I'm Told You Shouldn't Do an Image Search for "Fistula"Beards, Etc.
Fistula, a Cleveland-based sludge band, have been around for a little over a decade. In September they released their 6th full-length album, Northern Aggression.
This record is extremely abrasive. If I had to sum up the entire album in one sentence, that would be it. Fistula seem to be one of those bands that goes out of the way to make their music as ugly, raunchy, and offensive to the ears as possible. In most genres, that would be a vicious indictment. But in sludge, it's pretty high praise.
Stylistically, the guitar riffs are meaty and rumbling, which together with the slow, thunderous drums forms an aural swampland throughout much of the album. Sometimes the drumming speeds up, but the guitar riffs never do, staying slow and deep and heavy. Even on the shortest, fastest songs the pace is driven by the drumming and vocals while the riffing slogs along at a mid-pace or slower. The band also employed two bassists on this album. While I did not personally notice any distinct dual bass-lines, this doubling up was presumably for the purpose of adding a lot of bottom end to the music. Most of the songs do have a crushingly heavy low end, so I'd say it worked.
Offsetting this low, slow, and heavy music are the vocals. They come in at a notably higher register than anything else going on most of the time, and they are often significantly more brisk than the riffing. They're definitely harsh, too. But it's not so much deliberate growling or rasping as it is the sort of natural vocal distortion of hoarse, painful, frantic shrieking and shouting. Coming in over top of the deep, bass-heavy music, this makes the vocals seem extra sharp and ragged. As with other strong sludge bands, they add a level of open hostility to the music that is not present in even the most extreme bands of many other metal styles. Every track seems to be absolutely dripping with hate, and that's the best thing a sludge band can do.
My only complaint, and it's a relatively minor one, is that so many of the songs started off exactly the same. Their speeds and lengths varied plenty once they got going, but it seemed like every song started out the same way, and for some reason I found that mildly irritating. Still, that's a small issue on a really strong record, so I'm not going to dwell on it too much.
The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars
Do you like harsh, hostile, hateful sludge? If so, you'll love this album.