Fist in Fetus
Fist in Fetus EP

Just from the name alone, you’d think that this has gotta be death/grind of some sort, with sickening vocals and a blistering, violent approach to songwriting. But you’d only be half right, since this new (unsigned) act smashes together death metal and classical music in a way that no one has really done before. Surprising too – considering that it comes from Matias Kupiainen, Timo Tolkki’s replacement in Stratovarius (and Finnish Guitar Idol 2008), and classically trained musician Perttu Vänskä, you’d expect a more traditional power metal release. But this is in no way traditional, regardless of genre – it’s completely batshit insane, and a must-hear for fans of tech death, grind, prog and anything remotely avant-garde.

The album, like many with a classical influence, starts with an instrumental piece. However, where many bands automatically go to Orff-worship and pompous, Gothic grandeur, Fist in Fetus creates “The Void” with a nod to daring composers like Penderecki and Stravinsky. Shards of violin swoop and flutter around a lonely, dancing flute, both instruments suspended above a yawning abyss. It’s a strange and appropriate prelude to the madness that’s to follow.

At the start, “Emancipation” is a dense, impressive churn of downtuned death and wet, gargled vocals, with a sound somewhere between Necrophagist and Undeceived-era Extol. Then, unexpectedly, it crests into a bloom of classical music; this would be startling on its own, except that here, it soars above the continued gurgle of the vocals. It’s a bit like hacking your way through a crowd of staggering, blackened zombies, only to find their bellies spilling out a gush of flowers instead of intestines. Then the track morphs into a frenzied power-prog fireworks show – the kind of rapturous, intricate performance you’d hear from Dream Theater or Stratovarius – except that the death metal just keeps on churning along with it. Unlike other bands, Fist in Fetus clearly isn’t interested in switching back and forth between seemingly disparate sections – they’re happy to wed both halves of their persona into one blasphemous whole, a musical Thing-That-Should-Not-Be.

The inspired assault continues with “Isolate,” which pits a funky bassline against a tribal thump before the entire thing takes off into thrashier territory. Not content to stick with the growls, Fist in Fetus changes them up into a choppy, chattery screech that’s part Jon Chang (Discordance Axis, GridLink) and part mechanized Dani Filth. It’s a bit much at first, but given that it surfaces along with a sequence of symphonic swells and shrill, industrial stabs, at least it’s not crashing the party on its own. After another fiery power-prog break, the track slows to a moody, baroque lament that wouldn’t be out of place on a later-era Emperor (or Ihsahn) album.

“Communion” brings the classical elements back to the forefront, with a stately, mysterious overture that’s part Tchaikovsky, part Yellow Submarine. It’s whimsical, sublime stuff, and I’d love to hear a full concerto, but this is a metal album – and Fist in Fetus doesn’t let you forget that. Brace yourself for their most abrasive, screaming spasms of grind so far. Honestly, the screaming seems more for shock value than anything else. It also matches the overall structure of the song, which randomly, impetuously jumps from grinding passage to classical sweep to jazzy power-prog and back again. Then, just when the song couldn’t get any more manic, a sax solo comes bleating in – and yet the entire thing still doesn’t tip over into parody. (Looks like I’ve spoken too soon though, as Fist in Fetus takes a spin on the calliope for about 30 seconds. Let me tell you guys, you don’t need it – this is unhinged and innovative enough already without that old cliché.)

After another cloud of creepy, symphonic phantasmagoria (“Confusion”), closing opus “Redemption” blasts out more screeches atop a slow, rhythmic death-lurch. Even with the strings, bells and symphonic splendour bleeding out of the beast, I didn’t find the experience as exciting as the others, and the still-annoying screeches make it an even more challenging listen. Luckily, this is all just build-up to the song’s triumphant power-metal core, which places Kupiainen’s formidable skills atop a classical/prog-metal symphony that’s by turns menacing and majestic. Ultimately, “Redemption”‘s andante pacing showcases its creativity and craftsmanship more than pure raging catharsis, but it does end the album on an astounding note.

It’s rare that I feel compelled to describe each track in a review, but there is so much audacious lunacy to take in here that I just couldn’t help myself. We’ve all marveled at bands crossbreeding genres and influences to create something new and original, but this is another level entirely. It should collapse in on itself into cacophony and confusion – and in the hands of lesser talents, it might have – but it becomes clearer and more invigorating with each listen. I admit I am not a fan of the grindcore screams, and would’ve far preferred a more traditional black metal screech or rasp to complement the death growls, but perhaps they’ll become an acquired taste. I also look forward to even more conscientious writing on the forthcoming album – a song like “Communion,” for all its showmanship, seems to willingly reject any sense of cohesion, and I don’t think Fist in Fetus needs to rely on shock value when they have so much ingenuity and talent to work with.

If you’re desperate to hear one of the year’s most astonishing releases, you’re in luck: the band has put the entire EP up for free. And if you’re a label who specializes in tech-death, avant-garde or aggressively challenging metal (The End, Willowtip, Profound Lore, even home team Spinefarm), one of you should hurry the hell up and sign these guys.

Download the EP from the band’s Mikseri-page.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
October 15th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Chris

    Just downloaded this, and it’s pretty awesome. Pretty unique and quite dense compositions. I like it a lot, but I’ve always liked classical music melded with metal.


  2. Commented by: adam

    I love your writing. There’s no way in hell i’d listen to something with such a name if you hadn’t endorsed it so convincingly.

    But.

    I understand not wanting to post MP3’s. but when the band is offering the EP for free, it’d be nice if you could at least include a rudimentary hyperlink, so that we don’t have to dig through their old myspace blogs to find it.

    http://www.mikseri.net/artists/?id=67079

    see? not hard.


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    thanks Adam – hope you enjoy it.

    re: the link, I did include it with my writeup, but I think it’s site policy not to post links to downloads, free or not.

    in the future, you can also go to metal-archives.com to find pretty much anything you need to find on any band; that’s where I found the FIF demo.

    thanks for posting it though.


  4. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I’m glad you’re liking the band “you” found on metal-archives. Hmmmm.


  5. Commented by: ceno

    Awesome review, Gabaghoul! As you said,it’s one of the most astonishing things I’ve heard,not only during this year, but also during my entire lifetime. I’m shocked at how good and original it sounds. The contrasts it’s built upon are just mind-bogglin’. It will be interesting to hear this guy in Stratovarius too.Maybe he will be able to carry the band into a new orbit due to his amazing abilities. :lol:


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Cynic – that’s not what I said, I said I found the LINK to the album on metal-archives.

    For everyone reading, Cynic discovered these guys and talked them up on the boards.


  7. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I was just being an ass. Been a rough day.


  8. Commented by: Apollyon

    Sorry, the link issue is my fault. Mikseri’s a perfectly legal service so the mp3 downloads weren’t the reason why the link wasn’t featured. Their myspace page was chosen as the link simply due to it being ‘more official’ and more accessible for non-Finns. The link’s been added to the review. Sorry about that.


  9. Commented by: Dimaension X

    If it’s similar to Septicflesh’s “Communion”, I’ll be picking this one up. It seems that a few bands have finally begun to figure out how to PROPERLY combine death metal and classical music. Not easy to do, but it is possible.


  10. Commented by: ceno

    “Communiuon” is awesome indeed, but this one is beyond all comparison, I think. Btw, it’s very symbolical that one of the tracks on this album is called “Communion” too. :lol:


  11. Commented by: gabaghoul

    yeah, Ceno’s right – other bands, like Septic Flesh, have used classical music to ornament and dress up their death metal but this is much more integrated and crazier.


  12. Commented by: Belgarath

    Great review, man. This album is just astounding.


  13. Commented by: Dimaension X

    Here’s a link to the guitarist’s Youtube channel – video of him and his brother on keyboards. Serious shred! Maybe he will up the ante for Stratovarious?

    http://www.youtube.com/AmbitusFIN


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