While Cycles has had a couple EP’s available on Spotify to listen to, they had still yet to record a debut album in the studio, until last week when they released their new album “Vacation”. Over the course of the past couple of years the band has been together, they have created an extremely large amount of material that would leave one wondering; which songs would make the cut for the new album, and how they would sound in the studio compared to the live setting that many fans around the country have gotten used to. For those of you who haven’t yet discovered the wild ride that is Cycles, they are a power-rock trio that can range from heavier, intense songs containing humorous lyrics, to blissful instrumental tracks that show off each band members mastering of their instruments. Cycles consist of guitarist Patrick Harvey, bassist Tucker McClung, and drummer Michael Wood who reside in Denver, Colorado. Unlike previous DIY basement recordings, the band recorded this album at Mountain Star Studio, and the quality of the album is noticeable from the very first chords of the very first song on the album, the title track “Vacation”.
The title track kicks off the album with Patrick Harvey playing what some would call a very cyclical guitar riff, leading the rest of the band into the track, and ultimately setting the stage for the rest of the album. Lyrically and musically, this is one of many highlights of the album, as the guitar solos soar and loop over one another creating a euphoric space. Vacation, along with other songs on the album, contain a fantastic instrumental breakdown towards the middle that displays the band’s roots in hip hop. The next song on the album “The Aloe Parade” leads off with Tucker’s signature heavy bass slapping sound, reminiscent of Les Claypool. This is a bass-heavy track that Michael Wood spectacularly lays down a drum beat over, while Patrick eventually comes in with the soaring guitar solos again before the vocals pick back up. Whereas many bands have ballads on their albums to slow things down, the closest Cycles comes to a slow ballad is an instrumental in the song “Green”. This instrumental shows off the band's musicianship, as each band member, equally contributes to piece together this song that reminds me of a Joe Satriani or Stevie Ray Vaughan instrumental. The next song up is titled “The Store”; in which Tucker sings “All in all I hope you got what you came for”, which indeed, Cycles fans and new listeners alike are getting what they came for when it comes to this new album. The fifth track, “Everything Must Go,” is the most laid back song on the album. It starts with a mellow melody with Tucker singing vocals, however, the song quickly changes after the first verse and the hip-hop roots discussed earlier display themselves again as the tempo changes right before the band busts into the chorus. Lyrically I believe this is another one of the highlights of the album, and with the multiple hip-hop sound changes, this is a great track to familiarize yourself with Cycles’ sound. The next song up is “Swing Bells,” which starts off with a fast-paced drum rhythm and guitar work, that suddenly slows down when Tucker starts singing the vocals. This song displays the band's great work at tempo changes, as well as showing off the range their they can cover in just one song. Swing Bells will have you banging your head and wanting more, and is followed up with “Twilight.” This is an uplifting song with a lot of focus on the vocals, where Cycles once again displays their unique dynamic ability to switch the focus of the song from vocals to instrumentals and back again. “Twilight” is followed up by a personal favorite of mine from the album “The Ruminator.” The introduction to “The Ruminator” is the definitive bass sound of Tucker McClung with signature Patrick Harvey guitar loops to ring in the song all over Michael Wood holding down a nice fat drumbeat. This was the single the band chose to release the album, and for good reason, as I believe this is the best example of what to show your friends when they ask “Who are Cycles? What do they sound like?” “The Ruminator” would be my answer. With about 2 minutes left, the band completely changes the structure of the song and launches off into 2 minutes of jam/shred madness, all while holding down a funky beat that one can easily dance along to. Following the Ruminator, the band begins “The Call”, the 9th and final song on the album. This is another instrumental, and once again it highlights heavy drums, a significant bass slap, and looping guitar work. It’s the finale and does a great job of leaving you wondering, how in the world a trio could put out this type of sound. Again, like Green, it’s an instrumental that almost feels like it’s in the place of where another band would place a slower ballad, but that is not how Cycles works. They’re not going to play you a slow song at a show to give you time to use the restroom, so they sure aren’t going to waste any time on their debut album slowing things down. They’re going to do all they can to keep the listeners entertained and excited. There are moments on the album that sound like there must be at least five members of this band with the buildups and intensity in some songs, but that is just the Cycles sound.
Cycles have toured very heavily this far in their career stretching across the country, and with this album have managed to translate that sound into the studio and bring the same type of energy to a studio album that one would typically expect at their live show. Cycles have a sound that they continue to define with this album, and with the evolution of the band over the course of just a couple of years, it seems they are beginning to find their unique voice in the scene with musically heavy songs that contain thoughtful lyrics and legitimately interesting compositions and changes. Cycles will be touring this summer in support of the new album, and I highly recommend looking at their Facebook or website to determine if they have any dates coming up near you. Cycles currently have a few Colorado shows, and then their tour sees them heading back towards the Midwest including some Phish after shows in Chicago and Dayton this summer before heading back to the southeast by way of stops in Asheville, Atlanta, Texas, and more. Do not miss this up and coming band out of Denver while you still have the chance to see them in small venues, as I predict they are not far out from increasingly building their fan base and crowd sizes. In just the couple of years, they have been together, they have gone from playing to a few people at a pizza restaurant to drawing large crowds across the country. Cycles are exponentially growing, and if there is anything to learn from “Vacation”, it’s that their future is bright.