Cloak – Black Flame Eternal (Season of Mist)

Monday, 19th June 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

If familiar with Atlanta’s Cloak, one knows that they absolutely haven’t caved in to genre norms within the sometimes pigeonholed nature of black metal. Embracing a gothic black-n-roll style with catchy riffs and expansive song structures, they’ve managed to carve out quite the niche. Doing what they believe in has paid off thus far, now reaching their third full-length with Black Flame Eternal, the question of what direction the band will traverse is anybody’s guess. Predictability hasn’t been their outfit to date, and in this instance, that’s a considerably positive attribute.

Cloak have managed to keep all of the elements that have become their signature, while tweaking that formula in ways that pay off in providing an album that’s a heavier and more grandiose package. Starter “Ethereal Fire” contains huge rolling guitar rhythms layered with clean guitars to provide the expected mixture, however, the writing is tighter and predominantly more blackened in sound and execution. Eerie atmospheres dominate the catchy “With Fury and Allegiance,” overflowing with indelible riffs and just the right amount of twists in pace. For those who enjoy the band’s gothic tinged persona, “Shadowlands” provides innumerable weightiness to a distinct dreary atmosphere, as well as “Eye of the Abyss” highlighted by haunting clean vocals low in the mix accompanying numerous emotive leads/solos.

Tracks like “Invictus” and “The Holy Dark” provide differing textures, embracing everything fast and abrasive, while invoking an Uada-like gloom and varying morphing tonalities to compliment their precise blackened afront. Dissection fans will enjoy the icy melodic undertones of “Seven Thunders,” it being the most decidedly black metal entry on the album. Creepy interlude “Heavenless” effectively sets up the title track to close proceedings; a robust piece of gripping and energetic explosiveness that maintains a nearly upbeat groove along with numerous hooks and mountainous riffage.

For those with shorter attention spans, Black Flame Eternal will do no favors with its nearly 50 minute run time, with the majority of songs being over 5 minutes per. For those who enjoy more drawn out, meticulous compositions, however, this is the tightest Cloak has ever been in the songwriting realm, with very little meandering or unnecessarily extended pieces. No worries abound for the production, either, as Black Flame Eternal is what one would expect – clean yet murky when the mood requires, fitting the band’s style nicely.

In terms of career trajectory, Cloak continues to gain momentum, and Black Flame Eternal will no doubt aid in enhancing the band’s reputation as clever composers with a pleasingly unmistakable musical approach. Those who prefer a more direct and linear approach may find moments a little long in the tooth, but listeners who stick with Black Flame Eternal will be rewarded with a black metal feast that’s added significant heft to an already intriguing concoction, resulting in a synchronized balance of uncompromising aggression and artistic flair.

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