Postmortem Ode: Cloud Catcher’s Fuzzy and Psychedelic “The Whip” EP Turns Out to be Their Last
In Denver’s now-prolific metal scene, the increasingly popular stylistic trends of “blackened sludge” and “atmospheric doom” have come to supersede all other variants of their respective subgenres, even bleeding over into the realm of stoner metal.
Although this avant-garde landscape has bred countless innovative new groups, its fixation on pushing the slower strains of metal to droning, synapse-destroying extremes has also drawn attention away from any group employing a more traditionally straightforward approach. One group negatively affected by this shift has been the exceedingly talented Cloud Catcher, whose fantastic compositions have fallen by the wayside despite their infectiously groovy and timeless nature. Combining energetic stoner riffs drenched in psychedelic fuzz with classic hard rock sensibilities, Cloud Catcher imbues their throwback sound with just enough nuance to establish an unmistakably discernable sonic identity.
In March 2017, the group released their intrepid sophomore full-length Trails of Kozmic Dust to mixed degrees of success; although the record garnered praise and acclaim, this recognition was restricted to extremely limited circles -- uploaded to YouTube by genre archivist 666MrDoom upon its initial release, the album has since been viewed only about 11,000 times, with just under 200 downloads on Bandcamp. A complete powerhouse of stoner-psych majesty, though, Trails of Kozmic Dust actually presented the near-perfection of Cloud Catcher’s compelling brand of sludgy heavy metal, a breath of fresh air in an admittedly oversaturated genre.
Regardless, the band quickly began work on new material, with the possibility of a forthcoming release suggested as early as fall of 2017. Oddly stagnant for two years, Cloud Catcher suddenly sprang back to life this January with the announcement of their next release, the The Whip EP, and the corresponding upload of its first single “Beneath the Steel.” Eagerly anticipating the return of the group’s signature sound, I spoke with founding guitarist/vocalist Rory Rummings about the influences and inspirations behind Cloud Catcher’s new material, as well as the group’s activity since the last release.
What has Cloud Catcher been up to since Trails of Kozmic Dust? The record was seen as a major standout within the stoner/psych genre; did you experience any of that recognition personally, or was it all contained online?
Thanks! That is very kind of you to say; however, I don't think I have ever heard that from anyone before [laughs]. Not to toot our horn, but I believe Trails was the peak lineup of Cloud Catcher. We kicked ass live, and we thought the best way to harness that energy was to record the album live. That album was also us right after we found the sound we wanted to achieve, so it has a lot of power and meaning behind it. After we released Trails two years ago, we pretty much just started writing what was to become our next album. In between all the songwriting we had played Psycho Las Vegas 2017 and did a tour with Earthless in September 2017.
What is the musical intention of The Whip? Did you intend it as an evolution of your sound, or more of a continuation of the style presented on Trails?
There really wasn't any musical intention behind The Whip. Like all Cloud Catcher music, I pretty much just play what I want to play. If there was to be any musical intention behind The Whip it would be a total slap in the face to all that extremely redundant and honestly, quite boring "stoner rock doom rock" trendy stuff that is all the rage nowadays [laughs].
Who are some of your biggest influences, both foundationally and within the modern scene?
For me personally, I was raised on Maiden, Priest, and Sabbath. So without going into a four-page in depth explanation of my favorite bands I would mention the previously listed bands as the most high triumvirate of musical excellence. As far as the modern scene goes there are so many killer bands. Earthless, Necrot, Blood Incantation, Superstition, The Obsessed, and High on Fire are just a few "modern" bands that I absolutely love and find constant sources of inspiration from.
Containing four tracks of ripping old-school metal carnage with Cloud Catcher’s inimitably twisty compositional style, the The Whip EP features a more stripped-down iteration of the interstellar grandiosity of their last full-length. Immediately revealing its classic metal inflections, the EP begins with the headbanging anthem “Beneath the Steel,” surfing across its five-minute length with unrelenting vigor. This inclination toward the sound and attitude of traditional heavy metal is present throughout all four songs, but is most clearly emphasized on the aforementioned opening track and the closing title track, which also branches out into more eclectic spaces.
While “The Whip” indeed presents the same species of righteous, thundering riffs as “Beneath the Steel,” the former cranks up the speed and ferocity of Cloud Catcher’s performance into a thrash-like frenzy, and even tosses in some mid-1990s style foundational stoner-doom grooves halfway through. Driving this atmosphere home are Rumming’s bluesy, careening vocals, winning over listeners with their vintage timbre and unkempt passion.
The more progressive moments arrive on the The Whip EP's second track “Grieving Eye;” unceasingly shifting speed metal licks highlight a whirlwind romp in 6/8 time that fully immerses the listener in a valiant musical odyssey, culminating in a fiery dual guitar solo. The transition from “Grieving Eye” into “Born in Fire” features a hazy, overdriven salute to the glory of psych-rock somewhere halfway between Jimi Hendrix and Kyuss, driven by soupy tones and fervent emotion. Then, the song explodes into a breakneck journey of smoky, rippling soundscapes. As the longest track on the release, “Born in Fire” gallops across its eight-minute length into an outro that reprises the glorious first riff, riding it out into the sunset as the song descends into reverberating feedback.
However, before the latest EP was even allowed to see the light of day, Cloud Catcher suddenly took to social media to announce the unfortunate news of the outfit’s impending retirement, marking the The Whip EP as the band’s final release.
Despite its well-rounded eclecticism, this four-track dynamo – an EP that packs double the punch in half the time – would sadly never receive a tour cycle, and would only ever be performed live at the band’s final show at Tooey’s on March 9th. In order to gain further insight into the group’s sudden demise, I asked Rummings to shed some light on the situation, and also to reflect on his own personal experiences regarding his band’s legacy. With a hint of optimism, I closed our conversation by inquiring about potential future projects that might emerge from the ruins of Cloud Catcher, and what each member’s specific intentions would be going forward.
Sum up the overall experience of Cloud Catcher as a band. How did you feel going into the project versus now, as it draws to a close? How do you feel you've grown as a musician, artist… as a human, even?
Looking back on it, I am extremely proud of what Cloud Catcher did. What we accomplished is exactly what needed to be accomplished. I grew a lot as a human by learning how to live out on the road which places you way out of your comfort zone. I also cut my teeth playing live with CC, so I will always be grateful of the experiences that playing music with the group brought me. Whether they were good or bad, I am just happy they presented themselves.
Did you intend for The Whip to be your last release during its compositional/recording process, or was the decision more sudden?
It was never intended, but at the end of that recording session I knew in my heart that writing new music for CC was never going to happen.
Are you able to give any details about the decision to part ways?
To sum it up, I have completely moved on musically. Scott was with the change, and Jared wasn't. The riffs and new compositions that were being created didn't feel like CC music so I started to not feel comfortable writing the music under the CC name. Once I mentioned this to Jared and Scott it was completely understood as to what needed to be done, which was break up CC. Thankfully we are all three still friends and there is no bad blood or ill will between us.
Jared and I had been playing music together for close to ten years and we both went through a lot of changes together, CC was pretty much the catalyst for those changes. When you share experiences and laughter together for so long you realize that it is completely pointless to be mad at each other for wanting to grow in separate ways. I hope that makes sense.
Do the members of Cloud Catcher have plans to be involved in any upcoming projects external to the band? Will there be any spiritual successors to Cloud Catcher?
Yes. Scott, Richie (ex-Speedwolf) and myself have formed a new band entitled Beneath the Steel. A band which was created to satisfy all your true Heavy Metal needs.
Support Invisible Oranges on Patreon.