Cloud Rat Crosses a New “Threshold” in Grindcore (Early Track Stream + Interview)
Progressive grind collective Cloud Rat are back in the saddle in 2022 with their newest face-rippingly-fast and furious full-length, Threshold. The album came about as the rest of theirs have: with a sense of urgency, coupled with the hours of distance between the band’s members when they aren’t touring. A pandemic-sized void helped lead to one especially blistering record with varying levels of heaviness, albeit with a cohesiveness that really helps Cloud Rat to stand out amongst their contemporaries. Grindcore is the bedrock style for the band and all of the other variations on a theme add to the comprehensive chaos.
The whole band got in on the following interview: Brandon Hill gives a real play-by-play of life events and the record's creation, vocalist Madison Marshall provides the lyrical themes as well as some of the inspirations, with Rorik offering an in depth breakdown of one of the album’s most dynamically diverse cuts. We finished out talking about touring, a signature beer and the future of the band. Read through this interview as you check out a new single from the album, "Corset," premiering below.
Walk me through the time between 2019’s Pollinator and your newest record Threshold.
Brandon: Well as most of us have maybe experienced, a completely different universe and mindset has unfolded between those two points. In 2019 I’d say we were primed and ready to do as much as possible. Pollinator was our first record with Artoffact, we had done a wonderful September tour with label mates Kælan Mikla, and only a handful of shows leading into early 2020. We were scheduled to play an Artoffact showcase, a Thrasher Death Match, and more at South by Southwest in Austin, and had tours scheduled surrounding Roadburn 2020, Maryland Deathfest 2020, and more, including some places we had never been in the Fall of that year, but obviously all that was cancelled and completely put on hold. This led to a strange time, as while we all live 2+ hours away from one another, the distance seemed even further as everyone tried to navigate the new COVID landscape of ever-changing work environments and evolving home life, all with of course no gigs or rescheduled-then-cancelled dates etc. I think this manic back and forth between hope and confusion, panic and joy, exhaustion and restlessness is what spawned Rorik to go into a writing frenzy around late winter 2020. He had also done a host of demos, new projects, video-casts / interviews (the Voidcast) and productions, while we also as a band managed to pull off a few all separately home recorded tracks and covers (Screen Door, Faster, Ô Paon cover, Mother Tongue ~ Glitter Belly for Adult Swim, Please Just Let Me Off The Cliff, etc.). I think the bubbling brew of surrounding situational frustration bred an almost-need to do things in-house, without the chance of having something cancelled or altered by outside forces. Threshold, as its name implies, was made through the madness of recent years - of uncertainty and energy and a near-forced bursting through the barrier of our own abilities and mental capacities.
Do you find a new impetus for each record or have them come about in the same fashion?
B: I think we can probably agree that the real force of creation is necessity, often facilitated and pushed forward by life and its events. As many often debate; ‘art is a reflection of life’ or vice versa; then indeed it’s life (or death) and the surrounding events and bits in between that give such weight and movement to the process of creation. Each record has been a snapshot of life at the time, reflective of one's emotions, life events, losses, maturation, insanity, influences and more around that time. I’d say, in that way, each record comes about in the similar way of need, but via a completely different route every time.
The album artwork seems a bit more colorful this time around, what was the reason for that? Why the very distinctive colors?
B: I don’t think that was overly intentional, but rather just an attempt to find something, a work, an artist, that spoke to the feelings evoked by the record and the music and ideas surrounding it. A total gorgeously hideous heaping mess, if you will. A kaleidoscope of ideas and contradictions, pains and passions. Everything at once but also nothing at all. Shape and form, both hidden and blurred, highlighted and vibrant.
What is the significance of the song title “12-22-09”?
Madison: It's a date from my journal from around that time. That date is also another memory to a relationship that started around that time that had a huge effect on the following years. It was like an invisible chain. Trying to break away from it and the ripple effects that were a lot bigger than just them and I.
To what do you attribute the most in terms of the raucous energy with which you play?
B: Mania? Uhhh, desperation? An attempt to channel the seemingly boundless energy, joy and horror that is the incredibly frail and fleeting existence that is life?
What are the most prevalent lyrical themes with Threshold?
M: I would say the most prevalent lyrical themes include paranoia, isolation, spirituality, bodies of water. Each song kinda feels like a wheel of time, in a year that's composed of many years if that makes sense? They rotate and spin. The record starts from a point of spiritual breakdown…Also drowning… There's lots of drowning on the record, haha. And dreams. One of the major themes is just “time” in general – building a nest of memories. It all plays into one another.
What was it like to collab with Cognition Brewing Company on your “Commit To The Void” Imperial Mango Hefeweizen?
B: Super cool. Mad chill crew to work with, and the can looks beyond rad. Funny cuz we all sometimes go in and out of phases and zones with various consumption, but stoked to have it out there!
IO: What has tour life been like since you have been able to get back out there?
B: Honestly, pretty strange and rather stressful in lots of ways. We had the most amazing time in Europe at Roadburn and with our friends in LEECHFEAST (listen to LEECHFEAST!), but overall I’d say things don’t seem “quite right” in lots of places, and there’s always the looming threat of illness or cancelled flights or travel issues or this and that. On a positive note, most of the shows we’ve played have been absolutely excellent, and people are definitely super appreciative and energetic which is awesome, but indeed I think it's just gonna take some time for things to click, personally. That being said, I'm really glad to be able to play anywhere at all, and even more importantly to SEE other bands and rad stuff happening on the regular again.
“Kaleidoscope” is a uniquely structured song on this album in my opinion, from start to finish and varying levels of dynamics or calm and chaotic make for a unique listening experience on the new disc. What was it like writing that track in particular?
Rorik: Yeah "Kaleidoscope" was a fun one to write, probably one of my favorites from the record. As a whole, the album is a fairly relentless barrage of speed and heaviness, but amidst all that we found ways to throw in some swerves and different textures with songs like this. I guess I was going for a kinda prog feel with the opening riffs, maybe something not too far from what Rush or maybe Mindcrime-era Queensrÿche might do? The riff feels like a warm blanket to my ears somehow too haha. The middle picking passage probably comes from my foundational constant diet of 90's grunge and alt rock as a teenager. It's certainly not the first time those influences have crept in. And then the sort of whirring constant repeated final riff in the track came as a natural progression from the intro riff - like a manic version played by someone having a fit. It's surprisingly one of the most challenging passages for me to play on the album, as it requires a shitload of frenetic-yet-precise fret jumping while maintaining the core note in there too.
B: It was definitely a whirlwind. Rorik principally writes all the songs and then when we get to rehearsing things are tweaked and added, and obviously a human drummer element naturally shifts things a bit, and that one was definitely a challenge. Quick changes and lots of ideas packed in there. Layering cut up tonal-based modular electronics and keys over parts was also quite fun, and to my ears adds a lot to the chaotic yet enveloping atmosphere.
What is the band looking forward to as 2023 approaches?
B: Just focused on releasing this LP and perhaps taking some time to reflect on it all ha - it feels like a giant release of kinetic energy and is something we ourselves have to digest, learn from and understand. Hopefully some tours here and there to support, but moreover I hope we can continue to stretch out even further into some of the more experimental and strange sonic territories we’ve explored from 2019 to now.
Anything else you would like to add?
B: Awareness is everything. What we don’t know is forever infinite. Knowing only that we don’t know empowers us to quiet ourselves to try and better understand… Thanks for the interview. Infernal Hails!
Threshold releases October 7th via Artoffact Records.