I’ve been following Santa Cruz’s Fiends at Feast ever since they self-released the excellent Shadows of Extinction EP back in 2011. In that time, they’ve signed to up-and-coming metal label Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and released an impressive debut full-length in the form of Towards the Baphomet’s Throne, an album that saw the band building upon their already considerable strengths, sharpening their songwriting and upping the musicianship factor. Continuing to capitalize on the momentum they’ve built for themselves over the past three years, the Fiends are back with what might be their most compelling set of songs yet on Purgatory Rites, a split with Madison, Wisconsin’s previously unknown (to me) Tragic Death.
What I really like about Fiends at Feast is that in spite of the fact that they emerged with their sound very much in place, they continue to refine it with each release; always tweaking, always finding little areas to improve upon and progress. On Purgatory Rites, it’s evident that the quintet have focused on infusing their blackened death metal with an epic, atmospheric quality that was only hinted at previously. The music is still as dark and dense as it’s ever been, yet the overall approach is even more varied and nuanced. More now than ever before, each track has its own character, and the band has full command of the dynamics behind their songwriting.
Don’t let that last paragraph lead you to believe that Fiends at Feast have gone off the reservation; the band still sounds hungry as fuck, and that’s what continues to separate them from the pack. The passion they have for their work remains palpable and that’s something that simply can’t be taught. They’ve somehow managed to capture the vicious intensity they displayed on their debut EP and sustain it through three releases while at the same time developing the subtleties of their sound, establishing themselves as one of the most promising young metal bands in Northern California.
Lest you think I’m only going to tout Fiends at Feast, let us move on to Tragic Death, who bring three lengthy black metal tracks to the butcher’s table. A quick glance at Metal Archives tells me the trio have been kicking around since 2009, having released a demo and a full length of their own prior to participating in this split. Although their sound is rougher and not quite as refined as that of the Fiends, they still manage to hold up their end of Purgatory Rites through sheer grit and determination; it’s evident that they’re every bit as bloodthirsty as their California brethren.
Tragic Death bring forth a more straightforward brand of black metal, and although the tracks don’t always sport enough ideas to justify their length, the band shows a ton of potential. There’s a lot to like here, and it it’s evident that the same passion flows through their veins, from the positively chilling guitar melodies to the raw ferocity of the their overall approach. Sonically speaking, Tragic Death does a great job of balancing Scandinavian black metal’s haunting iciness with the blue-collar tenacity of USBM; it’s a unique mix that I hope they continue to build upon for future releases.
Overall this is a great split, with Fiends at Feast continuing to build on their already formidable hybrid black/death metal attack and Tragic Death being a more than pleasant surprise that I look forward to hearing more from. Listeners looking for the future of USBM needn’t look further, because if Purgatory Rites is anything to go by, both of these great bands are on the rise.