The Black Clouds Better Days – Album Review

Comprising of guitarists and vocalists Dan Matthews and Rob Blake, bassist Gary Moses and drummer Cory King, New Jersey’s The Black Clouds have returned leaner and louder with their new release, Better Days. Produced, recorded and funded entirely by the band, Better Days was recorded over the period of one month and mixed by alternative rock legend, John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Hold Steady). The album abides by three driving principles: Play loud. Play hard. Leave every post-modern music trend quivering in the dust.

The Black Clouds have maintained a D.I.Y. stance since their formation in late 2004. Also self-produced, recorded and funded, the band’s debut LP Wishing Well (2008) was mixed and mastered by yet another legendary rock producer, Seattle’s Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney).

The Black Clouds played Bamboozle in 2008 and followed with a self-funded, self-booked US tour in 2009 which saw them hitting 25 shows in 30 days. Another short tour – again funded and booked entirely by the band – followed in 2010 when the they hit the road for SXSW and back.

The Black Clouds’ gruelling commitment to touring has paid off as the band plays every live show like it’s their last one standing. And Better Days pulls off the near-impossible feat of ensnaring the band’s blood-and-spit stage fury in a way few modern bands could even strive for, let alone achieve.

The Black Clouds Better Days

The Black Clouds album artwork for Better Days

Better Days is an album that’s a cross between the familiar sounds of Nickleback and Puddle of Mudd. It’s hard, grunge underground rock which is the sort of rock that’s perfect for a mosh pit.

The Black Clouds have produced a brilliant record in Better Days; it’s the sort of music you want to be able to blast out when you’re having a bad day. So if you’re in need of an album full of anger, Better Days is the one for you.

With the dark, grunge guitars, The Black Clouds tracks on Better Days are incredibly similar in sound to Puddle of Mudd and Nirvana at times. Vocally, The Black Clouds appear to be very influenced by Nickleback’s gravelly sound and Puddle of Mudd’s rock star half shouting voice.

But it’s not just about their grunge rock sound, The Black Clouds are brilliant at writing catchy choruses like those in Defective Mind, “Defective mind/Something’s burning away inside him/Harder they try/Get’s harder and harder to fight it…”and Breathing, “Don’t leave the station/Don’t leave it/Don’t leave it/Don’t leave the station/Breathing…”.

Again is probably one of the best tracks on the record with its Nirvana and Cobain style influences on the vocals, “Again/Again we’re stuck at the bottom…” This song reverts me back to my teenage years as I’m sure it will for those of you who are my age when you hear this song.

Songs like Fray do show that the band have a slightly softer side with a gentler yet just as good a melody and wonderful vocal work which shows off their ability to sing rather than shout in that rock star way. Blue Blocker has a great melody and some fantastic guitar riffs which are truly American in style – this is a song that you will instantly fall in love with, it’s a summer rock song, what isn’t there to like?

Better Days is a solid underground grunge rock album that’s perfect for those days when you just want to let off steam and see ‘Better Days’. Better Days is out now.

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