PICK OF THE WEEK: Cloud Rat’s sound expands while they slay demons on crushing ‘Qliphoth’

Cloud RatFrustration is a huge part of all of our lives, whether we care to take ownership in that idea or not. Things have a way of evening out when things are favorable, meaning it’s a good idea not to get too high with the highs, and I think metal is a way in which we can release some of that anguish and try to find a state of normalcy. Or at least a state in which we can survive.

Michigan’s Cloud Rat always came across to me as one of those bands where, as much as they’ve always tried to put a socially conscious message out there, also seemed like a major source of tension relief for the band. Their amazing new album “Qliphoth” seems to very much tackle that idea, acknowledging dark thoughts and everyday annoyance can encapsulate us, and we can’t always take out our woes on the very thing causing us stress. The title itself comes from Hermetic Qabalah and represents a dark realm that embraces the ideas of mysticism and the occult, approaching the world of demonology. There’s an unmistakable darkness surrounding these songs and the way in which they are dealt out, and the idea that there are obstacles in our lives that prevent us from finding happiness or just achieving goals is put on center stage. Now, how to destroy the demons?

Cloud Rat coverThe band remains intact from their stunning last full-length “Moksha,” with one notable addition. Madison remains out front, the outspoken, passionate head of this band, whose vocals strike you hard and force you to confront her words. Rorik handles guitar work, while Adrian is on drums, and joining the Cloud Rat lineup is Brandon, who handles electronics. If you were leveled by what you heard on their last record, that remains in the form of agitated punk, heartfelt hardcore, and blistering grind. But there’s more to it than that, as Cloud Rat expand their sound and their soul, proving they never are content with standing in one place and have too much ambition for stagnation, both artistically and emotionally.

The 17-track, 40-minute album gets off to an ominous start with “Seken,” with noise swimming and voices in the background before it bursts. The vocals are maniacal, while the tempo stomps, and then it’s into “Botched” and its manic, blinding makeup, finishing off with the line, “We’ve come to worship death.” “The Upper World” has guitars moaning before the band starts pulverizing. Later, things move at a hulking pace, with guitars ripping out of that and the vocals inducing panic. “Raccoon” is cleaner and more reflective, with harsh vocals spread over top and drubbing ideas smearing over an otherwise slower, more serene cut; while “Daisies” is out of control and volcanic, leaving you no time to prepare. “Bloated Goat” feels a little more angular musically, with an At the Drive In sense, though along with that, Madison’s growls bubble up and burn. “Rusting Belt” charges out of the gates, with fierce shrieks, blasts from the drums, and the music taking an even darker, more sinister twist. “Udder Dust” is spacious as first, letting you take in the air, but it, like so many others, gets destroyed with the pace and metallic intent, though there are pockets of melody infused. “The Killing Horizon” then follows, a dark, murky interlude that lets calm return and bridges into the record’s next half.

“The Boars Snout” is animalistic and brimming with madness, with some sludgy doom taking hold toward the end; and “Hermit Interstice” is one where they show more shades, with trickling melodies meeting face to face with the outright chaos the other half of the track holds. “Live Wake” is just demolition through and through, leading you into “Thin Vein,” with its clean, buzzing guitars and washed-out singing settling into the background. The emotion is clear, especially with the vocals, and even though it goes rogue toward the end, the gaze and shadows are what stand out here. “Bolt Gun” is humid and hazy at the start, with doomy passages darkening the scene, the vocals clobbering, and the rest of the band joining in on gang shouts. “Rogue Dark” is lightning-fast thrash, luring you in and letting you help build the fire. When that breakdown hits toward the end, look out. Shit’s about to get fucked up. “Friend of the Court” is one of the longer songs at 3:20, and it opens with crazed howls, with the music following suit in a sense of velocity. The screams are just heart-wrenching, while all elements burst and land in a pit of sludge. The record ends with “Chrysalis,” which opens clean, with a poetic reading trickling beneath before all hell breaks loose. From there, the final salvo is fired, with the band packing every last drop of emotion inside of them into this storming track that brings things to a cataclysmic, ultimately rewarding finish.

Cloud Rat haven’t quite risen to the level of household name among underground listeners yet, but that day is coming. In fact, “Qliphoth” may be the record that gets them there, as this fiery, personal, cathartic album is impossible to ignore. From what they commit to record to their explosive live shows, Cloud Rat are here to make a statement and hopefully to find some peace and solace in their own lives. The fact they shared that with us so we could rally along with them is an amazing gift that their audience no doubt will embrace.

For more on the band, go here: http://cloudrat.blogspot.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo81-cloud-rat-qliphoth-lp/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/

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