Though it might be jumping the gun a little bit, as Light Chasers isn’t due in record stores until September 17, I wanted to get out in front of the physical release to tell everyone how incredible this latest effort by Cloud Cult is. Light Chasers is a concept album about an intergalactic journey which tells the “story of the search for answers.”
At first, I was a little skeptical of this entire venture. The album art evokes memories of special effects from SciFi channel movies in the late 1990s, and the 16-deep tracklist was a little daunting. Even in the first tack, hearing the Mission Control transmissions in the last 20 seconds was awfully reminiscent of the lead-in track ‘Must Explore’ off of the previous Feel Good Ghosts, so I was a little wary.
As to make an example of my lack of faith, however, Cloud Cult did not disappoint: within another two listens my mind was sufficiently blown. It’s incredibly difficult to start talking about one track without getting carried away on how it complements and improves all the other songs; to head this off, I should first talk about the record as a whole, beginning with the tracklist:
1. The Mission: Unexplainable Stories
2. The Departure: Today We Give Ourselves to the Fire
3. The Invocation (p.1) – You’ll Be Bright
4. The Birth
5. The Baby – You Were Born
6. The Lessons – Exploding People
7. The Interference
8. The Battles – Room Full of People in Your Head
9. The Escape – Running With the Wolves
10. The Acceptance – Responsible
11. The Surrender – Guessing Game
12. The Strength – Forces of the Unseen
13. The Invocation (p.2) – Blessings
14. The Awakening – Dawn
15. The Contact
16. The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us
I purchased the downloadable copy so I could get an early listen in, and whatever track titles iTunes picked up on the import did not have the “The XXXXX” set of titles. To write this, I went looking for those, and was really surprised by how much illumination on the underlying story they provide. They very clearly trace out the different stages of this quest of space travelers to find “the light,” and give the tracks a greater purposes than if they were unknown.
The format is an extremely strong set of maybe 10 songs make up the bricks of the musical content, and around them is situated the other 6 tracks which serve as a type of mortar, holding them in the right order, binding the larger songs to one another, with one often foreshadowing the melody of the next. This isn’t really that new of an idea, but usually just one of these pops up at the opening, closing, or midpoint of a record; Light Chasers really commits to the idea, and it works wonders at tying together a large quantity of material.
The track released in advance a few months ago, ‘Running With the Wolves’, is great. On its own, it’s a great song, fairly representative of the strengths of the band; what’s amazing about it is how much sense it makes at the apex of this space odyssey of an album.
One of Cloud Cult’s greatest strengths is the craft that goes into their lyrics. Less obsessed with the outright wordplay of an Isaac Brock, they concentrate more on communicating such crystal clear, genuine human emotions that simply listening almost becomes an act of empathy. The strongest evidence on this record of this is ‘The Battles – Room Full of People in Your Head‘.
Particularly impressive to me were the verses,
In the center stands Ego- looking for attention.
And over there’s Self Pity, always crying, “Poor, poor me!”
Lock up the liquor, or they’re gonna get juiced.
I’ve got each of these in me.
Part of me is the Hang Man, looking for a scape-goat.
And part of me is the VICTIM, always crying, “Why you pickin’ on me?”
Lock up the gun cabinet, or it’s gonna get messy.
I’ve got each of these in me.
Here the group takes a fairly common human condition, internal conflict, and personifies the individual splinters of the mind, while the percussion and overall volume of the song is so loud that the listener really feels a sense of commotion.
A personal favorite of mine is ‘The Strength – Forces of the Unseen‘. It paints such a vivid image of a determination so dogged that it really gets you rooting for the protagonists and their mission, even though the exact details of it are unknown.
This song also makes use of one of the conjoining threads of the record, that of “energy.” This, along with the eponymous “light”, as well as “the captain” pop up all over the record, and even though they mean different things in different places, they all twist together in the closing track ‘The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us’ which, to me, is the single most powerful song on the album. I declined to post it here, because it’s really unfair to evaluate it out of the context of the rest of the album, but rest assured that it does not disappoint.
Ultimately, whether or not you like this album is largely dependent upon if you can “buy in” to it. You’ve gotta be willing to go on that space adventure with The Captain, to embrace the tragedy and excitement that comes along with The Mission, and to have a real yearning to chase the light yourself. Go into Light Chasers with both an open mind and an open heart, and Cloud Cult will deliver.