A Fire Burning Bright…
I’m gonna start off with a real burner (pun intended!) here: this is my favourite black metal release of the year 2019! Some of you might want to throw stones at me now because The Burning Dawn is actually not quite a pure black metal album, but to put it simply for everyone to understand: it’s the kind of metal that Satyricon have been trying to create since about 1999, meaning the rock n’ roll-influence is prevalent, almost to the point of being omnipresent throughout the whole record. Most of us would agree that Satyr’s endeavors were not exactly a prosperous success in terms of quality, but the twist that the US-band Cloak injected into their black recipe works a lot better, because they did not simply forget about decent songwriting (and were not desperately trying to write a hit) in the process of rocking up their black metal sound without killing the extreme components of their output. While I was putting my efforts into gathering information about these Americans, I’ve heard many people ripping on this band for resembling recent Tribulation too much but I can’t really agree on that. Apart from both sharing a few of the previously mentioned rock-inspired guitar riff variations and having dominant black metal vocals. Tribulation are digging a lot more in the gothic past of the genre, sounding a lot more like an 80s revival act, which is starkly opposing to the delivery presented on Cloak‘s new record.
Leaving genre classifications behind, this album just works for manifold reasons; the running order of these songs has been chosen perfectly. Starting with “March of the Adversary”, which serves as an acoustic/lead guitar introduction and as the ideal buildup into the rocking mid-paced heaviness of “The Cleansing Fire”, the listener is ultimately being thrown into a flow state that he or she will never leave again until the album’s closing. There’s no song that overstays its welcome and the CD will have run its course much quicker than you’d expect a near-50 minute record to do, especially when you are leaving the battlefield with an epic track like “Where the Horrors Thrive”, where you’d never think that this is actually a 8+ minutes monster, battering your skull with about all elements of the complete album summoned into a single entity.
Coated in an immaculate production housing (spotlighting a punchy bottom end, letting the hard working rhythm section shine through nicely – audible bass!) with enough clarity and room for all instruments to cut through the mix in appropriate measures, there is a stockpile of quality heavy metal riffs, intertwining with black and thrash playing techniques, supported by bass and drum lines that both reek a little of post-punk seasoning, but with the urgency and tightness of metal musicians driving them, quite contrary to the sloppy looseness of their primordial origins. The guitar soloing is pretty restrained and predominantly rooted in the rock spectrum, scarcely used to be a climax in itself, instead supporting and increasing the impact of beautifully arranged arpeggios being regularly thrown atop the more simplistic basis of the guitar riffs. The mix also lifts Scott Taysom’s vocals into a deliberately prominent position – the man spews forth a commanding performance while emitting an aura of darkness and vigor. His mid-ranged rasp is consistently on point, even though I sometimes wish the few excellent clean and choral parts peppered throughout the record would appear more often, perhaps to add a few additional variations and apexes on the vocal front. Occasionally, subdued but highly effective piano arrangements will either serve as introductory/bridge pieces or increase the density of the gloomy atmosphere already conjured up by the main instruments.
Due to the consistency and stylistic cohesion of the album, there’s maybe not as many individual highlights as in other classic records of the main genre, but that might just be be the price for working on an universally high level throughout the whole affair; yet still, my hat is off to these guys for managing to craft a full-length album that turned out to be a persistently immersive experience with instant replay value. I hope this band is on their way to become successful enough to play overseas venues, so us Europeans will have the chance to experience them live. Until then, enjoy The Burning Dawn and once you’ve started listening, you will probably be spinning this record more often than you initially expected, considering its genre tag.
Believe me, this is worth your time.
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