Fister’s last full length release featured one torturous track that spread itself like the bubonic plague across 45 minutes. Bell Witch did something similar last year, of course, although the latter’s even longer Mirror Reaper did have shades of white cushioned alongside the black. With Fister there is no white, just occasional spots of pebble-dashed grey. No Spirit Within is their fourth full length although the St Louis trio have been releasing a fairly constant stream of distorted doom since forming about a decade ago. This includes an assortment of split releases alongside like-minded destructors including Chrch and Dopethrone.
No Spirit Within opens up with two-minute intro ‘Frozen Scythe’ which carries the foreboding resonance of an Ennio Morricone score but when a stomach-churning growl signals the start of ‘Disgraced Possession’ it becomes all too apparent that Fister’s latest album is less Fistful of Dollars and more The Day After Tomorrow. The 10-minute journey submerges you in the bowels of humanity. Remorselessly dark right through to its caustic core, only occasional spiralling solos are permitted to penetrate the punishing discord through which the sinewed strains of Marcus Newstead add additional lines of distress.
The first few minutes of ‘Cazador’ are plodding, ponderous and punishing, heavy steps are taken as though a giant is making his way across the room. But just when you start to wonder which direction things are heading, a handbreak turn releases a sumptuous groove. It’s almost as if Fister have freed themselves of the shackles as they unleash a tidal wave of positive energy before the trapdoor closes and once again they find themselves penned in by a stifling sonic wall through which the stench of decay is almost tangible.
Fister refuse to conform to some of the more conventional guidelines within the modern doomsday book. While repetition is there, and Kenny Snarzyk’s bass drops so low you almost feel the need to pick it up, they also veer off into more dysfunctional territory where the conventional musical arcs and angles seem strangely unaligned, making for a challenging, if not at times uncomfortable listen, spiritually and sonically close to the likes of Primitive Man.
Fister don’t feel that they are there for your benefit and wellbeing. They’re swimming in the infested sonic swamps of Missouri and for some the thick heavy waves of discontentment on a song such as ‘I Am Kuru’, complete with confusing backing tapes that hum with the sound of indecipherable chatter, may be difficult to digest. At its heart, ‘I Am Kuru’ is bordering Jurassic, dense, shuddering and immovable.
The album’s title track is not far short of a 12-minute epic, full of muscular riffage, although the tempo is satisfyingly slow, an early sparkling guitar briefly granted the freedom to offer some respite before the thunderous patterns again start to close in. It almost comes as a blessed relief when Fister finally pull back the pin to set loose a stampede of interlocking riff runs. This is as close as Fister get to full on funereal doom and the almost deathly pallor that envelopes this monolithic composition is visible from the other side of the street.
‘Heat Death’ is almost apocalyptic in its aural attack, a multi-faceted fuzzed up industrial dirge of the type currently being served up on the other side of the pond by Birmingham duo Khost.
Final track ‘Star Swallower’ again progresses at monolithic pace, the growls dirtier still, feedback humming in your ears while the rat-a-tat-tat beat helps ensure the threat level never drops out of the red zone. It’s almost as though Fister have unearthed this sound from a long forgotten catacomb and the impression is akin to it slowly waking up in a disorientated state.
Having shared stages in the US with NOLA giants Eyehategod and Crowbar, European audiences also felt the full force of Fister when they performed at Roadburn. They’ll be appearing at Desertfest in London in May, where anyone attending is advised to take their own breathing equipment as Fister practically suck the air from the room.