CLOUD RAT – Pollinator/Do Not Let Me Off The Cliff

CLOUD RAT – Pollinator/Do Not Let Me Off The Cliff

If you look at the cover of this, the grindcore Michigander’s 4th album, thinking that this must be a typical genre release in the vein of Brutal Truth, Converge, Napalm Death, Nasum or Norma Jean, with songs shorter than an average orgasm and occasional brilliance, think again.

There’s more than meets the eye with this trio consisting of the volatile female vocalist, Madison Marshall, versatile, eclectic guitarist and keyboardist, Rorik Brooks and doubtless insane drummer, Brandon Hill. The Michiganders have been assaulting the senses of unsuspecting listeners since 2009, with 3 albums: "Cloud Rat" (2010), "Moksha" (2013) and "Qliphoth" (2015), before releasing "Pollinator" with a bonus "Do Not Let Me Off The Cliff" recently. Because the bonus CD is musically almost completely different from "Pollinator" the bulk of this review will focus on the latter, with just a brief paragraph on the former.

"Pollinator" sure is a grindcore release in the vein of Brutal Truth, Converge, Napalm Death, Nasum or Norma Jean, which is evident by listening to tracks such as "Biome", "Marionettes" or "Webspinner" but they are so much more than that. Madison is an absolute beast (I realize I’m talking about a lady here so take it with a grain of salt) an amalgamate of Charles Michael Schuldiner (Death) and John Henry (Darkest Hour). She screams, growls and sings in the cleaner, more typically feminine fashion while accompanied by Rorik’s keyboard atmospherics recalling Strapping Young Lad or Fear Factory, such as on "Delayed Grief // Farmhouse Red", the closer, "Perla" (Polish for "Pearl") or the excellent "Seven Heads" based around a riff worthy of Diamond Darrell Lance "Dimebag" Abbott in Pantera’s "Use Your Third Arm". Rorik comes up with some Mastodon-ic (Luminescent Cellar) and Death-ly riffs (Marionettes), but when he waxes melodic he rivals Darkest Hour, as in the fantastic "Al Di La" which would snuggly fit on "Undoing Ruin" or Prong or Trivium, especially on the favorite, "Last Leaf". The versatility and skills Cloud Rat possesses cannot be overstated, plus they are good to excellent songwriters.

"Pollinator" has its share of clunkers. The opener, "Losing Weight" and "Zula" (0:44 seconds!) are exactly the sort of nonsensical, overly brutal, and unintelligible noise I hate about grindcore, and even decent tracks such as "Night Song" or "The Mad" have a lot of it. But my biggest gripe is, of course, track length. As I complained with Shock Narcotic, who are lesser songwriters than Cloud Rat, why the pressing need to, cut your life into pieces (to borrow from Papa Roach’s "Last Resort") which cannot, for the most part, exist by themselves? Why not combine them in longer songs? In fact, "Luminescent Cellar", which clocks at a wonderful 4:16 as the only track to exceed that grindcore must of barely over 2 minutes, is a great example of why making songs longer would benefit the material tremendously. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t get it. But it must be said that Cloud Rat are probably THE first band I know of who is able to write a great to excellent track in under 2 minutes. Yes, I am familiar with Slayer’s "Reign In Blood" and I still stand.

Overall, "Pollinator" deserves a strong 4/6 and, despite a relatively low score, I do recommend it, especially, since the accompanying bonus CD, "Do Not Let Me Off The Cliff", shows Cloud Rat in almost a totally different light.

Some of the songs on the 7 track affair can rightly be called ambient and have nothing to do with grindcore or metal. Bands such as Nine Inch Nails (Thrust) or Depeche Mode (Keep Flies) come to mind and the severely romantic and beautiful "623" even recalls Angelo Badalamenti’s "Twin Peaks". But there are interesting drone psychedelic trips a’la Pink Floyd (The Portal Of God Is Nonexistence) and a dreamy Enya-like cleans of the "evil" Madison can lure you into thinking this band could not possibly have anything to do with grindcore, hardcore or metal of "Polinator" (Pity Sex) before, finally, Cloud Rat sounds like their regular (?) selves on the excellent doomy rock closer, "Dropping From The Trees". Not all these experiments are great so the overall score for the bonus CD comes up to a 3.5/6.

"Pollinator" is a good album with average to excellent tracks, showing a versatile, creative band clearly having fun with a little tongue-in-cheek approach to their craft. If they apply what I suggested I think we could get a masterpiece from them, and I, for one, will be interested to hear the progress. As for the bonus CD, it is far from an essential listen but it proves that Cloud Rat can write and play anything they choose to and that, in today’s market is weighed in gold.