I don’t want to mince words today and try to make some long introduction, as usual, about today’s topic. Let me cut right to the point: If you haven’t already, you need to listen to Cloud Rat. That means right now, not after you backup your hard drive, not after you go make coffee, not after you finish that inane text message. Now.
The Michigan-based grindcore band recently put out their latest release “Moksha,” on the mighty Halo of Flies and IFB Records, and it’s already an album I’m writing down — in ink! — for a contender for album of the year. It’s explosively good and alarmingly vital, and you can’t possibly understand that magic behind this thing until you hear it for yourself. As hard as I’m going to try, I won’t be able to convey the magnitude of this 13-track release with mere words. The fury and punishment contained within these songs is unmistakable, but there also is plenty of melody, thoughtfulness and variety in their compositions, unbridled passion in their playing, and Madison, who also handles lyrics and art, is a pot boiling over vocally. You hang onto her every word, follow every line, and can’t help but get caught up her whirlwind of intensity. Not to discount the rest of the band, because they are tremendous, but Madison’s delivery and very presence is what elevates this band from very good to unstoppable.
Cloud Rat’s self-titled debut album came out in 2010, and since then they have put out a number of split releases, a couple of offerings on Grindcore Karaoke (including “Live at Vaggie Fest”), and now have responded with this volcanic document. The band also is just as weighty lyrically and philosophically as they are musically. Topics range from drugs, neglect, emotional, physical and sexual violence, poverty, racism, and sexism, and the band holds true to a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and hopes to help inspire social change and promote tolerance and respect for others. It would seem that, in 2013, that wouldn’t still have to be a platform that needs to be ingrained in others, but I’m sure anyone who follows the news on a regular basis knows we’re nowhere near fully embracing these ideals.
Along with Madison, the band is rounded out by Rorik, who handles guitars, design and layout, as well as Adrian, who’s on drums and electronic samples. As noted, while this is grounded in grindcore, there are so many other influences at play, from punk to hardcore to shoegaze to dreamy rock, and each song carries with it great weight and builds your expectations for what follows. “Moksha” also is an album that is supremely listenable, meaning it’s easy to put this thing on and get lost in it, finding yourself greatly surprised when the thing is over. It just flies by and flows so seamlessly, you can’t help but restart when it’s done.
The first side of the record begins with some easy, smeary noise on “Inkblot,” but then a riff blows up, Madison goes off, and a total fury sweeps over you, completely capturing you. It’s a go-for-the-guts assault both musically and lyrically, and it’s just the beginning. “Aroma” has a nice sludgy finish, with chugging, churning riffs, and a total impact to your chest, robbing you of breath. “Corner Space” has an airy, atmospheric start before it blows into a death metal/thrash groove. “Olympia” goes back into grind demolition, and “Widowmaker” is mean, and menacing, drowning out in a haze of bizarre noise. “Infinity Chasm” is the first curveball with pulled back, gazey music, clean vocals (Madison’s voice proves quite pretty, and she sounds a bit like Sharon Van Etten), but when you think the calm is here, it’s back to break-neck intensity and killer, metallic insanity as the track finishes.
The second side starts with “Inimitable Sea,” a song that remains heavy and aggressive, but it also adds new textures to the mix, including some guitar work that sounds a little black metal. It’s a really neat piece that shows their musical interests are all over. “Daunting Daughters” peels a bit into pure hardcore territory, with Madison howling passionately, dealing with the tumult facing her, and there’s no denying the pain behind the song. “Casse” is positively crushing and also sort of muddy, and that leads us to the second head-jerker of the record, their cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.” Generally I’m disinterested in cover songs because most of them have nothing to add to the original composition, but this one’s different. The band gives the song a different personality, a different perspective, and they take the track from delicately, painfully gorgeous, to self-destructively desperate. It’s a fucked up, incredible version of the song. “Vigil” fires one last thorny salvo, with Madison howling, “We should not exist!” and it’s onto the ambient, dreamy, piano-dripping title track that lets the record fade out on a perfect dark note.
Whatever you need to do to get Cloud Rat in your ears, do it now. The band’s web site address is listed below, and you can hear whatever of their releases interests you, including the one we described above. But also, don’t be a cheap ass. Try to grab “Moksha” while you can, since it’s in limited supply. Cloud Rat play with purpose and panic, and they’re easily one of the most exciting new bands in the world.
For more on the band, go here: http://cloudrat.blogspot.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/releases/current-releases/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/