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Live Report: Cloak, Natur, and Chain

I’m watching the show at St. Vitus Monday night and I can’t get Lord Of The Rings out of my head. It’s all LOTR from where I’m standing. I look over and there’s Aragorn standing right next to me, and then I make for the bathroom right into an eight-foot tall Gandalf The Grey. I mean would there even be heavy metal without Tolkien’s masterpiece? I think not. Zeppelin was arguably the first heavy dark band (they preceded Sabbath by a year or two), and they were all about Frodo and Sauron. So there’s a certain fantastical element to old school and retro metal bands like Cloak, Natur, and Chain. You need to be able to escape to that special place to really enjoy their sets, because it’s not 1969, and time bends most metal riffs repetitive, to be perfectly honest.

Cloak’s newest record Venomous Depths is a really excellent listen. It sounds indebted to Tribulation’s The Children of the Night, but it’s got its own special thing going for it. Cloak is as much folk as they are black metal, and their sound comes across honest and totally driving. The dudes in the band are like apparitions from the shadowy 1970s. In fact, all the members of each band that played Monday have a ghostly quality. They all have an affinity — musically and visually – for a time since past.

Chain is from NYC and has an Iron Maiden-like approach with their two twirling guitarists. I always think of Dickey Betts and Duane Allman when I hear Iron Maiden or see two metal guitarists trade riffs and solos. I think no one could ever top the Allman Brothers’ guitar interplay, because they weren’t completely up front with their methods. There was a lot of hidden jazz, and with that, a lot of mystery. With Chain, everything is completely visible — both aurally and aesthetically — there’s nothing hidden, and that’s the point: it’s a simulation. The group bruised and soared through a quick set that was heavy on the riffs and a little light on personality — still; they’re a gritty band that does the city justice, and have a gruff to them (epitomized by the vocalist’s staunch indifference) that is interesting to see.

Natur was much denser than Chain and their set was quicker and larger. Their music is made up of varying parts centered on an old-school approach. The drummer was hidden by a massive set which symbolized the band’s unyielding spirit. Spinal Tap was another thought of mine throughout the evening. There’s a silliness to the type of music Chain and Natur play, and that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious, but rather that it should be enjoyed abstractly. Spinal Tap made great music and was a total laugh at the same time. A sense of humor is crucial to heavy metal. Natur showed their brazenness, but also eschewed a looseness that was refreshing. There was a greenness to the band’s set hidden behind all the shadows. A troll-like headbanger next to me was really giving his neck a workout. The townsfolk were immersed.

Cloak’s set, though, was super serious. The band made like an evil vaudeville, with lights, darkness, and a nightmarish folk vibe. The whole evening I was thinking about fantasy and fiction, but Cloak wasn’t fiction at all. Drummer Sean Bruneau was like an unstoppable super-hero with his giant heart tattooed on his sleeve. The group was admirable, in dungeon boots and evil-hippie gear as they soared through a set of rockers that had a palpable edge and a direct seriousness. Bruneau kept the songs bouncy and circular with his open drumming and ability to fill compositions completely. When I stepped back to get a better listen, the sound really filled out. Cloak is even on each side, with two guitarists that never seem to cross each other up. Though they sound nothing like the Allman Brothers, Cloak has a similar mystery to them that carries their sound further than what it may seem. Like Betts and Allman, Max Brigham and Scott Taysom (also the vocalist) play in zones where riffs match like floating dreams, and execution is simply part of the mirror.

— Christopher Harrington

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