Fister / CHRCH – Split (Crown and Throne Ltd / Battleground Records, 17 November 2017)
New year, new review! Here we have a split record between a pair of bands: Saint Louisian ugly-sludge architects Fister and fellow slow-doom-ahaulics CHRCH from Sacramento. While the first of these has been written about quite often on this site, up until this record’s release about a month and a half ago, that second name was brand-new to us here in the Valley. As it turns out, the name is (relatively) new to the band as well: their 2015 debut album was released under the name Church, and today’s subject is their first official recording with the abbreviated, vowelless moniker. It won’t be quite so long to wait until their next one, though: as of last month, word on the street says the band has signed with Neurot Recordings to put out another album this spring. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we’re supposed to be talking about this split 12″, containing exactly one gargantuan track by each of the two contributing bands.
Side A features CHRCH‘s “Temples” (no pun intended) which runs about seventeen minutes and some change. Bookended by several minutes of slow, introspective, mellow, and mournful sounds — with minimalistic bass/guitar interplay and subtle drums — the central ten minutes of the track are essentially slow and mournful as well, just much more intense. The vocals for the most part come in the form of a tortured blackened howl. Nearing the middle of the song, some extra guitar parts kick in, creating a much denser arrangement and adding more levels of dissonance; throughout most of the crushingly slow second half, we have a massive conglomerate of piles and piles of noisy sound, until ultimately returning to the mellow and melancholy mood of the opening.
Tipping the scales at over twenty-one minutes, Fister‘s “The Ditch” is characteristically full of feedback and scratchy, noisy, painful bleakness. Howls and screeches. This goes on for several minutes, before slowing even more, the vocals sinking to even deeper groans and growls. After a tremoloey, single-note chromatic guitar solo, the track soon mellows significantly, with the drums disappearing to leave a minimal, otherworldly vibe behind. Complete with cymbal rolls and distorted organ sounds, and background noises that for some reason bring to mind a narrow, secluded cove with waves lapping against the shore. The song continues plodding along, minute after minute, building almost imperceptibly, until like 5/7 of the way through, when distortion and feedback return, underscoring the same repeated pattern that had been happening previously with a new degree of heaviness. Shortly thereafter, the vocals return; at the risk of continually repeating myself, the best words to describe the sound are very slow, deliberate and excruciating. Especially the last minute or so, where the full band just keeps punching you in your ears again and again, in perfect syncopation. Punch. Punch. Punch. Punchpunchpunch-Punch.
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