Slough Feg (The Lord Weird) - Atavism 4/5
2. I will kill you/You will die
4. Hiberno-Latin invasion
5. Climax of a generation
7. Eumaeus the swineherd
8. Curse of Athena
9. Agnostic grunt
10. High season V
11. Starport blues
12. Man out of time
13. Agony slalom
14. Atavism ll
It's hard to find a higher epitome of that word in a band that is also somehow completely within the confines of a genre which is still, without doubt, unabashedly, unreservedly and purely melodic and fantasy oriented heavy metal. With hordes of melodic European metal dealing out death to dragons from brightly clad fantasy warriors in catchy sing-a-longs, it is amazing how this Northern Californian band can somehow be so different yet still so strong. Of course, for the sake of utility, it helps to give listeners some idea what range this band covers if they have never heard them before this, their 5th CD. The closest and easiest comparison is to the mighty Kansas cult warriors of Manilla Road, not that they are in any way directly derivative, but they offer many of the same important elements, in addition to the solidly unique style, including powerful, emotive, and thoroughly recognizable vocals; a dark, brooding tone to the metal music; well written and intriguingly poetic fantasy lyrics; and undeniably catchy, melodic hooks.
Song titles like "Hiberno-Latin invasion", "Eumaeus the swineherd", and "Agony slalom" give you some idea of what you are about to face. The lyrics are the rough hewn imagery of Robert Howard's most savage Pictish warriors, melded with intriguing thoughtfulness, philosophy, and a deft poetic touch and instinct. Guitarist and vocalist Mike Scalzi is the dominant central force with the band, but 2nd guitarist Angelo Tringali on this CD allows the type of devastating interplay that is beloved of fans of truly Maiden styled metal. Greg Haa provides the drums, not overly showy, but well integrated into the feeling of the band, and Adrian Maestas lays down the rumbling, stormy bass.
It should be noted that this CD returns a bit to the more eclectic, free-form original style of 'Twilight of the idols' after a slightly more straightforward, but no less excellent Down Among the Deadmen, and an even more crushing traditional metal sci-fi concept opus in Traveller. Truth be told, for all my gushing, I'm not sure I didn't prefer Traveller, but this can't really disappoint too much. The beginning of the first real song on 'Atavism', "I will kill you/You will die" (a rather ironically direct/over-the-top title for the band) blasts you with the first hooks of infectious melody that impose their imperial will on you, and yet, with that ever so slightly roughened edge that is more of ancient, tattoo clad Briton warrior with rough hewn spear and club than shining high fantasy proto-hero. Contrast this with the title track, an achingly beautiful and powerful acoustic ballad that is devastating in its delicacy. Not sure I understand what appears to be the football metaphor somewhere in that track, but there you go. The CD continues delivering a powerful succession of rousing, purely guitar based metal anthems, intricate musical flights, and emotional and compelling musical sections. The 2nd part of the title track delivers a more epic, diverse piece of metal anthemry that seems to demonstrate all of these factors and elements within a single song.
Overall, the production is really outstanding on this CD, with prominent presentation of the superbly engaging vocals, and the rich, melody laden lead guitar tone is perfect for this band and their unique style. There is quite a bit of Maiden in the guitar leads, in a good way, that represents the band's style. As best I understand it, if the band hasn't now actually officially shortened the name, The Lord Weird Slough Feg is actually the name of the band, but as you can imagine, quite frequently shortened to Slough Feg. (Hmm, I gotta say, from a marketing perspective, giving yourself 3 possible alphabetic entries where your band could be listed may make it harder for people to find you then it should be.)
This 14 track CD features numerous instrumentals, and, I must admit, there are times where the feeling "wanders" a bit for me, just like the end of 'Twilight of the idols', or, for instance, some of the noisier sections of Manilla Road's 'Court of Chaos'. Not all of me is completely and utterly in love with all of the departures from a more traditional style and structure. But nevertheless, the CD offers enough incredible power, melody, metal majesty, and unconventional glory, that if you're not afraid of something that is, within the bonded arena of something metal and melodic, is diametrically opposed to Hammerfall and Stratovarius, while delivering tremendously high quality, this is a recommended listen.
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