Led by frontman Mike Scalzi, Slough Feg have been delivering Celtic-tinged, surprisingly academic trad metal for longer than most of you have been alive. New Organon is the band’s first release since 2014’s Digital Resistance, and perhaps more significantly, marks the return of the Lord Weird prefix to their name after a 15-year absence. This strongly hints at (and the band’s bio confirms) a return to the style of the band’s Twilight of the Idols/Down Among the Deadmen era of the early ’00s—a bold claim, considering both the passage of time and the changes to their lineup since then.
Right off the bat, “Headhunter” exemplifies the pounding, tribal approach that has always been the Feg‘s calling card, and gets extra points for borrowing a riff from Fiddler on the Roof. “Discourse on Equality” slows the pace somewhat, but makes up for it with an intriguing harmonized riff and some scholarly lyrics. It should surprise no one that Scalzi is a philosophy professor by day, and a lot of New Organon‘s lyrics are taken directly from his classroom lectures. The chorus on the galloping title track is a dead giveaway:
“For the sum of my knowledge will conquer the earth
And the sons of my college will rise and give birth”
Things kick up a few notches with “Being and Nothingness,” a blistering rocker not dissimilar to past Slough Feg ragers (“Tiger! Tiger!” comes to mind). “Uncanny” sees Scalzi ceding the mic to bassist Adrian Maestas, and features some surprisingly rapid kick drum action as well. Meanwhile, the band indulges their 1950s rock fetish towards the end of the record on “Coming of Age in the Milky Way” and “The Cynic.” While none of this particularly recalls the Feg of yesteryear, it does sound remarkably like Digital Resistance and the album that directly preceded it, The Animal Spirits.
I voiced some concerns with the production values on Digital Resistance, but New Organon finds the band inching even closer to being unlistenable. The album utilizes two drummers (depending on the track), and was clearly recorded during two vastly different-sounding sessions. Most of the record sounds tolerable but oddly muffled, like the Thin Lizzy studio albums that no one listens to because Live and Dangerous sounds better. “Sword of Machiavelli” and “The Cynic,” however, sound suspiciously like they were recorded at band practice, in a basement/garage type scenario. Sloppy performances and out-of-tune guitars are in abundance throughout the entire record.
While comparisons to Twilight or Deadmen would be a stretch, New Organon is at least compositionally a solid batch of material. The band’s current approach to mixing and production is unfortunate, however, and makes for a pretty crappy listening experience. I suspect that I won’t return to this album often, especially considering the band’s earlier albums still exist. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to speak ill of The Lord Weird Slough Feg, but New Organon feels more like a demo or outtakes reel than a triumphant comeback.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur Records
Websites: thelordweirdsloughfeg.bandcamp.com | sloughfeg.com | facebook.com/sloughfegofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2019.14.06 | NA: 06.21.2019