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Space And Dogs And Shit - 88%

GuntherTheUndying, April 17th, 2013

Slough Feg is one of those annoying cult bands: fans of the group NEVER shut up about Slough Feg, Slough Feg, Slough Feg being soooooooo awesome, OMG. Endless seas of bodily fluids, all produced in the name of Slough Feg, that bothersome Slough Feg. It's bad when you hear a song or two from a band you wouldn't mind disliking and find yourself hooked. It's even worse when you dread all the masturbation, and then find yourself joining in on the circle jerk. I don't hate Slough Feg at all, I can't. They are far too good at being Slough Feg, even though the constant yapping does get a little exhausting. I did my best, but "Hardworlder" won me over with its iron charm and charismatic colors. Their sound is the real draw to the band, however; it's almost impossible to put into words. The best descriptions I've heard involve an Iron Maiden with Paul Di'Anno on vocals applying a Celtic folk vibe, or Thin Lizzy, Manilla Road, and some barrel-aged brawn like Brocas Helm joining forces.

Whatever they are or intend to be, Slough Feg is unlike anything in the realm of heavy metal. They've survived countless years marching onwards with a small yet loyal following through many hardships and several releases. Someone found the diamond in the rough of metal's unsung heroes valuable, however, as Metal Blade Records not only picked up the band after twenty-plus years in the business but reissued three of their seminal records: "Twilight of the Idols," "Down Among the Deadmen,"and “Traveller." These three albums are all fantastic pieces of idiosyncratic, bombastic heavy metal, sticking up more substance and originality than the status-quo of their cohorts both young and old. They are somewhat difficult to enjoy at first due to the tendrils of Slough Feg's style, but out of the aforementioned triangle of Slough Feg gems, "Traveller" is the icebreaker; the friend that can always open with the ladies.

Their fans often hail "Down Among the Deadmen" Slough Feg's finest hour, but I'm naturally attracted toward "Traveller" more often than not. Simply put, it has the steel and guts of Slough Feg rolled into gritty shots of heavy metal that go down smooth and guileless. It contains what is probably their finest song ever ("High Passage/Low Passage") and delivers cut after cut of heavy metal with the Slough Feg watermark tattooed on the cover. Based on some role-playing game from the 70s about dogs and space and professors and stuff, "Traveller" is wild, wacky, weird and wonderful; the definite introduction to a new world, made possible by Mike Scalzi and his legion of deadmen that he's down among.

Slough Feg ignites the voyage with what is definitely one of its best anthems ever: "High Passage/Low Passage." The galloping riffs conjure a primordial Iron Maiden vibe with the speed boosters kicked up a notch, bringing forth a nostalgic yet authentic atmosphere to the metallic kick. Sturdy, active percussion boils underneath the whole thing, and Scalzi's vocals—the gritty, honest laboring of a true working man—could conquer the universe. What a fantastic song! They immediately sway into "Asteroid Belts" without losing a degree of the intensity, soaring through monstrous solos and frantic structures with great precision. The whole concept routine makes many of the tunes weave together, yet the package manages to flow cohesively in a firm structure of iron deliciousness.

The contents of "Traveller" dip after "High Passage/Low Passage," but the remaining album isn't too shabby, either. "Vargr Moon" uncoils some nice atmospheric sections layered on a mysterious semblance of impending doom for its six-minute duration, definitely a cool tune. "Vargr Theme/Confrontation (Genetic Prophesy)" and "Gene-ocide" are jovial rockers showing Slough Feg's originality in prime form: several great guitar parts and leads lurk everywhere, always fun and upbeat. The mournful "Baltech's Lament" is also one of the standouts, with Scalzi's vocals meeting the sad acoustic guitars in an emotional rendezvous of lost hope and pain. Scalzi's voice is just perfect for Slough Feg's demeanor and identity; he's certainly an underrated vocalist.

The final handful of songs, especially "The Final Gambit" and "Addendum Galactus," ends the "Traveller" opus in prime fashion, making most of the record an enjoyable and ambrosial accomplishment. The album's sound quality has an explosive, abundant balance of Slough Feg's instrumental endeavors, and everything sounds like any heavy metal record should: loud, full, hungry. The Lord Weird Slough Feg, though, is blazing on all cylinders its ship has to offer here, and it's the best introduction to the group available. Efforts like "Down Among the Deadmen" have the edge of creative fulfillment and mastery, but "Traveller" is cocky and confident, pushing its way into metallic hearts everywhere with a sci-fi smugness that I can't help but adore. Like a falling snowflake, there's only one Slough Feg, and that is a glorious thing.

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