Waiting for the Cut | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Waiting for the Cut 

In Cleric's long-form metal, the tension just keeps building.

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Members of Cleric have in fact scored movies, but not necessarily the kind of movies you'd expect Regressions to soundtrack. They've done music for indie horror flicks (notably the Punk Rock Holocaust series) and several productions by alterna-porn outlet Burning Angel. In 2008 they were nominated for an Adult Video News award for their contributions to a Party Monster parody called Porny Monster.

Regressions has been a long time coming. Two of the band's three previous releases, 2006's Allotriophagy EP and 2007's Cumberbund 12-inch, are anchored by tracks that recur on the album in later versions. Only their debut, the 2004 EP The Underling, can't be seen as a warm-up. The new disc certainly feels like something that's been slaved over for five years—not overworked till it's antiseptic but rather ruthlessly revised and edited into the most efficient possible form.

There's a trend in metal, especially technical metal, toward studio recordings that are finessed and quantized and rebuilt note by note, so that the finished product feels like the output of an evil self-replicating machine. (I'm not necessarily complaining; sometimes this is awesome.) Anemic acoustic drum sounds—the faster you play, the tougher it is to hit hard—are digitally replaced by beefy samples, and notes that aren't perfectly timed are snapped to a grid.

Cleric wants no part of this trend. "We don't like to quantize or replace sounds," says Lynch. "We like to practice a lot and spend time getting it right the first time." They recorded Regressions in Queens, New York, with Colin Marston (Dysrhythmia, Krallice), tracking guitar, drums, and sometimes bass simultaneously to reel-to-reel tape. Even in the few cases where a song stayed in one tempo long enough for a click track to help, they didn't use one.

Plenty of wet-behind-the-ears metal bands suffer audience backlash because their shows feel fumbling and tentative next to their digitally massaged recordings, but Cleric doesn't take any chances. "We never write something we won't be able to reproduce live," says Lynch. "We don't play to a track or use samples really, we just all stay real busy onstage. . . . Nothing is ever simply not there that is on the album."

Rules were made to be broken, though, and the album closer, "The Fiberglass Cheesecake," breaks most of them. It's the only track on Regressions pieced together in the studio rather than performed, and the band can't yet play it in concert (though they're working on it). Its final eight minutes, after the song proper ends with several snipped-up chunks of horrific grating noise, are given over to a meditative, sentimental piano solo, played at a leisurely pace while a backdrop of electronic sizzling tapers off like receding surf. "We actually used a sound replacer on that one for fun, since we never use it otherwise and it seems to be a favorite of heavy bands these days," says Lynch. "But we used it by recording Larry playing a part on his lap with his hands and then replacing the sounds of his hands with drums."

Cleric played Regressions top to bottom at a release party in Philadelphia on Tuesday—minus the last song—and a U.S. tour is in the works for late summer. Keep your ear to the ground, and you might hear the faraway footfalls of something inconceivably huge and bestial.   

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