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Riot grrrrrind - 80%

Songsavers, November 19th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2014, Halo of Flies

[Originally posted on songsavers.wordpress.com]

There's something of a 21st-century riot grrl scene in grindcore that's been going on the past several years. Bands such as Appalachian Terror Unit and Fuck the Facts are fronted by women and typically feature feminist and intersectional lyrics whose ferociousness is complemented by the genre's musical brutality. The trans community has formed a particularly vibrant niche in grindcore and even death metal, such as Marissa Matinez of Cretin.

Michigan grindcore group Cloud Rat has promoted female-empowerment and women's rights since 2010. Blind River is a twelve-track, sixteen-minute compilation of various tracks released through splits and EPs from 2012 to 2014. The song structures are simple: rarely does the band play more than three or four chords per song, but Cloud Rat's appeal isn't in the instrumentation, it's in Madison Marshall's passionate, defiant lyrics that rail against the patriarchy and the social/political disenfranchisement of women.

There is a lot of destructive imagery in Blind River; it is not uncommon for trans and feminist punk/grindcore bands to use imagery of burning and cutting to metaphorically describe visceral feelings of dysmorphia, body-image issues, and confinement to social norms. Marshall contrasts this symbolism with sexuality, creating scenes of violent domination or submission. For example, "Skin Flowers" features the lyrics "looking at your entrails / I bite my tongue" as Marshall "sink[s] into the end of the couch. "Childcraft" has a subtler one but equally powerful juxtaposition in the line "I like pulling out your baby teeth," with an audible pause between "out" and "your" that serves as a double entendre on child-bearing and coitus interruptus. Finally, the track "Keba" contains the lines "His body, a bone casket / Can you keep me company, Keba / Because I can't sleep with knives anymore."

As with many feminist bands, Cloud Rat features themes of identity, strangerhood, and frustration with the self. "Burning Doe" is most direct in this sense, as Marshall screams at the top of her lung "I'm so sick / So fucking sick of being human." She inveighs against the virgin-whore complex in "A Stench of Sage," proclaiming that she is "the mixed menace / ... the half-bred whore." Closing track "Astronomy" contains a line to which all may relate, especially Millennials: "Dealing / I'm always just dealing." The effect of such personally engaging lyrics is a release at once wrathful and identifiable.

Despite her vociferous anger, Marshall allows a moment of simple yet strikingly moving moment of tenderness with a low-fidelity recording of a stanza of "Gloomy Sunday." Also known as the Hungarian Suicide Song, the lyrics by poet László Jávor describe the protagonist driven to suicide out of despair for his or her lover's death. It's a curious addition to Blind River, but fits well in context of the album and demonstrates that, yes, feminism does have room for love - the ending notwithstanding. It's a significant moment of softness within the context of Blind River.

Blind River is a captivating grindcore album that is perfect for first-time listeners to Cloud Rat before moving onto the challenging but equally rewarding full-length releases Qliphoth and Moksha, not to mention those interested in feminist and trans- music.

Blind River - 87%

Twin_guitar_attack, May 1st, 2014

Misanthropic Grindcore band Cloud Rat have released a new compilation on their bandcamp page, bringing together tracks from 2014′s split 7″ with Orgullo Primitivo and their split LP with Republic of Dreams, this compilation making the material here available digitally for the first time. It’s another devastating sonic assault from one of the best current grindcore artists, with their usual relentless heaviness, emotional delivery, and experimental edge.

The first four tracks come from the split with Orgullo Primitivo, and they absolutely rip. Madison’s voice is at her furious best, her performance is nothing short of perfect throughout the release, spitting vitriol and venom with the all-too real, disturbing and distressing lyrics that Cloud Rat are known for. With a really heavy guitar tone, and a mixture of slow crushing riffs and all out speed assault, the guitar work here is really something to behold, especially on the brilliant “Skin Flowers”, and the sludgy brilliance of “Childcraft”, a track with one of the best drumming displays in the Cloud Rat discography so far, there’s a real punky energy and attitude to the drumming which really makes it stand out, going from brutal blasts to really great fills, Adrian is at his best here. “Fingerprint V2″, from the Monomaniac Volume One Compilation separates the two split releases with an awesome barrage of riffs, before the tracks from the split with Republic of Dreams kick in with the releases’ more experimental approach, beginning with “Burning Doe” with some of the slower shoegaze/post-punk moments found on their previous albums, it’s another fantastic track. “Parachute” and “A Stench of Sage” provide furious grind assaults, before a dreary spoken word track aptly titled “Gloomy Sunday” gives way to a more melodic track “Keba” with another drumming masterclass, and an absolutely crushing riff at the end. It’s a case of saving the best track of the release until last though, with the brilliant “Astronomy”, with an almost Black Metal like intro, giving way to a dirty, filthy crushing behemoth (although just under three minutes, in grindcore that’s an epic) of a track, with sludgy, monstrous and powerful riffs, and possibly Madison’s best ever vocal performance, absolutely screaming her heart out. Overall this is a compilation that just needs to be heard, it’s another sublime effort.

Originally written for swirlsofnoise.com