There is nothing wrong with being average. A singer who can carry a tune but won’t necessarily send shivers down your back. An artist who produces competent work but nothing that will earn a place in museums. We often go through life expecting that we will achieve great things in some way or another, but in reality there is a good chance we won’t. Somehow, millions of people (myself included, at times) view that as failure. But of course it’s not. It’s normal. Aspiring towards something exemplary is reasonable and admirable, but if what you create turns out to be nothing special, that’s still an accomplishment, right? Maybe you won’t win awards, but you did something that was at least worth the effort. Which brings us to Cloak and their sophomore full-length, The Burning Dawn.
If you listened to Cloak‘s debut back in 2017, you know exactly what to expect from The Burning Dawn. If you don’t already know of Cloak, they play an accessible brand of black metal that feels like it was written in a scenic wasteland, evocative of dust and dusk, the scent of clean air and the sight of bloodred sun (cue Adam Burke). The band mix their black metal with a groovy rock swagger that pervades throughout the song structures, most noticeable in the drum patterns and melodic leads.
Fans of this style will find Tribulation and Wormwitch influences littered across this record, but at no point does The Burning Dawn reach the lofty standards set by the likes of Down Below or Heaven that Dwells Within. Listeners might not believe that to be true judging from the opening three tracks proper. “The Cleansing Fire,” “A Voice in the Night” and “Tempter’s Call” each integrate a killer set of riffs and leads with refreshingly simplified drums and dry rasps, making for three lively numbers which stick in your head quickly. Cloak refrains from blast beats entirely until fourth track “Into the Storm,” which creates an increasingly rewarding experience for those who are accustomed to blasts in their blackened fare. Unfortunately, this juncture is also where the record starts running out of steam, as tempos up to this point adhere too strictly to the same mid-paced plod. The band recovers some interest with “The Fire, the Faith, the Void” which, incidentally, is an instrumental. Vox-less it may be, but dammit that jaunty beat is irresistible and makes for the one track I want to spin on repeat before progressing further.
Outside of “The Fire, the Faith, the Void,” Cloak reside stubbornly inside their comfort zone, offering easygoing melodic black metal that is enjoyable but lacks distinguishing characteristics. While their music is delivered capably, this Atlantan four-banger lacks the grunt to make their latest material stand out, even from their own repertoire. Take any song from The Burning Dawn and splice it into To Venomous Depths and observe how eerily well the newly injected song camouflages within the older of the two albums. Even the production is similar, with guitars sounding nice but feeling crowded, and the bass shifting in and out of the audible range at odd moments. That, coupled with a dearth of new ideas, discourages me from following the band’s progress to some extent.
That might sound harsh, and perhaps it is. Yet, after a dozen or so listens I can’t bring myself to recommend The Burning Dawn with the enthusiasm in which I normally revel. I like the record well enough, and the band is legitimately qualified as a musical collective. However, I have heard exquisite records in this style which have more dynamic songs, better production, unbelievable performances or some combination of the three. And so I submit that Cloak‘s The Burning Dawn is simply average. Not bad at all, not amazing either, but at least worth the effort.