Death-doom records are pretty tough nuts to crack. If you get it right, you come across as being more drenched in blood, pain and suffering than a man eating his own lower intestine. Get it wrong and it’s just a messy abattoir floor of an album cluttered in piss-poor excuses for riffs accompanied by vocals which have more in common with a baby having a breakfast time paddy than a Satan-worshipping overlord. Saint Louis, Missouri’s gruesomely-named Fister are fast becoming one of the most prolific acts of this apocalyptic subgenre and have released no less than three EPs and a demo compilation over the past 12 months alone. All of this sharpening of the meat-cleaver has clearly paid dividends on latest full-length ‘Gemini’, a disgusting and desolation-fuelled feast of blackened sludge.
The ever-present line-up of Kenny Snarzyk (bass, vocals), Marcus Newstead (Guitars, vocals) and Kirk Gatterer (drums) may appear to have a banter-tastic off-stage vibe (their original 2009 Demo was entitled ‘Fisted Sister’, and the band’s logo shares the motto “If it’s too slow, you’re too young”) but the music itself is about as far from hilarity as you’re going to get. All seven of Gemini’s twisted scrap-piles of smouldering metal are body-checking robots of cyborgian doom. There’s no escape, and there’s nowhere to hide from their earth-scorching bellows and tombstone-wielding riffage. The likes of opener ‘Antitheist’, the snot-flailing punk of ‘Suicide Hessian’ and the blood-curdling ‘Sinking Estonia’ are what this genre is all about – purist terror and intimidation by volume and gore alone. As the brutal three-piece mash the physical, head-aching punishment of Eyehategod, the crustiness of Nasum or Doom, the dirt-faced bark of Coffins or Obituary and the eerie semi-silences of diSEMBOWLMENT, it’s honestly hard to think of a bleaker–sounding record.
‘Permanent Chemical Psychosis’ and the abominable ‘III’ slow the pace to a funeral march as Newstead’s guitars sweep and scythe past like droids ever searching for human prey. On the former (which along with the WITTR-reminiscent title-track is the clear standout moment on Gemini) the tempos shift ominously through Hell-hammering slabs of blunt riffage, one-two drum hits and on to finger shredding guitar parts and tolling church bells. It’s when they mix it up like this that Fister truly become their most potent, like some sort of Frankenstein monster of mysterious, enraging noise.
But whilst I get the feeling that the band’s core members are trying their damndest to do exactly this throughout Gemini’s murderous onslaught, the fact still remains that the vast majority of the material is simplistic, mid-tempo doom with mechanically warped vocals, which as such has a tendency to just become ear-splitting background noise. It would be overly harsh and disrespectful to isolate the “no-one gives a shit” closing line on ‘Invisible Corpse’ as a form of sentiment or conclusion to the traumatic din these brother grim inflict on us, but yet having listened to Gemini several times over, I still don’t feel that I’ve gained much at all from the record’s experience. There simply has to be more variety if all of this gore is going to mean anything and Yes a raft of guest musicians are present to aid this happening, Yes there are violins and brass instrumentation on ‘Antitheist’ and Yes the neo-classical-esque title-track opens with a beautiful piano piece, but ultimately it all amounts to being about as effective as throwing a handful of butterflies into the gaping firepits of hell.
Gemini is a death-doom record and it’s certainly not far at all being an excellent one, but it’s still lacking in anything significant beyond the punishment of its three studio-staple executioners. I can’t fault the work, effort or pain that Fister have clearly shed in the making of this temple of extremity, especially where the fire-breathing vocals are concerned, but a large part of me feels that Gemini is at times too sadistically over-indulgent to enjoy.
Label: Self Released
Scribed by: Pete Green