October 10, 2013

Cloud Rat - Moksha & Bone Sickness - Alone in the Grave

Review by Dean Brown

How many releases have we been accosted by this year that contain some semblance of filler and lose focus because of it? What happened to writing the most vital piece of music you possibly can, where every note counts and not a second of it is wasted? Outside of grindcore, not many bands use brevity as a sonic weapon. This is a shame because there’s nothing better than an album that kicks your back door in, assaults you without reason, and flees in a haze of blood splatter and ruptured organs. Two of the best underground releases of 2013 which may have slipped through the cracks and into the netherworld do just that: Cloud Rat’s Moksha and Alone in the Grave by Bone Sickness.

Artwork by Brian Uhl

Released at the dawn of the New Year, Moksha, Cloud Rat’s second full-length, is a passionate grindcore album which hosts some of the most feral and downright unhinged vocals this side of the much missed Mare – or even Khanate. And as indebted to Pig Destroyer, Converge, Today Is The Day, and the underappreciated screamo bands of the late ‘90s (Clikitat Ikatowi, Orchid, Heroin) as the velocity and venom of tracks like “Inkblot”, “Daunting Daughters” and the Circle Takes The Square-esque blackout of “Vigil” are, Cloud Rat's own individuality spills across 13 songs in less than a half hour. The unexpected grace of the first half of “Infinity Chasm” displays a reluctance to be hanged by grind’s noose, as lilting male and female vocals and washy shoegaze guitars soothe before a hail of blasts and Madison’s corrosive screams scratch the beauty away. Add to this an unexpected cover of the Neil Young classic “The Needle and the Damage Done” – which holds original close then slits its throat – and the piano-led cleanse of the instrumental title-track, and you have one of the most interesting grind bands/albums out there today.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Artwork by Hand of Beaver

Taking death metal back to a time when the genre actually sounded like death, Olympia, Washington four-piece Bone Sickness are the real deal. Loose, cavernous death metal most foul, Alone in the Grave reeks of bands like Autopsy at the height of their putrid powers. With a production sound that coagulates the blunt riffs, bone-splitting beats and intestinal growls into 18-minutes of the best death metal out there, the replay value of Alone in the Grave is second to none. Song-writing is the key to the success of this EP: each song is cleverly structured and there are hooks galore sprayed about like blood gushing from a severed aorta. Tempos change from a groovy, doom crawl to a scrappy d-beat let demolition, and like the originators of the genre there is a serrated thrash-edge replete with wailing lead work which runs amok from opener “Submit to Decay” to the Slayer-in-a-sacrophagus feel of “Tied to the Stake”. With artwork from the twisted claw of Chips & Beer magazine’s resident illustrator Hand of Beaver bringing back memories of staring into the abyss of Morbid Angel’s Altars of Madness, this EP, released by 20 Buck Spin in April, is an essential package for lovers of the beastliest genre in metal in all its early gore and glory.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

  1. To answer the question at the top of the review(s): damn near all of them.

    I've been a vocal fan of Vhol's S/T debut, but even that has a filler track ("Illuminate").

    It doesn't help that most of what I've heard has either been disappointing (i.e. less awesome than expected), mediocre (no expectation, but didn't excite me), or downright crap. 2013 has been a rough year for me personally, so I'm sure that factors into my negative nancy attitude toward much of the music I've heard since April.

    I'll hedge on the above just a bit by saying that while I haven't enjoyed everything I've heard in 2013, none of it is as bad (or foolhardy) as an album like "Lulu" or "Illud Divinum Insanus".

    1. When I'm feeling down I seek solace in metal. Some of it empowers me, some of it makes me realize that others have it worse than me, a lot simply helps me escape a little.