Cloud Rat – Threshold Review

[Cover art by Jacob van Loon]

Cloud Rat is a very busy band. It may not seem like it when you consider that Threshold is only their fourth album in the span of 12 years, but feel free to take a gander at their Metal Archives page. You’ll quickly be surprised by how much scrolling is required to see the full list of releases unleashed on dialed-in ears in a relatively short time. What is sure to standout most about that list is the unwieldy number of splits they’ve been involved with. That unending desire for collaboration is a sure sign of Cloud Rat’s interest in challenging themselves and experimenting. Perhaps the most shining example of their willingness to ignore the restriction of their “lane” is the 18-minute doom track they released with Disrotted in 2017.

Release date: October 7, 2022. Label: Artoffact Records.
The longest song on Threshold is a tight three minutes, so you freaks need not fear a trap of one riff that lasts longer than the average grind song; it isn’t happening here. Similarly, you shouldn’t fall into a lull thinking that Cloud Rat’s penchant for experimentation isn’t present on these 15 bursts of frenetic energy just because their individual runtimes are brief. What makes these dalliances with variety all the more powerful is their subtlety; Why bash you over the head with an obvious cudgel when 10,000 papercuts can have the same result?

The album opens with a few notes that sound like the electronic equivalent of a whale cry but quickly get into a perfect two-step and punk riff to satisfy what you came for. Not to remain one-dimensional in a grand total of two minutes, “Aluminum Branches” also throws in a wicked mid-tempo beatdown to ensure you test your neck muscles early. Around the midpoint of “Inner Controller (Lucid Running Home),” there’s an exceptional ominous build featuring flailing fills and an explosion of blast beats. That moment is so brief, yet so mighty. A song like “12-22-09” can start slow and woozy only to yield to some zippy guitar lines backed by rollicking fills. Rorik Brooks’ guitars toward the end of “Listening Ear” sound like they’re short-circuiting and potentially electrocuting vocalist Madison Marshall as she belts pained screams. “Kaleidoscope” features some keys and noise effects that add another layer to its pummel and “Porcelain Boat” has an almost post-metal type of tremolo riff that would be bright and shiny elsewhere, but is buried under grinding filth to make it unpleasant here.

Brooks’ guitar work is varied and potent. Whether it’s the stop-start monster that opens “Corset,” the somber darkness of “Imaging Order,” or the riff on “Ursitory” that’s tailormade for starting fights, he is never content to riff in a singular form. The unexpected star of the show, however, is absolutely the assaulting backing of drummer Brandon Hill. Marshawn Lynch needs to send this man a lifetime supply of Skittles because he is in Beast Mode from start to finish. Hill rolls, fills and flails like a man possessed and possessing extra limbs. If someone were to ask the band, “how many drumsets died in the making of Threshold?” there’s almost no chance the answer is zero.

While Hill’s drums may be the star of the show, Marshall’s vocals remain one of the most unique aspects of Cloud Rat. Her vocal approach is that of a person with a multitude of inner demons forcing their way out at their host’s expense. She wails like the bereaved, screeches like a banshee, bellows like a demon and chitters like Gollum arguing with himself about the fate of filthy hobbitses. The standalone scream around the 2:10 mark of “Imaging Order” will give you chills. This vocal approach is an act of confession, exorcism, grief, relief and so much more. Marshall comes across like a person possessed by the music itself and potentially unsure of what they just put to tape mere moments after doing so.

What makes this whole adventure all the more impressive is that a mere three people achieved 36 minutes of grind bursting with this much color. You may think to credit a quality producer for helping draw out performances that are greater than the sum of its parts, but then you’ll realize the band recorded and produced the album themselves. The organic, almost live sound perfectly encapsulates the music’s energy. You can picture it being recorded in a crowded basement with 30 sweaty people running around, punching holes in drywall and dying for a chance to scream along into the mic.

2022 is the year of grindcore and Cloud Rat is firmly planting its flag as one of the leaders among the crowded pack.

Posted by Spencer Hotz

Admirer of the weird, the bizarre and the heavy, but so are you. Why else would you be here?

  1. Excited to see these guys back, thanks for the review !

    For me this is melodic grindcore of the same level as Beaten to Death. A truly gifted lineup of musicians that continue to make outstanding and interesting releases at an awesome pace – not getting as much recognition as they should but grateful they keep putting out the excellence ! Party on

    Reply

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