It’s been nearly four years since Slough Feg’s last release, Animal Spirits (2010, Profound Lore), but the band’s status has continued to grow, thanks to their reputation as incredible live performers, and a back catalog of eight albums that’s the cream of the crop of traditional metal from the past 15 years. Early last year they signed to Metal Blade, joining the likes of In Solitude and his old band Hammers Of Misfortune, and re-releasing their classic 2nd-4th albums. While leader Mike Scalzi can come off as a curmudgeon in interviews and his blog pieces, trash-talking the current metal scene and even old heroes Iron Maiden, it’s what one should expect when you poke the bear and interrupt his listening session with old Yes and Pretty Things albums.
In a 2012 interview, Scalzi predicted that Slough Feg’s sound would become more psychedelic, due to his rediscovery of some old underground psych. His passion shines through in words and his music, and he’s not alone in this obsession, as Lee Dorrian and bands on his Rise Above roster like Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Blood Ceremony, Purson, Admiral Sir Cloudesly Shovell, Hidden Masters, Ghost, and also Wolf People and Motorpsycho have all been finding spaces in between 60s psych, 70s prog, proto-metal and NWOBHM where there is room for some genuinely fresh creativity.
Slough Feg have too much history and self belief to make a 180 and sound like a different band on Digital Resistance. They are still sound like Slough Feg, though the psych prog influences are definitely on display in opener “Analogue Avengers/Bertrand Russell’s Sex Den” that even features keyboards. Noir murder thriller “Habeus Corpsus” is also set at a mid-tempo slowburn, which is surprising given Scalzi’s previous self-criticism that Animal Spirits lacked energy. However, the song works, and it gives the album’s harder rockers more impact when they aren’t at full Maiden gallop the entire time. The title track (including a Voivod reference in “The season is ripe and free for killing technology”), “Magic Hooligan” and “Laser Enforcer,” all chock full of energetic riffery, great hooks and Scalzi’s typically eccentric, clever lyrics. It’s far from the first time that they invoke Thin Lizzy style Celtic folk and twin-lead harmonics on “Magic Hooligan,” but damn if doesn’t sound new and exciting all over again.
“Ghastly Appendage” may seem like a minor track at first, but it’s spooky, psychedelic vibe has staying power and serves a great bridge to the second half, reminding us of the “Lord Weird” portion of the band’s history. After another quality mid-tempo chugger, “The Price Is Nice,” the most powerful moment arrives with the majestic, proggy “Curriculum Vitae,” with ambitiously arranged cascading guitar runs and a swelling groove that Mastodon would envy. For me this seals the deal as Slough Feg’s most satisfying album since Traveller (2003). After that clear peak, “The Luddite,” with Bonham-influenced stop-start rhythms and “Warriors Dusk” seem to go quickly as afterthoughts, but are better appreciated on repeated listens. Because after being transported to strange worlds in “Curriculum Vitae,” we don’t want the ride to end too abruptly. They also serve to loosely wrap up the theme, which Scalzi admits is no more coherent as a concept than Sgt. Pepper’s. Basically that technology and social media is making us stupid and soulless. Fair enough, though it’s not a new sentiment. 1974-77 me and my bud Danny would be hectored by his mom to get out of the basement, go outside and play. So follow Uncle Mike’s advice, take a break from yr FB and Twitter and go play, and see Slough Feg live. | Buy | iTunes | Stream