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It's like music made by cavemen - 85%

Empyreal, September 28th, 2007

If this album were any cooler, it would probably eclipse the sun. This is the debut from soon-to-be heavy metal titans The Lord Weird Slough Feg, and while it's a rather rough and unfurnished jewel, the songs here simply couldn't be any more awesome and weird than they already are.

Slough Feg were always an eccentric little band, but when they started, those eccentricities were at an all-time high. This is a delightfully cool disc of folky, upbeat heavy metal ala Iron Maiden of old, with one of the best vocalists you'll ever have the pleasure of hearing. In addition to being the lyrical genius that he is, Mike Scalzi's deep, rumbling tenor is in top form here, raw and unbridled, belting out an endless stream of catchy, addictive vocal lines that just never get old. The guitar sound is clunky, bloated, and doomy, the riffs are heavy and sloppy, the drum beats are primitive, and the production is coarse and unrelenting. Slough Feg have always been rather messy and unrefined, and they're even moreso on this album - part of their charm, if you ask me. The whole package is purely atavistic and crude, yet it's an obviously refreshing change from the Iced Earths and Blind Guardians of the world, with their super-polished and sterile modern production jobs. Fuck that, this is endlessly replayable and boundlessly catchy and enjoyable. Standout tracks like the bouncy, pounding "Shadows of the Unborn", the traditional Slough Feg romp of "20th Century Wretch", the screaming metallic assault of "The Room", and the best song the band ever wrote in the epic Irish folk jingle "Red Branch" make this self titled debut well worthy of a purchase for the band's fans - if you can find it, that is.

This album isn't flawless, as a few songs tend to drag a bit - mostly on the re-released version with the added new tracks - and it dips noticeably in quality after "Red Branch." I suppose anything would've seemed lacking after that song, but still, "Why Not" and the two "High Season" songs that follow are just not of the same quality of the first four songs here. Still good, just slightly less so. The other thing I have a gripe with is how this album generally feels incomplete. On the one hand, if you listen to it without the extra bonus tracks, it seems disappointingly short at a meager 25 minutes or so, but it starts to drag on a bit with inconsistency when you add in all the bonus tracks. It's like a lose-lose situation, sadly, but that was Slough Feg circa mid-90s - sloppy, unrefined, and clunky to the extreme, and their music followed suit.

But even those longer, plodding tracks end up cool and quirky and overall enjoyable due to the fantastically (insert adjective here) ideas the band was pumping into them, which is just how damn cool Slough Feg is. Even with the flaws, this is still a charming, unabashedly cool and fun disc of old school epic heavy metal, and any fans of this band or of Iron Maiden, Manilla Road, Omen, Helstar and Liege Lord (amongst hundreds of other such bands) will really dig this. It's an acquired taste, definitely, and took me a while to enjoy, but it's worth the wait. Highly recommended.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Career - 91%

DrOctavia, May 10th, 2007

Wow. That’s really the first word that comes to mind when I think of how to describe the sheer quality of this album, and the mastery of the band that created it. But for the sake of this review, I shall endeavor to describe just how this album manages to continuously conjure that one simple, yet endlessly expressive word to my brain, time and time again. The debut album from the underground (and we’re talking some truly subterranean depths here) band, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, is a riveting mix of Celtic overtones, originality and killer musicianship.

From the opening intensity of “Shadows of the Unborn”, you can see that these guys are no slouches with their respective instruments, and that this band has also had quite a bit of experience working together long before releasing their first LP. This track smacks of some obvious Maiden influence (far from a bad thing) and makes an apt exhibition of Mike Scalzi’s impressive, catchy vocals. Great lyrics abound as well, lines such as “The sun is just a mocking star” (spat out with a certain contemptuous tone, reminiscent of Bruce Dickinson’s memorable vocals) and the catchy chorus are great fare for Scalzi’s memorable singing.

The band also has quite a few moments where they display their technical prowess, such as “Blarney Stone”, an instrumental composed of lightning-fast guitar licks. But it’s far from a display of blatant, ego-flattering wankery a la Dragonforce. Instead, like each song on the album, it possesses its own distinctive flavor, for even amidst the frantic guitar work, there is still that laid-back, almost sloppy approach that actually serves to make this band’s work so endearing.

Even at this point in their career, that inspired epic quality that has become a staple of their music manifests itself here, particularly in the Irish folk flavored “Red Branch”. There are even a couple of thematic changes in these songs, as “Red Branch” goes from a positively upbeat piece of Celtic folk metal, into a heavier affair for its finale.

Also on both versions of the album, are the two closing chapters of the “High Season” saga. For whatever reason, Slough Feg decided to put these in reverse chronological order, so parts one and two can be found on the two succeeding albums (unless you managed to acquire the 2002 reissue of this album). Should you need any more reason to pick up Slough Feg’s later albums, this series should provide you with one. Both tracks are excellent on their own, from the captivating introduction of “High Season III” to the superb vocal maneuvers of “High Season IV” there is no room left for disappointment. But when combined in their proper sequence, from parts I-IV, these songs truly shine. As the sorrowful, introspective end of part one segues into the lyrical resonance of the second chapter, and so on into the aforementioned parts three and four, the songs all unite both musically and lyrically. From a lyrical standpoint, the series would seem to be about the rise of a creature akin to Lucifer, as suggested by lines such as “I was cast from heaven/ rather be free in hell” and “I’ve taken earth today and now tomorrow, heaven”. But regardless of the story, this epic and memorable saga testifies to the impressive songwriting skill of Slough Feg.

Overall, this is an extremely solid album, from a band that would go on to release many more gems in their career. This was the first LP where the wider world got a taste of this one-of-a-kind band, and it was worth waiting for. Unfortunately, this is also the hardest Slough Feg release to find, despite being re-released within recent memory. It is well worth the hunt however, buy it, download it, whatever; just get your hands on it! This is an album that is tragically overlooked, by a band that more people need to know about. If you’re a fan of traditional, power, doom, folk – any kind of metal really – you should not pass this up!

Great collection of early tracks - 94%

ReverendMediocre, May 13th, 2003

This was the first album, woefully circulated as demo tapes in the underground circle in the early-mid ninties. Most people who are currently into Slough Feg (all three of us) haven't had much access to their first album as it was simply damn near impossible to find outside of foreign auction sites and even then it went for way more then a single CD was worth. But the recent vinyl re-release by The Miskatonic Foundation who also released their third album Down Among The Deadmen on vinyl. The vinyl version (all REAL music comes on vinyl) comes with a whole extra disc with previously unheard demo tracks with beautiful packaging. Easily the best packaging of any Slough Feg release thus far, even if it is a bit self-aggrandizing with many, many pictures romanticizing the band. But the band can't be held at fault for this as I'm sure they didn't design the gatefold. But onto the music.

The music can best be described as Slough Feg Version 1.0. This is a band who has been around for many, many years but never really has busted out of bay area clubs and the occasional European tour. For the uninitiated this band has a completly unique sound largely due in part to the incredible tenor voice of singer Mike Scalzi. Who I can only describe as Garm if he sang power metal. And those words do him no justice. The music sounds like the epic metal stylings of Manilla Road or Solstice combined with good amounts of Maiden in the guitar works, and most everything they do has a bit of a celtic feel. Although this is probably unintentional it usually gets them labeled as a celtic band. This album is the early works of this band and thusly has some rough edges to it and some moments it sounds more like punk then metal but it also has it's absolutly classic moments such as the epic-irish-jig "The Red Branch" and the strange closing to their epic work "High Season". The first part of which appears on their third album, the second part on their second album, and parts three and four on their first album.

If you are a fan of gritty metal with a superior epic feel to it, and you have a special appreciation for lower vocals not typically found in power metal (and these guys in my opinion are power metal) then The Lord Weird Slough Feg should never be passed up.