You can rely on Klonosphere Records to scout the best metal and hardcore talent in Francophone Europe with recent classics from Tranzat, Scarred and Exanimis to their name in the last two years. Now they unleash Cleaver upon us like narcotics dealers in a new market with an unknown drug and a ready supply of bored delinquents waiting to become dependents. Formed in late 2018, the Gallic bruisers in Cleaver wear their American hardcore influences with pride, but their debut is anything but reductive. Indeed, No More Must Crawl is so heavy, it’ll make you laugh like a James Bond villain.
You can expect insane levels of destructive rage from a band who cite Converge and Code Orange as influences, yet Cleaver’s opening assault in ‘Desperate’ retains a surprise rock extravaganza among the carnage. The bass is louder than the aftermath of Krakatoa, and the drums are as clear as an early morning military drill. Vocalist and guitarist, Mathis Garelli, strains his tonsils in the manner of an Olympian athlete pushed to the limit. Wait until he applies downward palm-muting motion to his instrument at 01:28 seconds. Jesus Christ, this could bring down a wall!
Ten short songs like track number one would be fine, but Cleaver do not compromise the quality or technicality of their music. You’d think this band formed in 2008 rather than 2018. The impenetrable Voivod chords on ‘Dressed in Sorrow’ are what 1987’s Killing Technology would sound like if given a makeover by Botch. The hissing dyad shapes in ‘Sunset’ are even more vituperative in their bite. This is what you wanted the recent Bitter Branches album to sound like – violent, unpredictable, liable to break at any point. Bassist, Franck Fortina, adds a good measure of death metal growls to the hardcore screaming when things threaten to stablilise. Yes, please!
It’s interesting how far modern hardcore crosses over into extreme metal these days. Those of us that like our music to bludgeon the senses and challenge our expectations will often find more of this in metallic hardcore than, say, black metal. Cleaver are a good example why. Listen to the alt-rock beginning of ‘Inner Voice’ go from Sonic Youth to The Refused and Poison the Well in less than three minutes. The double mathcore header of ‘Thudding Stares’ and ‘K.Y.G. (Kill Your Guru)’ mix sustained blast beats with staccato posturing and body-slamming breakdown riffs in less time that it takes to boil an egg on full heat. Both are overzealous in their violent attack and delightful in their hyper-aggressive transcendence.
You’ll go into the last quarter of No More Must Crawl prepared for a mathcore frenzy, but the French trio do the opposite and embrace a post-metal aesthetic for the title track and the closing song, ‘Grief’. Both compositions break through the three-minute mark for the first time on the record, and both explode out of a mournful vibe like Cult of Luna at their most vicious. The spacey guitar on the former shakes with the resistance of an armoured vehicle, while the epic riffs of the latter give way to a slower strangulation of chugging downstrokes. Here, Mathis Garelli delivers a nervous breakdown in real time. This is dark and daring, like an art-house exhibition that turns more sinister than its creators imagined.
Do French bands have more to prove in the heavy music scene? Maybe they do, but we’re all the better for it. This is a monstrous debut record from an unknown quantity. Cleaver’s name will remain obscure no more.
Release Date: 06/05/2022
Record Label: Klonosphere Records
Standout tracks: Sunset, Inner Voice, No More Must Crawl
Suggested Further Listening: Underer – The Code (2020), Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works (2007), Coffin Apartment – Full Torso Apparition (2020)