“Sheathed Swords Drip with Poisonous Honey”: Cloak of Altering’s Cyber-Black Metal Slays Complacency (Early Album Stream)
Consistency is generally a positive thing for an album: hearing roughly the same thing beginning to end probably means that the artist knew what they were going for. Still, all the consistency in the world can't make up for actually making interesting music: I'd rather listen to a completely insane monstrosity with interesting ideas behind it than a lifeless, true-to-form clone any day. Here to prove that point is Cloak of Altering, a project from Maurice de Jong (Gnaw Their Tongues) whose upcoming seventh album Sheathed Swords Drip with Poisonous Honey takes their experimental brand of black metal to a new level of fidelity, bringing a disturbing array of synthesizers and electronic elements into greater focus than ever. Rather than simply dropping these elements on top of black metal as additional textures, Sheathed Swords Drip with Poisonous Honey is completely transformed by its digital side, wholesale grafting elements onto a black metal skeleton like auditory cyberpunk or sometimes completely eschewing metal for drum-machine-driven industrial electronica. There is no point on the album that sounds all that much like anything else on it, or even the rest of the band's discography, for that matter. It's an ongoing test of how far black metal can be stretched, and one that succeeds: though it seems almost irreversibly disfigured, what Cloak of Altering creates here has a vileness no other genre can claim.
Listen to our advance stream of the whole album now:
What immediately sets this one apart from Cloak of Altering's earlier work is the beefiness: it's thicker, harder-hitting, and full of nearly-tangible black bile. Guitars once thin and spectrally threatening now invade with the full might of a conquering horde, slicing through the mix. At the points where black metal's influence wanes, such as the first half of the tense and apocalyptic "I shall preserve the carefully shaped hatred for all things you," the drum machines and howling synths create an engulfing vortex dense enough to make it barely missed. When the blast beats and full-bore riffs arrive, heralded by increasingly frantic guitar motifs, the extra might is overwhelming.
Much of the album is either bleak or menacing (or both), but occasionally it takes a turn towards a mournful sort of harmony: radiant organ works its way into the end of the opening track and resurfaces midway through the following "I have missed the light so much"—I would describe it as 'beautiful,' except that it's also accompanied by croaking, undead-like vocals.
Contrasts like that, which pop up all over the album, are enhanced by Maurice's carefully-created mix of tonalities and textures— featuring everything from tinny beeps and boops to ghostly chimes to distorted, bass-boosted thwacks, the strange samples and sound effects always seem to mesh in just the right way with the genuinely well-done conventional black metal elements. It could be a confusing, illogical mess, but it's not: everything here serves a grim narrative of prideful boasts, murderous rage, and forlorn lamentation. Sheathed Swords Drip with Poisonous Honey sculpts its madness into six gripping tracks that, while certainly unconventional, are consistent — just, maybe not in the way the word is normally used.
Maurice De Jong comments on the album and offers some track-by-track thoughts:
With CLOAK OF ALTERING I’ve been trying to better or at least be as good as 666 International. An album that had such a big impact on me.
Every song/section on that album is just very good. Around every corner there’s something mind blowing. And it still sounds really fresh after all these years. You can be weird and avantgarde.. but you can also be weird and avantgarde and make GOOD MUSIC. That’s what I try to do. I try to combine weird elements that sound fresh and new to something actually worth listening to. Not just random sounds/riffs. If I achieve that goal is for other to say... all I can say is that this 7th (!!!) album is probably the best one, both in terms of productions and ideas/songs.
I made sure that every section/song has something that catches one’s attention or at least some kind of hook. The lyrics are written in one long stream of consciousness process: the spilling of 47 years of gathering weird information. If I ever lose my mind, this is what I will sound like... insane.
01: I slip into a coma: Soothing melodic themes ... weird timed beats…’metal’ middle section. Palm muted riffs… I almost never do palm mutes.. Lots of background sounds. A blast beat. Soothing outtro... coma achieved.
02: I have missed the light so much: I sampled a falling can... I sampled my old band's demo... I tried to incorporate some ‘gliding’ riffs. This song has a nice flow imo.
03: Splendid euphoria of murdering ravens: Jazzy intro, black metal section.. pretty melodic. A vocoder! I like the outtro section.
04: I shall preserve the carefully shaped hatred for all things you: I sampled a GTT track for the intro. The reversed reverb is an old school trick where producers would reverse the 2 inch tape and record the reverb. I used a plugin. Beneath the staccato riffs there’s a whole world of sounds and vocals
05: The Jesuscraft: In some parts the guitar sounds mimic the sounds of lo fi 90’s black metal on purpose. That unbalanced trebly sound. The riffs are pretty melodic on this one. The sound within the song alters over time. Like two songs sliced together…well, that was the idea.
06: Prophets with swollen tongues: A slow crawling beginning. Brass section inspired by some soundtrack I was listening to. Classic saw tooth wave bass section. Weird beats, cut up piano sounds. Reversed synths. Can you spot the Bossa nova beat?
Sheathed Swords Drip with Poisonous Honey releases June 4th, 2021 via Brucia Records.