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Review

Cloud Rat – Pollinator Review

Band: Cloud Rat
Album: Pollinator
Label: Artofact Records
Genre: Grindcore, Hardcore
Country: USA
Release Date: September 13th, 2019

Cloud Rat first came into my view, I am sad to admit, just last year after seeing their name on the flyer for “Black Flags Over Brooklyn”, the NYC anti-fascist black metal festival that began to make waves in both the metal and anti-fascist community last Winter. Hailing from my home-state of Michigan, Cloud Rat have been churning out intense, and often times enraging blackened grind for nearly 10 years. Making lyrical bombasts against the brutalities of our current socioeconomic system, they have been providing a megaphone to those stories that come from places of anger, anguish, and disgust, whether they be from under the boot heels of society or from our own internal anxieties. Pollinator is no different in this regard, although instead of forcing our gaze at the external, it is the internal “personal as political” that is the subject.

Off the heels of 2015’s overtly political and transgressive Qliphoth, Pollinator sees Cloud Rat in there most controlled. While often categorized as grindcore, Cloud Rat continues to pull influences from hardcore punk, grindcore, black metal, and doom, making Pollinator an absolutely a ferocious album. From the outset, the opening salvo “Losing Weight” provides only moments of build-up before we Madison Marshall rips into us with anguished screams, letting us all know what we can continue to expect for the remainder of the album. 

Any cursory discussion of the album cannot be done without mentioning the brilliant instrumentation of each of the band members. Each instrument is played with a chaotic frenzy that compliments the other, continuously building off the work of one another. Drummer Brandon Hill and guitarist Rorik Brooks work off each other in much the same jazz musicians do, being constantly in dialogue with one another throughout each of the tracks. This dialogue leads to some of the most harmonious and melodic moments on any Cloud Rat album to date, all without sacrificing any of the white-knuckle ferocity that drives the energy of the band. It is a particular tightness that can only come from an intense understanding, and dare I say love, for each other as musicians and fellow humans.

Moments of this album open up on occasion, allowing for some much desired breathing room. These moments, however, never last long, and feel less like a moment of reprieve than those brief moments of melancholy that follow fits of intense psychological rage. This is felt most intensely on “Luminescent Cellar”, where the open space provided in the beginning of the song allows for just enough breathing space to realize that the inevitable is coming back soon. Anyone who has battled with anxiety and depression knows and understands this feeling all too well. No quiet lasts long enough, and leaves you with just enough time to think about what feelings are about to come back and hit you like a baseball bat to the teeth.

And it is there that Cloud Rat’s Pollinator is so beautiful, in their ability as artists to translate the ebb and flow of the mental anguish that accompanies each one of our personal horrors: trauma, depression, body horror, gendered violence, etc. When the music breaks for a brief instance during “Wonder”, and Madison Marshall, Cloud Rat’s unapologetic leader, screams “my brain never shuts off”, you feel it. The accompaniment of chaotically controlled instrumentation makes her lyrics a somatic experience. 

In the end, Cloud Rat is exactly the band that we need right now. Those of you familiar with their previous work will not be surprised nor disappointed with this record, and those of you who are just discovering Cloud Rat should do yourself a favor and dive into their back catalogue. While the performance of Hill and Brooks make this an absolutely crushing album sonically, it is Marshall’s poetic perspective that makes this album such an incredible and important listen. While there is a desire to strip music of any inherently political weight and ignore any existing intersections between social justice and music, this is an act that is completely devoid of any real-world value. Cloud Rat understand this, and make no apologies for taking overtly political stances, even in this, their most personal record to date. Pollinator is an album about the brutality of our society, the brutality we place on our bodies and our psyche’s, and about taking that fury and turning it into collective power.  If metal is going to continue to fly the flags of transgression, we need more of these voices.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:

  1. Losing Weight
  2. Delayed Grief – Farmhouse Red
  3. Seven Heads
  4. Night Song
  5. Wonder
  6. The Mad
  7. Al Di La
  8. Last Leaf
  9. Zula
  10. Biome
  11. Webspinner
  12. Luminescent Cellar
  13. Marionettes
  14. Perla

Total Playing Time: 31:45

Click here to visit Cloud Rat’s Bandcamp

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