It’s startling to think that it’s already been ten years since legendary guitarist KK Downing left heavy metal icons Judas Priest in a well documented and not entirely amicable parting of the ways. After taking some time out, in 2018 Downing established KK’s Steel Mill, a music and arts venue where onstage alongside former Priest members Les Binks and Tim “Ripper” Owens, plus Hostile guitarist AJ Mills and former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson, the foundations for solo debut Sermons of the Sinner (EX1 Records) were laid the following year.
The opening lazy riff and bass line of Vermin Prolificus (PATAC), the sixth album from Ohio scuzzbuckets Fistula, is so volumed up that the resonance is staggering, and is probably the lowest and heaviest rumble I’ve heard since Ramesses departed our world. It’s typically bloody nasty this, despite guitarist Corey Bing being the only remaining member from their last effort six years ago. New vocalist Dan Harrington possesses a largely guttural scream which drives opener ‘Smoke, Cat Hair and Toenails’, the message of which is forced home by an overabundance of archive recordings, including an apparently televised drugs intervention which reappears throughout.
The ensuing ‘Harmful Situation’ is grind-like punk, one of a few short and snappy moments slightly belying the sludge tag but remaining heavy and very hostile. There’s a certain dangerous irresponsibility at times with the glut of sound-bites at the head of ‘Pig Funeral’ also serving a purpose: to paint a purulent, diseased message of police hatred and murder, and lay the path for a tune that would doubtless gratify any number of cop-murdering scumbags festering behind their iron bars. Frustratingly, the track itself is a largely glorious wade through a thick, fizzing morass, picking up pace in the last third to a filthy grind diatribe dripping in grimy goop. It will have you squirming in your seat or screaming bloody revolution, depending on your point of view.
Given the seemingly puerile messages here it’s easy to dismiss this mob as sensationalist noise makers but there’s more substance beneath the shocking veneer. The brief ‘Upside Down’ displays the usual genre mantra of “Hell is other people” and is played with a real menace, but there’s a sense of pity that stirs as well as unsettles. The title track, a rumbling, oozing undercurrent, picks up on that intervention amid other narcotic messages, and the samples are often so full of despair that the band’s intent is somewhat inscrutable.
Whatever the intent, through sound alone this is an uneasy yet captivating listen, full of disgustingly dirty throbbing noise and malevolence, and despite that reliance on sound-bites, it demands your attention.