Cloud Rat’s new album Qliphoth was one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2015, the grindcore trio coming on the back of their ripping self titled debut and brilliant experimental follow up Moksha. With hard-hitting lyrical themes from the incredibly harsh voice of Madison, gnarled crushing riffs and a touch of post-rock experimentalism, those two albums have made them one of the top grindcore groups of the last decade. Naturally it would be difficult to live up to two the same standards as such killer records, and while Qliphoth is indeed a very good album, it does fail to build on the first two much, and that’s ever so slightly disappointing.
The post-rock guitar effects ring out with lovely shoegazey vocals over the top from the start of Seken before the blastbeats barrel forth among killer mid paced grind riffs with a fantastic meaty tone, and Madison changes instantly – screaming her lungs out as the album starts as classic, uncompromising Cloud Rat. Her vocals are as devastating as ever, and the huge guitar sound is there once again, trebly and barbed, darting between fast and mid-paced, the chemistry between guitarist and drummer is great, they’re a brilliantly tight unit. It sounds like the Cloud Rat we know well, but that’s part of the problem.
While it’s definitely a great album and is bound to draw new fans in with the touches of post rock and shoegaze to their ripping grindcore, that no one elseis doing, it just doesn’t sound as fresh and fails to leave quite the impression that the S/T and Moksha did. While most of the songs here sound great on their own, there’s sometimes not the most variety and they do run into each other – it perhaps doesn’t help that the album is more than twice as long as the self titled, clocking in at forty minutes. The lyrics are a lot more abstract and less heavy hitting, Madison’s vocals, while absolutely ripping (she’s still the best female vocalist in extreme music right now with those high pitched barks and screams) don’t have enough variety in the grind sections, or indeed clarity; the lyrics harder to make out than the previous releases. And while the post-rock effects on the strummed chords combined with the heavy distortion of grindcore were interesting before, the experiments aren’t taken much further on this release – these occasional sections at the start of the songs sound a lot like they did on Moksha, the intro to Bolt Gun being the biggest culprit of self plagiarisation, sounding too similar to the intro of earlier (better) track Udder Dust. Thin Vein is their best use, the ethereal indecipherable clean vocals over the distorted chords is a great cathartic release near the end of the album, and the way it gets builds up through to a heavy distorted wall of experimental sound make it one of the album’s strong points.
The other highlights are the three consecutive tracks, the flesh rending speed of Bloated Goat and Rusting Belt, and post-grind dirge of Udder Dust, all with the most disturbing lyrics and harshest vocal performances on the album. Rouge Park has some of the more memorable riffs, with those slower breakdowns, while the sludgy dirge of Friend of the Court never fails to depress. But there’s no track that matches upto the pure anguish of the s/t’s soul crushing Sinkhole, or Moksha’s beautiful post-grind masterpiece Infinity Chasm.
It’s a great album on it’s own terms, and any grindcore fans out there will definitely get a kick out of it, especially those who like their grind anguished and bitter, but when it comes from Cloud Rat, I can’t help thinking I expected something more, for them to perhaps push their sound further, rather than sound like Moksha part 2.