Fister – No Spirit Within (2018) REVIEW

In doing some extensive research on a sludge band named Fister it only made sense to better familiarize myself with the mechanics of the act of fisting and the inherent rituals therein. Limited to videos and poorly written erotic fiction I got the sense that the larger fisting community appreciate the reaction to the act’s perceived extremity nearly as much as they do the actual sensation of it. Granted body language is hard to read in most cases. The spectacle of sodomy in defiance of the ignorant and the resulting reaction actually draws some great parallels with the draw, and greater perception, of extreme forms of music. What might seem dangerous and completely horrific to some is actually a pleasurable lifestyle to the initiated. Though Saint Louis, Missouri sludge trio Fister almost certainly named their band in the spirit of dark humor in line with their earliest releases such as the ‘Fisted Sister’ demo and ‘Bronsonic’ full-length you’d almost have to be some form of long-indoctrinated sludge extremist/fan to sit through any of their recent releases.

‘Bronsonic’ was an odd introduction to Fister with it’s primarily live-with-overdubs recording and jokey song titles stifling some measured appreciation for great big doom riffs, NOLA sludge crawls, with a fair kick of stoner metal appeal. It wasn’t so much amateurish as it was relatively standard fare that fit in the appropriate sub-genre box. Two years later ‘Gemini’ was perhaps a more serious vision of sludge that was as modern and heavy as Primitive Man‘s ‘Scorn’ that same year but relied too much on the spectacle of noise to divert one’s attention from a lack of distinctive guitar work. I saw it as the kind of release that sells t-shirts with a sound, and a startling band name, instead of making any real connection with the listener. Maybe it was too hard for me, dunno.

Where I think more folks began taking note of Fister was their third album ‘IV’, a similarly harsh arena of spectacular noise tamed into one extended track that infused some post-metal and atmospheric sludge moments to break up the plodding growl of it all. In some ways it reminded me of an extra-aggro version of Saturnalia Temple at it’s best and perhaps a sub-standard Ramesses at it’s worst. I’d likely have been more impressed if I didn’t feel like CHRCH had given me a bit more of the post-whatever gloom that same year with ‘Unanswered Hymns’. Here we are three years later and each group bring a bigger, better polished version of their increasingly unique takes. I’d say each release is equally interesting this time around.

‘No Spirit Within’ wastes absolutely no time dangling one of it’s prettiest numbers right off the bat with a meandering intro that leads into the nearly ten minute “Disgraced Possession”. Fister have certainly improved upon their previous work with more deliberate pacing and fuller integration of the ‘post-metal’ guitar work that amounts to harrowing psychedelic leads several generations removed from the comparative pretense of Isis‘ later work. The effect is less a restful post-rock reprieve and more a stunning descent that evokes delirium as well as a deliberate progression. Being in the midst of this moment on the second track is perhaps one of the bigger draws upon repeated listens of ‘No Spirit Within’. It provides that same feeling of the guitar work on the second half of Black Flag‘s ‘In My Head’, as it becomes increasingly wild and senseless.

Not self-aware enough to have one or two good ideas and stretch them thin, like every fool does, Fister‘s experimentation with rhythm subverts most any dry or boring passage with something different. Each track might not have a traditional hook no plain idea is left vanilla by the end of any one song. This doesn’t necessarily suggest gimmickry to gild dry songwriting but rather some conscious examination of the listening experience as a whole. The only trouble I’ve had in repeat listens is that the strength of the A-side more or less kills the more harsh, crushing approach on the B-side. Maybe that danceable, Floor-like punkish beat and in the middle of “Cazador” takes me out of the rest of the record’s depravity too much but I found myself returning to the track far more than the rest.

Even though I really only warmed up to four tracks on ‘No Spirit Within’, the title track and first three all add up to well over 30 minutes of a good thing. The flow of the tracklist might be choppy and the style is perhaps not as inherently extreme compared to recent, comparable releases by Primitive Man and Ilsa but Fister‘s fourth album is by far a much ‘easier’ listen and should serve as a good introduction to their sound. If you’re sludge-as-fuck start with the title track but if you’re looking for something spicy to pique your sludge antennae start with “Disgraced Possession” and “Cazador”.


Artist Fister
Type Album
Released May 18, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Listenable Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Fister on Facebook

Misery is infinite. 3.5/5.0

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