July 18, 2014

Cloak of Altering - Plague Beasts

Written by Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Mories

Individual musicians, who work on a slew of different projects, aren't a rarity in metal, but Maurice de Jong’s (aka Mories) discography stands out as particularly formidable. Among Mories’ various projects include Gnaw Their Tongues (black/industrial/experimental/doom); De Magia Veterum (avant-garde black metal); Aderlating (drone, blackened noise, and malicious electronica); and Seirom (mesmerizing waves of celestial guitar). That’s a fair spread of musical interests right there, and accompanying those bands is a steady stream of releases that underscore Mories’ ceaseless creativity too. However, that’s not what makes him a formidable artist.

The reason that Mories’ oeuvre is so intimidating, is that he can be guaranteed to produce a uniquely twisted interpretation of whatever sub-genre he’s exploring. And, in the case of his music that resides in the realm of the unstable and extreme, it always comes with a deeply unnerving component too. There’s definitely something very unsettling about Mories’ Cloak of Altering project, with previous releases from the band, like 2012’s Ancient Paths Through Timeless Voids, seeing symphonic black metal shoved through a digital hardcore/industrial electronics meatgrinder.

Cloak of Altering produces the kind of noise you’d expect to hear if Spektr, Mysticum, and Emperor all decided to gobble hallucinogenic toadstools, and then jam together until their extremely painful death arrived. Really, the clue to Cloak of Altering’s objective is right there in the band’s name, because Mories certainly aims to alter reality by wrapping the listener in something chaotic and unsound. He contorts tremolos screeds into sickening form, assaults already abrasive vocals with breakneck percussion, and promises an experience that is very, very wrong, with all the demented synth and electronics.

Of course, in the world of Cloak of Altering, very, very wrong is exactly the point that Mories is aiming for, and the band’s latest offering, Plague Beasts, hits that mark. The fact the album is being released by the consistently fascinating label Crucial Blast is a enough of a hint that it will contain the kinds of hostile, cutting edge noise that'll drill right into your synapses, and Plague Beasts certainly does that. The album distorts black metal with barrages of electronic insanity and all manner of crooked rhythmic wrenching, and the result is a freakish hybrid, with Mories, the mad scientist, concocting endless evil mutations in the lab.

Plague Beasts' self-titled opening track kicks in with rapid-fire drum-and-bass blastbeats, followed by caustic programmed pummelling, and baleful riffing and vocals. Then Mories layers in the synth on the track, and things get real weird, real fast. “White Inverted Void” and “Translucent Body Deformities” bring more murk and fuzz, with orchestral passages transforming into bursts of blackened static, and symphonic sections getting trampled by dissonant riffs and glitch-fed electronics. And just when you think it’s going to be an aggressive sonic blitzkrieg, a sun-lit second or two appears, making things even more deranged.

You’ll find much the same sense of schizophrenic transformation on Plague Beasts’ other tracks too. Mories injects melody in some places, then chokes the life out of it with brain-piercing percussion. He ramps things up with a sweep of progressive or psychedelic synths that wouldn't seem out of place in the 70's, and then demolishes that with an onslaught of acid riffs, fetid vocals, and grim electronic mayhem.

Mories plays DJ Frankenstein throughout Plague Beasts, building malformed songs from monstrous parts, with every single one of them pissing pitch-black, spiteful toxin out of some gnarled appendage onto banks of short-circuiting synthesizers. That’s what makes Plague Beasts so utterly brilliant; it’s a descent into madness and nightmare visions with Mories taking demonic glee in unnerving and disturbing. There’s no cruel to be kind here. Like a lot of the best releases from Crucial Blast, Plague Beasts is cruel to be fucking cruel. Just like the world outside your door.

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