Thrash guitarist Tiago James de Souza from Hand of Fire unveils his new side project Through the Clouds, putting together a collection of hard rock tracks carrying his signature guitar work.
Brazilian musician Tiago James de Souza is certainly known within thrash fans for his work as part of Hand of Fire (Rottweiler Records). For those who really know a bit more about him, you also know that he is guitarist and producer of the album The Reapers by Perpetual Paranoia, a band featuring legendary vocalist Dale Thompson (Bride). For this project, de Souza worked with Paulo Lima in Brazil while he recorded the music parts in California, making this a truly inter-continental project. Paulo and Tiago met around three years ago through a mutual friend and the project began. After a chat with Roxx Records CEO, they agreed to be part of the project and things began in earnest.
So, the tie to Hand of Fire certainly intrigued me when I received this album as their Nuclear Sunrise album made my Top 10, the year it came out. I’ve always loved thrash, probably because of its close ties to punk, so I was hoping for more of that. The opening track “Crossfire” put things in a different light as once the long intro with blistering solo ended, the song became a 90’s –influenced hard rock track. Ever present in the songs is de Souza’s incredible guitar work. Paulo Lima’s vocals are a bit too loud in the mix for my taste and the rhythm section a bit too quiet but everything is still very listenable and much of the complaints I have might just be my taste, so keep that in mind. Lima’s vocals even have that 90’s era feel to them, specifically like some of the Seattle bands like Alice in Chains and others of the later Seattle scene.
“Blinded Minds” opens up with a bit of groovy, dirty riff joined soon after by Lima’s near gravelly, deep vocals that certainly shift to the Alice in Chains feel when the chorus comes around. The songs on Blinded Minds at times almost give the impression that they were written in such a way to give de Souza numerous opportunities to solo and the first one in this song happens after about a minute and a half. Like the opening track this song and over half the others on the album go past the 5 minute mark providing ample solo opportunities in most cases but oddly enough not so much in this track.
“Make Your Choice” begins much like a late 80’s hard rock track with the guitar riff opening joined by keyboards and a higher pitched yell so common of hair bands of the era. By the time the verse kicks in a thumping double bass line comes in that takes away that vibe. Keyboards later in the song just don’t seem to fit. To me it almost seems as if de Souza was trying to play homage to those older songs where he really doesn’t need to as a straight ahead guitar approach would carry these songs nicely.
“Better Way” starts out with a bit of a guitar solo accompanied by keyboards and drums and the vocals that come in sound very, very much like something from an Alice in Chains album, the lower tone and almost a slower droning-like quality to them. The guitar solos in the song definitely don’t have the Alice in Chains feel but they do seem a bit out of place, added later, and that may be a product of the general mix.
“Lost” again brings in the keyboards that were pretty much my least favorite part of the overall sound of the album as the song serves as one of the power ballads, relegating the guitars mostly to the background, and even showcasing a harmonica. Later on the album is the other power ballad “Wondering” which is the better of the two and features some acoustic/clean guitar over top of the backing hard rock, sounding a bit like other power ballads of the late 80’s. In contrast, “Unforgiven” almost sounds like some electronica or EDM track with its keyboard opening that abruptly ends and slow, chunky riff takes over accented by keyboards. Then “Hard Times” starts out with a fast drum line and a funky bass line, returning the overall sound to be guitar-dominated, definitely playing to the strengths on the album. After the second power ballad “Wondering” the album closes with an acoustic reprise of “Blinded Minds”, which from a timing standpoint is a bit unfortunate given the previous power ballad.
Through the Clouds is one of those projects that has so much potential given the strong vocals of Paulo Lima and the great guitar work of Tiago James de Souza, but the songs seem to never quite put all the strengths together in a consistent manner. There is a strong sense of the 90’s Seattle hard rock bands and even some nods to the hair metal bands of the 80’s that work well, but just when things get rolling, some of the arrangements get in the way of the songs and the album loses momentum. There is so much potential here, I really would hope there is a follow up or maybe Lima and de Souza can get together to record some of these in a live studio setting as that would be amazing. Hard rock fans do need to check this project out.
Written by John Jackson
2. Blinded Minds
3. Make Your Choice
￼4. Better Way
7. Hard Times
9. Blinded Minds (Reprise)
Tiago James de Souza – all instruments
Paulo Lima – vocals
Record Label: Roxx Records
Release Date: September 21st. 2018
Lyric video for “Blinded Minds”