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.
Fiends at Feast’s music recalls a time when genre labels didn’t mean shit and all that mattered was putting out ass-kicking, evil-sounding metal. In my review of Shadows of Extinction, I wrote that the quintet sounded like the hellish, gruesome aftermath of a streetfight between Deicide and Marduk, and while that description still largely applies, don’t mistake them for some bullshit retro/copycat act; Fiends at Feast are taking influences from the past and using them as a reference point to forge their own sound and aesthetic. On Toward’s the Baphomet’s Throne they improve upon that sound and aesthetic in every way possible; better performances, better production, better riffs and better songs (which is no small feat considering Shadows of Extinction‘s excellence). Just as I stated in my review of Weapon’s Embers and Revelations (an album which follows a similar black/death metal thread), a band should be evolving with every release, and here Fiends at Feast have sharpened their rough edges to razor-sharp points, ready to deal a killing blow to Christ and his pathetic followers.
In that last paragraph, I mentioned better production. My only complaint about Shadows of Extinction was that the production wasn’t quite forceful enough for me; Fiends at Feast have remedied that minor criticism with Towards the Baphomet’s Throne. The recording quality here is suitably dark and gritty, but clear enough to let each of the individual performances shine, whether it be vocalist Loki’s devilishly blackened incantations or guitarists David and Sammer’s sadistic six-string torture tactics. The rhythm section of bassist Nathan and drummer Trevor keep the low end tight and crushing; one of my favorite aspects of the sound is that one can actually hear what the bass guitar is doing, which is somehow still all too rare for this style. Of course, good production means nothing without talent, and Fiends at Feast have both the instrumental chops and the songwriting prowess to take full advantage the improved sound.
What really sets Towards the Baphomet’s Throne apart from the avalanche of black and death metal albums that have been released in 2012 is passion. Fiends at Feast aren’t simply going through the motions or seeking some kind of false glory here; they’re a group of musicians that have fully dedicated themselves to creating flawlessly executed metal and aren’t afraid to pen songs that are as memorable as they are malignant. Oldschool values combine with youthful exuberance and top-notch musicianship on tracks such as “With Blood and Vomit” and “Hedonist Heresy” yielding some of the gnarliest blackened death metal you’re likely to hear this year, while slow-burners like “Walls of Worship” seethe with spite and misanthropy. There is a dark energy at work on Towards the Baphomet’s Throne the most bands simply aren’t capable of mustering.
Maybe the best way to describe Towards the Baphomet’s Throne is to say that it’s a metalhead’s metal album. By this I mean that Fiends at Feast largely keep things traditional, but they set themselves apart by simply doing it better than just about anyone else. They’re creating something unique within the established black/death metal paradigms and there’s a Hell of a lot to be said for that in 2012.