FREELOADER: SUBTERRANEAN FISHMEN’S DEPARTURE EP
Welcome to the latest edition of “Freeloader” in which we review albums that you don’t have to feel like a douche for downloading for free. Today Satan Rosenbloom checks out Subterranean Fishmen’s Departure EP.
In his first e-mail to me, a member of Evanston, Illinois’s Subterranean Fishmen wrote of the band’s new EP, Departure: “It’s all self-produced and although I’m an asshole and I wanna re-mix it, it sounds okay.” It doesn’t take an asshole to recognize that this release seriously needs a remix. I can’t hear the bass or the guitar leads, and from what I can tell, the drummer’s kit consists of a bass drum and a crash cymbal.
HOWEVER: I cannot stop listening to this EP. Partly as a display of gratitude for Subterranean Fishmen’s gift of my favorite metal lyric of 2010. About one minute into the second song, “C.B.,” the band’s vocalist death-belches the following string of non-sequiturs: “I am a meat popsicle / I am a club banger / Don’t forget my name / It’s Steve.” Silliness within extreme music is nothing new. But Subterranean Fishmen set this bout of absurdity (the only moment of levity on the album) amidst some of the most deadly-serious riffing I heard in 2010.
For most of Departure, Subterranean Fishmen pledge allegiance to maximal heaviness. At their best, like on “C.B.,“ “1212” and “Will of the Infinite,” the band writes the kind of nuanced yet headbangable guitar ballast that set our knees a-quiver at Gojira’s From Mars to Sirius. Like all great riff writers, these guys can turn a mid-tempo stomp into a regal death march, but even the speedy gallop that opens “Back Up” feels like the thrash horsey is weighed down by dead cowboys. And while the totally amateur recording/mixing job renders much of the sonic spectrum (and several instruments) nonexistent, it’s done wonders for the rhythm guitars. No clinical over-compression here, just dripping, snorting, electric death. Subterranean Fishmen cannot be fucked with when they’re downstroking and growling.
Too bad that’s not all they do on Departure. Though I’m not normally one to advocate for arrested development, the djent-via-Opeth number “Colors” – the biggest “departure” on the album – is unlistenable. It’s overthought, underperformed, and suffering from even worse mixing problems than the rest of the album. Subterranean Fishmen are a young band with everything to prove, so its inclusion on the EP is pretty questionable, especially given the strength of the rest of the material.
There’s a certain charm to Departure’s imperfections. They suggest a band that’s going somewhere but doesn’t know how to get there. Who knows if Subterranean Fishmen will ever bottle that lightning. If they do, it will have been worth the assholery.
(3 Horns Up out of 5)
Get Subterranean Fishmen’s Departure EP here. Find out more about the band here.