Monday, 31 January 2011
[ALBUM REVIEW] Slough Feg - The Animal Spirits
1. Trick the Vicar
2. The 95 Thesis
3. Materia Prima
4. Free Market Barbarian
5. Lycanthropic Fantasies
6. Ask the Casket
8. The Tell-Tale Heart (Alan Parsons Project cover)
10. Second Coming
11. Tactical Air War
Slough Feg are one of those bands who deserve a lot more recognition that they have, eight full lengths of immaculate, classic heavy metal with a quirky manner and saturated with energy, there's really nothing to dislike about them. Toiling away in heavy metal's semi-underground ranks for the past twenty years now, Mike Scalzi has been around a bit, although you wouldn't think it as they sound just as fresh now as they did with the self titled fourteen years ago.
With The Animal Spirits now their eighth full length release and third in four years, they appear to be drawing from a freshly discovered pool of inspiration. I will admit I was slightly apprehensive as to the quality of material on this, as Hardworlder had a noticeable dip in quality to the previous material, and Ape Uprising wasn't a heap better, bar one or two outstanding tracks peppered here and there. Ever since they cut “The Lord Weird” from their name I felt there was slight decline in their music. As soon as the album had finished playing though, I felt the need to hit the repeat button straight away. This was the true Slough Feg I used to know.
It's not quite as immediate as their golden works, none of the songs jump right out and shout 'classic' like “Vargr Moon” or “Sky Chariots”, The Animal Spirits is a lot more subtle in it's execution with the grainy almost warm riffing taking time to pierce you with their doom tinted talons. Scalzi's vocals are as you'd expect them if you've heard Slough Feg before, his signature drawl with a slight nod to cult U.S. Metal hero Mark Shelton. It's primarily his unique vocals that set Slough Feg aside from everyone else, he's always been in a completely different league than most when it comes to his vocal abilities. Take for example the patterns he utilizes in “Second Coming” or even “Free Market Barbarian” with a chorus as good as such hasn't been heard in a while from these guys. But let's not just heap all the accolades and acclaim on their iconic frontman, Harry Cantwell's drumming is intricate yet not overpowering and complementing that 70's hard rocking groove created by Adrain Maestas' crude throbbing basslines and the guitarists Thin Lizzy-esque riffing. Song's such as “The 95 Thesis” and “Heavyworlder” both hark back to the days of Traveller yet at the same time have a unassailable uniqueness to them, an almost primal feel which is present throughout the whole album. Plus “Tactical Air War” has Bob Wright from Brocas Helm on vocals, one of the bands who has played the biggest part in Slough Feg's sound. How can you possibly beat that?
There's one thing you can always count on the 'Feg for, and thats the outlandish and ridiculous lyrical themes, here we have song's about vampire love, shameless puns on religion and Mike even has time for a brief spot of reminiscence in “Second Coming”. Unfortunately there isn't anything about canine space ship pilots. Maybe next time eh? The Celtic influence is even greater this time round and a major factor in the improvement in the quality of the material on this release, this is their 'softest' release yet, for want of a better word and has more in common with the celtic icons Thin Lizzy than anyone else really. At times it remains refined yet bewitching, and others saunters on in a hazy drunken swagger. This is right up there with Down Among the Deadmen and Traveller, and if you thought the previous two were a bit drab, sweep them under the carpet and buy this!
Originally written for Archaic Magazine