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Slough Feg’s early records have a sort of charm to them that makes them hugely likable. They aren’t enjoyable in the sense that neck-cracking riffs and soul-slashing solos heave and retch from every corner of their gallows, or that they are produced or composed magnificently, but they are fun. “Twilight of the Idols” seems to be the bad kid of the group, coming far behind “Down Among the Deadmen” in terms of content and staggering against the matured might of “Traveller,” yet it prevails through an idiosyncratic take on heavy metal and untouchable charisma that catches Slough Feg’s hand in the cookie jar. The kind of Celtic-fused heavy metal they produced here is certainly one of the more attractive aspects of the band, and although the record has some duds and misfires, “Twilight of the Idols” is a successful yet silly record on more levels than one.
"Twilight of the Idols" is a bit more folksy than some of Slough Feg's other outputs. That said, Slough Feg's weird and wonderful style of heavy metal blooms like a rose in summer, dialing up the riffs and melodies à la Iron Maiden with a Celtic tinge and exploiting some clandestine Sabbath-esque drawls throughout slower, bluesy numbers like "Bipolar Disorder." However, this is not a total representation of Slough Feg's efforts; their sound and style for the most part reach beyond definition and description. The individualistic features of the band such as Mike Scalzi's colorfully gruff and demanding bellows and the carefree, zesty feel to the album make the whole picture a rather magnetic and enthralling experience abroad, and "Twilight of the Idols" ends up making its own adequate imprint into Slough Feg's biography.
It's not an entirely excellent record, however. The drum sound, for instance, is simply horrid and pretty much non-existent—the toms sound like they're filled with water and all send out a toneless thud, and the bass drum is too foggy in the mix to make an impact. During "High Season II," the drums are one of the most important pieces leading into the song, but their volume is so cloudy that they don't create anything worthwhile whatsoever. It doesn't help that "High Season II" feels like a bust song as it is; it's boring and uneventful. Slough Feg's goofy lyrics and silly charm get out of hand during "Life in the Dark Age," wherein the riffs and atmosphere transcend comical territory and become downright stupid. The instrumental "Warpspasm" is an annoying instrumental number, too; completely trivial to the overall picture.
It'd be a waste of time getting too wrapped up in the flaws of the album, because, although hindrances are present, its moments of brilliance are—get ready—brilliant. Numbers like "Highlander" or "The Wickerman" explore a lot of the band's creative elements and versatile guitar work while Scalzi sings in his trademark narrative like any metal vocalist in legendary stature; normal Slough Feg songs, but Slough Feg songs are anything but normal. The flamboyant "Slough Feg" is intense and reckless, while "Brave Connor Mac" is merely an acoustic folk jam, but a great one at that. Excellent drinking song. The nine-minute titan entitled "The Great Ice Wars" is to Slough Feg what "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is to Iron Maiden, with its limitless arsenal of awesome riffs flying around like a horde of locusts. Stellar tune.
I could sit here and spew out the ins and outs of the fourteen tracks throughout "Twilight of the Idols" in full detail, because—let's face it—Slough Feg is unlike anything else, and their efforts here are both entertaining and fascinating. Stacking up the comprehensive piece of "Twilight of the Idols" to the band’s other efforts does not bode well for this record, however; it's amateurish, sloppy, a bit clumsy around the edges. However, Slough Feg was merely warming up to its heavy metal equation at this point, and they were soon ready to rock and roll into Olympus like a wasted Hermes after a night of partying. Stick with their other albums first; they'll offer better exposure to the all-inclusive idea of Slough Feg. That said, even their weaker records, such as "Twilight of the Idols," are still enjoyable. That's a good problem to have.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Come one and come all! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gather 'round the internet! The only place where you'll find an American Midwestern redneck like myself consider ground beef covered in barbecue sauce and other assorted spices slathered between two buns fine cuisine. Shit, smack some cheese in the middle of this concoction and you've pretty much got a Jesus sandwich! The sloppy joe is somewhat unappealing to those brand new to American redneck food, looking somewhat lacking in the stability department. A city slicker or European may ask "Well, wouldn't that fall apart when picked up? It's like mega chunky soup smooshed between two slices of bread", and this is where the mullet headed, gun toting, beer guzzling inbreds that I call my family say "Well that's the best part, you can just scrape the excess garbage up with some potato chips and eat that!".... or they just shoot at them and yell violently about never coming near their double-wide ever again if they like their ass in one piece, depending on how much Coors Light said hick has consumed.
Now that we're all uncomfortably aware of how much I love meat in my buns, I'd like to say that The Lord Weird Slough Feg's sophomore full length, 1999's Twilight of the Idols, stands as the musical manifestation of my beloved sloppy joe; messy, yet undeniably delicious. One description I use a lot in my reviews is "precise", I find myself endlessly praising people like Doc Raczkowski and Gene Hoglan for being able to play extremely fast and yet extremely tightly. Yet here, Slough Feg's music sounds like the guitars are playing too fast for the drum beat or that random notes are hit on accident. Cues sound missed, riffs sound half a beat longer than the drums, the entire recording comes off as amateurish at worst, and like a drunken rehearsal at best. The intros of both Warpspasm and Bi-Polar Disorder are two excellent examples of what I'm talking about. And throughout all of that, I have a hard time thinking of a more fun and enjoyable album off the top of my head. The bouncy rhythms and sheer Celtic quirk that saturate this record seep through my speakers, bashes my balls against a running belt sander, and then mushroom stamps me with all of the fury and swagger that one should expect from Slough Feg. Tracks like Highlander The Great Ice Wars, and Slough Feg carry a slightly dark undertone to the otherwise uptempo and somewhat happy and innocent sounding melodies. It may sound odd, but really, The Pangs of Ulster never fails to make me grin.
There is also plenty of variety to be found here, songs range from the faux heavy metal epic, The Great Ice Wars, the gruesome gather-'round-the-campfire battle hymn, Brave Connor Mac, and the dark galloper High Season II. There's something for everybody here. Bi-Polar Disorder actually wouldn't sound out of place as one of the faster songs on a 70's Black Sabbath release, barring the vocals of course. I'd have to say that the first half of the record is better overall, as The Great Ice Wars has this really unnecessary ambient middle part with Scalzi narrating the story. This is not the only flaw of the album, but it is easily the most annoying, as it is the first time I find myself itching to press the skip track button. And what's even worse is that it's bookended by two excellent sections of galloping heavy metal. But the good news is that almost every other aspect of Twilight of the Idols is pure, auditory sex. The leads are always blistering and ear catching, soaring high over the unadulterated quirk below. It's almost like clutching onto the feathers of a Griffin as it soars over a Medieval battle remeniscent of a scene out of Braveheart or something.
It's hard to describe what The Lord Weird Slough Feg actually sounds like, much less what makes them so good. Think about it, you cannot describe a smell without comparing it to another smell, and it's damn near impossible to describe what color is, and classing Slough Feg is just as daunting of a task. Try it out, try explaining what sizzling bacon smells like without referencing another smell, try defining the spectrum of color without using a dictionary (or by just being smart, you aren't welcome here if you are), and then try pigeonholing Slough Feg. The easiest and broadest term to use would just be "heavy metal", and that's really about as descriptive as it gets. The best description I've found is Di'Anno era Iron Maiden with a Celtic tinge, sans the twang. Listen for yourself, and buy the albums if you can find them.
Slough Feg's first few albums are quite possibly the definition of "fun" in its musical form. Quirky, jagged, folksy riffs blend with funky, 70s style basslines and the deep, theatrical tenor of lead barbarian Mike Scalzi make for quite the engaging listen, and also quite the original formula in a time when metal was already looking as stale as that jug of milk sitting in the back of your fridge that expired last month. Seriously, you can't really compare Slough Feg to any other band, ever. They might have similarities to Iron Maiden here, and a dash of Manilla Road there, and maybe a few cups of Thin Lizzy and Jethro Tull to the side over there, but they're far too cool to ever sound like a copy of any of those bands.
While their other early albums were more focused on traditional fantasy D&D style storylines, Twilight of the Idols was a volleying, head-first leap into the realms of high-flying, mead chugging Scottish fantasy and mythology; complete with deeply melodic, folk-tinged leads, barrel-fulls of galloping, chunky riffs that will get your head flailing in no time, and lyrics so cool and original that you'd think they came from a medieval folk bard traveling through time. Standout tracks include the galloping, vibrant opener "Highlander," the jingly folk tune "Brave Connor Mac," which will have you laughing and tapping your foot along before it finishes the first time, the riffy duo of "The Wickerman" and "Slough Feg," and the extremely catchy, bouncy commentary on the metal scene, "Life in the Dark Age." There are a few instrumentals here, both jam-packed with the same sloppy goodness you knew from Slough Feg's obscure little debut back in 1995, and they're both delightfully and instantly cool. Seriously, it really doesn't get more awesome than the good songs here.
If there's one gripe I have here, it's that there are a few songs that could've been cut from the final product to make for a much better listening experience. One of the problems in evidence related to this is the fact that Slough Feg have never been adept at writing long songs, and it shows here on the attempted epic "The Great Ice Wars." I really don't want to hate on this song, as it's not like the band didn't spend time working on it, but it's not that good. It starts off fine, with the same jumpy, headbangable folk riffs you all know you love (yes, that's right; don't deny it), but it meanders a bit and it has a few distinct parts that just don't work right. It feels disjointed, and it's pretty obvious why the band has not written such a long song since - it's just not their thing. "High Season II" and "Bi Polar Disorder" are also weaker tracks; not bad, just weaker than the good songs here.
This might be inconsistent at times, but it's Slough Feg, and if you know Slough Feg, you know that they're an unstoppable force with infinite creativity and songwriting power. The band was young here, and still experimenting, and so this album's inconsistencies are somewhat excusable. This isn't Slough Feg's peak - check the follow-up Down Among the Deadmen for that - but it's still an energetic, catchy, and out-of-this-world example of how to play heavy fucking metal the right way. Highly recommended.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
This is the second full-length album by San-Franciso based The Lord Weird Slough Feg. However, instead of opening with a bang, the album opens with a bagpipe solo. And as far as bagpipe solos go, it's okay, however, this album doesn't really get rolling until the next track, "Highlander."
From the opening walking bassline, you know it's gonna be good. Then the guitar comes in, and you know it's going to be great. If Slough Feg does one thing right on this album (and trust me, they do much much more than one thing right), it's song intros. The main riff is killer, and reminiscent of Iron Maiden. It's bouncy, but this is not flower metal by any stretch of the imagination. This is metal to bang your head to. Vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi has a very unique voice. To be honest, it took a few listens to grow on me, but now I hold that he's among my favorite metal vocalists. At times, the lyrics are sung so fast as to be difficult to understand, but that's what liner notes are for.
And speaking of lyrics, they're done right too. Especially on "Brave Connor Mac." The entire first half of the CD has lyrics based on Celtic history and myth. How can you not enjoy a song with lyrics like "and soon there were ten sundered heads, each thrust upon a stake"?
Moving on, "High Season II" is hauting and gripping, slower than "Highlander," but no less powerful. It kicks up a notch about halfway through, though remains mid-paced. Next up is the instumental "The Pangs of Ulster." It's fast and bouncy again, like "Highlander."
One song that stands out here is "The Great Ice Wars." This is the mid-point in the album, and it really divides the album in two, thematically. As I stated before, the first half is very Celtic influenced, while the back half deals more with modern issues. The song itself has three parts, following ABA format. It starts fast, telling the story of a warrior, then slows waaaayy down when he is left to die by his kinsmen ("arrows sunken in my chest/my tribe has left me for the dogs"). This section is almost doomy, and well expresses the protagonist's feelings as he's encased in ice, "waiting for rebirth." There is a spoken interlude here as well, before the music kicks back up again, nearly startling the listener. The song concludes with the remainder of the warrior's story, waking up in the future, still fighting ("fighting 'till the end of time/they'll never stop my timeless soul").
Next up is the awesome "Life in the Dark Age," a song seemingly about following the metal lifestyle and watching less talented bands do better, just because they play more accepted music. Some of my favorite lyrics on the entire CD are found on this song. "Zombies live in fear of changing thier dance/Scared that life will break them out of thier trance/Human, little to human/Lost all hope for this dull race to advance." Great song, and cleverly written lyrics.
The next song of note is the amazing cover "The Wizard's Vengence." I have not yet heard the original, but it's hard to think it could be any better than what Slough Feg have done with it. Great song, with a well done fantasy vibe. Not over the top with it or anything, though it does break with the more modern lyrical themes of the latter half of the CD.
The last song is "We'll Meet Again." A fitting closer, because we will meet again, and we'll keep coming back for more, because Slough Feg is a rarity in metal. A unique band with great songwriting and thoughful lyrics.
Fans of Iron Maiden, power metal, and hard rock will find a lot to love in this album, even though it really sounds only like itself. The best tracks here are "High Season II," "Brave Connor Mac," "Life in the Dark Age," and "The Wizard's Vengeance." Mike Scalzi is a cool guy, and Slough Feg deserves much more recognition than they're given. Remember, if you like the songs, buy the album and support them.