show review

Fit For An Autopsy @ The Agora 06/10/14

Patrick Sheridan shreds for the crowd at The Agora on June 10, a day the band was supposed to play Toronto. (Sanchez/2014)
Lisa Sanchez
Sometimes the best performances can come from coincidence. Then, sometimes they come from one country's gain and another country's loss. On Tuesday, June 10th Whitechapel and Fit For An Autopsy played at the Cleveland Agora. This show is the definition of a happy accident. Originally, the bands were slotted to play Toronto, Ontario, on Tuesday evening but, due to some problems at the Canadian border, they were detoured to the lovely city of Cleveland.

Whitechapel and Fit For An Autopsy (alternatively known as FFAA for brevity) were touring with a more extensive line up including Devildriver, Carnifex, Revocation, and Rivers of Nihil. But, Cleveland reaped Canada's loss. The show was announced about a week and a half before, but despite the short notice, the Agora was packed with excited metal heads.

Even luckier for me, I had the chance to sit down with Fit For An Autopsy guitarist Pat Sheridan who talked about the band's impromptu visit to Cleveland, their new vocalist, and the nature of the metal scene. "We tried really hard to get into Canada. Just so all of our Canadian fans know," said Sheridan, who went on to explain that the band waited for three hours to enter Canada, before ultimately being turned away along with Whitechapel.

However, this is not Fit For An Autopsy's first time in Ohio. They've played a number of times across the state since their first album The Process of Human Extermination was released in 2011 alongside The Acacia Strain, Thy Art Is Murder, and The Black Dahlia Murder. The six-piece combines the instrumental assault of death metal with the infectious hooks of hardcore. Their performance and content is unparalleled in the current musical landscape and the band has proven that they have staying power through their music and responsiveness to unexpected situations.

Fit For An Autopsy went through some recent line up changes when their longtime vocalist, Nate Johnson, suddenly left the band. The announcement came April of this year, but FFAA didn't miss a beat by providing an immediate replacement. Greg Wilburn, formerly of the Devastated, stepped up to take the reins of the already established and crushing signature vocals of FFAA. "Greg is a power house," stated Sheridan, "he's got a whole lot of range and he's very crowd friendly. He gets what we were missing. Greg is just out there 100%, he's very much into what a front man should do." As to the nature of Nate Johnson departure, Sheridan simply said, "It is what it is." Although a great vocalist was lost, Wilburn is a highly capable vocalist able to carry FFAA's metric ton of musical savagery.

As far as future recordings are concerned, the line up change will not alter the message and meaning of FFAA's songs. The band's most recent release, Hellbound (2013), set a very high standard with its grueling guitar riffs, inhuman vocals, and meaningful lyrics. According to Sheridan, "Fit For An Autopsy has a specific sound that was started and put together by myself and Will (Putney) and we put a groove together. We've been in bands together for a long time, so it's a weird process. The day and age of computers has really simplified recording. It's really easy to write a record and share your ideas if you're dedicated to it."

FFAA foster a largely collaborative environment when it comes to writing new material. Although, considering their heavy tour schedule it's necessary for them to get out of the van and decompress in order to create new material "It's always hard to write a record on the road. You need down time to write riffs. Being on tour is a very difficult place to write because you're busy all day. You wake up, most times you have to drive, get dressed, eat, get to the venue, unload, stage our equipment, do a sound check, get set up, play, breakdown, sell merch, then drive a few more hours, sleep. It's a repeat process every day," Sheridan explained.

Despite their consistently hectic schedule, FFAA push out what are arguably some of the most poignant and realistic lyrics in modern metal. They delve into the complexities of human degradation, as opposed to fictional stories created for the purpose of brutality. One of the premiere tracks from Hellbound was a song called "Thank You, Budd Dwyer" making reference and paying homage to a disgraced politician who committed suicide in front of news reporters in the 1980s.

"People are sponges, you suck up what's around you if you're paying attention," said Sheridan. "Then, you start having these realizations that the world is fucked in a different way. Most people lock themselves in their houses to stay away from it, so our records are written around making people look around and see what's out there. There is nothing more evil than man, there's nothing darker or more miserable than what we do to each other. It's a harsh place to live and we don't even realize what we do to each other, so our records are a wake up call."

Despite the serious tone of FFAA's lyrics, their message goes beyond just singing about violence or corruption for the sake of fitting into metal tropes. "If I'm going to be onstage and my singer is going to be screaming about something and we're going to be putting out these records, I have to be educated about it. There's nothing worse than being a fucking faker," Sheridan proclaimed about the sometimes transparent nature of other performers.

"Look at music, you hear this band and you hear them play and they sound like this mean, angry, group of people and you go see them and it is this little tiny group of dudes on stage screaming about raping and killing a girl in the woods. These are the things that the metal world has turned into and it's a real thing. There's a lot of that music and it's crazy. We don't fucking like that shit. It's just not what we want to sing about onstage. We don't want to sing about horror movies, we don't want to sing about murder, we don't want to sing about the devil and dragons. It's not that I don't like that music. It's not that I don't support those bands, it's just not what I want for me. I don't think that singing about advocating rape and murder is what this world should be about. It's bad, it's awful. Yeah I get the shock value of it, but what's more shocking than the truth?"

Sheridan shared some astute observations about the effect of FFAA and their music, showing that he is far from naive about the nature of society. But, despite the music's importance, the only thing that may be more precious than FFAA's music is their fans. "I hope people feel included in the music, the scene, and included in the shows. They're not just there watching us, I hope they feel like they're a part of what we do. We want to educate people about the things that we believe in," said Sheridan, inviting metal heads to engage with FFAA. "Come up and talk to us, ask us questions, we're approachable people. I don't care if my band is playing in front of 50,000 people or playing to five people, I'm always going to be willing and wanting to talk to people because the only education I have ever gotten in my life is through application."

Sheridan is not just setting himself up as the next metal president, shaking hands and kissing babies. He is a really congenial and accommodating guy who is sincere about connecting with his fans, which is apparent both onstage and off. When FFAA took the stage about 9:00 p.m. at The Agora they acted like they had just walked into a room with all of their best friends. Band members were high-fiving crowd members and there was never a moment when someone from the stage wasn't engaging with someone from the floor. There was a vibe from the band that they were just happy to play, and even happier that people were there to enjoy the show with them.

Of course, FFAA put on a killer show, delivering new and old songs including "The Wolf", and "The Jackel" from The Process of Human Extermination and "Dead In the Dirt" from Hellbound. The band's musical skill is undeniable, and there ability to whip the crowd into a fervent wave is even more interesting. Even though FFAA normally play an earlier slot on their main tour, the fans were thrilled to see the band for the first time. "They're super high energy, especially for a show that was scheduled on such short notice," said Justin, 21, who had never heard of FFAA before the June 10th show. "This is my first time seeing them (FFAA)" said Kyle, 19, "They definitely have a great vocalist. I was really excited, I saw this show the day they posted it"

FFAA's performance was electric, and showcased Wilburn's new vocals flawlessly. He put a new spin on some old favorites and made it an entirely different feeling for the crowd. The whole wall of sound that FFAA produces is a force to be reckoned with, a cannonball aimed straight for the hearts of metal heads in the pit or in their homes. Even though FFAA has amazing drawing power, Sheridan stays humble and thankful to the people who enjoy their music "I don't like to say we have fans. I just like to say we have friends who like to see us play."