Album Review: FISTULA Vermin Prolificus
The sludge is more important than you.
A fistula is an abnormal connection between tissue, vessel or an organ as the result of surgery or injury. Much like their name, Akron, Ohio sludge unit churn out a sound that's as wounded and ugly as any Google image search you do on the term. The band has been active since 1998, with their first release (Hymns of Slumber) dating back to 2001. A multitude of splits and EPs, and five LPs later we find ourselves at full-length number six: Vermin Prolificus.
The first few minutes of the record are the real tone setter for Vermin Prolificus. While a lot of bands get long-winded with a two-minute intro/instrumental bit to try and ease you into the record, or build you up to mosh—whatever, Fistula serve up a a thicker slice of steak. The intro to “Smoke Cat Hair and Toenails” is brief and instead throws you onto the cutting floor immediately. Corey Bing's fuzzed-out guitars and screeching feedback actually pack a hefty energy behind them. Like something building up in the back of your skull. Vocalist Dan Harrington's raspy, fevered scream brings out a more demonic Dino Sommese. The clip from the 1980s slasher “Don't Answer the Phone” is almost a odd summary of the album itself. A painful crawl into hellish frothing.
Fistula aren't a band to linger on a genre though. While there's sludge served up by the gallon, “Harmful Situation” puts to test that cocaine shot of energy that “Smoke Cat Hair and Toenails” weaved in. Of the seven tracks, four of these are pure pieces of heavy-as-hell hardcore-punk injections; fiery bite-sized pieces of raw vitriol that serve to kick around the listener.
Theme is certainly no stranger to this album either as a repetition cast over degeneration and ugliness, especially concerning drugs/drug abuse is prevalent. The phrasing, “The drugs are more important than you,” is repeated on title track “Vermin Prolificus” in addition to other drug talk. It's much akin to tracks like “Sanctity,” “Love/Hate,” or “Leaning With Intent to Fall” (all by Dystopia). Fistula craft a mood and desperation well, setting drone to these clips. And yeah, hundreds of bands before them have done it. But they're still awesome at it.
At seven tracks Vermin Prolificus is an album that manages to make you stagger under its weight. The guitars are heavy as hell, with distortion that would crush an Olympic lifter. Tracks are baked and hazy and the whole package is just tortuously ugly. Yet the whole thing goes out on the second wind “Goat Brothel.” Instead of bleeding on the floor Fistula packs it all in for one final, pissed off punch straight in the vein of hardcore-punk. It gets strung out, it falls back onto the couch. It's a seething cycle that never lets go. Even when the music slows down, it never lets go. If you haven't heard of Fistula (medical condition aside) after all these years and enjoy bands like Grief, Noothgrush, or the almighty Dystopia, this is a slice of sludge you should pick up immediately.
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