Over the last few years, instrumental releases within the progressive rock/metal genre have been on the rise, and like with everything else, the quality of the releases vary from hit-and-miss to some absolutely amazing gems. Cloudspeak, based in Chicago, is a project of Johnny Wright IV. To the Moon is an EP debut by Cloudspeak released on January 13.
Well composed, arranged and wonderfully performed, To the Moon is an ambitious piece of largely instrumental prog metal, with more than enough epic ideas to keep a listener engaged and attentive. Suffice to say, there is more than enough of a variety to keep the music from sounding stale or rehashed. Although Johnny’s true calling lies in melody-driven progressive metal guitar, the stylistic curveballs here are fully-realized and sound great. The EP opens with a short intro “Set Sail,” which connects with “The Great Sea.” This is an excellent example of Wright’s skill as a multi-faceted composer. And this skill just keeps on improving throughout the six-track release. Song structures seem arranged to cater to a string of individually satisfying moments, as opposed to the ideas all contributing to the overall whole of a composition. Even in the most ambitious progressive rock/metal moments, I tend to look for some of the same qualities found in conventionally good songwriting.
Obviously, much of the spotlight here is placed on Wright’s prodigious grasp of the electric guitar. Although the album’s djenty side doesn’t stand any bit above what we’ve already heard from that corner of prog metal, Wright makes himself out to be an absolutely brilliant fusion guitarist, possibly one of the most talented I’ve heard in recent years. “Storm Clouds” might be my favourite track on the EP for this very reason; Wright’s marriage of keen instrumental wandering and tight melodic passages is gorgeous.
To the Moon is a record packed with instrumental inventiveness and technical proficiency. Cloudspeak excels here both as a composer and musician.