Tuesday 2 January 2018

REVIEW: Come to Grief / Fistula & Fistula / -(16)- [Splits]

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Split
Date Released: 29/12/2017
Label: PATAC Records


“Come to Grief | Fistula” & “Fistula | -(16)-“ Split 7”//CS//DD track listing

1). Come to Grief – “Take Me In My Sleep”
2). Fistula – “Confusion”

1). Fistula – “Mongoloid” (Devo)
2). -(16)-  “Complications” (Killing Joke)

The Review:

In a year of conflict and uncertainty, one thing came out clear as anything: legendary Ohio sludge crew Fistula did not piss away the end of 2017 binge watching garbage on Netflix. Nope. In fact, the band dove headfirst into creating new music. It is featured as part of a new seven-inch series, where the band is paired up with other veteran acts – Maine four-piece Come to Grief and Los Angeles long-timers -(16)- for sonic adventures aplenty.

The pair of singles begins with Come to Grief's entry, a dense and dangerous cut built around Jonathan Hébert's searing vocals and the brawny guitar of Terry Savastano. "Take Me In My Sleep" is deceptively powerful. From the slow climb of its opening, Come to Grief maintains a thick and ominous rhythm throughout this song. As fans may recall, the quartet arose from the ashes of the 1990s group Grief, reconstituting to some range the songs for that group written by Savastano, and which include former Grief drummer Chuck Conlon. However, it was evident even early on that the new incarnation is not a tribute band, but an altogether intriguing evolution of the progenitor's classic sound. Much credit for this growth is to some degree owed to the presence of Hébert behind the microphone. His voice demands your attention and obedience, with a wiry snarl and dexterous attack. With a foundation ballasted by Conlon and bassist Tim Simpson, "Take Me In My Sleep" is a lethal selection for this seven-inch.

Speaking of veteran experience, -(16)- makes their presence felt on the second seven-inch, employing its renowned sludge prowess with slicing riffs, grave soil dark bass and vocals that rattle you like kicking a pile of spent bullet shells across a concrete floor. In the hands of -(16)-, a song by iconic post-punk clan Killing Joke is not just a particularly savage cover, but a fearless reimagining of some of the English band's best work. The showcase player here is Bobby Ferry, whose guitar plows through this originally brisk paced song with a hint of speed yet still faithful to what -(16)- does best. Similarly Cris Jerue's singing takes a page from Jaz Coleman, yet blows open the doors to put his band's stamp on this rendition. With Barney Firks on bass and Dion Thurman at the drum kit, -(16)- shows new and stalwart fans just how effectively the group is able to rejuvenate this material.

These tracks – and the sheer quality of the performers – taken in, it is evident that Fistula has quite a high bar to meet on what is a marquee placement for the band.

If you are familiar with the Devo song Fistula covers on that split with -(16)-, the 1994 track is one of those sublime post-rock/electronic hybrids that made the band innovators so visionary, as well as one of the best known Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs. It is a bold choice; its early-math rock guitar and slinky synths could be hard to pull off for a band loved for its sludge. Where it works best is when Fistula are faithful to the original, with just that hint of vacant eyed stare that made them such a musical terror. With a similarly terse beginning, it's into a straight-ahead mashing of guitars and boiling-over vocals. Fistula are wildly accurate with their strikes – a driving rhythm section is met at flourishes by effects, growls punctuate the mood with urgency, and, in less than three-and-a-half minutes, the squad owns the song.

It is its original music, however, where Fistula delivers its real coup de grace. "Contusion" is its selection from the split with Come to Grief, and it delivers a delicious mix of sludge, with a hint of hardcore and doom. A pulsing bass courtesy of Greg Peel undergirds the impenetrable riffs, while Dan Harrington's anguished vocals command your focus. As a quintet, the group uses all its instruments to their fullest potential; dual guitars, drums and bass stretch out across the nearly six-minute track and set a pensive mood, only to recoil with fury again and again as the song cranks up and finally down. You have a lot to look forward to in the next release from one of sludge's best.

Both Splits are available here

Band info: fistula || -(16)- || Come To Grief