Released: 2014, Housecore Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
It would be easy to call their first album in 14 years “the triumphant return of Eyehategod.” But a lot of tragedy, tumult and despair – hurricanes, drug busts/withdrawal and jail stints, bad business deals, poverty, prolonged periods of inactivity, etc. – contributed to the long break since 2000’s Confederacy of Ruined Lives, and a lot of those same experiences went into the album itself. And just when things were looking up for the New Orleans-based quintet, drummer Joey LaCaze died of respiratory failure late last year as the album was being completed. So “triumphant” may be a bit of a stretch.
Not that Eyehategod ever really had much room for joy, hope or victory in their soupy Southern swamp/doom metal anyway. Misery was much more of a constant companion. The title of their 1992 debut, In The Name of Suffering, pretty much set the tone for the band from the outset and has served as their unofficial mantra since.
The new self-titled fifth album is not quite as sludgy and soul crushing as some of their earlier work – indeed there are some fits of hardcore feistiness and violence on “Agitation! Propaganda!” and “Framed To The Wall.” But it is still a “weighty tome” by most standards and should be all you need to cure a good mood.
Frontman Mike IX Williams’ ranting diatribe amid a wail of feedback on “Flags and Cities Bound,” set against some truly mammoth, Sabbath-style riffs, is downright Charlie Manson-esque and his delivery throughout is laced with a venomous blend of woe, scorn and rage. “Parish Motel Sickness,” “Worthless Rescue,” “Robitussin and Rejection” and “Medicine Noose” all paint equally bleak pictures and the agitation in Williams’ voice never seems anything less than genuine, which makes it all the more jarring.
Eyehategod is arguably the biggest sounding, most bombastic release yet for the band. Stephen Berrigan and Housecore chief Phil Anselmo took what Eyehategod had started with veteran producer Billy Anderson, but were unable to complete, and turn it into a shuddering, cathartic behemoth. Brian Patton and Jimmy Bower’s riffs come from deep down and pound away like Rocky Balboa on a side of beef over LaCaze’s quaking beats. Few drummers hit ‘em as hard as LaCaze and it’s fortunate that his sessions – recorded by Anderson – were completed before his sudden passing and are preserved and displayed here.
The album stands as much as a proud testament to his work as it does to the band’s undying will and perseverance. Eyehategood are more potent, abrasive and combustible than ever here, and offer up some of their best work ever despite more than a decade away from the studio. With many of their former difficulties seemingly behind then – and with new drummer Aaron Hill in the fold, and already a number of gigs under his belt – let’s hope this signals a brighter future for Eyehategod. If anyone deserve it, it’s them.