Cloud Rat – Mabgate Bleach, Leeds

A tenner plus small change entry fee can be considered a very reasonable fare for the sold out offering provided last Thursday at the wonderful DIY dwelling in Leeds’ much beloved Mabgate Bleach. Flagship Michigan grindcore act Cloud Rat, alongside a serving of contemporary British sludge and lunatic noise rock from Moloch and Belk turned out in their harsh glory to give a glance to wicked metal and extreme punk ongoings in our locale as we were welcomed to a deliciously dense and devastating triple header to be served up and devoured by all willing participants.

Passing through the doors of the Bleach after a long day’s toil, and after having “X” scrawled in blue pen across the tendons of my hand, we filed past strewn vintage audio equipment around the cramped merch stand into the main gig hall. For this evening’s entertainment, the venue had been recast as an appropriately darkened and dungeon-like pit (albeit with incredibly friendly bar staff). Kickoff for the opening act Moloch grew nearer, as the cloth shrouding the back wall rendered shifting projected surfaces reminiscent of innards writhing and jutting inglorious hues of skin tissue and diseased flesh.

The word Moloch most regularly refers to a Canaanite deity whose most memorable practices involved brutal and often infernal sacrifices. Apt, as those who observed their midlands-based namesake on Thursday may well have sacrificed their cochlear tissue, all in the service of harsh and crushingly bleak yet tonally dramatic sludge doom trudging along in gritty grooves and consuming dirges. 

Moloch had previously cut a split LP with Cloud Rat back in 2017 on the now defunct Milwaukee label Halo of Flies, and were reunited on the bill here, announcing their arrival with the hefty pock of drums marching and giving way to fill the space with trades of desolate banshee feedback screeching. This set the tone – but not the pace for the remaining exhibitors.

A few northern monk lagers and cigarettes later we were treated to a short, sharp and severe ambush from Leeds’ resident fast sludge duo recently turned trio Belk. Smudging the lines between blackened punk and noise rock they crashed through the Mabgate doors as a frenzy of furious riffs peppered with gut howls and feral shouts. Their raucous, active presence injected a necessary change of tempo as the patrons prepared themselves for the third and final and definitive act of the night, Mount Pleasant, Michigan’s very own Cloud Rat.

As a late summer evening is consumed by night, and with the eager onlookers bathed in a red glow, Aluminium Branches opens. The track also commences 2022 LP Threshold. Courtesy of Artoffact records, Threshold is largely responsible for elevating the already well respected status of Cloud Rat among fresh Grind enthusiasts, granting a new proposition of solid riffage, churning out a tapestry of genre-skewing mayhem.

The drawbridge is downed to an aural battering ram of blasting, flying drums courtesy of many armed drum god Brandon Hill, and breakneck riffs played in astonishingly deliberate and descriptive revving and flashing detail. It ought to be noted that the live sound of the band is incredibly faithful to the record in that neither gives off a hint of stolid, mechanical sheen, and opts instead for something more organic and involved, an experience truer to DIY ethos. As the set progresses interspersed with threatening ambience, Inner Controller and Corset, eventually follow another two tracks which disrupt the flow of straight grind and the set provides the versatility on which Cloud Rat have built their home, shades of different styles of screamo, crust and blackened sludge melt and entwine in brutal 1-2 minute songlets.

Some of the more involved and energised spectators had placed themselves in close proximity to the band and expressed their primal physical reaction to the blastbeat bait and switch. Unforgiving drum changes provoked head movements, ultimately a futile attempt to keep up with the relentless and swift booming and stuttering which only pink shirted fret charmer Rorik Brooks and red haired screech artist Madison Marshall whose guitar and vocals were rhythmically wrapped around were able to stay true to.

After hurtling through tracks from Threshold and 2019 effort Pollinator, eventually culminating in Marshall’s presence in the middle of the carnage, Cloud Rat’s time was through. Wrecked bodies stumbled through the doors of the Bleach and utterly scrambled heads reflected upon this carnival of noise set to round off their remaining dates in various caverns across the UK. With any hope, this experience of the technicolour might of modern US grind among some of the other flavours of heaviness may bleed into some dark corner near you.