Saturday, September 3, 2011
Get Into: Fallen Christ (NEW WRITER!)
Many of you may recognize B as a long-time commenter on this blog. He shares our taste in metal, and our penchant for seeking out the genre's bizarre outliers and overlooked masterpieces. Here, he takes our "Get Into" band features to a level of depth and sophistication we hadn't even imagined! Very cool shit. Get into it.
Fallen Christ was a short-lived, relatively obscure band that stuck around just long enough to release one album back in '96. FC seems to mainly be remembered merely as "that band Alex Hernandez was in before joining Immolation", though that would be selling them quite short. Maybe this band fizzled out quickly and was largely forgotten simply because they put so damn much energy and conviction into their first album that it just plain wore them the fuck out. And because of that, this album should have garnered a lot of attention, yes? Unfortunately, it hasn't like it should have, so let's hype it a bit.
Maybe their crazed, raw approach didn't draw the attention of the masses, who were increasingly turning to more complex and progressive death metal during that period of the mid nineties. But as a landmark of old-school death metal taken to the ninth degree, you'd be hard pressed to find a more unhinged and ferocious example than this. Their only full-length, 1996's Abduction Ritual, has every hallmark of a curious cult classic recording from back in the day, but it's one that strangely stands out from the morass. The band has most often been compared to a rawer, more frenetic Morbid Angel or Immolation, which I guess is true to an extent, but it still isn't too accurate. It's more like the crippling atonal riffing of Azagthoth circa 1989 distilled down into a devastating grindcore framework. There's this primitive purity in the riffs that is exactly what the 'death' in death metal should mean.
And if that weren't enough, they somehow conjured a sinister and brooding black metal attitude, cranking up the levels of gloom and vile speed on the release - even though FC really don't have a black metal-derived sound. The production is thin and dry, yet grainy and clear. The gain in the guitar tone is crunchy, but applied like a delicate garnish, while the mids seem the be the main course. The mastering is a bit quiet, but still has enough treble to be full and heavy. A great death-meets-black tone. In turn, the music here is surprisingly atmospheric for being so frenzied and chaotic, and perhaps it's what makes the band stand out as a paradigmatic example of black/death/grind fusion. To these ears, it's comparable most directly to old Morbid Angel and Naked Whipper, but FC have both of those bands beat in sheer schizophrenic energy.
The music perfectly matches the band's obscure image; inaccessible, cryptic and vicious. FC have come up with some absolutely feral riffing, there's really no other adjective for the band. Feral, savage and raw, and done with hellish style. This band seems determined to literally kill you with each riff, even when they slow down to throw in the well-placed little atmospheric segments here and there. It's almost crudely one-dimensional, but the songs are generally just short enough to go away before becoming stale, and the generally congruent flow of the album helps it move along well enough. Most of the songs, while short, are fully-realized and carefully arranged, and the flow of the album is done in a way where the order of songs generally keeps things fresh but consistent.
The subject matter may give off the impression of a more outlandish Deicide, but there's some elusive quality about this piece of work that adds to the 'evil- factor.' Maybe it's just the aura of mystery; It was only pressed in a quick one-off batch by Osmose/Listenable, and you can't even find interviews or photos of the band. It kind of takes away your ability to connect with the music on a human level, and casts this album in a different, darker light. Almost gives off the appearance of an old unearthed soundtrack of a ritual in an infernal crypt. It takes you somewhere very dark and violent.
I make a distinction between 'original' and 'unique'. I see unique as the condition in which a band becomes substantially distanced from both peers and tradition, whilst staying within the genre. I see original as a more basic and traditional way of going about things (honoring the 'origin' prefix, after all) but taking those basic trademark elements to a whole new level. And here's where Fallen Christ aren't unique, but very original. Overlooked material that makes one curious as to where they would have gone next, if that was at all possible.