Oneiric Thoughts on Crywolf’s Cataclasm

I used to lie around and listen to music for hours. I lay there, creating films in my head that would go along with the music—putting a film to score rather than the other way around. Anyone else? Anyway, adult life has cut that practice down to just about non-existent.

But then comes along the new Crywolf album: Cataclasm. Yes, I did spell that correctly.

I want to say that this discovery was like finding an oasis in the desert, but that’s a thoroughly clichéd description. Instead, I’ll talk about déjà vu for a minute.

I used to experience déjà vu every other day, or so it felt. I would be engaged in an experience and then start to sense that imbalanced feeling that I had already done this. Once the experience and that feeling subsided, I would remember that I had a dream about this very thing, exactly the way it was unfolding.

I remember one time when I was on a road trip. A buddy and I decided to go on this trip after our first year of seminary. We left from Philadelphia to head West. Eventually, we made it to Oregon.

As we were blazing down a switchback on the coast, making our way down to the ocean, I started moving into a dream that I had before. The texture of reality changed to this kind of experiential tertium quid. Sometimes it can be unsettling to move into this liminal space-time. Not on this occasion.

As this was happening, I announced with—what to my friend was—an overly enthusiastic: This is the land of my dreams! The evergreen trees, the sound of the ocean, its smell, the sight of Killer Whales in the distance, me coming face-to-face with a Seal: these were all out of another time for me, but yet present.

My discovery of Cataclasm was none too different. It was not literally déjà vu, but the album creates an oneiric feel with its genius transitions between songs, its orchestral arrangement of sounds that seem to span centuries in a single moment. This album is, in the most deeply etymological sense, wonderful.

With track names like The Queen of Fiji, Akureyri, and Anachronism we’re meant to be taken on a journey through space and time. With Act Two: A Shattering in F# Minor, and Act Three: Looming we know this is meant to be phonic theater. Epithelial and Epilogue: [Ossuary] alert us to a certain tinge of romantic angst.

We put our headphones on. The Queen of Fiji starts in a tenor range; it starts on ground level, on the earth. It rises to a Sam Smith-like soar into falsetto heights. Icarus be damned. You’re hooked, thinking that this dude has the vocal skills required to do something new. These vocal chops are only furthered and illuminated by his production savvy.

Listening to the transition from The Queen of Fiji to Wake [E-bow] is to hear a master technician at work. Like déjà vu, this transition captures the odd quality of being in two different realities at once. Where does one end; the other begin? It’s difficult to make a distinction between the ending and beginning of these two songs without the almost arbitrary cut of the time tracker. It is Crywolf’s skill in using ambient, environmental sounds that ties much of the album together.

Essentially, he’s created an entire world. The album is basically a sci-fi romance story, set on a planet of Crywolf’s design. Frank Herbert eat your heart out.

It’s this artistry that moves the pointy, technical precision to fullness.

With his hands masterfully on the dials and his heart e-bowed on the strings, Crywolf is able to take all of the energy and intensity of a late-80s exercise video, cut the glam hair, and make something that the 90s wouldn’t have completely covered in grunge.

I envision Kurt Cobain, donning a dress, and coming to a house party hosted by Crywolf. Really, there’s something for everyone on this album. It’s astounding.

Are you a Justin Timberlake fan? Listen to Slow Burn. If you like Andrew Lloyd Weber, listen to Anachronism or Epilogue [Ossuary]. These might awaken your ears to hunt for some Steampunk sounds. If so, check out Act Three: Looming, which could also serve as a number during a theatrical set change, or it could be scored over a photomontage in a film.

Speaking of film scores, maybe you want something minimalist, something reminiscent of Philip Glass—or better, Arvo Pärt. If this is your thing, set your headphones at the ready for Act Two: A Shattering in F# Minor. This piece reaches heights higher than falsetto.

This song is obviously a descendent of Gregorian chants, but the resonance is more modern. There’s a digital, almost platonic, purity to it. All of the dust and stone reverberation of the cathedral has left it. This is haunting, a little sad maybe. Whatever else it might be, I know it’s holy.

I leave this album feeling fuller. I think anyone would. I know that I haven’t wasted even a second of my time, however adult my life may be. It’s good to be halted from monotonously moving through tasks. Although, I’m already thinking about my next task. Where’s my camera? There’s a film to be made.

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