This band, originally from Pennsyvania and now relocated to San Francisco, California, is one of those traditional metal bands from the States that has a wide audience - just not here.
Many old-school metal bands have to go to Europe to find an audience, and often even a label. Powers Court, Holy Mother, Slough Feg - the list is large. More than one band has complained about the behavior of some of these labels towards bands, which is hard to control when the contracts are international.
Remarking bitterly on their website that they are now with "another Italian label!", Slough Feg nonetheless deliver up the goods that obscurist fans of True Heavy Metal like myself have come to expect of them. 'Atavism', their newly-released album on Cruz Del Sur Music ( http://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com ) is a rollicking, lyrically ingenious and aggressive offering true to their roots in old Iron Maiden.
Don't fret - they're not a Maiden 'clone'. The inspiration is clear, but there is no doubt that these boys have a style distinctly their own. That style survives intact from album to album although they do keep getting better. This is their most engaging album yet, and should serve as a fine introduction to this astonishing, if fairly unknown band.
The driving creative force behind The Lord Weird Slough Feg is the eccentric and more than slightly mad Mike Scalzi, the frontman on vocals and guitar. He has a distinctive, gritty yet scholarly-sounding voice, as if he were a Celtic bard delivering some history. In fact, the fourth song on the CD, 'Hiberno-Latin Invasion' is a quick history of the sorrows of Ireland, an issue that saw some treatment in 'The Ulsterman' on 'Twighlight of the Idols'. (Mr. Scalzi is on the same side of the issue as myself: we're Green, anti-Orange.)
The very first song, however, leaves no doubt in the listener that a full-on traditional Metal onslaught is coming: an instrumental intro, 'Robustus', leads us directly into 'I Will Kill You/You Will Die', which is a delightful discussion of evolution and its attendant philosophy (coming out to something resembling 'Life is nasty, brutish and short'). It's already become a personal classic for me. Scalzi's trademark delivery makes it an undeniable anthem, and it demands a tankard of ale to help it down the hatch.
Throughout the album is passionate delivery through all of Slough Feg's modes, including the exquisite acoustic title track, which surprisingly on a metal album is a ballad. 'Agnostic Grunt' is a standout for its rousing riff and NWOBHM guitar riffing.
Scalzi's vision for the album has succeeded in giving us an album that energizes the listener and piques interest in his stories. These are largely of war and struggle, but Scalzi is an historian, after all. The theme is that Humanity is an 'avatism', or as Scalzi explains in the CD booklet, a 'throwback' to its ancestors: constantly fighting, conquering and exploiting.
'Man out of Time' is one of the most charming metal bar-ballads and storytellers I've yet heard, and only Slough Feg can give us one like this.
The album seems like a nonstop-delivery of one long epic. It seems almost like a live experience. Recording it must've been a challenge, but studios can make this less of a task. I wonder what it will be like to see the band take this album out on tour. Will they attempt to perform this thing the way they have on the album?
The ending is an electric continuance of 'Atavism' that immerses us in the rollicking, intensely fast yet epic style of Slough Feg, taking that old Maiden gallop far further into the flavor of sweat, blood and steel than even classics like 'Powerslave' and 'Number of the Beast'. This is what Maiden should be doing now, but apparently have lost the spirit to create.
I hope fervently that Slough Feg, as much as they may suffer through label after label, find a way to keep recording albums and touring: the long waits between albums is worth it, because the creativity is undiminished. These guys are not spring chickens but have retained energy and aggression tapered perfectly with bardic wisdom and flavor unequalled in Metal.
Hail the Lord Weird, Slough FEG!!! (raise your tankards now)