It's hard to put emotions into words, you know? I can write about them, circling around the edges, but it'll always fall short of expressing what I actually feel in the moment. The best musicians do it all the time, of course, but then they've got their performances to convey the meaning behind their words, to make the intangible if not exactly tangible then at least something that can be felt in the heart, or in the pit of your stomach. That's what it's like experiencing Michigan trio Cloud Rat, with their potent fusion of frantic grindcore, emotional hardcore and early screamo, and that's especially what it's like listening to their new record Moksha, as Madison Marshall lifts her words off the paper, just words, then screws them up in a thunderous, churning tornado of drums and guitar and stabs them deep inside like a jagged shard of metal whipped up in the fray. If you don't feel it, then you can't feel anything.
As 'Inkblot' burns its short fuse and explodes with little warning, we're blasted into very different territory from the typical grindcore slab - and another leap forward for this band after their monumental if disjointed side of the split LP with Republic of Dreams last year. Madison's searing vocals are more upfront and forceful in the mix as guitarist Rorik Brooks and drummer Adrian riff on that fast drums/slow guitar dynamic that made Discordance Axis so special. And much like with those pioneers, you'd scarcely believe three people could make a sound this massive.
The first half flows across peaks and valleys, from 'Inkblot' through the bipolar 'Aroma', the noisy skree of 'Corner Space', 'Olympia' and 'Peer to Peer', and the swing of 'Widowmaker', the band hat-tipping their inspirations along the way, switching effortlessly between dissonant breaks, muscular breakdowns, some straight-up D-beat worship and more melodic strains, till they reach the breathing space of 'Infinity Chasm', a dreamy post-hardcore drift that inevitably spins their energy and intensity into a ferocious vortex.
Side B is just as restless, the guitar sounds swarming around that ripping, tearing shrapnel voice as the drum patterns shift gear between one-two-one-two shuffle and sudden blastbeat eruptions. Then comes an unexpected turn with a surprisingly straight cover of Neil Young's 'The Needle and the Damage Done', but one which replaces some of the original's plaintive restraint with emotionally wrought, screaming grind that really hits home the damage. Ditto the tightly wound 'Vigil', which sounds a culmination of the whole record's pain and anger expressed in a single two-minute blast of energy, leaving only haunting six-minute piano/drone piece that makes the title track in its wake. It's all over in under half an hour, but Moksha will stay with you for a great deal longer than that.