Nobody can claim that Haze is in any way, shape or form the most interesting or engaging band name in history, but in some ways, it is an appropriate one with which to describe the sound they make on debut Clouds Surround and Breathe. It’s an album of great scale that touches on many of the conventions of hardcore and post-rock, yet in places gets completely lost in a fog of its own ambition.
The album kicks off with an atmospheric, intricately layered, delay-drenched guitar intro that gently washes over the listener. Slowly, the drums build in the background, but this is the calm before the storm. If this an exercise in tension, the wave never truly, satisfyingly breaks before the end of the song.
Next up is ‘I Can’t Help But Get Lost’, which jumps straight in with absolutely no fanfare, but in its place an astoundingly blood-curdling vocal. There is a great deal of passion on show here, and the song sits somewhere between Russian Circles and the last Reuben album. What Haze could learn from Reuben though, is that sometimes you need to throw a hook in there. This is all blood, piss and vinegar, but there’s not a lot here that remains memorable, which sets off a disappointing trend for the rest of the LP.
Songs such as ‘Like Glass’, ‘Forma’ and Loomer all stick pretty much to formula. It is difficult to distinguish these songs from each other, never mind the vast multitude of fiddly, post-rock bands noodling for their lives at the moment. It isn’t that these are bad songs; it’s just that they seem almost terrified of deviating from what is expected of them. They also have a tendency to sit on an idea long past it’s sell by date.
That said, there are plenty of brilliant moments on show here. If you can’t find something to enjoy in the sprawling nine minutes of ‘Upheaval’, you probably aren’t a fan of epic post-rock and hardcore. Brutal hardcore rubs shoulders with fuzzy noise rock, as well as woozy alternative psych-rock. Then there is ‘Morrina’, which has its faults but you can’t fault this band’s ambition. Not to mention, some of the instrumentation here is really impressive, atmospheric and tasteful.
There is plenty to like on Clouds Surround and Breathe but as an album, it could do with plenty of fat being cut from it. This is a band who display a high level of musicianship and deliver passion in spades, but a few hooks here and there would not go amiss. This is an album for beard-stroking musos rather than lovers of the chorus.
2.5 out of 5 high fives!