I’ve been covering quite a bit of brutal death metal of late, but Italy’s Across the Swarm stand out even among the standouts I’ve been touching on throughout 2014. What makes the band so special, you ask? First and foremost they write great songs, but what sealed the deal for me is the way in which they seamlessly integrate electronic elements into the brutal death metal framework.
At thirty-five, I don’t often have epiphanic moments while listening to music anymore. It’s typically more along the lines of “been there, done that, no alarms, no surprises, etc, etc.” But when I stumbled upon the UK’s Sleeping Peonies during one of my increasingly frequent trawls through the depths of Bandcamp, it happened. This was music I had been waiting my whole life to hear. I realize this is already sounding like hyperbole to the nth degree, but the band’s mix of black metal, shoegaze, synthpop and noise really is as close to perfect as these ears have heard in what seems like forever.
Remember when death metal was legitimately ugly music that could scare the shit out of the average Joe? If their self-released, self-titled debut album is anything to go on, Chicago’s Imperial Savagery sure do; they’re looking to drag the genre back into the primordial ooze from whence it came and take you down with it. It’s a twenty-six minute beating that’s completely unrelenting in its feral viciousness.
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.