Review: Cloak – “To Venomous Depths”

The Children of the Children of the Night

Release Date: November 10, 2017

Label: Season of Mist

Cloak’s self-titled debut EP was a bit of an underground phenom. The Atlantans arrived from nowhere to impress not just fans of rockified black metal (à la Tribulation and contemporary Satyricon) but labels, like Season of Mist, as well. The EP’s two songs, “In the Darkness, the Path” and “The Hunger,” parlayed a particular occult-Jugendstil aesthetic, where the frills were coated in subdued evil and the trills imbued with a bespoke suit swagger. Between, however, was a solid death/black core. In fact, it’s this very hardened heart that, for example, powered Dissection through their swansong, Reinkaos. Cloak has studied hard, it would seem. Not in the subjects of aggression and forthrightness, but in the gray areas where nostalgia, melancholy and, of course, darkness commingle. The EP was victorious in challenging the notion that Americans couldn’t be subtle in their extremity. That a stateside band couldn’t compete artistically or sonically with their Euro counterparts in the long-toothed affairs of death and black metal. So, the question arose: Could the Georgians pull off an entire album of villainous metal? Based on To Venomous Depths, Cloak’s written an album that hits all the right haunted spots without succumbing to exaggeration or scraping too close to the proverbial bone.

Sure, the vestiges of influence are conspicuous. Guitarists Scott Taysom and Max Brigham aren’t too far removed from the serpentine creep of Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hultén. And they’re also super clever in masking their affinity for Gothic-era Greg Mackintosh, as the formula isn’t a hard one to replicate. But Cloak aren’t a cover band. They’ve found a sound that in time will develop into something exquisite. The promise of songs like “Within the Timeless Black,” “Death Posture” and “Forever Burned” is palatable. The future of songs like “Beyond the Veil,” “To Venomous Depths/Where No Light Shines” and “Deep Red” is foretold. And Cloak’s overall approach—their production, as it were—is definitely marketable to the same segments that fell for October Rust and First and Last and Always. So, what makes To Venomous Depths so fucking special? Conviction. It’s prevalent in every chord Cloak strum, every Sean Bruneau drum hit and every Matt Scott bass lick.

Much of To Venomous Depths is a play on filmic tropes, where compositional dynamics—loud/soft, light/dark—are used to modify dialog and set the mood. Just as Wojciech Kilar used it to great effect in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Zbigniew Preisner put hair on end in Dekalog, so too do Cloak rip when it’s time to rip (the end of “Deep Red”) and cast spells when bewitchment is required (middle of “Beyond the Veil”). They understand all too well the trappings of the genres they’re bridging and themes they’re binding, with particular note to tempos, transitions, and vocal prevalence (Taysom’s throaty caw is strategically employed). If betting men were lucky, they’d also say something else was facilitating Cloak’s crepuscular aptitude. It’s something southern, a time-worn forest of oak covered in Spanish moss. Or, a crossroads kind of deal, as if the outfit brokered a deal with the supernatural to suddenly possess unparalleled skill for a band with so little history.

Cloak may not outshine their influences yet, but continued development from albums like To Venomous Depths paired with a diehard work ethic will set the Georgians on a hellaciously awesome path. Join us.

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