posted on 9/2007 By:
Windows down, hair in the wind, and speeding like a blackened bullet down I-94, we were in the thick of our maiden voyage with Hardworlder. While absorbing the sensory assaults, my fellow highway corsair rustled in the passenger seat, diverting his attention from the road ahead. Quickly, between the conclusion of “Frankfurt-Hann Airport Blues” and the gear-shift of “Galactic Nomad” (as well as the nearly-as-brief window of time between clouds of Parliament smoke) he turned to me and stated, “Dude, if you don’t like Slough Feg, you’re not a man.”
Such a seemingly ludicrous statement should’ve been refuted outright...but I was rendered speechless (and smiling), as a suitable argument had escaped me completely. Should musical taste calibrate one’s manhood in the same manner that the St. Paul traffic was affecting the mighty Necro’s gas mileage? When Slough Feg is concerned, you’re damn right it should.
Ah, Slough Feg. The name itself conjures images of heavy metal monks, interstellar piracy, and soaring metallic heroics…provided you’re privy to the world of the Lords Weird. Despite the infinite doors that have been opened since metal’s global, point-and-click revolution, the fact remains that the world’s greatest bands remain buried under seas of drivel. Finding the gold among the sands still requires the guiding hands of those ‘in the know’; those few who wield the double-edged sword of steel. However, with the profile of Mike Scalzi and Company increasing ever-so-slightly, the secret is out, and the general populace no longer has any excuse. There’s no better time to take the dive than now. Hardworlder, the band’s sixth album, is a sprawling, spacious return to an epic scope; a welcome twist on the atavistically primal nature of their previous outing.
That album was entitled Atavism, after all, and it showcased a stripped-down Feg, distilled to their base elements. It was an admirable and well executed undertaking, but a hell of a disappointment to this reviewer. After the life-changing, galaxy-spanning glory of Traveller, Atavism’s calculated regression was a bit of a curveball (albeit a clever one), as was the pronunciation of their Thin Lizzy-esque classic rock vibes. While Hardworlder doesn’t return to the sneering, upright leather-jacketry of Down Among The Deadmen and Traveller, the folk mysticism that made those albums two of this decade’s greatest has returned with glorious aplomb.
As they’ve grown more world-weary, Slough Feg have slowly phased their sound from a rootsy bitch-slap into something slightly more leisurely and wise…Hardworlder’s compositions cruise with an airy stride. This is not to say that the band isn’t capable of overwhelming the listener with an unrivaled wash of force. Drawing power from many aspects and all decades of our beloved lifestyle while adorned with one of the most unique auras in all of music, this is the epitome of traditional metal. Hardworlder is packed with inventive, intuitive twin guitar interplay, an inherent American folk pulse, and an earthy tone that beams with sincerity and bleeds through its roots. Whether through Scalzi’s majestic lyrical reprisals, or via the triple-threat crotch-punt of “Hardworlder”, “The Spoils”, and “…Blues” (though not nearly as potent as Deadmen’s famous triptych), their signature traits tattoo themselves into the soul with an unmistakable flair.
Though, to be honest, it seems silly to attempt to put a Slough Feg album to words, especially since those ‘in the know’ have been rocking the shit out of this for months. The only question that need be answered is this: Is Hardworlder their finest work? No. This is due, in part, to the aforementioned drift towards classic rock, but mostly because their back catalog is so unfuckwithable. And, when taking the depth of the band’s resonance into account, who can really grasp how this (or any of their records) will be regarded in the years to come? Each of their works can be classified as a grower, testament to the fact that they forge timeless heavy metal. Slough Feg are one of those precious few bands that transcend our nitpicky obsessions with movements and subgenres. Years down the line, this band will be revered, likely with far more zeal than presently conveyed. A choice must be made: Do you tap into an iconic band while they are in their prime, or wait until their career has become something to be reflected upon with empty reminiscence?
Fuck all the adjectives and adverbials, the lame anecdotes and flaming hoops. Quite simply, if you aren’t hip to the Slough Feg vernacular, it’s time to rectify that situation summarily.
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