Something Something Fiend, Something Something Something Sleep

A truly cosmopolitan act, Parisian four-piece unit Fiend culls members from as far from France as Serbia and Kyrgyzstan, and though they’re already looking to record the follow-up to 2009’s Agla — which at just over a half-hour in length straddles the line between EP and LP — the Sleepy tones of these five tracks are worth noting before that comes about. If you caught one word in that (not so holy) mountain of a sentence, I hope it was “Sleep.”

Agla, the band’s first outing both overall and for Trendkill Recordings, heavily indebted to the Bay Area’s progenitors of the new generation of stoner metal. You can hear it in the first riff of “St. Helens,” and certainly in the vocals of Heitham Al-Sayed, who sometimes works a more drawn out melodicism into his voice à la Jesse Leach’s work in Seemless, but keeps a steady flow of Cisnerosisms in the snailishly-paced “The Worm King.” If they were the first or only band to do it, it would be a surprise and maybe a flaw in the record, but since off the top of my head I can think of at least six other bands who put out albums in 2009 as much in the vein of Sleep as Fiend, it’s hard to hold it against them.

If there’s a departure point from the formula, it’s “Black Feathers.” It’s the shortest track (the intro aside) at 4:59, and does veer back into Om-style ambience at the end, but the first half of the track and then some is heavier, more straightforwardly stoner, and with the thickness in the tones of Al-Sayed and fellow guitarist Michel Bassin, not to mention bassist Nicolas Zivkovich’s rumblings (Simon Doucet rounds out the lineup on drums), it’s interesting to hear a song like “Black Feathers” move at a faster pace without sounding too muddy or like a mash of feedback. There are a lot of bands who can’t find that balance, and they execute it in longer form and with different structure on closer “Astraal Goon,” so good for them.

But no matter how much effort they may or may not make to inject other sounds in with that on which the band is mostly based, there isn’t much Fiend are going to be able to do to get away from the fact that they sound like Sleep. And, frankly, there probably isn’t much they want to do to get away from it either, so maybe in the end everything works out. I know plenty of heads out there who can’t get enough of those almost two-decades-old Matt Pike riffs, and when in the right mood, I count myself among their ranks, so with a beginning point like Agla, Fiend should be just fine.

Fiend on MySpace

Trendkill Recordings

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