Friday, March 15, 2013

Fister - Gemini (2013)

If you are a living, breathing metal fan, which I would assume all of you reading this site with any frequency are, there is a piece of you reserved for the doom metal style. It may be small, or it may be proportionately large, but it is in there somewhere. Regardless of your level of adoration for the down tempo arts, there are certain bands that you simply have to hear, for one reason or another. My Dying Bride, widely considered to be the godfathers of modern melancholic doom metal, are one. Swallow The Sun are another. And Fister is another. While the last of those three may seem unfamiliar, it won't be for much longer. Following the release of their two previous EPs, "Violence" and "The Infernal Paramount," it seemed as though something bigger was in store for the St Louis three piece. It would seem that 2013 is their time. On "Gemini," a seven track and forty five minute full length effort, you find a band with the power to destroy and move mountains; or at least make you feel like you could.

It takes only a fraction of a second to feel the first cracks in your bones, as "Antitheist" brings to the table an immediately noticeable focus on clarity. That same crawling tempo you've grown to love from the band is featured here in a profoundly impressive way, with each massive kick drum pounding into your rib cage like a nail. Don't be misled into thinking you are free of melody though; even in their most bass heavy moments, there are discernible touches that make the track a success from both a writing and replay value standpoints. And it is the vocals that round things out, as jagged and harsh as they may be. Look no further than the seven minute mark to find near perfection in form and delivery.You'll find a surprising change of pace to open "Suicide Hessian," a high speed thrash segment that is sure to elicit a nod of approval. While it may only play out as a vessel for the slower than death verse sections, it serves a great purpose in creating contrast. As the shortest track on the album, barely missing the five minute mark, it also boasts a very dense piece of songwriting. The short run time means more packed into less, something the band does with precision timing throughout.

It might be "III," however, that captures Fister at their best. For it is low and slow where they excel, leaving only the grating vocal lines to guide you. With the riffs now slow and torturous, and a voice that sounds as though it has escaped the pits of Hell, it's as if you can hear the church organs condemning you to eternal fire. Even more stirring is the way the track fades away, lingering before it goes completely silent. Softly plucked acoustic guitars and piano keys open the title track, soon igniting something far more sinister. The haunting melody that waxes and wanes throughout is one that could linger for weeks and months on end. It brings to mind some of the evil acoustic work that Opeth has mastered, but done in an entirely unique way. It builds to a roar on two separate occasions, but the time between those blasts is as important as the explosions themselves. It creates a mood that is as rare as it is breathtaking. But as it fades into your rear view, you're left with "Sinking Estonia," a return to the destructive waves of screaming that are known to scramble your brain matter and induce spontaneous testosterone production in both men and women. This is heavy music, but not in the cliche chugging sense, but rather a perfect recipe of timing, tempo, and musicianship. The outro alone is worthy of a medal.

If you can't handle the weight thus far, you had better stay clear of "Permanent Chemical Psychosis." Caution thrown to the wind, there is a tremendous amount of unbridled aggression to be enjoyed here, whether it is in the combination of screeching and screaming vocals, the sheer density of the guitars, or the rattling you feel in your rib cage with each down beat. It's form and function at work, with not a single note left adrift on its own, or left even a touch out of place. This speaks to, and is a credit to, the perfectionist approach you'll learn of Fister as individuals and as a band. "Seriously, you're fuuuuucked." There is a slightly different sound in opening of "Invisible Corpse," a clear bass line and a simple drum beat starting the buildup. As the guitar joins, you find an atmospheric quality to what they've built early on, before being completely obliterated by the first in a series of blood curdling screams. There is always something to be said about making a lasting impression, and the closing track is always a fitting place to do it. So with each scream, growl, and wail, they are becoming engrained into your mind, a a completely terrifying piece of American doom to carry with you wherever you go.

We often wax poetic about the standing of American bands in the worldwide doom scene; with countless bands from foreign lands held in a separate tier far too often, it would seem that we are due for a revival of sorts. After "Violence" and "The Infernal Paramount," it was clear that Fister would be a part of this rebirth. But after listening to "Gemini" for several days before recapping it, an idea emerged. Crates are to be packed, filled to the brim with physical copies of the album. We will load them onto cargo planes, flying over Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and Canada, dropping our precious cargo onto the unsuspecting people below. As metalheads across the globe get their filthy mitts on this sparkling piece of plastic, heads will be turned, and eyes will be opened. And inside each individual CD case will be a simple slip of paper, handwritten with a message: "This is American doom. You've been warned."


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