Slough Feg // The Animal Spirits
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —Unsung, unappreciated, unaware
Label: [US] Profound Lore Records | [EU] Cruz del Sur Music
Websites: sloughfeg.com | myspace.com/sloughfeg
Release Dates: Out now worldwide!
Slough Feg (formerly The Lord Weird Slough Feg) have always existed in their own little musical bubble (technically called a “sloubble”). Inside their little sloubble, they remain happily oblivious to musical styles, trends and changing tastes in metal. To them it’s always sometime between 1978 and 1983, where their odd amalgam of NWOBHM, Thin Lizzy and Celtic folk/pub rock would seem timely and current. Here on album eight The Animal Spirits, the sloubble remains intact as Slough Feg churns out more of their unique, oddball proto-metal for a small but loyal cult following. If you’ve followed this San Francisco based unit, you know what to expect. If not, well, it’s strange but fun and truly a love or hate type proposition.
Sounding like a DJ’s mash-up of early Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy and Irish folk music, Slough Feg have always been a guitar oriented group and any Slough album is going to be a riff and solo heavy affair. The Animal Spirits is no exception and lead off “Trick the Vicar” hits hard with a near-thrash riff to get the Gaelic blood all a pumping. From there we get a lot of very rocking, guitar driven songs, several with long and winding guitar jams and extended guitar duels (“Materia Prima,” “Lyncathropic Fantasies”). In every track there are cool little guitar nuances, flourishes and details to discover. There’s also a plethora of quality dual guitar harmonies and the whole album is genuinely fun to experience. There isn’t any other band doing what Slough Feg is doing musically and even a casual listen will awaken an insidious urge for epic air guitar abuse. All this exceptional guitar noodling and wankery is accompanied by the VERY unique vocals of Mike Scalzi. For some, Scalzi is a major turn off and keeps them from appreciating what Slough Feg is doing and admittedly, it took me some time to warm up to his style. However, he does grow on you if given a chance and his voice and delivery (at times reminding of a young Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull) are a big part of what makes these guys so special. Check out his vocals on “Ask the Casket” with it’s brooding Irish folk atmosphere and his morose but heartfelt work on “Second Coming.”
There are no surprises here and The Animal Spirit is very similar stylistically to 2009’s Ape Uprising and 2007’s Hardworlder. Quality-wise, I would say it’s on par withÂ both and a very consistent, cohesive Slough platter. Several tracks are instant Slough classics like “Free Market Barbarian,” “Heavyworlder” and “The Tell Tale Heart.” Only “Kon-Tiki” and “Tactical Air War” seem to misfire and fall flat. As usual with these guys, their production is a bit off and has a weird, tinny and murky quality that makes the whole thing sound a bit jangly and jarring at times. These are minor complaints though. Basically, if you get what they are doing and appreciate it, you won’t care.
If there was ever a band determined to do their own thing regardless of whether anyone “gets it” or not, Slough Feg is it. They don’t seem to care one way or the other what is popular and they stick tenaciously to their strange throwback (but not really retro) style and embrace their limited appeal. Love ’em or hate ’em they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon and for that we should all be grateful. This is fun and original stuff and definitely a diamond in the rough in today’s metal scene. Give them a listen but always respect the sloubble!