Compact Disc (CD), Sweater/Hoodie
What if music really did make the world go around? Dissolution Wave, the third full-length offering from Cloakroom, presents an alternate reality where the earth requires songs in order to keep spinning. A concept album self-described as a space western spiked with theoretical physics, the Indiana trio’s most fully-realized effort to date upends age-old existential questions about the meaning—and possible futility—of art. As a backstory, frontman/guitarist Doyle Martin imagined a world where all of humanity’s artwork had been swept away by the wave of the album’s title.
In a clever twist, Martin’s universe functions as the ultimate critic: cold, impartial and utterly merciless in its assessments. If enough songs make the cut, then life on earth is allowed to go on. If, however, an individual artist’s creation doesn’t pass muster, then the artist’s life is forgotten, as if that life had never taken place. When Martin asks, “Do you hear me and the echo of it all/ With no feeling?” on album opener “Lost Meaning,” his words ring out not so much as a question to an empty void that doesn’t answer, but as a plea to a sentient higher order that will show no quarter if he fails to earn its approval on aesthetic grounds.
“Do you know my name, Dissembler?/ The sweetest sound I have played/ You don’t need it” he sings on “Dissembler,” his voice trailing off in a blur of reverb over a churning guitar riff that embodies ‘70s-style proto-metal, ‘90s alt rock, and contemporary avant-metal all in one. While Martin has drawn connections between his narrative and concepts of karma and cyclical time inspired by an ancient Vedic view of the cosmos, the actual lyrics benefit from an economy that doesn’t quite spell out the story. Instead, Cloakroom continue to lean on their exceptional knack for ambience. Martin, bassist Bobby Markos, new drummer Tim Remis, and engineer/mixer Zac Montez deftly juggle tone, harmony, and color all the while, resulting in an almost intoxicating melancholy that pervades every song on the album. In a climactic moment towards the end of “Lost Meaning,” for example, the ghostly echo of a guitar lead sweeps over the massive treads of the main riff: a frail, all-too-human cry for validation, crushed against the churning gears of fate.
Though it’s been decades since artists first combined metal with shoegaze and space rock, few have been able to render the combination in such an emotionally affecting way. Montez, for example, applies reverb and creates space so expertly on the title track (with help from the band, of course), it’s as if every sound rises like incense smoke in a cathedral, twirling and dissipating in an upwards spiral. Meanwhile, on the relatively sunny “A Force at Play,” Cloakroom add jangly pop to their repertoire without skipping a beat.
Cloakroom’s sound has always lent itself to exploratory lyrics, so it’s not so surprising that Doyle invented a fantasy realm for these new songs. In this case, though, he and his bandmates elevated their range and dynamic command to match the scope of the words. A major step forward in so many respects, Dissolution Wave captures the band’s strengths gelling on a whole new level.