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This album is generally regarded as Slough Feg's worst, on the basis that it's only a half hour long with 14 songs, and thus is not the pinnacle of catchiness and memorability. The general consensus seems to be that the songs are rather short and disappointing, and only a few end up sticking out after the album's over, and that's true to an extent, as several songs here are way too short even for a band like Slough Feg, who have always had shorter songs. They end quickly, and thus you're not given much time to digest the intricately woven, tight songwriting that Slough Feg still has here as much as they ever did. This is just a much weirder and more eccentric album than it's predecessors, even though the folky excesses have been toned down rather severely (only in the slower songs do they really show their colors). The band was just experimenting here, progressing their sound forward, and I like that a lot. None of Slough Feg's albums sound the same. Even though Atavism is not their strongest work, they didn't just put out the same album as before, and that's respectable.
The band's sound is largely the same as we last observed from Traveller. Mike Scalzi's deep, slightly nasal tenor is as catchy and powerful as ever, and the guitar team are still cranking out jumpy and exuberant heavy metal riffs that are rather reminiscent of a heavier Iron Maiden, and overall the band sounds tight and fully functional. There are a few moments here that give you the vibe that you've heard that riff before, or that vocal melody, and that's rather disquieting, as Slough Feg are a talented enough band to not need to rip themselves off. Luckily they wouldn't do it again on the follow up to this record.
The songs are, as I mentioned above, rather short and abrupt compared to the longer lengths of the previous few albums. "I Will Kill You/You Will Die" is a fantastic opener, with some fucking killer riffage that really goes for the throat. Easily a classic, as is the following song "Hiberno Latin Invasion", which is actually even better. The lyrics are short and very cool, telling a narrative of the invasion of the Celts by Caesar and Brutus in the times of the Roman Empire, and the bouncy, driving opening riff is one of the most memorable they've ever done. The song progresses into quite a utopia of raw, folky melodies that are not unlike the band's older works, and the song is definitely the best on the CD and a bona fide classic. "Eumaeus the Swineherd" and "Agony Slalom" are also strong, punchy cuts that really deliver, as is the hard-rockish and upbeat "Starport Blues", which is like nothing they've ever done before, and "Man Out of Time" is a cool midpaced/slower cut with some epic, sorrowful vocal lines that drive the song forward. But unfortunately, the rest of the album is not as memorable or hooky, although there are obviously a few cool riffs or chorus lines hidden amongst the shorter track lengths.
Is this album a masterwork? Not exactly, as it is eclipsed by the other albums of this very band. But what it is is a solid, progressive step forward for a band that seems to be able to do anything. This album is a bit half baked, as it is not nearly long enough, and a few of the songs could've been given another minute or so of music and the album would've been much better, easily another 10 points. I suppose we can just chalk all of that up to experimentation and trying new things, though, Slough Feg aren't doing anything wrong here. This album isn't as flawless as Down Among the Deadmen or Traveller, but for a solid exercise in heavy metal virtuosity, turn to nobody else but Slough Feg. Recommended.
With progressive and power metal styles virtually taking over Europe, at this point, the US is starting to warm up to the art form. Slough Feg is marked as yet another candidate for the crown of experimental, thrashing metal. This band possesses an atypical sound that is accentuated by the deep, chock-a-block tone of singer Mike Scalzi’s distinctive voice. The group is instrumentally sound, with each of the players proving to be accomplished musicians.
Overall, much of the record imparts a feeling of Renaissance, with many of the scales utilized by Scalzi (who also plays guitar), axe wizard John Cobbett and bassist Adrian Maestas being rooted in progressions that are quite medieval in nature. The acoustic title track bears a pervasive folk underpinning. The album’s introduction, the forty-two second “Robustus” is speed metal in the vein of Megadeth, leading directly into the power metal thunder of “I Will Kill You/You Will Die”. Slough Feg’s lyrics are rather thoughtful, frequently touching upon historical thematic matter. These words are well written and Scalzi conveys the stories in superior form.
An instrumental piece, “Climax Of A Generation” begins with classically influenced scales that revolve in an ascending and descending pattern which sound like an Iron Maiden riff, but are much more intricate than the average Maiden riff. The group drives through the grand vision of “Curse Of Athena”, alternating amid drumless passages anchored by a strong bass guitar melody, then slamming full force into a full-on battle march.
Slough Feg embraces the power in dynamics throughout this album, taking pains to fashion songs that are quite dramatic, all the while staying firmly rooted in the classic metal sounds that listeners enjoy, while bringing enough variety to remain attention-grabbing at all times. Other highlights on the album include the very bluesy, Sabbath inspired doom of “Starport Blues” and the album’s closer “Atavism II”, which brings progressive elements from the seventies directly into crossbreeding with folk music as well as a substantial, thrashed out power metal chorus.
Fans of progressive, inspiringly creative metal take note, for Slough Feg are undeniably a noteworthy force in this massive metal community.
From "Weapons Of Mass Destruction" by Erin Fox
Atavism seems to me to be Slough Feg's most accessible and also best album up to this point in their hopefully very long-lived careers. The songs are all unmistakably Slough Feg, but they've opted to go a bit further into the classic metal sound, all the while retaining all the bits and nuances that make them, and only them, sound the way they do.
If there were one word that would capture what this album is all about, that word would be "melody". There are great melodies lurking behind every bar on this album, and it just doesn't stop. Often, the insanely catchy melodies are harmonized for the twin guitar attack, but not always in the straight diatonic thirds like Maiden and most every other band that uses harmonized lead guitar passages. They're perfectly done, and not once overdone, which is a very important point to make. What they do on this album all fits together perfectly, like a puzzle. There are no excess or missing pieces here, and that's why I consider this to be the highpoint on Slough Feg's existence.
There are fourteen songs on this album, yet it clocks in at only 38 minutes. How does that happen you may ask? Well, it happens because the songs seem to run for no longer or shorter than they should. The songs end when they end, and that's that. That may be after only a hair over one minute, and it may be well into the 4-minute range. One of those songs, The Hiberno-Latin Invasion is quite possibly the best song The Lord Weird Slough Feg has ever written. If not the best, then easily arguable as the catchiest. The melodies in that song will stick in your head long after the song is over. Another interesting track is Starport Blues. This song strongly shows their early Iron Maiden influence. In fact, it sounds like it could be a B-side to Maiden's s/t album. The intro is, well, a 40 second intro. What more do you want? However, the other thirteen songs are well crafted, original and catchy, in the way that Slough Feg does best.
As I said, the songs easily retain everything that makes Slough Feg unique. Their approach to melody and songwriting is there as certain as ever, but with a slightly more accessible/traditional metal trait that may very well appeal to newcomers a bit more than their other offerings. On top of that, I'm certain that the Slough Feg fans out there will find this album to be a very welcome addition to their already accomplished line of albums.
For the uninitiated, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, or TLWSF, is probably the coolest band you've never heard of. There are general musical influences, but most of what TLWSF puts out is highly creative music that truly represent why heavy metal is the most badass genre of music you can listen to. "Twilight of the Idols" followed mostly mythical themes and fantasy, while the band's previous full-length "Traveller" paid tribute to a science fiction RPG. So where does the band go from here?
The music on Atavism is what one may expect from TLWSF; it is not quite like anything they've released in the past, but has the similar feeling that all fans appreciate. The album kicks of with "Robostus", a short instrumental track that serves the same purpose that "The Spinward Marches" did on the "Traveller" album, and that is to provide an awesome glimpse of what is in store. But that is only part of the Slough Feg experience. Mike Scalzi's vocals provide the perfect, but varied tone for some of the greatest lyrics any metalhead will have the pleasure of hearing. This will become evident for firsttime listeners as the intro track melts into "I Will Kill You/You Will Die", a fun, catchy song that's undoubtedly an album highlight, thanks to Scalzi's vocals and some nice catchy riffwork and great soloing. Other awesome tracks include the upbeat "Hiberno-Latin Invasion", the more acoustic "Atavism" and the closer "Atavism II", which is probably the best song on the album and closes it in perfect fashion; it has a stirring chorus and the guitars get more badass as the song progresses. It's definitely something that makes you want to spin the CD once more, and if you choose to do so, you'll probably enjoy it a lot more. TLWSF is great when you first hear an album, but under repeated listens, not only do they hold up, but they impress further.
So, if you're familiar with the band, you need to get this. I'm torn whether this is their best or if that honor belongs to "Down Among the Deadmen". If you aren't familiar with the band, this is as good place as any to get introduced. But, as you may know, you're likely to encounter troubles getting your hands on this, as well as other Slough Feg albums, because of record label issues. Still, you MUST hear this; I'll leave the method of acquisition up to you, heh.