For one Saturday in February each year, the All Underground Rock All Day (AURA) Festival brings some of the most down-tuned, hardcore metal to Savannah for the city’s heaviest musical day.
Designed originally to feature mostly local and regional metal bands, the festival has grown to include a mixture of sounds and styles, mostly celebrating the intersection of metal and hardcore punk. This year, legendary metalcore outfit ZAO and hardcore punks Evergreen Terrace return to co-headline with deathcore giants Fit For An Autopsy.
The single-day festival takeover of Ships of the Sea Museum on Feb. 16 will also feature Old Wounds, Limbs, Great American Ghost, The Funeral Portrait, Holy+Gold, Awake at Last, Depressor, Fault Lines and Young Ghosts. There will be food trucks on site, along with a number of vendors, creating the full festival atmosphere.
Fit For An Autopsy returns to Savannah three years after playing a one-off show at The Dollhouse Studio, which was booked by AURA Fest founder Tim Walls. They are currently between tours, on the verge of a massive spring tour opening for Hatebreed with Cro-Mags, Obituary and Terror also on the bill, celebrating the headliners 25th anniversary.
“The idea that Fit For An Autopsy is being included in a tour with so many important historic and overall amazing bands with crazy longevity and the fact that we’re being consider to tour with bands that at that level of historic importance within their own themes is very humbling and flattering,” guitarist and founder Patrick Sheridan said. “We are going to do our best to crush every single night on that tour.”
Sheridan formed the band with principal songwriter, and legendary metalcore producer Will Putney in 2007. Putney’s producing credits include Thy Art Is Murder, Pig Destroyer, Ever Time I Die, Upon a Burning Body, The Acacia Strain, and Wolves at the Gate among many more.
Over the years, Putney and Sheridan, along with Josean Orta (drums), Tim Howley (guitars), Joe Badolato (vocals) and Peter Spinazola (bass), have struck up a rather unusual dynamic that works well for the band. Putney does not like touring. Sheridan loves to tour. Putney likes to write and record. Sheridan and the rest of the company live for the live show.
“Will is still at the wheel when it comes to a lot of writing,” Sheridan explained. “Don’t get it wrong, we all have opinions. We all say, we like this, we don’t like that, let’s do this, let’s do that. At the end of the day, Will is the creative machine in this band. For me, I love that. Will is my best friend, we’ve been in bands for years together. I can honestly say that there is no weirdness in the band because of the way things work. It’s perfect.
“Everyone will come and say, a guy who doesn’t tour with that band writes the music. I am like, well, I see a lot of bands out there paying dudes to write their music. I see a lot of dudes out there going into the studio and having a producer write half the riffs. It’s like, Will is in this band, he’s just as important as everyone else. He has this creative fuel, but doesn’t want to tour. This project is mine and his as far as being our baby. What’s the difference between him touring and not? It’s too good of a dynamic to pass up on.
“His career is different than mine. I want to be a guitarist in a touring band. He wants to create in the background. He understands what Fit For An Autopsy sounds like.”
Last year, they signed with Nuclear Blast Records (Opeth, Slayer, Ministry, Helloween, Danzig) for their fifth studio effort, which is in the process of being finished. In recent years, Fit For An Autopsy has been on tour with bigger metal acts and seeing those live sets has reshaped their approach on the new album. The new material is designed with the live performance in mind.
“We did festivals in Europe and tried to pay attention to that and try and streamline what we’ve been doing and make it sound bigger and make it go over bigger live,” Sheridan explains. “Cutting a lot of the unnecessary things we were doing out that — it’s a little element that sounds cool in the background, but in a live setting, you don’t even know it’s there.
“We’re trying to write the music now with the idea of writing for bigger audiences and bigger venues. It’s interesting to see it that way because we went from playing small venues to these huge venues. Sometimes you go see a band play and you watch them play and you’re like man that sounds great on record, but live it doesn’t translate at a festival or doesn’t translate in a small room.
“We’re trying to concentrate on writing what we write and honing in on what we do, but also writing bigger, more live friendly music and still keeping that chaos that we do. It is not easy! We don’t want to change everything, the whole format. We’re always willing to grow. Touring with these bigger bands and realizing what they do, we got our asses kicked.”
Fit For An Autopsy’s last record, 2017’s ‘The Great Collapse,” garnered national attention and a No. 2 spot on the U.S. Heatseekers Billboard Chart, as well as a No. 13 slot on the U.S. Hard Rock Billboard Chart. Metalsucks, perhaps the definitive media voice of the genre, gave it 4.5/5, (their 2015 release “Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell" received a perfect 5/5) and said, “This is an album with a message and a mission and it gets them across through the sheer blunt force of a 40-minute auditory assault…”
For this one-off concert, Fit For An Autopsy will play one new track from the forthcoming album, as well as tunes from the last three albums. The live band has honed in on making every performance better than the last, as Sheridan explains.
“I have a tendency to say things in interviews that piss people off and this is going to be one of those things,” Sheridan opined. “The big problem in the industry right now is that people write these unrealistic songs and they do unrealistic production in the studio and then they can’t perform it live. It’s not that they can’t play parts of it, it’s just not possible for you to deliver the entire package in a live setting. Then what they do is a backing-track all of this ..., so they have a full back-track playing and then their playing over a backing-track. It’s like going to see a rapper that raps over songs with lyrics in them. I would rather play (great) every night and sound mediocre than have someone play it for me.”