Clouds Collide allow grief and dark emotions to be tackled on gazey ‘They Don’t Sleep Anymore’

Sadness and grief are things we cannot avoid, and at some point in our lives, we’ve all had to deal with these entities. The result can bring depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, all of which are pretty hard to shake, especially when it feels like you’ve had a gigantic cavern drilled into the center of your heart. Where we go from there depends on how we pull through.

Chris Pandolfo always has used his Clouds Collide project to delve deep into his soul, but never more so than on his third record “They Don’t Sleep Anymore.” This five-track offering has Pandolfo, the band’s only member, reflecting on the 10th anniversary of his mother’s passing as he himself stares 30 in the face. The record isn’t really about that thematically, as he said there isn’t an ongoing plot. Instead, it’s him digging through his emotions, his darkness, and creating music he hopes can help connect with people experiencing the same types of things. Those who deal with trauma or who are grieving or who struggle with mental health issues could spend time with this music and perhaps see something of themselves in what’s going on here. Sonically, Pandolfo still uses black metal as a base, but there are elements of emo (in a good way), shoegaze, and doomy melody that keeps you guessing. He trades off between piercing shrieks and earnestly delivered singing, giving the music different textures that take you in and out of splintering heaviness.

Clou“Entanglement” comes in with post-rock waves, pushing a gazey atmosphere as wild howls punish over the top. Clean singing then follows, giving an about-face that cools the temperature, as the guitar work feels inspired by Smashing Pumpkins. The track is breezy later before growls return and crush again, the emotion builds into a wall, and the vocals get more forceful before a giant crescendo ends. “Cosmic Loneliness” rushes open, with the music feeling big and elegant and vocals bursting through the gates. Growls scrape before Pandolfo returns to cleaner tones, digging into his heart, and then a watery, murky edge pushes in. Wrenching cries crash down as Pandolfo’s soul squeezes all its contents from itself, sounds spill, and everything loads into the sea.

“Golden Youth” lets cool winds touch down, feeling like it’s mid-summer, as clean singing continues that ambiance. Wild howls and tumultuous curves unite to bring storm clouds, as guitars turn into a psychedelic cloud, soothing wounds before things explode again. The track swarms, the singing reminds me of Duran Duran for some reason (which is a compliment), and the track bleeds away. “Parallel Ruminations” basks in ’80s-style keys before the track rolls into violent winds. Singing returns as the keys blur, with screams then taking control, the tempo poking into blood, and a fury spreading. Keys spiral while cries tear through the night, with wrenching playing twisting at your guts. “Infinite Purgatory” ends the record by slowly unraveling, with singing and harsh vocals trading off and Pandolfo calling, “Please release me, I’ve been in prison for too long now.” Gutting sadness takes on a major role as gothy clouds hover, and then the track strikes hard again. The screams punish, the gazey bleeding spills ahead, and waves crash down, with the mist leaving a coating on your face.

Soaking in shadowy chaos and bathing in sonic beauty, Pandolfo pours his entire self into “They Don’t Sleep Anymore,” a record that’ll tax your heart and mind. There is a lot going on here, and it might take a few visits through this album just to examine all the twists and turns and each bleak corner. It takes a lot of pain and suffering to get to this point, and Pandolfo showed the strength and courage to put himself and his gushing heart on display.

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