. Personally, I think the progressive rock elements have been maneuvered a little more to the side.

The album opens with the track Safety Word. This is your immediate introduction to the reborn Armed Cloud. After a short 8 second intro it's pedal to the medal. Only a couple of very melodic bridges and a phenomenal guitar solo reminds me of old school Armed Cloud. Singer Daan Dekker is in top form. His voice moves through many musical styles in 5 minutes. Very clever how he does this.

The album continues with Angel Of Frost, where the fabulous voice of Marcela Bovio is present beside Daan Dekker's voice. Angel Of Frost is a heavy, dark, lingering track on which both vocalists have a leading role. The track is also very melodic and therefore it's probably grown to my personal favorite track of this album.

Desolation is a track that starts rather modest and dark. The song rambles on a bit and doesn't really get going. Melodically it's quite good, but it doesn't touch me personally.
However, the devil is in the tail. Here the brakes loosen a bit more and the highlight of this track unfolds.

Next track is Demon I, Demon You. From the first to the last note it is clear that this is going to be a track that leans towards trash metal. In my personal experience, the song exudes the atmosphere of Suicidal Tendencies and even a little Metallica 80's style. It's trashy and contains those metal choirs. It is a tight song with a high tempo and once again excellent vocals from Daan Dekker.

With The Ones Who Are Lost we have reached half of the album. Armed Cloud slows down a little. The Ones Who Are Lost may be up-tempo, but it is above all very melodic. Furthermore, the vocals are very nicely layered in a number of places and the keyboards have a prominent role. Remco van der Veen shows that he can do more than just touch some heavy chords. The keyboard solo in this song is very beautiful.
Finally, in my opinion, Kay Bouten's guitar work also deserves some extra attention. The guitar solo in this song actually starts in the keyboard solo. When the latter ends, the guitar solos for a few more bars. However, this is done with so much feeling that it gives me goosebumps. All in all it is a special track with a special appearance.

Handles Thief is another melodic, heavy riffing track. The track is up-tempo and doesn't have much tension in it. The song slowly drifts away from the quay and therefore gets nowhere in a storm at sea.
Personally, I don't think it's the strongest song on the album. In my opinion it just lacks dynamism and variety. But technically everything remains perfectly fine.

Unfortunately, this line continues with the next song: Stitches. This song is also quite heavy. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this song. The song lasts 6 minutes and not all of it touches me equally well. Call it hit and miss. I sometimes feel that a shortened song would have touched me more.
However, this song also has a highlight and that is the guitar solo at the end of the song. This one is unparalleled. Kay Bouten is truly a very refined guitarist!

Nimbus, the title track of this album, is also the shortest song on the album. This is also an up-tempo track with a heavy soul.
I have the feeling that the production is a bit more open here and that therefore the overall image of the band comes out well. From these types of songs you notice that you are dealing with a very experienced band. Which also consists of very talented musicians. Rico Noijen's tight double bass pedal is working overtime here. Boris Suvee's bass work is also clearly evident in this song. And yes, this is also terribly tight.

With White Wine we are heading towards the end of the album. The song is an odd one out. It is the only real acoustic ballad on the album. A kind of medieval atmosphere is created with just singing and guitar.

The last song on the album is Social Sludge. At almost 9 minutes, this is the longest song on the album. The song has a dragging character and is, you could almost say, heavy in nature. There are several instrumental intermezzos within the song. Here too, I personally think the guitar work is of exceptional class.
In short, a worthy ending.

For me, Nimbus is an album with two faces. On the one hand you hear Armed Cloud as usual, a progressive metal band. But on the other hand you hear a band that has moved somewhat towards the heavier segment. This will certainly make the band friends, but will probably also lose some support.
All in all, Nimbus has become a good album. Here and there it could perhaps have been a little shorter or more compact. But this remains a subjective feeling.
In any case, the band does not stand still and is that not what we fans of progressive rock like, right? Or do we secretly want everything to remain the same?

**** Aad Bannink (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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