Once more, with feeling…
And what is music about then, if not feeling?
Of course, now three full-lengths and a dozen shorter releases into their career (albeit all of that in just under a decade’s span), Cloud Rat’s modus operandi is established—they’ve always possessed a preternatural conviction. With each successive full-length, they’ve grown stronger, their songwriting sharpened, their attack more focused, more destructive. And thus, with that growth, Pollinator stands as the strongest of their three albums, their peak thus far.
Guitarist Rorick Brooks and new drummer (former agent of “electronics”) Brandon Hill move as one unit, jumping in tandem from punk-fueled chord-based riffs through post-y chime-and-crush to palm-muted thrashing and back again. These structures twist and turn, never walking a straight line, but never moving so far afield as to lose the listener; these rhythms stop, start, speed up, slow down, blast, and trudge, seemingly at random, and yet in a merciless lockstep that proves that randomness to be anything but true. Atop it all, vocalist Madison Marshall screams her lungs out, bits of righteous poetic rage poking forth, intelligible in the maelstrom.
Like almost all grindcore, Pollinator is best appreciated as a whole unit, its pieces coalescing into one giant ebb and flow of raw emotion, but like the best of all that grindcore, there are certainly moments within that demand attention. Those raw-nerve melodies in “The Mad” and “Al Di La”; the unhinged ferocity of “Webspinner” that leads into the downtempo drift of “Luminescent Cellar”; that latter track with a perfectly crusty, almost-doom quality underpinning Marshall’s razorblade howl, the instruments dying just a few beats early, leaving her screaming the final words alone; the goth-y tint to the arpeggios that open “Marionettes.” The production of all of Pollinator leaves room to breathe, an open quality that accentuates those melodies and doesn’t sacrifice emotional dynamics in favor of wall-of-sound oppression.
Cloud Rat continues their upward ascent. There’s much on Pollinator to appreciate, and more to enjoy, and even more than that to feel.