Friday, August 27, 2010

The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Down Among the Deadmen

Astounding on all levels

The Lord Weird Slough Feg seems to have gotten a good amount of internet buzz as of recently... or at least in the sections of the internet that I frequent. But I say proudly, if it weren't for all of this hype, I would've never been exposed to this metal masterpiece. Slough Feg is one of the few bands on earth that deserves every good thing that ever gets said about them.

The year 2000 was overall a dreary year for metal on the surface. The nu metal scourge was garnering all of the media attention and giving metal a bad name to the outsider. I quick glance through my iTunes shows the only good metal releases for the year being Nile's Black Seeds of Vengeance, Vader's Litany, Persuader's The Hunter, and this. So I can only imagine the impact this would've had on me if my nine/ten year old ears had heard Warrior's Dawn back then as opposed to the Limp Bizkit and Korn dreck I liked (I'll admit, I was a nu metal fan, but keep in mind my age... I was still young). I guess what I'm trying to say is that history is on Down Among the Deadmen's side. It was a shining example of what heavy metal was, it embodied metal's ideals and objectives during one of the darkest years since 1993. During a time when metal was viewed as a bunch of angsty dolts in clown makeup, one album stood above the rest as what metal is, should be, and always will be.

Almost nothing is wrong with this record, and it falls just a hair short of a perfect score for me. Cauldron of Blood is overlong and a tad bit droning, as is the middle section of High Season, but otherwise this is a flawless album that should be mandatory listening in schools across the world. Since there is a better chance of me shitting out a pineapple than any kids ever discovering this gem on their own, I'll just recommend this to all metalheads who read this review or have even a passing interest in music that falls on the heavy side of the spectrum. Hell, even you light rock/pop wussburgers should listen to this.

The album is produced wonderfully, the guitar tone is pleasantly chunky to complement the balls out metal of the songs, the drums sound excellent and real (they would fail at this part on the follow up to this album, Traveller), and Mike Scalzi is one of the most perfect tenor voices metal has ever heard. He adds a raspy edge to his tales of Celtic myths and, as seen in Warrior's Dawn, even some American history.

Slough Feg is one of those few acts that possess that wonderful Running Wild quality I mention all the time.... the charm, charisma, and aura that makes every song an enjoyable ride that you want to hear over and over again, no matter how simplistic and immature the song may be. The kicker here is that no songs are juvenile or immature, most are semi-complex metal anthems that are not only catchy, but sophisticated at the same time. Traders and Gunboats, one of the best tracks on the album, even has this goofy spoken part about what I can assume to be the role playing game Traveller, a game that the next album would actually be based on. Even with the nerdy monologue in the middle of the galloping riff titan, I can't help but feel that it does not disrupt any flow and I actually find myself excitedly following along with the spiel, enthusiastically shouting about the Daylight Consulate and Sword-Worlds. Not many bands can do that, but Slough Feg can. Even the insidiously catchy Heavy Metal Monk, complete with what is simultaneously the goofiest and best lyrics metal has ever seen, just commands the respect and attention of everybody in earshot.

The slower, almost doomyish Psionic Illuminations is catchy beyond belief, as is the much lauded Walls of Shame (I find it to be a tad overrated, but that doesn't stop it from being perfect (if that makes any sense)). Songs like High Season, Warrior's Dawn, and Marauder have some of the most compelling intros I've ever heard. To me, an intro is supposed to either grab your attention and make you yearn to hear what follows, build anticipation, or mushroom stamp you with a diamond dick. Slough Feg manages to accomplish every task I feel an intro should accomplish. Warrior's Dawn (which in case you can't tell, is my favorite song) starts with the excellent war drum beat and the guitar's rallying gallop. It's odd, but Slough Feg is one of the very few bands where I find myself complementing the intros.... whatever they do, they do it very fucking right.

I fear that this is turning into fanboy raving, so I'll stop here. The riffs are almost all deliciously old school galloping exercises, the drums are actually compelling, the bass is audible, the lyrics are excellent and usually fantasy based, and Scalzi has one of the better voices in metal. Unfortunately the band would never reach these heights again, but they have never and will never flat out suck, so do everything in your power to get your hands on any album bearing their name. Hardworlder is more rockish than metal, Atavism is shorter and faster, the self titled is a rough and raw blueprint of their trademark style, and Twilight of the Idols is where they established it. Down Among the Deadmen, above all else, is where they perfected their melodic, folkish style of classic traditional heavy metal. Mandatory listening, one of the best albums of the millennium so far.

RATING - 97%

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