THKD’s Top 20 Metal Albums of 2012

2012 has been more stressful than a motherfucker; probably one of the most all-around stressful years of my life. Buying a house + assorted family and work-related issues that I wouldn’t even dream of getting into here managed to turn the year into a goddamn pressure-cooker. I’m pretty sure the only things that kept me alive were my wife’s unwavering love (and limitless patience) and an avalanche of incredible music. In 2011 I was feeling pretty jaded and dissatisfied with the state of heavy metal, this year I found myself feeling better about things than I have in years. That isn’t to say there weren’t great albums released in 2011, there were, but in 2012 I felt like there was so much greatness that I couldn’t possibly keep up with it all.

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Fiends at Feast – Towards the Baphomet’s Throne (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, 2012)

Regular THKD readers may recall me championing the living shit out of Santa Cruz’s Fiends at Feast last year after they sent me a copy of their stellar Shadows of Extinction EP (here and here).  At the time, the band were self-releasing their material, which was only available at shows.  A lot can change in just a year; Fiends at Feast now have label backing from the up-and-coming Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and as a result have released a brutalizing debut album in the form of Towards the Baphomet’s Throne, a recording which sees the quintet pushing their music to even more malevolent extremes.
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Interview: FIENDS AT FEAST

California-based quintet Fiends at Feast came out of nowhere and impressed the hell out of me with their debut EP, Shadows of Extinction (see review). It remains one of the best metal releases I’ve heard so far in 2011 and the band’s attention to craftsmanship and willingness to work hard to accomplish their goals make them a band to watch. I spoke with vocalist/lyricist Loki about the making of Shadows of Extinction and Fiends at Feast’s plans for black/death metal domination.

THKD: For our readers who may not be familiar, can you give us a little background on how Fiends at Feast got started?

Loki: Fiends started sometime in the spring/summer of 2008 when David and Sammer met and started jamming some cover songs, then not long after that they met with Nathan and the original drummer (a girl who got replaced by impalor few months after). I was in another band, but I got an offer to audition for the band and I got asked to do vocals. From there Fiends have played some good shows and others not so good, but always with big visions of getting noticed locally and nationally.

THKD: Fiends at Feast’s music strikes a good balance between black and death metal styles. Was this intentional or just a natural part of the band’s evolution?

Loki: I think it comes naturally to us, we have diverse taste in music and what we do is just use some of the influences. We do try to keep the old school death metal, but I think black metal is a huge influence on us (especially for me) and what you hear on our EP is the result of everyone’s creativity and obsession with music.

THKD: You recently released your debut EP, Shadows of Extinction. What were you looking to accomplish with this release and are you pleased with the results?

Loki: We are pleased with the results, definitely after having some experiences with other engineers I think this is so far the best. What we are trying to accomplish with this recording, I guess, just like a lot of bands, is to get signed to a record label and expose what we do and enjoy doing. Touring is one of Fiends’ goals as well.

THKD: Let’s talk a little about your lyrics. What are some of the themes you’re singing about on Shadows of Extinction? What inspires you to come up with lyrics? Are the lyrics a collaborative effort?

Loki: I come up with lyrics at very random hours, sometimes when I’m waking up (hahaha). My inspiration comes from people forcing others to believe their crap. I have a very low tolerance for stupidity, ignorance and poor behavior, I think you can say a bit of a sociopath. Look around and you’ll know what I mean, especially the ones who copy other bands to make a name for themselves and that is just one example. I also like to use metaphors to describe certain things which some people don’t get and I don’t care if they do or not.

THKD: What is your personal favorite song on Shadows of Extinction and why?

Loki: I think “pariah” is one of my favorite ones I guess because it has a piece of my life in it. It has the obsession with death, depression, hate, obscurity and hate for organized religion, although “scars in my soul” has a big attachment as well.

THKD: What can you tell us about your vocal technique? How do you prepare yourself to record vocals or perform in a live setting?

Loki: I don’t like to think I use any special technique, all I do is try to sing from the stomach rather than with the throat. My inspiration started in the late 80’s but it wasn’t ’till I heard Chris Barnes that I said to myself “fuck I wanna do that shit like him” and make use of the vocals as another instrument. At this moment my inspiration has been black metal way more than any death metal singer and as always I try not to copy anyone but learn from them and do my own thing. I do warm up for the recording but when performing live I just let my demons take over (haha).

THKD: How were the songs for Shadows of Extinction written? Do you work on songs as a group?

Loki: All songs were and are written as a group (band), most of the time Sammer and David work on riffs in their spare time, then we all work with whatever they have and everyone gets involved to shape the songs.

THKD: The EP cover is very striking. What can you tell us about the artwork and how does it tie in with your music?

Loki: We had a hard time coming up with the artwork and at the end we came up with the idea of having a drawing of a landscape that represented the area where we live and gave some feeling of obscurity with the raven and the dead corpse in the fox hole. It doesn’t have as much of a connection to the lyrics as we were hoping for but, I guess you can link it with the endless obsession with death in the lyrics.

THKD: Fiends at Feast hails from Santa Cruz, CA. What is the metal scene like there? Do you get much local support?

Loki: The metal scene is not so great but I guess it is just like any other place, and to be expected when you play this kind of music in an area where hip-hop, reggae and other genres are more predominant. We do appreciate the support from the handful of metal maniacs that come to our shows. As I say many times on stage “you fucking maniacs”.

THKD: How does your environment/surroundings inspire Fiends at Feast? What is it about California that inspires dark and heavy music?

Loki: I don’t think any climate gets us inspired, but we do get some sort of motivation when we see bands playing the same old shit that other bands have done or playing some commercial sound, a thing that Fiends is always trying to stay away from. We are trying to write a new blueprint with our style and our own way.

THKD: You recently played a record release show for Shadows of Extinction. How did it go? Do you enjoy playing live?

Loki: We had a good time and we would like to think that it was a success. We had people who came from San Francisco, Hayward, San Jose, Salinas, Sacramento and Alameda and it seemed like everyone got involved with our performance. I do enjoy performing live most of the time, sometimes I don’t feel the energy I need to get in my zone although a lot of the times I wish to bite the head off.

THKD: What is the best way for fans to get a hold of Shadows of Extinction?

Loki: Our merchandise can be purchased at our gigs for now, we are currently working on setting up a Paypal account or indiemerchandise account, any suggestions? (hahaha). We have our EP in our local record store Streetlight and we hope Rasputin’s agrees to sell our EP as well.

THKD: What are you listening to right now? What bands do you find inspiring/influential as far as what you do with Fiends at Feast?

Loki: At this moment the only genre I listen to is black metal. I think it has a lot more to offer on many levels and ways to be performed compared to death metal. On my list right now are Orcustus, Impiety, Sadistic Intent, Black Witchery and Endstille. I feel influenced by this and other bands in the way I perform with Fiends but I think my twist evolves from bands like Behexen, Immolation and Shining.

THKD: What does the rest of 2011 have in store for Fiends at Feast?

Loki: We are working on new material to possibly record as soon as we are ready, but for now a tour in California/Nevada is in our minds and exposing what we have worked so hard to accomplish.

THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?

Loki: Stay dark and away from friends.

Listen to Fiends at Feast on Bandcamp

Fiends at Feast on Facebook

Three part video interview w/ Fiends at Feast @ Metal Bay

Fiends at Feast, The Ash Eaters and a bunch of other cool bands have Bandcamp pages… your band should too.

Invisible Oranges main man and fellow metalhead Cosmo Lee has extensively championed the use of Bandcamp (here and here).  He probably did it a hell of a lot better than I ever could, but considering that Fiends at Feast and The Ash Eaters, two bands I’ve been doing a little championing of my own for of late (I reviewed Fiends at Feast here and dished on The Ash Eaters demo here), have Bandcamp pages, I thought it was about time I weighed in.

Bandcamp blows Myspace out of the friggin’ water.  Bandcamp is simple, clean and uncluttered.  It takes the concept of bands using social networking as a promotional tool and strips it of all the nonsense that goes with it.  No friends, no spam, no frills, no bullshit.  Bandcamp is all about the music.  It gives fans easy access to high quality downloads without a bunch of bric-a-brac getting in the way of their enjoyment.  Just look at the screenshots included in this post.  Could it get anymore straightforward than that?  Highly doubtful.

Part of the reason for Myspace’s downfall is the high level of customizability.  Once bands realized they could slap oversized logos, a dozen videos, five million and one flyers, photo slideshows, etc on their pages, it was all over.  Chances are, if you’re an unsigned metal band from Oklahoma, someone from Japan listening to your music online doesn’t give a shit about the flyer from the hometown show you played five years ago or endless slideshows of you drinking beer with the local metal tarts.  In other words, Bandcamp forces bands to “keep it simple, stupid” and makes them look that much more professional in the process.  Trust me, if you want potential fans to take you seriously (not to mention potential labels), you’re better off leaving the drunken slideshows and fancy backgrounds to the teenage girls.

To make matters worse for Myspace (and the bands who try to use it), the one-time social-networking king recently went through a re-design that has rendered the site about as user-friendly as a Sasha Grey film with the sex scenes edited out.  I’m not sure what the hell they were thinking, but the end result has made Bandcamp’s spotless presentation, and easy to use media player even more appealing.  It amazes me that anyone even bothers to go on Myspace anymore and I’ve for the most part vowed not to post links to bands’ pages on the site unless it is the only option available for THKD readers to hear their music.

The Ash Eaters and Fiends at Feast couldn’t be more different musically, but both bands share a common goal.  They want as many folks as possible to get the chance to check out their music.  Bandcamp offers them the opportunity to do so in a way that is completely free of distractions, allowing the music to once again take precedence, something that had been lost amongst the dilapidated bells and whistles of Myspace.  It draws a straight line from listener to band, which is exactly how it should be.

Below are some more excellent bands that have pages on Bandcamp.

Sepulchre – blackened Canadian death-crust

Vastum – gnarly Cali death metal featuring ex members of Saros

Imperial Triumphant – East Coast baroque black metal

Murmuure – French ambient black/noise/drone/clusterfuck

The Sun Through a Telescope – Canadian feedback-worshipping power drone

Fiends at Feast – Shadows of Extinction (self released, 2011)

I often get frustrated listening to and writing about modern extreme metal.  Where is the passion?  Where is the vitality?  Where are the songs?  If Shadows of Extinction, the debut EP from Santa Cruz, CA-based Fiends at Feast is anything to go on, all these things and more are alive and well deep within the darkest recesses of the metal underground.

Striking a luciferian bargain between black and death metal, Fiends at Feast sound like the hellish, gruesome aftermath of a street fight between Deicide and Marduk. The commanding, vicious vocals are a hateful diatribe against the feeble Nazarene, while the razor-wire guitars slash at his wrists and the rhythm section smashes his skull to smithereens.  This is not the monotonous, over-produced faux-extreme metal that gets shoved down our throats on a daily basis.  This is the real shit, the shit that makes you remember what you liked about black/death metal in the first place.  It’s rough and hungry and reeks of a band putting their blood, sweat and even more blood into mastering their craft.

Ah yes, the craft.  Above all, Fiends at Feast are craftsmen. They are a band with songs. Songs you can tell apart. Songs you can bang your head and raise your fist to.  Songs that breathe unholy life back into the bloated, rotten corpse of extreme metal with time-honored tools; musicianship, catchiness and the goddamn almighty riff.  Fiends at Feast believe in what they’re doing, it’s a palpable feeling that bleeds out of every second of Shadows of Extinction.

Fiends at Feast write great, dynamics songs, and they have the wherewithal to pepper those songs with minute details that set them even further apart from the hordes.  The Spanish-sounding acoustic guitars in “Scars of My Soul”, the haunting upright bass near the end of “Revelations of Chaos”, the audible electric bass throughout the album, the brutal yet varied vocals; all of these subtle nuances add another exciting dimension to a sound rooted in tradition.

Any gripes to be found with the EP are relatively minor ones.  The band would certainly benefit from a more forceful production scheme (think something along the lines of recent Marduk or Behemoth albums), and at only twenty-seven minutes, Shadows of Extinction leaves you craving more.  Something tells me we haven’t seen everything this promising band is capable of, and there is no telling what devastation awaits when these guys release a full length (hopefully w/ some label backing).  I’m guessing the bodycount will be massive.

Shadows of Extinction is a snapshot of a young group of musicians beginning to realize their potential, and the best debut I’ve heard so far in 2011.  It’s refreshing to know that there are still bands like Fiends at Feast lurking out there in the underground, bucking the trends and upholding the sounds and values of real black/death metal, yet not afraid to make them their own. Ignore them at your own peril.

http://www.myspace.com/fiendsatfeast

Video interview w/ Fiends at Feast @ Metal Bay

Fiends at Feast on bandcamp