By Elliott Nguyen
Hot on the heels of last year’s debut album “BUMMER,” Canadian rock duo Cleopatrick followed up with their new EP, “DOOM,” released on most streaming platforms at midnight on Oct. 21.
Much like that album, “DOOM” has the band’s newfound style of loud and fuzzy production better oriented for headphones and live listeners — though with a more matured, cleaned-up and intricate sound. Dubbed “laptop rock” by lead singer Luke Gruntz, their sound may not be appealing to all rock fans, but listeners who enjoyed “BUMMER” will enjoy this latest release as well.
Whereas “BUMMER” tackles more personal subjects of growing up and reexamining relationships, as well as lamenting the supposed fraudulence of mainstream rock, “DOOM” takes on the concepts of digital privacy and social media as an almost dystopian work. In an Instagram post, Gruntz explained how he was inspired by “physics literature,” crediting the likes of Brian Greene, Carlo Rovelli and Carl Sagan with sparking a “deep spiritual reaction” in him.
The EP kicks off with “ZUCK,” a fast-paced track about the dangers of social media in the information age. Titled after Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and co-founder of Meta Platforms, it questions our willingness to sign over so much of our personal information to companies. Gruntz sings, “I might have lost a part of me while mindlessly acknowledging some shit about my privacy in Mark’s updated policies,” referencing the fact that people often agree to the terms and conditions of digital platforms without actually reading any of them. The band also points out how easy it is to get stuck scrolling through social media and lose track of time with the line, “Felt a little hollow and got caught up tryna scroll to the bottom.”
Sonically, the track resembles the earlier “DEEMED ! - b-side,” a single released as a b-side to the band’s most recent album. It features exciting, mosh-friendly guitar riffs backed by a powerful drum line from drummer Ian Fraser, the other half of this dynamic duo. The verses feature Gruntz’ hip-hop-esque vocal style used in previous songs, as well as in the single “OK,” which preceded the EP but is included in it. The song’s high-riding chorus only continues the energy of the song, creating a wave that finally crashes toward the end with a slowed tempo and higher stakes, as in their song “GREAT LAKES.” Finally, the song ends with a relaxed, electronic outro that leads directly into the next song, “OK.”
After an awkward transition, or lack there-of, the song “OK,” follows up the tempo of the previous with a head-bopping drum beat that becomes the first verse once Gruntz’ guitar and vocals kick in. The first verse discusses the silly joy of friendship before switching to the starkly contrasted subject of consumerism. A play on words, the title “OK” references all the advertisements that are constantly thrown in people’s faces and the many contracts they must agree to.
Though “ZUCK” is also quite good, there is something riveting about this song. Since its release as a single in August, I have found myself listening to “OK” almost every day. While it does feel a little out of place in this EP, its catchiness more than makes up for it.
Next up on the tracklist is “SCARING ME,” which might be Cleopatrick’s current best song. An ode to Big Data, the song blends somber, slurred vocals with soft acoustic guitar and a catchy drum line from Fraser. A resigned and sorrowful Gruntz expresses deep fear at the thought of how much social media and internet companies might know about him, singing “I swear you always know where I am and somehow hear the things I said beneath my breath.”
Mixing the light strumming of an acoustic guitar with heavily distorted chords and some other atmospheric instrumental effects, Cleopatrick manages to convey a niche, more nuanced emotion than those in their previous works. The track is also one of their most musically complex, making for an engaging listen, whether it be the first or the hundredth time.
The titular “DOOM” somewhat resembles their earlier ballad “2008,” which shot to popularity after being released as a single ahead of Cleopatrick’s debut album release. Carried mainly by a single acoustic guitar, the track also features electronic sound effects that resemble the whining computer noises of an 80’s sci-fi film, as well as distorted modification on Gruntz’s voice to produce a song that could be the ending to a movie. It is certainly the most on-the-nose track in terms of the EP’s themes, matching the sound with the subject matter that each song on the release covered. “DOOM” feels final, like a farewell or a surrender, acting as the perfect closer to the EP before Gruntz’ voice disappears and we are left with only the whirring digital noises of the instrumental finale, “SERVERS SPEAK.” Aptly named, the brief track implies that the only voices left are those of the computers.
The amount of care and attention to detail that Cleopatrick gave to this latest release, even in comparison to “BUMMER,” is evident and results in an EP that feels both sonically and thematically complete. While its finale mainly exists for storytelling purposes and will likely warrant few replays, the four main tracks on this release each stand out in their own way. They are thought-provoking and engaging, but most importantly, they sound really, really good.
If Cleopatrick’s eventual next effort turns out anything like this one, fans are in for a treat.