It might surprise you that Cleveland was recently named the most metal city in America, but it’s always had a pretty solid sludge/hardcore scene. This gritty, edgy style of music can often be found in rough ‘n tumble towns—and having seen everyone from St. Vitus to Accept to Pentagram play places like the now-closed Peabody’s and the worn-down Agora Ballroom, I have witnessed some of that grit first-hand.
And while it’s mostly crossover outfits like Ringworm and Integrity that put The Mistake by the Lake on the metal map, Fistula has been burning it down in the local sludge scene since ’98. Longing for Infection is officially their seventh album, but they’ve put out more splits than you can shake a stick at. And hey, with seven tracks spanning 38 minutes, this isn’t exactly a double LP.
Longing for Infection starts off on a low, rumbling note with the intro to opening track “Too Many Devils and Drugs,” but soon picks up the pace to a classic Cleveland hardcore stomp. We get some slow ‘n heavy breakdowns around the 1:40 mark, and a vitriolic verse trading off with some moshable mid-paced breakdowns. “Morgue Attendant” begins with a disturbing news clip about a necrophiliac, before a super-slow-mo bass line leads us into some EHG-infused heaviness. “The Big Turnout” neatly distills Crowbar’s downtuned despondency, albeit with a much more vicious vocal and a heaping helping of Autopsy severed, erm, served on the side.
“Destitute” is both longer and heavier than its predecessors, casting a Wintery pall over the proceedings. But it pales in comparison to eight-and-a-half-minute epic “Smoke Acid Shoot Pills,” which is about as desolate and depressing as sludge gets, going from the thick, oozy slowed-down stuff to a punishing hardcore pace and back again. In stark contrast, “Loyal to the Foil” is a sub-three-minute burst of metallic hardcore intensity that starts off fast and furious but finishes low ‘n slow.
After such a vicious mind-bender, it’s fitting that this album ends with “Detox,” although this number offers no respite from the punishing sludge barrage. I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the top five sludge-metal albums I’ve heard this year.