posted on 4/2005 By:
Wow. WOW. WOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.
Sorry, I just needed a moment to wipe the drool off my keyboard. Anybody who knows me knows that Slough Feg (formerly known as The Lord Weird Slough Feg) get me hot and bothered in a way that no other band, save for perhaps Sabbat, can. As perhaps the most consistently brilliant, most defiantly creative and unapologetically METAL band of the ‘90s, Slough Feg have, over the course of five flawless records, crafted a fiercely individual sound that seamlessly forges doom, heavy metal from the old NWOSHM, American and NWOBHM traditions, folk, AOR, blues rock, thrash and throbbing Germanic speed metal into one expertly cohered whole. Each album they have issued has won album of the year accolades from me, and in a world where few things are certain, where musical standards continue to decline to satiate an increasingly complacent public, Slough Feg are a true marvel. I sincerely apologize if, at this point, I have absolutely forsaken my journalistic integrity and ventured into exaggerated, opinionated hyperbole, but I urge you to bear with me as I attempt to illuminate the world of Slough Feg for the uninitiated.
What is most immediately apparent as the Artillery-esque rifforama instrumental “Robustus” opens the record, is the fact that this is perhaps the most aggressive record to bear the Slough Feg name to date. The guitar sound is fierce and bold, the rhythms more insistent than ever, galloping at a frenzied tempo for the bulk of the record, the bass is hefty and punishing. Where previous forays explored more grandiose, epic territory with little regard for subtlety, Atavism is very much the most accessible and streamlined Slough Feg to date, capturing the band at the very apex of their compositional and creative powers, as they reconcile their disparate influences, harnessing them more succinctly than ever before.
I am NOT exaggerating when I say each and every track is an absolute gem- “I Will Kill You/ You Will Die” fuses the martial, breakneck charge of vintage Running Wild with the melodic bravado of Helstar, “Hiberno-Latin Invasion” boasts a glowing Celtic lead line that would make any Cruachan/Skyclad/Airghed L’amh fan teary-eyed, “Eumaeus The Swinherd” is an impeccably executed nugget of epic, anthemic metal that effortlessly manages to toe the line that separates genius and schlock, echoing a singalong quality on par with the very finest Viking Bathory and Gotham City, while "Starport Blues" is a gloriously bluesy romp through the halls of Mountain, Budgie and Thin Lizzy. It is also rather clear that Slough Feg have returned to the folkier, Celtic tendencies of their demos and first two records, reviving a previous sonic incarnation that was pronouncedly subdued on their futuristically themed Traveller.
It does, of course, help that Slough Feg feature in their hallowed ranks some of the most unjustly talented musicians in metal today, their performances captured FLAWLESSLY by a pristine production job that manages to sound warm and vibrant, crisp and absolutely BURSTING with character. The musicianship on offer here is absolutely of the highest possible caliber, the band trading chops and shifting through countless demanding time changes with effortless aplomb. While rather far removed from what is popularly termed as ‘’progressive metal’’’, Slough Feg compositions often exhibit an intricacy and meticulousness accorded to progressively-minded outfits, nodding constantly towards mystical, complex entities like Omen, Warlord and Brocas Helm without the gratuitous epic lengths of any of those bands. It really is quite remarkable that Slough Feg can convey a weightlessly majestic, epic feel without writing 10 minute long songs bookended by marked peaks and valleys. Instead, the band manages to toss enough time/riff changes, stirring, singalong choruses, dynamics and textures into 4 minute long songs to create a genuine sense of grandeur.
And those vocals…what about those vocals? Oozing with personality and teeming with emotion, Mike Scalzi’s vocals manage to alternate between harsh snarls, resigned croons and soaring dramatics with astounding ease, delivering some of his catchiest vocal lines to date. While far from the most technically accomplished singers in the business, Scalzi’s vocals exude a raw, naked sincerity that doesn’t require the ornamentation of effects or studio wizardry, delivering each scintillating note with startling conviction. Often, Scalzi layers his vocals to provide a brilliant complement to the tightly-wound twin leads, adding greater depth to the abundance of memorable vocal melodies and hooks on offer. The basslines provided by Adrian Maestas are supple, soulful and given great separation from the rest of the mix, the prominence of the bass allowing it to impart an individual dimension to the proceedings and recalling a golden age when a bassist provided greater functionality than merely adding heft to the root note of the guitarist’s chords. A few lines must also be spared to Greg Haa’s breathtaking performance on percussion, infusing each trampling, headbanging beat with swing and soul, his style exhibiting a true school sensitivity for striking that balance between flash and restraint, for breathing feeling and thought into each stroke.
The most laudable feature of this record? Notice, if you will, how each and every song weaves into the next one with no awkward pauses. Slough Feg have clearly put considerable thought into the track sequencing, as opposed to haphazardly arranging songs with no sense of continuity in between. Apart from “Starport Blues”, the songs no longer operate as individual entities so much- there are no bagpipe solos, no unnecessarily long epics, the instruments on this go-around are brief, thrashy numbers that hint at impending developments, each song is placed so as to seamlessly link to the next. In many senses, Atavism is one lengthy song segmented into 14 parts, each of which certainly emanates an individual charm, but works far better when digested with the whole. Scalzi reinforces this with a hook that refrains several times throughout the record, one which speaks of the atavistic urge for freedom and the invariability of death, two constants that remain concrete regardless of the strides that man has made in the modern world.
Album of the year? If the past tells me anything, this will almost certainly top my list this year, and the fact that Slough Feg have managed, in 38 odd minutes (incidentally the SHORTEST record of their career), to produce perhaps the finest work of their career, speaks volumes. While some nitpicky diehards may claim that the impact of Atavism is too immediate, that the genius of the previous records was that they revealed themselves to you with successive listens, that this one lacks the weirdness of their earlier output, I would vehemently disagree. Thirty repeated listens to this record in two days testify to this. I CANNOT STOP PLAYING THIS DISC!
If you consider yourself a fan of metal or creative music in any shape or form, you are doing yourself an extreme disservice by ignoring this band. Slough Feg, like Primordial and Airghed L’amh among others, are a prime example that ‘’advancement’’ in metal doesn’t necessarily have to equate to triggered production, industrial beats, effects-laden vocals, jazzy syncopated time signatures and fusion bass solos. Instead, they draw upon metal’s rich heritage, drawing from the legacy of their predecessors to hone something intoxicatingly original and undeniably progressive.
Register to post comments.
Made In Poland
12/20/2011 Slough Feg
The Animal Spirits
10/26/2010 Slough Feg
6/2/2009 Slough Feg