FISTER: No Spirit Within album release show at The SinkHole on the 26th of May, 2018.
Fister is a band that is hard to pin down, and with as many loose words that could be used to describe them, an obvious choice for me is to roar over the rooftops of the world: METAL. Like an amphetamine-ridden early 30’s degenerate hooker with many a blemish on the sketchy streets of South Broadway poorly trying to convince you of something; it is in this same treacherous intensity how these local music monsters devour all who stand in front of their gaping maw. You can hear it from the street, seeping out from the small but quaint venue that is The Sinkhole. Dirty waves of mass destruction emanate from each corner of the triangular structure that is the three-piece band. This is doom heaven.
Through the smoke and haze, a looming shadowy figure stands tall. The Snarzyk, Kenny, dominates his equally large bass with a certain strength and ease. His voice snarls and shatters into the microphone. He is a long-haired mountain giant with gravel to yell out. On the other end of the minimal stage, Marcus Newstead, the guitarist with sweaty curled hair matted over his eyes. He shares vocal duties and has a more demonic scream to him, somewhat akin to millions of panes of glass shattering into an active volcano. Kenny and Marcus seamlessly switch between chilling affectations of vocal displeasure; complementing. If you weren’t looking, you might not notice who was actually singing at any given time, and that is a compliment to their different but rivaling intensity. Behind the entire band is a wall of speaker cabinets. I don’t know the specifics, but they seem to have quite custom rigs. Makes sense, given their specific sound. The timekeeper himself, with a contrasting bald head in comparison to the other demons in the group, maintains perfected timing despite numerous and stuttering change-ups in almost every song. It may be hard to appreciate how difficult it is to play a very slow tempo, particularly on drums. Doom metal is characterized by time-bending slow mega-chug-riffs that should shake buildings when done right. Fister does it right, and at the center of that whirlpool is the drummer Kirk Gatterer. Technical drumming is always very important to the genre of metal; extreme musical onslaughts cannot be sustained without someone who can properly carry that weight. Kirk carries it with the best of them. All riffs go to and from the drums, and this drummer is always on time for those arrivals and departures.
The title track of the new album, No Spirit Within, oozes into existence with creepy and hanging chords. Feedback comes in and the band all kicks into proper slow and heavy shit. The vocals are menacing and particularly distorted. Think evil robot dictator shouting commands through a big rusty megaphone. The song then descends into a wonderfully ambient and cinematic evil cowboy theme, as it could be called. Plucking strings wait around in the air. It haunts and prepares you for a return trip to hell. Crushing the spirit in that special way, only to be surprised by the ensuing thrash-spree that greets the listener. This is an interesting change of pace in both the live set and the record. And it works! I don’t think I’ve ever heard these guys play so fast, and honestly, I think the fans love it just the same. But before you know it, the darkness sweeps over the land again and the sub-tempo comes back for our souls. Wishing for more words for it, this is doom. Doom is as doom does, and Fister more than delivers but under no circumstances is this an ordinary doom metal band. This is transcendent of the genre.
Of that transcendental experience, I would be remiss if I did not set aside the last section of this review for the last song of the album and of the night: “Star Swallower.” This song was so good and came off so well live that I am not sure how to do it proper word-justice. It heaps me. Starting as you may expect, cast iron tones firmly address the crowd. Slowly something is brewing in this continuity of metal determination. Slow cymbal crashes, and droning guitars clang steadily. The demons scream their death cries. What occurs next must be heard to be truly comprehended, but I digress. The middle point in the song approaches, space emerges, and a militaristic drum roll pattern begins. The gatterizing has commenced. A boiling pressure building, this massive pitch-black kettle bursts into a rhythmic pattern of swirling chaos. Unable to truly follow, my brain only succumbs to the blissful torment. We could gladly headbang to our deaths here. You really have to hear it for yourself. From a guitarists perspective, it’s the kind of riff that we all wish we wrote ourselves. The bass and guitar drift apart, and Marcus soars to the top of the mix. His stuttering tremolo notes ring over the battlefield, piercing through our hearts in a dark melody. Almost like a chant, it sways back and forth. The harmonic structure lingers in your ears. This was meant to be. The old gods must surely be pleased by this display of power. The band syncopates with perfection as the distortion walls ebb and flow through The Sinkhole. This is FISTER, and this is why we love them.— Thomas Mandrafino-Ruzicka