The Lord Weird Slough Feg (currently going by the shortened, Slough Feg) have wallowed in obscurity for quite some time. The band formed in 1990 and recorded a steady string of demos till finally recording their, rather short, first full-length. From there Slough Feg were able to catch a break and sign with Dragonheart records in Europe, who have a distribution deal with SPV records. One would figure that would have been the end of the band’s obscurity, at least within the metal scene, but it would unfortunately continue when masterpieces like TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS and DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN were recorded and released. Somehow the band’s brand of old school heavy metal with a certain celtic folk quirkiness was being missed by metalheads throughout the world, especially in their home country where, even now, it’s still rather rare to find a Slough Feg fan. TRAVELLER, with its slightly slicker, tighter metal sound brought in some new fans. Not necessarily due to the slight change of style but because the word of mouth among fans had finally become too loud for others to ignore any longer.
Now, two years after TRAVELLER comes the new opus, ATAVISM. ATAVISM sees the band going back a bit in style; not completely ditching the tightly wound, strictly metal sound of TRAVELLER but bringing back a bit of the looser, more diverse sound of prior albums. The production is about the same as TRAVELLER having a nice, clean sound but not overly so; which doesn’t completely wipe away the grit that is very much a part of the Slough Feg sound.
Opening instrumental “Robostus” starts off aggressively with a very thrash metal oriented riff. Not long after, the song segues into “I Will Kill You/You Will Die” which is instantly recognizable as Slough Feg with its folk vocal melody and accompanying riff that follows that melody. Lyrically the song sets the tone for the whole album, speaking about the evolution of mankind and what society has become and not surprisingly, it’s not exactly praising our current situation. The second instrumental “Portcullis” comes right after and happens to be rather jammy, following a single riff through a few short detours before coming back to it each time. I especially like at 0:36 when a second guitar is just used to accent the riff much in the way the drums do later on, with a single bass drum hit. “Hiberno-Latin Invasion” has a main verse and chorus combo that come off exceedingly well. The verse being rather open, with a fair amount of space in-between, Mike Scalzi uses the openings to sing the verse and in-between verses we hear a wonderful folk melody played by dual guitars.
“Atavism” is a soft track with acoustic guitars and Salzi’s voice. On the first few listens this song didn’t grab me at all, it took time for the song to grow and for Scalzi’s characteristic voice to weave itself into my subconscious. By the time “Atavism” ends and “Eumaeus the Swineherd” begins the listener should have realized how well the album flows together as a coherent experience and if you hadn’t, you will as the album progresses. The songs start to get a little shorter and if one isn’t sitting with the lyric sheet or staring at their CD player they’ll begin to feel it’s all one diverse song. This happens to remind me of many moments on DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN where things just flow so well from song to song that you don’t even notice that it’s a different song.
“Agnostic Grunt” seems broken into two different sections. The beginning of the song is rather militaristic with its marching rhythm and liberal use of snare. The second half follows a straight rock beat and traditional metal riff that will get a rise out of most metal fans. “Starport Blues” has a standard rocking blues riff that isn’t too foreign to metal and it sounds extremely familiar, although I’m sure hundreds of bands have utilized riffs that sound exactly like this. The odd thing is that, eventhough it’s such an overdone idea it sounds fresh and revitalized in Slough Feg’s able hands. “Atavism II” ends the album with a bang. The song builds up nicely with vocals, guitar and drums but when the section is just about to explode the band switches to acoustics, an anti-climax on purpose. Eventually this section does explode and moves into the main verse/chorus tandem. The melodies are interesting as they make the end of the album sound like a mighty triumph and yet, there’s a certain sadness, a sense of all efforts being futile. This feeling comes out strongly in the lyrics: “My fate\’s beyond selection/Your flaws beyond correction/Only the weakest will survive”. And so the new Slough Feg release ends…
Slough Feg are gaining popularity with each year and they deserve it. They should be the band leading the way for heavy metal in the mainstream, not bands like Shadows Fall or Iced Earth or countless others. If you’re looking for heavy metal with a sense of self, Slough Feg are your band and ATAVISM is your album.
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