Let me start by offering a full disclosure: I like my metal old-school. Over the years I’ve tried to keep up with the metal scene but I still find the new bands I like evoke the early days of Priest, Metallica, Slayer, Accept, Motorhead, Death, Mercyful Fate, to name a few. Lucky for me there has been a resurgence of “traditional” metal in the last number of years.
So I was psyched when I came across Black Fast, a young thrash metal band out of St. Louis. One listen to their debut album “Starving Out the Light” (SOTL) kicked the crap out of my speakers – it’s an absolute banquet of riffs all held together by a super-tight rhythm section. The song structures are complex but not in a pretentious way. From the overpowering launch of opener “Levitations”, to the ruthless battering of “Obelisk”, to the frenetic end of “Lack Regard” – SOTL is 33 minutes of ferociousness.
To begin with the musicianship is first-rate – the fact that two members of the band met as music students is evident – these guys can play! Formed in 2010 by Aaron Akin, Trevor Johanson, Ryan Thompson and Ross Burnett, Black Fast recorded a self-titled EP in 2011 and released SOTL in m id-2013.
Actually Black Fast remained unsigned until today, yes today! Word is out that they have just signed a deal with eOne Heavy – home to High on Fire and metal legends Overkill. Plans for an all new full length LP sometime next year are already in the works.
As far as my metal checklist goes, Black Fast deliver: take the face melting riffs of classic Jeff Hanneman (Slayer), the Chuck Schuldiner-like screams (Death), the Brann Dailor-like fill-heavy pound of drums (Mastodon), and the Cliff Burton-like thunder of bass (Metallica), and you have Black Fast. That they manage to inject some freshness into the genre is commendable.
In the end SOTL is relentless. You may be able to catch a quick 36-second breath with the acoustic “Lost Between Worlds” but then it is full speed ahead again. It’s interesting to note that Black Flag’s “Rise Above” came on immediately after I was listening to Black Fast’s SOTL and the energy didn’t waver.
Aaron Akin – vocals/ guitar
Ryan Thompson – Bass
Trevor Johanson – Guitar
Ross Burnett – Drums
Vocalist/guitarist Aaron Akin answered some questions for us.
50third: Black Fast is…..
AA: Unmitigated tumult. An indiscriminate blast radius without boundary or cause. Suffering for the sake of suffering, mired and veiled in the shadow of heavy metal, mortally wounded and bled upon the altar of rock and roll.
50third: Our sound would be best described as….
AA: We use the term “castle”. “That riff needs more castle”. I tell people it’s thrash metal, but at the end of the day it’s all heavy metal rock n roll.
50third: How did you guys come together to form the band?
AA: Trevor and Ryan went to school together for jazz guitar. I had been living and jamming with Ross and some other friends for a while. There was a period 5 or 6 years ago where everyone was around and playing music all the time with everyone. At some point we had written so many riffs, then we had a few songs, and then we were playing some small shows…So luckily the band came together easily.
50third: What is the St. Louis metal scene like?
AA: It’s fucking great! Go listen right now to The Gorge, Everything Went Black, Fister, The Lions Daughter, Bastard…all killer fucking bands. There are even more I’m not thinking of right now.
50third: Your sound to me is classic or old school thrash, if you like. No cookie monster vocals or programmed drum triggers. As students of music, what are your thoughts on these trends in metal?
AA: I don’t have a problem with any trends. I don’t pay attention very well or know too much about them most of the time. Everyone is entitled to like what they like, and I wouldn’t know where to begin if I wanted to try to create something because it’s hip and happening. That said, I come from Metallica, just like almost every other metal fan of the last 30 years. I heard ‘Master of Puppets’ as a kid, and that was it. Thrash metal. As far as what the band creates though, there can never be any rules. We’ll never try to play within a genre boundary intentionally. Nothing is outside or off limits if it fuckin’ jams in the practice room!
50third: As far as influences go I saw Vektor listed as well as Thin Lizzy. And I’ve seen a lot of people compare you to thrash legends Death. Tell us about how you came to the Black Fast sound.
AA: The Death comparison thing is insanely flattering because everyone can agree they are the ultimate, pinnacle legendary death metal band. We came to our sound though, basically the same way in which we formed. We just go into a room and this is what comes out. We each have wildly varying backgrounds and tastes. Our sound changes all the time. I don’t even know what it is today.
50third: What inspires the band lyrically?
AA: Anything can become lyric fodder if it can be worded in the right way. Up to this point though, I’ve written mostly about the declination of humanity, extinction, general discourses in foreboding. You know, happy stuff.
50third: I remember the metal scene in the late 70s, early 80s and a lot of the great stuff was underground until metal hit the big time. What do you make of the metal scene these days – will there be another Metallica/Slayer/Anthrax/Megadeth?
AA: I hope so.
50third: What made it possible for those bands to make it big on the world stage?
AA: I wasn’t around so I can’t speak to it with much insight. I doubt there can ever be another time exactly like that though. The timing was just fucking perfect, and those bands were perfect. The new landscape is so constantly changing and evolving there’s really not time to think on it too much. There are so many new, underground, awesome bands. The internet and social media thing has just totally broken up the old ways in which scenes would form and bands would break out. Now you can reach into any scene in any city in 5 seconds on your phone and start listening to some underground band that you would’ve never known about. That’s a great thing. You have to embrace it, because it’s happening, like it or not. Everyone can make cheap recordings in their homes that sound great, and have it heard across the world instantaneously. It’s easy to get nostalgic thinking about ‘the good old days’, but there’s just too much amazing shit happening which isn’t to be taken for granted.
50third: What are you guys listening to these days?
AA: It would be pretty funny if you could ask each one of us that in person. I don’t know what the other guys are listening to, but in my car it’s usually Stevie Wonder followed by King Diamond followed by Biggie followed by Roky Erickson followed by Speedwolf. Lately I’ve also been heavy into late night lonesome binge listening of somber folk and acoustic guitar pickin’.
50third: What’s next in 2014/2015 for Black Fast?
AA: New music, new album, new tours! Playing all the time, everywhere! Cheers!