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"Down Among the Deadmen" is an astounding masterpiece in every regard, a true example of a timeless heavy metal classic. As many have found, Slough Feg's style of heavy metal isn't anything like the bands they take after despite their similarities to many groups like Iron Maiden, Manilla Road, yadda yadda yadda; but some strangely original and bombastic rioting which reeks of a totally comfortable group doing what it wants to do. Most of their albums are at least worth a listen, but "Down Among the Deadmen" is in a galaxy of its own. It is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of Slough Feg's songwriting, artistic ability, and likeability. It is to metal what Breaking Bad is to network television; the one-of-a-kind opus that lures its viewers away from whatever mediocrity they were previously exposed to, consuming them, feeding them, leaving them mesmerized and perplexed, completely chained to its charm.
I guess that means one could call Mike Scalzi the Walter White of Slough Feg, minus the meth peddling and tacky fashion sense. He's the ringleader of the crew, leading the heavy metal monks to victory with a gruff, gritty voice unlike any other. The sort of work Slough Feg churned out on "Twilight of the Idols" is polished and perfected here, leaving the occasional dud song for the vultures. Throughout "Down Among the Deadmen," they kicked up the intensity a bit, dialed back a little on the folk influence (although it’s still very relevant), and pretty much wrote the definite Slough Feg album—everything that Slough Feg should represent or sound like is in prime form here. There are thirteen songs in total, not one of them disposable, weak, overdrawn, useless, boring, or undercooked. No, these thirteen are the real deal.
"Down Among the Deadmen" holds the signs of universal improvement on all fronts of the primordial Slough Feg identity. The production issues—particularly with the weak drum sound—and the band's tendency to get a little out of hand with a variety of issues are simply nonexistent; this is a band that is completely focused and alert, all systems go. The exterior qualities of the record, such as the drum sound and overall mix, couldn't be any better than what they are, with a huge, bulky balance between the crispy guitar tone and the forceful, demanding percussion presence. More important, they sound ALIVE and HUNGRY, working long and hard so heavy metal can rise, rise like a phoenix that'll burn the world, rise like a chariot propelled by the gods of metal themselves!
A little much? That's kind of what Slough Feg is like, the exact definition of a group which produces metal for the love of metal. They are never careless or a charade, however, and although the charm and charisma occasionally drive them astray on other efforts, no such tomfoolery is found on "Down Among the Deadmen." As I said, what they captured here is a fantastic band painting its most creative, climatic pieces. Opener "Sky Chariots" is an awesome feat of intense, catchy riffs and features one of Scalzi's finest lead guitar movements, the perfect igniter for an album based on classic riffs and beefy melodies. "Walls of Shame" is mid-paced and folksy, yet undeniably authorized by Slough Feg, for they have a trademark watermark written all over the album—you can't replicate Slough Feg without Slough Feg being present.
I find shamelessly gloating over an album's specific tunes annoying, but this is an exception, because the record is an exceptional collection of material. "Warriors Dawn" runs through a multitude of gallops and excellent solos, using riffs and sections that carry their own weight, pound for pound. "Traders and Gunboats" blazes like a motorcycle out of the gates of Hell, whereas something like "Psionic Illuminations" is dreamy, ethereal, mysterious, and divine. "Marauder" sounds like an Iron Maiden tune penned in the group's golden days; "Troll Pack" is sinfully fun and sinister; and the burning "Death Machine" is a beating whirlpool of general Slough Feg awesomeness. "Fergus Mac Roich" uses only ninety seconds of time, but its gallops stimulate repetitive neck reflexes like a puppet master pulling strings. Annoyed yet? You should be.
So yeah, call it a gushing review if you will, but I feel "Down Among the Deadmen" deserves the ridiculously excessive fellatio. Among the many travels and tribulations the average metal band must face, Slough Feg has remained true. With "Down Among the Deadmen," few words can label the actual structure of its work yet none can articulate its various plunges into perfection, a magnum opus of heavy metal mastery. Don't believe me? Try it yourself and be amazed. Shame on the world for ignoring not only this masterpiece but the battalion of Slough Feg, too. That issue is another tale for another time, so I'll leave you, valued reader, with a piece of advice: "Down Among the Deadmen" is not meant to be missed, and it will gleam in the shine of the sun of time until the sun of time shines no more.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
I was checking out the ‘Out of Print’ section of a local used CD store, mostly pondering why the hell they would ask for $40 for Manilla Road’s Mystification, and more importantly, if I had $40 to blow on Manilla Road’s Mystification. I was scanning other titles, a few really cool ones, when I saw the name “Lord Weird Slough Feg” and had a minor fucking heart attack. As the black gave way to reality again, sort of fizzling away in a TV static type visual, I grabbed the lone copy of “Down Among The Deadmen” that I had NEVER fucking expected to find on a store shelf. Now, $20 may have seemed a lot for a used album, when it’s available on their site for about $12, but at the moment my sole thought was “HOLY SHIT, I’M TOUCHING DOWN AMONG THE DEADMEN!!”
It was 6 years prior to this when a fried burned me a mix CD containing such other wonderful bands as Ensiferum, Acid Bath, and two Slough Feg songs, Sky Chariots and Traders and Gunboats, which honestly were too Iron Maiden-y for me. I thought, “If I wanted to listen to Iron Maiden, I’ll put on Iron Maiden.” I was young and stupid. Still, the songs grew on me over time, and eventually I was compelled to check out the rest of the album. And was blown. The fuck. Away. Sky Chariots acts as a good intro, and from there the band takes the old school, classic metal sound, and takes it places it’s never been. Even when I say some songs sound Maiden-y or influenced by other bands, they still somehow have a fresh spin on them.
The one thing that this band does do that I’m not always fond of is their short instrumentals, but this album only has one, Beast in the Broch, and I honestly...don’t mind it. That’s the problem. I don’t mind their short instrumentals, but I very rarely love them. Usually I just think, “It’s a good riff, but why not work it into something more fleshed out?”
Still, who am I to question a band who have written an album that contains such brilliance as Warriors Dawn, or wrote the perfect song in only a minute and a half in Fegus Mac Roich. I’d almost agree with Cauldron of Blood being a little overlong, if not for the fact that I love the “Peeling the mask, as we rise and destroy” part so much that I don’t give a shit. I fucking love the phrase “I’m immortal as you are divine,” even if I don’t know exactly what he means by it. Troll Pack is a ton of fun and Psionic Illuminations is goddamn beautiful. Again, even if I don’t exactly know what Mike is talking about. I still like to ponder the lyrics… “Ok, a spiral synapse, well s synapse is where two nerves meet, …well the singularity , that’s the center of a black hole, which could relate back to ‘infinate density don’t mend…’” God, it’s such a cool song. I feel the same way about High Season, but it lost its wonder a little when I read an interview where Mike says it’s about him getting high and passing out or something.
Marauder is a cool faster song, although maybe a weaker part of the album, and Death Machine is decent, but ends the album on a sort of an anticlimactic note. It’s not bad, though I enjoy the middle part more than the beginning and end. I just wish the album ended with something that left more of an impression, like Psionic Illuminations or Cauldron of Blood.
All in all, this album is fucking fantastic, and most of my complaints are nitpicks so that the review isn’t just me fanboy ranting. Which I totally could. By the time I saw this album in that CD store, I had sort of moved on to Traveller being my favorite album, but when I put this in and heard Sky Chariots start, every reason I had to love this album flooded back to me. I think it’s my favorite again. …you know. Until I find Traveller or Twilight of the Idols in a random used CD store.
The Lord Weird Slough Feg seems to have gotten a good amount of internet buzz as of recently... or at least in the sections of the internet that I frequent. But I say proudly, if it weren't for all of this hype, I would've never been exposed to this metal masterpiece. Slough Feg is one of the few bands on earth that deserves every good thing that ever gets said about them.
The year 2000 was overall a dreary year for metal on the surface. The nu metal scourge was garnering all of the media attention and giving metal a bad name to the outsider. I quick glance through my iTunes shows the only good metal releases for the year being Nile's Black Seeds of Vengeance, Vader's Litany, Persuader's The Hunter, and this. So I can only imagine the impact this would've had on me if my nine/ten year old ears had heard Warrior's Dawn back then as opposed to the Limp Bizkit and Korn dreck I liked (I'll admit, I was a nu metal fan, but keep in mind my age... I was still young). I guess what I'm trying to say is that history is on Down Among the Deadmen's side. It was a shining example of what heavy metal was, it embodied metal's ideals and objectives during one of the darkest years since 1993. During a time when metal was viewed as a bunch of angsty dolts in clown makeup, one album stood above the rest as what metal is, should be, and always will be.
Almost nothing is wrong with this record, and it falls just a hair short of a perfect score for me. Cauldron of Blood is overlong and a tad bit droning, as is the middle section of High Season, but otherwise this is a flawless album that should be mandatory listening in schools across the world. Since there is a better chance of me shitting out a pineapple than any kids ever discovering this gem on their own, I'll just recommend this to all metalheads who read this review or have even a passing interest in music that falls on the heavy side of the spectrum. Hell, even you light rock/pop wussburgers should listen to this.
The album is produced wonderfully, the guitar tone is pleasantly chunky to complement the balls out metal of the songs, the drums sound excellent and real (they would fail at this part on the follow up to this album, Traveller), and Mike Scalzi is one of the most perfect tenor voices metal has ever heard. He adds a raspy edge to his tales of Celtic myths and, as seen in Warrior's Dawn, even some American history.
Slough Feg is one of those few acts that possess that wonderful Running Wild quality I mention all the time.... the charm, charisma, and aura that makes every song an enjoyable ride that you want to hear over and over again, no matter how simplistic and immature the song may be. The kicker here is that no songs are juvenile or immature, most are semi-complex metal anthems that are not only catchy, but sophisticated at the same time. Traders and Gunboats, one of the best tracks on the album, even has this goofy spoken part about what I can assume to be the role playing game Traveller, a game that the next album would actually be based on. Even with the nerdy monologue in the middle of the galloping riff titan, I can't help but feel that it does not disrupt any flow and I actually find myself excitedly following along with the spiel, enthusiastically shouting about the Daylight Consulate and Sword-Worlds. Not many bands can do that, but Slough Feg can. Even the insidiously catchy Heavy Metal Monk, complete with what is simultaneously the goofiest and best lyrics metal has ever seen, just commands the respect and attention of everybody in earshot.
The slower, almost doomyish Psionic Illuminations is catchy beyond belief, as is the much lauded Walls of Shame (I find it to be a tad overrated, but that doesn't stop it from being perfect (if that makes any sense)). Songs like High Season, Warrior's Dawn, and Marauder have some of the most compelling intros I've ever heard. To me, an intro is supposed to either grab your attention and make you yearn to hear what follows, build anticipation, or mushroom stamp you with a diamond dick. Slough Feg manages to accomplish every task I feel an intro should accomplish. Warrior's Dawn (which in case you can't tell, is my favorite song) starts with the excellent war drum beat and the guitar's rallying gallop. It's odd, but Slough Feg is one of the very few bands where I find myself complementing the intros.... whatever they do, they do it very fucking right.
I fear that this is turning into fanboy raving, so I'll stop here. The riffs are almost all deliciously old school galloping exercises, the drums are actually compelling, the bass is audible, the lyrics are excellent and usually fantasy based, and Scalzi has one of the better voices in metal. Unfortunately the band would never reach these heights again, but they have never and will never flat out suck, so do everything in your power to get your hands on any album bearing their name. Hardworlder is more rockish than metal, Atavism is shorter and faster, the self titled is a rough and raw blueprint of their trademark style, and Twilight of the Idols is where they established it. Down Among the Deadmen, above all else, is where they perfected their melodic, folkish style of classic traditional heavy metal. Mandatory listening, one of the best albums of the millennium so far.
"Classic" is a vague word, and to call a modern music album (no matter what genre) by it is a rather risky gamble, as we don't know exactly what will be considered "classic" or "timeless" in 20 years. However, I'm willing to take that fateful leap here and say that this album is one that will be remembered as a monumental album in its own right in years to come.
Slough Feg, or more formally, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, are not a conventional band by any means, and even in the few spots where they take influence from other bands, it's all twisted into an entirely new beast that sounds fresh and original, never sounding the part of the "back to basics Heavy Metal band" and never, ever becoming stagnant or stale in their poignant, exuberant delivery. For the uninitiated, Slough Feg play traditional Heavy Metal in the vein of classic bands like Iron Maiden, with more than a few nuances of the dirty, obscure, underground style patented in the early 80s by bands like Manilla Road and Brocas Helm, and also several ample doses of folksy, mead-chugging madness that do nothing but elevate the quality of the music on display. There really isn't an explanation for how this band is so great; they're just damned cool. They're great songwriters, and every song here has fistfulls of sticky hooks and headbangable classic Metal riffs, alongside the deep tenor of mastermind Mike Scalzi, who can do no wrong.
There's really no end to the fantastic songs here, with opener "Sky Chariots" being a perfect example of what to expect from Slough Feg: catchy and endlessly replayable. "Walls of Shame" is probably my favorite song here, with an absurdly cool folk melody to the main riff, alongside the wonderfully written lyrics. "Warriors Dawn" is a galloping 6 minute exercise in Heavy Metal mastery, and the trilogy of "Heavy Metal Monk" / "Fergus Mac Roich" / "Cauldron of Blood" is a good eye-opener for anyone who happens to think True Metal is dead. "Traders and Gunboats" is a volleying speed attack that never fails to please, with perhaps Scalzi's most powerful performance yet, and "Psionic Illuminations" is a slooooow, doomy outer-space stomp that will put a smile on your face. In fact, this entire album will do just that. Down Among the Deadmen will put a big old Metal smile on your face. Grinning ear to ear. Guaranteed. And I'll even refund you if it doesn't happen. Maybe.
Down Among the Deadmen isn't progressive or life-changing in its straightforward delivery, but it does what it wants to do extremely well, and it reminds me of the classic 80s albums in many respects. Like Iron Maiden's best albums, this is a solid collection of 100% all-natural Heavy Metal songs that can either be listened to individually or as a collective whole - and it's still able to be enjoyed fully both ways. There's nothing at all fake or contrived about this music, and the energy on display just goes through the roof, surpassing the dry, one-dimensional production job by about a thousand miles. From an outsider's unbiased perspective, this might even look like a parody of the Heavy Metal genre as a whole, but it's not; it's exactly the opposite. If there were ever a band so open and honest in their execution of the Heavy Metal style, Slough Feg is it. Their energy is unbridled and pure, and they do go over the top quite a lot here, but you'd be missing out if you discredited them for that, for the over-the-top stylings are part of Slough Feg's endless charm. These guys don't give a shit about current trends, just blazing through the entire 50 minutes of this album with a flaming, carefree, jubilant enthusiasm that will have even the most conservative and stiff metalhead headbanging and singing along within 2 songs.
There isn't any excuse not to love this band if you're a fan of Heavy Metal in its purest form. Down Among the Deadmen will indeed be remembered in Metal circles because it's boundlessly cool, infinitely replayable and just about the most Goddamned true Heavy Metal I've heard from the last decade or so. Slough Feg are a band with many, many talents, and this is an album with many fruits that will not stop pleasing, so if you haven't checked this out yet, then make it your utmost duty to do so. Superlative.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
I never really expected a band with a name such as The Lord Weird Slough Feg to be any good...but I guess they did what they know to do best. Take you by surprise. Down Among the Deadmen is one of the best albums in the any band can release, that's for sure. And the reason: sheer attitude.
The entire album has the songs almost out of place. It starts with a song about vikings, continues with one about internal struggles and one about indians (???). The strange part is that they seem to fit together perfectly, as this is just a strange encyclopedia with facts about old movies, video games, fantasy and history. Even the fact that Fergus Mac Roich is an epic song with the mesmerising power of Rime of the Ancient Mariner (and I'm not kidding) packed in what could be a punk song is amazing. Not to mention it is followed by Cauldron of Blood, a song with a pretty doomy attitude.
It's like they are mocking the listener with their enthusism when singing this.
The quality of the songs, though, is pretty steady. Sure, Death Machine and Marauder are obviously the weakest, but they're still very good songs. It's just all of the rest are from great to amazing. They are reminescent of the early Maiden or (when they are average) of the best parts in Manowar. The rythm increases or decreases a lot during songs, giving them an almost progressive sound. Some parts are heavy metal, some are rock&roll...and so on and so forth. All in all, Slough Feg are one of the few original bands left in the industry, bringing some good old school heavy metal to an industry chocked by monotonous death and black metal wannabe-singers. The rating isn't coincidental. This album is probably the best in the year 2000 after Brutal Planet.
I can't just recommend a few songs as all of them are worth a listen. If you don't know the band, try out Warriors Dawn or look after High Season III from their first album for the average Slough Feg greatness.
p.s. Heavy Metal Monk is not a joke and it's not a parody. Also, it's not lame. You find out what it really is.