Album Review | Cloud Rat | Pollinator

One of my favorite things about grind music is its ruthless energy. Eighteen tracks packed into twenty minutes, loaded with incessant blastbeats and blanket distortion—this is what I come to this dingy genre for. Or at least it was. But Michigan grindpunks Cloud Rat are redefining the limits of this label on their latest album Pollinator, bringing fresh textures and intelligent writing to the forefront of their savage sound.

True to form, Pollinator is truly relentless in its movement. Songs barely have time to finish before the band launches into the next track. The production is raw and grimy, yet masterful in its execution—every chug booms like I’m standing in front of the band’s guitar cab at a basement show. Cloud Rat focuses the record almost entirely through a heavy, gritty lens, letting overdriven riffs and palpitating beats move the tunes forward. But Pollinator isn’t just a wall of power chords and blasts. Small washes of noise plume after “Biome” or “Al Di La,” glimmering oases of consonance that give listeners a moment to catch their breath before diving back into Cloud Rat’s murky hardcore.

The band full-on attacks their instruments, draining every drop of energy from themselves and distilling it in sonic form. The guitars spit out riffs like a volcano spewing lava, heaving hectic tremolo picking and brutal palm mutes up into a blackened atmosphere. The drums are monstrous and glorious, using creative fills and turnarounds to punctuate walls of blastbeats such as in “Wonder” or “Webspinner.” The vocals sound truly painful and honest in their deliveries, scraped from the back of the throat like war cries or last words.

Cloud Rat is unequivocally vicious in their performances, in no small part owed to their grind-heavy approach to songwriting: fast, loud, and intense. But this this record isn’t your typical collection of fifteen 30-second grind songs; in fact, far from it. Cloud Rat give their riffs room to evolve, allow their tunes the space to breathe and become. “Webspinner” and “Marionette” bring evocative guitar melodies to the forefront, while “Seven Heads” and the hulking “Luminescent Cellar” use ultra-low tunings and bombastic chugs to build some incredibly infectious grooves.

While grind and hardcore may be the base of Cloud Rat’s sound, they fearlessly reach well beyond the limits of those labels. This is most heavily evidenced in the simultaneously-released companion EP to Pollinator, titled Do Not Let Me Off the Cliff. This EP drives even further from the sonic roots Cloud Rat has set down in the past, relying on industrial textures, electronic beats and blooming acoustic guitars. The vocals are brooding, avoiding the harsh deliveries of Pollinator for more melodic singing, all while retaining the power and energy for which this band is known. Pollinator and Do Not Let Me Off the Cliff couple to create an intensely broad and varied image of Cloud Rat, juxtaposing two very polar approaches to song while reinforcing just how versatile this band can be.

Pollinator is perhaps the best gateway album into grind I’ve ever heard, because it reaches farther than any grind album ever has. Cloud Rat embraces black metal, deathcore and even noise elements on this record, cultivating the heaviest parts of each and mashing them into a towering stack of brutal tracks. Both Pollinator and Do Not Let Me Off the Cliff prove that even after a decade of incredibly prolific releases, Cloud Rat has no intentions of stagnation or repetition. Instead they continually hone their craft, wielding it with deadly efficiency as they clear the path forward into the future of their music. Lord knows I will be following faithfully behind.

My Top Track: “Biome”

Pollinator and the companion EP Do Not Let Me Off the Cliff are out via Artoffact Records; you can stream them on Spotify or grab physical copies via Bandcamp. For more info on Cloud Rat, including news and upcoming shows, check out their Facebook page.

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