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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.