Fistula’s monstrous, pissed off ‘Vermin Prolificus’ may re-open wounds, rally additional rage

FistulaThe other day, I heard the song “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. As many times as I’ve heard it, the song really hit me because we don’t seem to have as many poignant tracks that smack us over head regarding what’s happening right now. In this moment. It decried the 1970 slayings at Kent University by the Ohio National Guard and still had an effect to this day.

Well, there have been other songs like “American Skin (41 Shots)” by Bruce Springsteen that uncovered atrocities by groups designed to protect us, but that’s few and far between these days. Music is designed to sell and not upset, with a girl sticking out her tongue and gyrating fairly harmlessly acting as a controversy or thought-provoking action. Even the metal devoured by the mainstream, Best Buy-frequenting listeners is weak and harmless. Pretty sad, actually. However, Cleveland-based doom/sludge band Fistula have designs on waking up the resting masses. And with what’s going on in Ferguson, MO, right now, they have the perfect audience and target for their rage. It’s not a gimmick either. No way that they knew their vitriolic, furious song “Pig Funeral,” from their new album “Vermin Prolificus,” would drop at a time when mistrust against police authorities would be at its highest. But sometimes you time things just right, and I could hear this song being an anthem of unrest for those who are fighting those who they believe don’t have society’s best needs in mind. And rest assured, if you’re easily offended or blindly follow authority, you’ll be offended by this track. In a huge way.

Fistula coverNow, Fistula have been around for a decade and a half now, and their current formation is largely new. Guitarist Corey Bing has been around for the long haul, and the band has a really strong new lineup that includes vocalist Dan Harrington, bassist Greg Peel, and drummer Jeff Sullivan. However on this record, Sean Linehan handles bass, while Nate Linehan is on drums, just so there isn’t any confusion. By the way, a thrash back against the police isn’t the only raw subject matter that’ll poke your silly little bruises. Drug use, violence, and psychological issues also get their fair share of time, and if these are subjects you can’t stand to face, get ready to cry and fold into a corner. They hold nothing back at all and spare no feelings. But if these are subjects you also find poke at you, then you may embrace some comrades in arms with Fistula.

The record opens with “Smoke, Cat Hair, and Toenails” that’s complete with sludgy riffs, wailing feedback, and snarling vocals that could motivate or annoy you, depending on where you stand. The song progressively gets uglier, with Harrington delving into unforgiving shrieks, then a sample plays from the movie “Don’t Answer the Phone,” where a girl in drug rehab is forced to shout back with more and more authority about how drugs are more important than her family, boyfriend, and doctor. That’s a segment that loops through this record, by the way, giving a hypnotic, terrifying effect. “Harmful Situation” follows, and it’s fast, punishing, raw aggression buried in a field of noise. Then we finally meet up with “Pig Funeral,” a song that has a myriad of samples designed to hammer home their point about mistrust of police, their authority, practices, and sometimes brutality. One of the most gripping lines they use is one from the film “Satan’s Sadists,” and that helps lead into this sludge-meets-hardcore pounding, where Harrington spits, “They run this shit, they run this town.” The track gets progressively angrier over its 9:18 run time, and by the time it ends, it feels like a goddamn rally cry. It’s one of the most gripping songs of the year.

The 54-second “Sobriety” is up next, and its damage sets in quickly, with Harrington declaring, “I want to get fucked up today.” Always good to know what you want. “Upside Down” is another violent one, with scary vocals, music that veers toward punk, and absolute menace, especially with declarations such as, “We only want to abuse you, hang you upside down.” Not much guesswork involved when someone comes at you that bluntly. The 8:43-long title track follows, and it’s a long musical diatribe set to more swirling samples that could cause your mind to dissolve. We hear from the girl from “Don’t Answer the Phone” again, and her pounding into submissions as she finally shouts, “The drugs are more important than everything.” The band just piles on the fury, clubbing your senses over and over again, leaving you a heaving pile of goo once this disturbing, entrancing piece finally loosens its grip. Closer “Goat Brothel” is a final quick burst, with hardcore-laced thrashing, a maniacal pace, and desperate screams that make you wonder if everything simply ended in fire. Actually, you won’t really have to ponder that too deeply. The scars are way too apparent.

Not everyone is bound to agree with Fistula’s approach here, or their lyrical intent, but that’s kind of the point. Music—good music, anyway—is supposed to make you feel something, react, have emotions that might spill out of control. Shit’s way too safe. “Vermin Prolificus” does not step lightly, and once people get hint of “Pig Funeral,” there’s bound to be a tidal wave of reaction both positive and negative. Good. This is worth debating. This is worth hearing. This isn’t a group of brain-dead morons whose fans drunkenly trash a parking lot because they can’t handle themselves. This isn’t faux controversy like some overrated pop darling whose every shit is sent up as on offering on high. This is the real shit. This will piss you off. This will ball your fist. The fact that the music also is absolutely volcanic is icing on the cake. Go get this record, let it infect you, and see how you feel when it’s all over. No way that you come out of this unscathed.

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