A Devil’s Dozen – (The Lord Weird) Slough Feg

(The Lord Weird) Slough Feg has been a perennial favorite around Last Rites for eons and eons, so as briefly wrenching as it was to relinquish one of “our” bands to the wider world, even the scuzziest of the undergrounders among us are forced to admit that, yes, we’re pleased as all punch that the San Francisco-based epic / folk / trad / whatever / weirdo-metallers have signed a deal with legendary label Metal Blade. That deal saw the long overdue reissue earlier this year of a crucial trio of Slough Feg albums previously available only as imports – Twilight of the Idols, Down Among the Deadmen, and Traveller.

Perhaps even more heart-fluttering, though, is the news that Slough Feg is recording a new album for Metal Blade, which will be the band’s first since The Animal Spirits (released by champions of awesomeness Profound Lore in 2010). All the way back in January of this year, guitarist / vocalist / ringleader / madman Mike Scalzi reported that recording had already begun, so while no further official updates have trickled out, one can assume that things are well on their way.

So, to celebrate one of heavy metal’s most tireless and unique bands, we here at Last Rites have slugged it out and spat and screamed at each other – not really – to bring you this batch of princely tunes for the latest installment in our Devil’s Dozen feature. Play these songs loud and proud, brothers and sisters, but keep in mind that Last Rites is not responsible for any damage to your home furnishings caused by excessive air guitar and general shit-kicking merriment.

TRICK THE VICAR

[The Animal Spirits, 2010]

This may just be the most gleeful song in the entire Slough Feg catalog. It sails through the finish line at less than two minutes, but not before announcing the heightened prominence of ‘70s hard rock that set The Animal Spirits apart from its several predecessors. But of course, the real feast here is Mike Scalzi’s delightfully delirious wordplay crammed into immediately memorable rhythmic beauty. (Personal favorite line? “Puns in the papacy perplex the pontiff.”) For me, the song is a microcosm of one of Slough Feg’s best traits: you can never quite be sure if they’re making silly music about serious things, or serious music about silly things. Either way, it’s never anything short of breathtaking fun.  [Danhammer Obstkrieg]

HIGHLANDER

[Twilight of the Idols, 1998]

An early career highlight, “Highlander” was demoed twice before appearing on Slough Feg’s second full-length Twilight of the Idols. A galloping main riff pairs with Mike Scalzi’s unique storytelling and vocal style to somehow bring both 70s hard rock and Celtic folklore into the modern era in a ridiculously catchy package. There are a few goofy vocal histrionics and sloppy musical lines that, despite being seemingly out of place, ultimately add to its charm. The more you listen to it, the more you think that “Highlander” may well have been the blueprint from which the band drew from back then and continue to do so today.  [Dave Pirtle]

 

HARDWORLDER

[Hardworlder, 2007]

Each ‘Feg record has a distinct identity, but Hardworlder might be the most unique. Despite the record’s unavoidable sci-fi bent, the fuzzed-back tone and ambling pace give it a wistful air that stands in stark contrast Atavism’s kinetics.  The title track might be the most achingly nostalgic specimen, an introspective monologue from a war-weary soul, and it’s Scalzi’s delivery of these lyrical knife-twists that propel the song to the record’s pinnacle. Killing you with kindness has always kinda been Slough Feg’s game, but the contemplation of inner struggles on “Hardworlder” show the band at its most mournful—and ultimately, most triumphant.  [Jordan Campbell]

I WILL KILL YOU / YOU WILL DIE

[Atavism, 2005]

As far as mission statements for all of heavy metal go, “I will kill you, you will die” ain’t too shabby. But for Slough Feg (dropped “The Lord Weird” prefix for the first time on Atavism), it’s also a chance to kick off an album in fiery form while demonstrating nearly every element that makes this band so absurdly vital: tremendously catchy riffs littered with folk and Celtic musical themes, Mike Scalzi’s so-fun-it-ought-to-be-illegal vocal gymnastics, flame-throwing dual guitar interplay, and full-on band jamming with guitar solos galore exploded out the ears. Oh, and they cram all that into an economical package of less than four minutes. No big deal.  [Danhammer Obstkrieg]

WARRIOR’S DAWN

[Down Among the Deadmen, 2000]

While the song is largely remembered for its unforgettable – and undeniably fun – chorus, “Warrior’s Dawn” is actually one hell of an example of Mike Scalzi and Slough Feg’s compositional talents. An up tempo romp of an intro decelerates a tad to a section that perfectly references it with some overture-ish guitar work, and eventually drops to an even slower tempo for that first verse, all the while then-drummer Greg Haa puts on a fucking clinic. (The ride cymbal is a wonderful thing, folks.) Then that glorious chorus (UM-POW-WOW!!!) shows up a couple times before shit just takes off. More speed, more hot licks, more solos, and more top notch battery from Haa. The entire ride is punctuated with one last iteration of that simple chorus line, during which Scalzi can’t help but sound just a mite exhausted.  [Zach Duvall]

SLOUGH FEG

[Twilight of the Idols, 1998]

You know, it’s tunes like this that make me wish every band was required to title a song after itself. I mean, “Black Sabbath,” “Iron Maiden,” “Slough Feg”? All undeniably kickass, and probably in part because of the pressure – you wouldn’t write a shitty self-titled song, would you? Anyway, the song “Slough Feg” dates all the way back to the band’s first demo in 1990, but didn’t make its way to an official album until the group’s second full-length, Twilight of the Idols. Even a cursory listen should reveal that the song’s main riff pulls hard from the wineskin of DiAnno-era Iron Maiden, but y’know what? DiAnno-era Maiden rules, and so does this song. Great riffage, killer mid-song solo break, and a two-line refrain for the ages: “Home clan fires are burning bright / The Lord Weird Slough Feg dies tonight.”  [Danhammer Obstkrieg]

 

APE UPRISING

[Ape Uprising!, 2009]

As a rule, ten-minute epics aren’t really the ‘Feg’s thing. But adding Harry Cantwell for 2009’s Ape Uprising! afforded them luxuries that hadn’t been available since the Greg Haa era. Ape Uprising! is less a concept album than a bunch of killer satellites revolving around a concept song. (This title track, obviously, is the nucleus.) It’s a bursting, boiling ball of energy, with Cantwell providing the perfect propulsion for what becomes the soundtrack to a simian coup. Cars are upended, markets ravaged, and streets are set aflame. Finally, victory is celebrated in the final minute with some of the band’s most raucous riffery.  [Jordan Campbell]

 

VARGR THEME – CONFRONTATION

[Traveller, 2003]

The saddest part about Traveller with respect to an editorial such as this is that we can’t justifiably consider the entire album one song, despite the fact that it represents the most wholly fluid work in the band’s extensive catalog. Sure, there are twelve cuts to consider, but each one is purposely intertwined and indispensable within the full Traveller story. That being said, I don’t think any fan would deny “High Passage/Low Passage” as the overall favorite, but the ripping “Vargr Theme/Confrontation” marks the story’s key midpoint, and it grandly swirls in all the crucial Slough Feg elements: bouncy, epic, bright and melodic, with multiple shifts that cut on a dime. “MUTANT! HYBRID! CANINE! BIPED!”  [Michael Wuensch]

 

SKY CHARIOTS

[Down Among the Deadmen, 2000]

“Sky Chariots” is yet another Slough Feg track inspired by the bizzaro-Celtic stories of the wandering warrior Slaine, featured in the British serial comics anthology 2000 A.D.  The sky chariots in question are Viking longships born aloft by magic. If ever there was a concept born for heavy metal, it is flying Vikings, and Slough Feg couples this theme in some of the most straightforward, classic heavy metal the band has ever written. With its thick, galloping main riff, harmonized guitar lines and soaring chorus, Sky Chariots will get even the meekest among us in the mood for airborne conquest.  [Jeremy Morse]

 

HIBERNO-LATIN INVASION

[Atavism, 2005]

Any long-time fan of Slough Feg can quickly throw down a pile of clear reasons behind their enduring commitment, but one principal factor that undoubtedly binds us all together is the irrefutable truth that the band’s music simply makes us feel great. And within the great pantheon of “feel good” Feg songs, “Hiberno-Latin Invasion” makes a solid case for being the prize hog in the voluminous pen. The full scope of its relatively brief four minutes is as contagious as a measle infected with malaria, but it’s those flashing, duel guitar leads at its heart that pump the song’s vigorous lifeblood and make it a clear choice as a potent weapon against even the gloomiest of grim moods.  [Michael Wuensch]

 

HIGH PASSAGE / LOW PASSAGE

[Traveller, 2003]

As the true beginning of the musical sci-fi odyssey that is Traveller, “High Passage / Low Passage” bursts forth from intro “The Spinward Marches” with the power of the Imperial Armada, and instantly sets the tone of the album. There is a story here, one that is to be engaged in, but not without also having the time of your fucking lives. Every passage works to the benefit of the song while building anticipation for the full album. That blast of a chorus turns to those foreshadowing leads; an explosion of intensity and urgency gives way to another verse before building to THE RIFF. That perfect, monstrous, halftime fortress of a riff. The kind of line we all dream of writing but couldn’t begin to construct a worthy song around it. Slough Feg needed a full album, and it contained plenty of reinforcements.  [Zach Duvall]

 

TIGER! TIGER!

[Hardworlder, 2007]

The second track on Hardworlder, “Tiger! Tiger!” is a sci-fi re-imagining of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger”. In the poem, Blake contemplates the nature of the being that could create a creature as fearsome and magnificent as the tiger. In “Tiger! Tiger!”  a space-travelling mercenary seems to be contemplating the nature of his own existence amidst the universe’s unfathomable vastness. The accompanying music is suitably contemplative, featuring a relaxed grove over which Mike Scalzi, and Angelo Tingali spin melodic threads of cosmic reverie. “Tiger! Tiger!” in its own rough-hewn, metallic way is both profound and profoundly beautiful.  [Jeremy Morse]

 

TRADERS AND GUNBOATS

[Down Among the Deadmen, 2000]

Huge, rollicking, rolling intro. The sense that a motorcycle is being revved to fuel the music. Then the sense that one hundred motorcycles are being revved… this is what sets “Traders and Gunboats” apart from lots of other seemingly similar Feg classics. There is plenty of the band’s great-riffs-lead-to-great-harmonies-lead-to-solos-lead-to-BAM moments, but there is also such a palpable sense of reckless fucking abandon to this tune that they rarely duplicated elsewhere, as if their confidence and swagger had been blown through the roof. The result is a perfect soundtrack to that movie scene when the protagonist has a convenient, honorable chance to back out of a bar fight, but much to the benefit of our stratospheric entertainment levels, does not.  [Zach Duvall]

 

Posted by Last Rites

GENERALLY IMPRESSED WITH RIFFS

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