Does no-one care about End Of Year Lists anymore? [shakes fist angrily]
Releasing an album like Retrocausal (Web Of Mimicry) in mid-December almost seems designed to antagonise self-righteous reviewers who freak out about making their lists as accurate as they can – but speaking as one, it’s easy to forgive Cleric when their slap comes in the form of an album this good.
Most reviews and features on Cleric compare them to Mr. Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3, with occasional references to DEP and John Zorn, and though these are pretty good reference points to start with, Cleric are very clearly doing their own thing. The core sound here, if there really is one, is hyper-technical aggressive Metal of the kind that seems to pass for Hardcore these days, but so thoroughly saturated with such a wide range of other influences that it seems to change its shape every second. In itself, this isn’t particularly unusual these days, but Cleric has succeeded in transcending mere musical salad and creating music which shifts its tone and emotional quality as often as it changes its riffs. Retrocausal’s nine lengthy and expansive tracks move from grandiose, to hysterical to something approximating mellow constantly, frequently within a single movement.
That the musicianship on Retrocausal is stellar is no surprise – John Zorn tends not to record guest appearances for Venom albums, THOUGH HE ABSOLUTELY SHOULD – but once the sheer trauma of excess has worn off you may find yourself taken aback by how musically captivating and fluid it is. In an age where hyper-technicality by itself no longer impresses, Cleric have welded their virtuosity to a style of songwriting which is both alien and oddly catchy – there’s nothing as crude as a verse or chorus here, but nevertheless, they feel like SONGS, with their own character and direction.
It seems fair to assume that Cleric are a band more concerned with musical accomplishment and the respect of their peers than whatever “success” looks like in such a niche field, but Retrocausal deserved to be sitting high in a lot 2017 End Of Year lists, and if there’s any justice it will be picked up in the new year by people who weren’t quick enough to catch them. Hopefully, this is a start.