Cleric’s Regressions is a punishing, insistent assault of cruelty that can be hard to sit through. With tracks that stretch to nearly 20 minutes, this debut full length from the Philly quartet mixes elements of doom, grindcore and noise into a vicious, bloody stew of liberating loudness.
Having been a band for six years, Cleric has released two self-produced EPs and a picture disc. Their debut LP takes all of the shards of brutality from their previous releases and pours them into a cauldron of doom and destruction that tests the resolve of the listener. This sort of punishment can be strangely rewarding at times, especially when Cleric bends towards more imaginative and sprawling textures, but it can also be very cyclic.
Regressions manages 76 minutes of tense, dynamic compositions and most of them hit the mark with desolate, trying ambience and transfixing, toothy heaviness.
The problems come when Cleric doesn’t know when (or apparently how) to let go of a concept. Soundscapes are drilled to surrender with incessant reiteration and unrestricted grinding seems to go on forever until it drives itself off a sea cliff to put itself out of its misery. This sort of unrelenting shit works well for perhaps the first 10 or so minutes of a 20-minute track, but the effect is sort of dulled as the brute drags along.
Comparisons to bands like Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge are probably in order, but those groups know how to draw incredible strain out of pithy, terse moments in time like razor-sharp daggers. Cleric seems to prefer blunted instruments to pointed objects, choosing death by sluggish bludgeoning over a gory but swift end.
Regressions, then, is a regret designed exclusively to make you submit to its will.
The twenty minute “Allotriophagy” has no fixed direction and feels almost like an improvised musical clubbing. The tempo changes and gear shifts are astounding and the song must be a beast to hear live. The speaker-testing lower end roars.
Those looking for melody or structure had best look elsewhere, as sweltering cuts like “Cumberbund” and “A Rush of Blood” offer nothing of the sort.
Regressions works hard for its atmosphere, including a couple of untitled interludes for effect. One of them sounds like something out of a rustic version of Cloverfield, complete with singing birds and a stomping, thunderous monster that plods slowly into listening range.
For the most part, this is a gruelling, unyielding spot of noise and grind well worth a spin or two. It isn’t immediately likeable or melodic in any way, but Cleric is certainly on to something here. Their dedication to the album’s atmosphere makes the best case for its sophistic, monotonous nature and a little more urgency and insanity would have made Regressions a brilliant bit of work.