Cloak revel in the dark. Metal explores the nightside of human existence from many angles. Some mournful, some angry, some unstable. All of it stems from the idea that it’s better to confront the darkness than hiding from it. Some bands, like Behemoth, carry an air of heavy Dionysian ecstasy, making this point: Since the dark undercurrent is always there, if you can’t at some level enjoy it, you can never entirely enjoy anything. Cloak use their stripped-down yet grandiose black metal/black n’ roll to give the party a new life and new sound.
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Cloak’s debut To Venomous Depths established their sound firmly but was a little buttoned up and self-conscious. The Burning Dawn feels like the band getting loose, letting their instruments hang a little lower and really throwing themselves into the glee of making sinister music. Satyricon’s Now, Diabolical is a touchstone here. That record notably bolted the evil-ethereal melodies of black metal onto a straightforward, hard-hitting rock chassis. It’s a relatively rare endeavor in the metal world, but bands like Tribulation and Cloak have shown there’s a lot of miles to be coaxed out of this chugging iron horse.
“March of the Adversary” is a cool intro that sets the mood with clever use of piano weaved into the guitar harmonies. The only petty gripe is that it’s not really a march, musically; this is the same issue as the Exodus song “Toxic Waltz” not being in 3/4. Never mind, though, because “The Cleansing Fire” brings the riffs forthwith. As with much of Cloak’s music, there’s an aggressive beauty to this straightforward track. Scott Taysom’s vocals are satisfyingly rough and raspy and they’re intelligible. In the midst of this song, you catch the line “Nightly howls and distant choirs call us to the temple spires,” and that’s as apt a mood statement as the album can give.
The just-foggy-enough black metal guitar tone is perfect for the way Taysom and Max Brigham’s guitars mesh with one another, creating elegant harmonies with a gleeful gothic interplay. That feeling of delight, fun in the dark, stays strong throughout. It’s groovy and catchy and sharply executed, and execution is key here. The band has a very consistent style that could get stale if handled less deftly than Cloak do. The Burning Dawn takes the rawness and chaos of black metal and wields it delicately, containing and shaping it.
Track order is an under-appreciated component of a good album, and on this album, it gives a strong sense of arc and pacing that keeps the music fresh all the way through. “A Voice in the Night”’s strong lead lines and wailing guitars dip into acoustic reverie before “Tempter’s Call” picks up the tempo with its haunting melody, and then “Into the Storm” breaks into full blizzard mode.
The rhythm section gives The Burning Dawn the momentum and heaviness that the melodic guitar, by design, doesn’t have. Sean Bruneau’s present, aggressive drumming holds the whole album together, using simple but effective patterns. His fills add texture and energy to key points without detracting from anyone else. Billy Robinson’s rock-solid bass could stand a little bump in the mix, but it’s always felt, working tightly with Bruneau. The moments of glory he does get, like a flourish at the end of “The Cleansing Fire” and a melodic counterplay with the guitars in “Into the Storm,” are thunderous and meted out fittingly.
Cloak have found a formula that works for them, and they’ve gotten comfortable enough with it that they can play around in it. The Burning Dawn is melodramatic and enjoys it. It’s dark and sinister and happy about it. The bonfire’s roaring high, and it’s time to dance.