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.
I first encountered Santa Cruz’s Gloam a while back thanks to the band sharing a guitarist with Fiends at Feast, another Santa Cruz-based outfit I’ve been shouting about for quite some time. But in spite of this connection, Gloam is assuredly a very different animal. The quartet’s debut demo was a rather stunning piece of atmospheric black metal, but with Vanquished they have surely surpassed it, pushing their sound forward while at the same time adhering to black metal’s time-honored traditions.
Regular THKD readers may recall me championing the living shit out of Santa Cruz’s Fiends at Feast last year after they sent me a copy of their stellar Shadows of Extinction EP (here and here). At the time, the band were self-releasing their material, which was only available at shows. A lot can change in just a year; Fiends at Feast now have label backing from the up-and-coming Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and as a result have released a brutalizing debut album in the form of Towards the Baphomet’s Throne, a recording which sees the quintet pushing their music to even more malevolent extremes.
California-based quintet Fiends at Feast came out of nowhere and impressed the hell out of me with their debut EP, Shadows of Extinction (see review). It remains one of the best metal releases I’ve heard so far in 2011 and the band’s attention to craftsmanship and willingness to work hard to accomplish their goals make them a band to watch. I spoke with vocalist/lyricist Loki about the making of Shadows of Extinction and Fiends at Feast’s plans for black/death metal domination.
THKD: For our readers who may not be familiar, can you give us a little background on how Fiends at Feast got started?
Loki: Fiends started sometime in the spring/summer of 2008 when David and Sammer met and started jamming some cover songs, then not long after that they met with Nathan and the original drummer (a girl who got replaced by impalor few months after). I was in another band, but I got an offer to audition for the band and I got asked to do vocals. From there Fiends have played some good shows and others not so good, but always with big visions of getting noticed locally and nationally.
THKD: Fiends at Feast’s music strikes a good balance between black and death metal styles. Was this intentional or just a natural part of the band’s evolution?
Loki: I think it comes naturally to us, we have diverse taste in music and what we do is just use some of the influences. We do try to keep the old school death metal, but I think black metal is a huge influence on us (especially for me) and what you hear on our EP is the result of everyone’s creativity and obsession with music.
THKD: You recently released your debut EP, Shadows of Extinction. What were you looking to accomplish with this release and are you pleased with the results?
Loki: We are pleased with the results, definitely after having some experiences with other engineers I think this is so far the best. What we are trying to accomplish with this recording, I guess, just like a lot of bands, is to get signed to a record label and expose what we do and enjoy doing. Touring is one of Fiends’ goals as well.
THKD: Let’s talk a little about your lyrics. What are some of the themes you’re singing about on Shadows of Extinction? What inspires you to come up with lyrics? Are the lyrics a collaborative effort?
Loki: I come up with lyrics at very random hours, sometimes when I’m waking up (hahaha). My inspiration comes from people forcing others to believe their crap. I have a very low tolerance for stupidity, ignorance and poor behavior, I think you can say a bit of a sociopath. Look around and you’ll know what I mean, especially the ones who copy other bands to make a name for themselves and that is just one example. I also like to use metaphors to describe certain things which some people don’t get and I don’t care if they do or not.
THKD: What is your personal favorite song on Shadows of Extinction and why?
Loki: I think “pariah” is one of my favorite ones I guess because it has a piece of my life in it. It has the obsession with death, depression, hate, obscurity and hate for organized religion, although “scars in my soul” has a big attachment as well.
THKD: What can you tell us about your vocal technique? How do you prepare yourself to record vocals or perform in a live setting?
Loki: I don’t like to think I use any special technique, all I do is try to sing from the stomach rather than with the throat. My inspiration started in the late 80’s but it wasn’t ’till I heard Chris Barnes that I said to myself “fuck I wanna do that shit like him” and make use of the vocals as another instrument. At this moment my inspiration has been black metal way more than any death metal singer and as always I try not to copy anyone but learn from them and do my own thing. I do warm up for the recording but when performing live I just let my demons take over (haha).
THKD: How were the songs for Shadows of Extinction written? Do you work on songs as a group?
Loki: All songs were and are written as a group (band), most of the time Sammer and David work on riffs in their spare time, then we all work with whatever they have and everyone gets involved to shape the songs.
Loki: We had a hard time coming up with the artwork and at the end we came up with the idea of having a drawing of a landscape that represented the area where we live and gave some feeling of obscurity with the raven and the dead corpse in the fox hole. It doesn’t have as much of a connection to the lyrics as we were hoping for but, I guess you can link it with the endless obsession with death in the lyrics.
THKD: Fiends at Feast hails from Santa Cruz, CA. What is the metal scene like there? Do you get much local support?
Loki: The metal scene is not so great but I guess it is just like any other place, and to be expected when you play this kind of music in an area where hip-hop, reggae and other genres are more predominant. We do appreciate the support from the handful of metal maniacs that come to our shows. As I say many times on stage “you fucking maniacs”.
THKD: How does your environment/surroundings inspire Fiends at Feast? What is it about California that inspires dark and heavy music?
Loki: I don’t think any climate gets us inspired, but we do get some sort of motivation when we see bands playing the same old shit that other bands have done or playing some commercial sound, a thing that Fiends is always trying to stay away from. We are trying to write a new blueprint with our style and our own way.
Loki: We had a good time and we would like to think that it was a success. We had people who came from San Francisco, Hayward, San Jose, Salinas, Sacramento and Alameda and it seemed like everyone got involved with our performance. I do enjoy performing live most of the time, sometimes I don’t feel the energy I need to get in my zone although a lot of the times I wish to bite the head off.
THKD: What is the best way for fans to get a hold of Shadows of Extinction?
Loki: Our merchandise can be purchased at our gigs for now, we are currently working on setting up a Paypal account or indiemerchandise account, any suggestions? (hahaha). We have our EP in our local record store Streetlight and we hope Rasputin’s agrees to sell our EP as well.
THKD: What are you listening to right now? What bands do you find inspiring/influential as far as what you do with Fiends at Feast?
Loki: At this moment the only genre I listen to is black metal. I think it has a lot more to offer on many levels and ways to be performed compared to death metal. On my list right now are Orcustus, Impiety, Sadistic Intent, Black Witchery and Endstille. I feel influenced by this and other bands in the way I perform with Fiends but I think my twist evolves from bands like Behexen, Immolation and Shining.
THKD: What does the rest of 2011 have in store for Fiends at Feast?
Loki: We are working on new material to possibly record as soon as we are ready, but for now a tour in California/Nevada is in our minds and exposing what we have worked so hard to accomplish.
THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?
Loki: Stay dark and away from friends.
I often get frustrated listening to and writing about modern extreme metal. Where is the passion? Where is the vitality? Where are the songs? If Shadows of Extinction, the debut EP from Santa Cruz, CA-based Fiends at Feast is anything to go on, all these things and more are alive and well deep within the darkest recesses of the metal underground.
Striking a luciferian bargain between black and death metal, Fiends at Feast sound like the hellish, gruesome aftermath of a street fight between Deicide and Marduk. The commanding, vicious vocals are a hateful diatribe against the feeble Nazarene, while the razor-wire guitars slash at his wrists and the rhythm section smashes his skull to smithereens. This is not the monotonous, over-produced faux-extreme metal that gets shoved down our throats on a daily basis. This is the real shit, the shit that makes you remember what you liked about black/death metal in the first place. It’s rough and hungry and reeks of a band putting their blood, sweat and even more blood into mastering their craft.
Ah yes, the craft. Above all, Fiends at Feast are craftsmen. They are a band with songs. Songs you can tell apart. Songs you can bang your head and raise your fist to. Songs that breathe unholy life back into the bloated, rotten corpse of extreme metal with time-honored tools; musicianship, catchiness and the goddamn almighty riff. Fiends at Feast believe in what they’re doing, it’s a palpable feeling that bleeds out of every second of Shadows of Extinction.
Fiends at Feast write great, dynamics songs, and they have the wherewithal to pepper those songs with minute details that set them even further apart from the hordes. The Spanish-sounding acoustic guitars in “Scars of My Soul”, the haunting upright bass near the end of “Revelations of Chaos”, the audible electric bass throughout the album, the brutal yet varied vocals; all of these subtle nuances add another exciting dimension to a sound rooted in tradition.
Any gripes to be found with the EP are relatively minor ones. The band would certainly benefit from a more forceful production scheme (think something along the lines of recent Marduk or Behemoth albums), and at only twenty-seven minutes, Shadows of Extinction leaves you craving more. Something tells me we haven’t seen everything this promising band is capable of, and there is no telling what devastation awaits when these guys release a full length (hopefully w/ some label backing). I’m guessing the bodycount will be massive.
Shadows of Extinction is a snapshot of a young group of musicians beginning to realize their potential, and the best debut I’ve heard so far in 2011. It’s refreshing to know that there are still bands like Fiends at Feast lurking out there in the underground, bucking the trends and upholding the sounds and values of real black/death metal, yet not afraid to make them their own. Ignore them at your own peril.