Cloak – To Venomous Depths – Album Review

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Artist: Cloak

Album Title: To Venomous Depths

Label: Season of Mist

Date Of Release: 10 November 2017

To score a record deal with a label as well-respected as Season of Mist without anything approaching a full-length album in the locker is an impressive feat. It’s better than that for US metal band Cloak though, because the contract was formed on the basis of just a two-track demo and, one assumes, their live offering, having shared the stage with Wolves In The Throne Room, Inter Arma and Taake to name a few. Knowing this, it has me immediately under the impression that there must be something about Cloak worth checking out and after spending a little time with their debut album, ‘To Venemous Depths’, my suspicions have been proved right for the most part.

It comes as a surprise to learn that Cloak hail from Atlanta, Georgia because the style of music that they play owes a greater debt to the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Norway than it does to the United States. I have seen Cloak referred to in many ways during my research into the band, from ‘black ‘n’ roll’, to ‘blackened death rock’. However, it all amounts to roughly the same thing. Cloak take the trappings of black metal, a touch of death and then blend it with the attitude and energy of heavy rock.

This style of music has been done before. Many times. Latter-day Dissection, Tribulation, and Watain are almost certainly names that other reviewers will have mentioned as reference points because the substantial shadows of these acts loom large over the material on ‘To Venemous Depths’.

This isn’t meant as a negative necessarily, because I enjoy the output of all of these bands, albeit some more than others if I’m honest. It just means that this review is tempered slightly by the caveat that the final product is not overly original or ground breaking. What it is though, is very well executed and well-written, so that it has plenty to say and shows a great deal of raw ability that, I sincerely hope, will be exploited more fully in future releases.

Back to the present though, and it is not difficult to understand why Season of Mist took a punt on this young quartet, even at this early stage of their career. The compositions may be a little derivative in places but overall, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had within the nine meaty tracks that make up this debut album.

The quartet’s hunger and ambition can be heard, writ large across opener ‘To Venomous Depths Where No Light Shines’. It bristles with a dark malevolence one minute, led by frosty staccato riffing and an eager beat courtesy of drummer Sean Bruneau only to break out of the clandestine shackles in the next breath, launching into something immediately irresistible, groovy and headbang-worthy.

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Photo credit: David Parham

‘Within The Timeless Black’ begins in thunderous fashion, to maintain the impressive momentum. Scott Taysum’s vocals act as the caustic topping to the muscular riffing and bold melodies that emerge from the depths as the track develops.

For my money, the best of the material on ‘To Venomous Depths,’ can be found at the record’s mid-point. ‘Beyond The Veil’ is infectious as hell, with a huge anthemic melody to open. The pace frequently alters but the melodic intent remains for the duration, creating a memorable composition that begs for repeated spins. I also enjoy the way in which the intensity fluctuates, with a brooding mid-section that only serves to make the final moments, led by expressive lead guitars, even more impactful.

And then, to follow, ‘Death Posture’ maintains the accessibility and infectiousness of its predecessor. The bass rumble of Matt Scott is prominent as the song starts off in a deliberately brooding manner, full of oppressive atmosphere. The riffs, when they emerge are groovy and deliver an unmistakeable rock ‘n’ roll swagger, although they cleverly alternate between this and more of a spiteful black metal approach.

The ten-minute closing track, ‘Deep Red’ showcases Cloak at their epic best too. The way in which the mood alternates from cheeky rock, to subterranean murkiness is very smooth and occasionally, almost imperceptible. The rhythms from Scott and Bruneau as the song reaches its finale become increasingly frantic, only to fall away at the death to allow a gentle acoustic guitar to lead the band into the night.

One of the best elements that emerges from this record as I listen more frequently, is the guitar work of Taysum and his six-string partner-in-crime Max Brigham. The leads are expressive, atmospheric, often melodically-charged and always striking and ear-catching. The way in which they sound catchy but also sinister is a clever feat and one that makes the listening experience that little bit more compelling.

Ultimately, ‘To Venomous Depths’ is an extremely successful debut, not least because it whets the appetite for future endeavours. But more than that, it lays a more-than-solid foundation upon which these four Americans can build and, in the process, gives listeners something really enjoyable to wrap their ears around. If ‘black ‘n’ roll’ is your thing, Cloak is a name that you need to have firmly on your radar.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Elvenking – Secrets of the Magick Grimoire
Moonspell – 1755
Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black
Communic – Where Echoes Gather
Impureza – La Caida De Tonatiuh
Auđn – Farvegir Fyrndar
Beast In Black – Berserker
Serenity – Lionheart
Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
Daydream XI – The Circus of the Tattered and Torn
CyHra – Letters To Myself
Devoid – Cup of Tears
Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Sons Of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony
Enslaved – E
Samael – Hegemony
Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Power Quest – Sixth Dimension
Iris Divine – The Static And The Noise
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

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