Hope Drone- Cloak of Ash (Relapse Records)

I still have hope in the power of editing.
Release Date: 
24 Jul 2015 (All day)

There’s no more rewarding feeling as a metal fan than seeing one of your favourite band’s hard work finally start to pay dividends. This is even more the case in the Australian scene where many talented bands will go overlooked by the rest of the world. As such, having Hope Drone, who are one of the more interesting and boundary pushing black metal bands in Oz, sign to the prestigious Relapse Records is definitely something to be excited about. Their self-titled debut effort managed to turn some heads, so I was very keen to hear what they could achieve with a big metal label backing them.

The thunderous opening thrums of Unending Grey confirm that Hope Drone’s song-writing remains intact; it’s impactful and anguish filled material that transitions from dense shoegaze black metal reminiscent of Woods of Desolation and bands of their ilk, to more slow-paced and subdued passages. Long winded sections of near constant black metal blasting aren’t so much monotonous as designed to lull you into a trance-like state. It also add to the impact of crescendos or the doomier parts of the album when they come about. These more doom-laden sections owe a great debt to Neurosis both in their instrumentation and attention to atmosphere and dynamics.  This post black metal approach to song-writing is largely what comprises the rest of the album as the band is less concerned with crafting individual songs than creating an atmosphere to lose yourself- and indeed your hope- within. This, along with the running time which I will get to in a minute, tends to make the songs bleed into each other somewhat, meaning that moments rather than songs stand out. The exception to that being The Waves Forever Shatter Upon Our Shores which is one giant crescendo.

So far, so good, but Cloak of Ash has one major jarring flaw and that is its gargantuan running time. At about 80 minutes long, it goes well, well over what could be considered an acceptable run time for an album, making it nearly impossible to get through in one sitting, which is a shame considering their first album was so perfectly paced. The material is strong, it could have even been strong enough to be my Australian album of the year, but it would be a lie to say that the run-time doesn’t hurt the overall experience of the album.

If you feel like you can get past the length of the album, then I would recommend you check Cloak of Ash out as there’s still plenty to like.

Cloak of Ash is out now.