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I've been fond of the majority of Slough Feg's releases, in particular Atavism, Traveler and the unforgettable Down Among the Deadmen, but this latest full-length did not sit well with me when it dropped. After a few months I've revisited the album with little success.
All the components of a great Slough Feg album are still present: the bluesy leads, the slight folk follies, the attention to 70s/80s metal detail, and the brusing vocals of Mike Scalzi, but I just didn't care for many of the songs. "The Hunchback of Notre Doom" breaks in the record at a slower, doom pace, but the riffs are typical and boring and it never quite breaks into the melodic charging I eagerly anticipate from this band. Not a bad track, but simply unmemorable. "Overborn" begins as a stoner slugfest, with some nice bluesy wailing and metal gallops, yet it still left no impression. The epic "Ape Uprising" does have some good rhythms, but I wasn't enthralled by the entire 10 minutes. "Simeon Manifesto" was the first track on the album I really enjoyed, and there are a few others near the end of the album, "White Cousin" and "Ape Outro", both short and sweet classic metal songs which sound like Angel Witch jamming with Legend.
The album has a sincere tone to it that creates nostalgia for the roots of heavy metal, much like previous Slough Feg works. The Planet of the Apes series of films provides a good conceptual framework, and some of the lyrics are good. The highlight here is the old school melodies used in both the leads and verses of the songs, and there are a few fist pumping rhythms. All in all, it didn't add up to the quality of previous albums: not bad, but a little disappointing.
Slough Feg by now are basically Mike Scalzi and his rotating door band, never keeping to the same lineup for more than one album or a couple of years. As a result, their sound is quite metamorphic and fluid these days, changing faces with each new release, but still keeping the basic roots of Scalzi's Slough Feg tradition - the Thin Lizzy-esque solos, his own deep, triumphant tenor, and the generally Heavy Metal riff stylings, no matter how much they may differ in the subtleties of it all. This new album is titled Ape Uprising! (you do have to put the exclamation point on there, yes), and it once again shows the band moving forward in their quest to create unique, individualistic music. This is one act that never rests on its laurels, you see.
The sound is a little less elaborate and progressive than the one seen on 2007's Hardworlder, but that doesn't make it any less cool. This is the sloppiest, most atavistic we've seen Scalzi since the band's unruly debut in the mid-90s, to be frank; it's packed to the brim with frantic riffs and squealing, trigger-happy lead work, and just listen to that heavy, retroactive production job. This album might only be thirty-seven minutes long - a crime, in my book! - but then, it's better that this makes you want more as opposed to making you want to turn it off and being too long for its own good.
Through songs like the opening "The Hunchback of Notre Doom," which has perhaps the BEST song title ever made, the riveting "Ape Outro" and the stomping, introspective "Simian Manifesto," we see Slough Feg doing what they do best, providing a carefully executed synthesis of many aspects of their progressing sound over the last ten years wrapped up in a tight ball of flaming enthusiasm. "White Cousin" slightly resembles the great "Baltech's Lament" from Traveller, with its acoustic sections and ringing vocal performance, and it's probably the weakest song, but that isn't saying much, mind you. There are also some oddities here, as in the rockier "Nasty Hero" and "Shakedown at the Six," which are both great songs in their own right, transporting the listener with ease to a drunken, musty tavern where the only law is that of the bottle. The real surprise, however, is the ten minute title track, which morphs from a galloping Iron Maiden-meets-Braveheart folk epic into a 70s-style guitar lead section that lasts for about the last four or five minutes. Oh, Slough Feg, so cheeky - proving me wrong when I had previously said that you weren't very good at long songs!
Another thing I like on here is the thundering bass sound, which is perhaps more prominent here than it has ever been before in a Slough Feg album, giving all of these songs a wild, boisterous air that lends to the feel of being chased through the Congo by ravenous apes. The whole sound is just superbly messy and yet the songwriting remains consistently complex and challenging.
Overall, though, I don't quite think this is Slough Feg's best effort, being a little stunted in places and less developed, but that isn't a huge problem, as this is still about as addictive as crack cocaine. Ape Uprising! is a lot of things, from a retroactive hard rock gem to a progressive metal maelstrom, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys to boot, and if you love Heavy Metal, then you will love this. Highly recommended.
Edited and submitted to www.metalcrypt.com
Slough Feg belongs to a genre of music that I like to refer to as time machine metal. It differs from various retro approaches to either heavy, thrash, or any other style in that it doesn’t merely attempt to sound like it was recorded in an earlier time period, it all out succeeds and fools the ears into commanding the eyes to look at the release date a second time. It is the antidote for the modernist disorder that has left us a large amount of subpar, cookie cutter bands that only live for the next 15 minutes. Yet at the same time, it brings something new to the table that is just as welcome today as it likely would have been in the NWOBHM heyday of 1981.
“Ape Uprising!” is yet another in a continuing series of visitations to the roots of heavy metal music that were first set to earth in the 70s by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush and others, with an equal affinity to where the genre bloomed in the early 80s with a whole new generation of faster and more aggressive maniacs. It falls short of the fury established by thrashing members of the NWOBHM such as Venom and Satan, preferring the more rocking variety of the day. The production practices are a little closer to the drier, overdriven guitar oriented, and smooth flowing feel of the 70s, as opposed to the treble dominated, heavier variety that would come later with the help of Diamond Head.
The band’s traditional metal and Celtic folk music influences have been noted many times, but what is less noted and heavily present on this release is the band’s traditional doom influences. Smatterings of Trouble and Saint Vitus mingle with the upper tempo riffs to create an intricate and very much multifaceted approach to what most view as a style with a very predictable formula. The opening song “The Hunchback Of Notre Doom” basically sticks to this slower and darker variant on older metal, stomping at a punishingly low tempo with a deep droning and bare bones set of riffs all the way through, turning a mere 2 sections of chords into a near 5 minute long classic. Aside from this and the reprise of the main riff of the opening song at the end of “Ape Outro”, the doom element manifests itself more in the dark character of the guitar tone rather than the tempo, but endures throughout the entire listen.
A lot of this album is very much in line with the “Jailbreak” and “Johnny The Fox” era of Thin Lizzy, from the dueling harmony riffs to the up tempo cruising that would have just stayed within the tempo barrier of the 70s. The fast riding double bass rocker “Shakedown At The Six” and the folksy and anthem-like swaying festival “White Cousin” both bring a fair amount of twin guitar majesty to the mix, not to mention an expressive and attitude steeped vocal performance out of Mike Scalzi, whose gravely tenor is somewhat comparable to Mark Shelton, though definitely not as foreboding in character and a little closer to the plainer character of 70s rock music. Likewise, although the general style of the guitar work is in line with late 70s sound the advanced technical nature of the riffs and lead work put it solidly in the realm of forward lookers like Uli Jon Roth and Judas Priest.
Although most of this listens like a technical version of most metal/rock oriented bands, there is a strong sense of progression and adventure that also brings some comparisons to Rush. The magnum opus of the album and title track “Ape Uprising”, which sort of listens like an epic musical homage to “Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes”, is as technically ambitious as 2112, though not quite as long in length and not separated into multiple chapters. The riff style crosses into influences such as Iron Maiden and Running Wild, although maintaining the lower grade of sound common to older analog technology. It ranks as one of the most impressive works this band has ever put together while still keeping a keen eye on maintaining a catchy approach to song construction that can be held onto.
Times may change, but it is unlikely that bands such as Slough Feg ever will, and that is far from a bad thing. There is a strong case to be made that although the NWOBHM was quite an interesting phenomenon and largely consequential in shaping all future styles of metal, it was also too short lived. There are plenty of songs left to be written in this style, and what better time to get these songs than today. If you think that power metal is only about keyboards, neo-classical sweep picking, perpetual speed and high screechy vocals, take a listen to this album and then think again.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on May 2, 2009.
This is the seventh full-length album from Slough Feg, an American band playing heavy metal.
The production on this album isn't as clean as this band's recent albums have been. The drums are nice and crisp, but the vocals have a good bit of distortion on them, as do the 1970s-tone guitars. This is a good fit for the band, as the slightly dirty sound gives Ape Uprising a nice, sharp edge. Overall, this sounds as though it could have been recorded no later than 1980! I'd have liked a little more audible bass, though.
More than anything else, this album reminds me of Traveller meets Down Among the Deadmen -- not only are there lyrical and musical callbacks to both albums, many of the the songs combine the wandering, spacey instrumentals from Traveller with more straightforward hook-based passages a la "Sky Chariots" or "Troll Pack". To my ears, this is a welcome change after Atavism and Hardworlder, which had some songs that dragged a bit. Not so here; the triple-punch of "Ape Uprising/Simian Manifesto/Shakedown at the Six" is the best thing the band has done in a long time, and they follow it with "White Cousin", a triumphant tribute to Beneath the Planet of the Apes. The other songs on Ape Uprising are all keepers, too, from the appropriately-named "Hunchback of Notre Doom" to "Nasty Hero", a rocking closer which recalls early Judas Priest. Every single second on this album is heavy, catchy, and just plain great!
Ape Uprising is a sure contender for my best-of-2009 list, and it's going to be pretty hard to beat. Anyone who lives for classic heavy metal should get this immediately. Highest recommendations.
Standout tracks: "Ape Uprising", "Simian Manifesto", "White Cousin"
Review by vorfeed: http://www.vorfeed.net