Atlanta-based outfit Cloak’s music almost deserves the title ‘black’n’roll’; they lose the best parts of the black/death metal and rock genres they mix, though. Their debut album, To Venomous Depths, drops on November 10th, and is a mid-paced, repetitive, and ultimately fairly standard slab of accessible death metal.
The album shows bounds of musicianship – the bass player in particular plays some great lines, for example on “Within the Timeless Black”. There is, however, also an awful lot of power chords played oh-so-repetitively. Occasionally, some semblance of interest comes up, like in “In The Darkness, The Path”s chromatics, but for the most part (including that same song), they are just chugged for two four-beat bars before moving to the next chord, over and over. The rock element in their musical mix is bog-standard, and the impressive musicianship that is present can’t get away from the fact that it’s being played over rhythm parts that are fundamentally dull.
Alongside the aforementioned power chords, the guitars add the black metal aspect to the band’s sound. As found on “The Hunger”, “Death Posture”, “Forever Burned”, and “To Venomous Depths / Where No Light Shines” (read: the majority of the album), this takes the form of picked minor chords, and when Cloak are feeling experimental, a tremolo. Sometimes, this works very well – on “Death Posture”, for instance – but it happens a lot, so much so that one has to wonder whether Cloak could have chosen another technique to make their songs sound evil in a slightly less repetitive manner.
This is all overlaid by strong death metal vocals singing about some undefined occult subject matter. Their vocalist can obviously scream, so it would be nice to see him fully let rip in the future; it feels a little as if he is screaming at medium capacity throughout To Venomous Depths. The stylistic choice of putting death metal-style vocals over blackened backing is a solid one, though, one which he can surely pull off, and will garner Cloak some comparisons to bands like Moonspell.
All these building blocks do occasionally fit together to make a good song. “Forever Burned”s picked minor chords, splaying out of the chorus’s power chords, are a great effect, and “To Venomous Depths / Where No Light Shines” has some rhythms interesting enough to help us forgive their abundant recurrence throughout the song, particularly in the lead part of the song’s chorus. But even those great moments are so blatantly made from the same elements as the rest of the album that it’s difficult to really appreciate them as anything other than instances of a formula throwing out something good by pure chance.
The production, as is the case with most Season of Mist releases, is stellar. Everything is clear, you can hear the bass (!!), and subtleties in even the most distorted parts (where there are any) can actually be discerned. There’s one odd instance of added orchestration at the beginning of the first track, which appears in none of the others, but that is a habit of many metal bands, and one which I might be alone in finding strange. Much more importantly, the producer seems to have been unable to inject any energy into the band – the entire album lies between 100 and 120 bpm, and no one seems to feel anything while playing; this combines to an album devoid of emotional movement, or any sense of the urgency that makes death metal so listenable.
I’m sure that there will be a market for Cloak’s music. At the moment, though – and to be fair, on what is ‘only’ their debut album – they are not one of the more interesting bands of the genre(s) they are in.
Notable Tracks: “Death Posture”; “To Venomous Depths / Where No Light Shines”; “Forever Burned”
FFO: Moonspell, Deathspell Omega, Fields of the Nephilim