Elitist: Fear in a Handful of Dust

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Elitist: Fear in a Handful of Dust
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Elitist: Fear in a Handful of Dust
Black Metal, Death Metal, Sludgecore
Season of Mist Records
June 21st, 2011
Release length: 35:55
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Elitist hail from Portland, Oregon, and recently secured a deal with Season of Mist Records to issue their first full-length album, Fear in a Handful of Dust. The group plays an interesting mixture of styles that, according to the press release, is part of a growing trend in the United States. While not many have really heard of this approach, it’s apparently taking off, and Elitist is a proud supporter of the style. The group mixes together a heavy Hardcore and Sludge foundation (i.e., “Sludgecore”), then also throws in Death Metal and Black Metal for good measure. With such a mangled combination of sounds, and it apparently becoming the next trend, what should the fans of Metal make of it? Will Elitist be the band to introduce the style worldwide and become a huge influence?

Probably not. Fear in a Handful of Dust is composed of eleven songs, and there are many times where the album seems to just drag on, even though the release is just under thirty six minutes. However, there’s no denying the music is definitely crushing, and often shows a deep Sludge root that gives off a strong Southern heritage to it. This is how Elitist introduce themselves on the start of this album with the track “Burning the Unspoken Gospel”, a song that moves at a snail’s pace, taking it beyond a more traditional Sludge style and into Doom Metal speed territory. The harsh screaming vocals are handled in a manner that would compliment a Hardcore recording well, and come off like sandpaper with plenty of energy and intensity. The production quality also helps with all this as the final product sounds very dirty and crusty, a trait that commonly works with the whole Sludge approach, and faint glows of Death Metal brutality can be heard during the faster Hardcore-based moments, and some Black Metal ideas do appear once in a while, but never enough to truly make a commanding appearance in the music even worth mentioning. As far as the Deaht Metal input goes, that’s kept at a minal too, but you can pick up on at times, such as during the track “A Howling Wind” which brings in more of an old-school Punk fueled Death Metal attack onto the listener similar to bands like Abscess, though eventually shifting towards the more prominant Sludge approach that feels equally as crushing and intimidating, though clearly on two different spectrums due to the high speed start and slow Sludge-filled ending.

Even with all that said, for as crushing as many of the songs can be, it doesn’t help that the tracks themselves often don’t really have much of an impact. The music itself is often good, and really pushes the whole Sludge meets Hardcore idea, but it’s nothing too impressive sometimes. “Burning the Unspoken Gospel” moves very slow, and because the music itself doesn’t really offer much behind it, this over five and a half minute track eventually just feels like a simpler Sludge Metal track that won’t grab your attention, or even come to an end. “Ivory Shavings of the Tools Unknown” packs a bit of a stronger punch, and the Hardcore presence mixed with the Sludge Metal, unlike the start of “Cult Malevolence” where it’s a prodominantly Punk track at the start, can really be felt. The song has the ability to go into a more Trance-like state and grab the listening with a more ritualistic sound. These are the tracks that show the most impressive elements of the band, though you can’t put down some of the faster, more intense tracks that utilize the Black and Death Metal styles without being too far away from the band’s core sound, such as the aforementioned “A Howling Wind” and the far more energetic “Human All Too Human”, which feels more like the flagship of the album then anything else presented here.

One other thing the band seems to incorporate is some Ambient effects through noise, such as guitar feedback and various distortions. Many of the songs on this release are connected to one another in this manner, though those songs take the more high pitched guitar feedback approach many Hardcore acts today utilize. “Watch As They Worship, Yet Be Silent” is one of those songs, and while it’s not the most impressive Ambient or Trance inducing song the band could have come up with, it’s obvious they were trying, and did an alright job at it. This instrumental isn’t bad or annoying, and it manages to connect itelf to “Slowly Fucked and Force Fed”, which is another slower track that feels crushing in a manner similar moreso to “Ivory Shavings of the Tools Unknown”.

Fear in a Handful of Dust is definitely something a little fresh and different, but the manner in which the band executes the material can sometimes feel a bit stale and drawn out. There are some good tracks on here that show a lot of promise, and the way the band incorporates some Ambient effects through noise and general tones from instruments works well to keep the album together and feel like many of the songs are longer then they really are, mostly during the shorter tracks, but at the same time it can be taken too far with the slower, crushing speeds and some songs will feel like they just never will end, and not in a good way. Basically Elitist give listeners a mixed bag of ideas: Some work, some don’t. Sure, Elitist don’t feel like the strongest preachers of this apparent new craze in Metal, but they do introduce the concept well, and for the most part the album is still rather enjoyable, and definitely a breath of fresh air for bands sick of the countless High On Fire and Mastodon clones that exist today.

01. Burning the Unspoken Gospel – 5:36
02. Cult Malevolence – 2:48
03. Ivory Shaving fo the Tools Unknown – 4:56
04. Black Wool – 2:30
05. Watch As They Worship, Yet Be Silent – 1:55
06. Slowly Fucked and Force Fed – 2:32
07. A Howling Wind – 1:49
08. Human All Too Human – 4:02
09. Bound and Bent – 1:32
10. Toothless and Yawning – 1:30
11. Tower of Meth – 6:29
Initial Pressing Score: 6.5/10

Elitist (band)

Digital review copy of this release provided by Season of Mist Records.