Humans are clever, fascinating and often hilariously dumb creatures. One minute we’re finding new ways to defy gravity, the next we’re taking the Tide Pod challenge or attempting to jump a flaming gulch on a snowmobile. We invent incredible things like penicillin by accident, break up with people via text message while sitting on the toilet, and even find ways to convince ourselves that the Earth is flat. In essence, anything from disaster to sensation is feasible for the marvel that is humankind.
What unites fool and philosopher alike, however—amidst a great number of other things—is our love affair with history. The birds and the bees and the monkeys in the trees likely spend precisely zero minutes worrying about being doomed to repeat their history, but humans sure as hell do. And even those who are too dumb to feign interest in human history as a whole still spend years scrutinizing a more limited and intimate history that’s streamlined to their own interests—ancestry and traditions held by smaller tribes compared to that which extends to us all. This obsession with history and lineage is rooted in an intuitive desire to feel connected, essentially. Connection staves off madness; disconnection leads to tinfoil hats and unabombing. Connection is the key that inspires us to pursue a sense of purpose and significance in an otherwise inconsequential life, thereby ensuring an engaging history for future generations. What a concept.
How this freshly spun load of horsepucky relates to humans peddling heavy metal can lead down any number of paths, but you probably don’t need anyone to tell you just how much the metal-minded love obsessing over history. Again, connection plays a huge part in that—connection to the past with an eye toward “staying true,” which in turn must synchronize with a connection to the present in order to remain relevant and ensure that what you create makes enough of a dent to supplement our ever-expanding ancestry for future generations to obsess over. History and humankind’s requirement for connection is pertinent here because these things play a vital role in the creation of art, and being (allegedly) comprised of human beings interested in the creation of art, Slough Feg is also relevant to the subject at hand because a connection to history is drilled into the band’s very core. Not only is their style of heavy cut from a similar cloth as our venerated ancestors that sparked the NWOBHM, but their lyrics (courtesy of chief architect and founder, Mike Scalzi) have always been infused with folklore, classic science fiction and philosophy that explicitly connects us to our past.
Something happened following the release of The Animal Spirits in 2010, though. Something (or things) that resulted in the longest gap between records in the band’s career. Sure, life always manages to get in the way, especially for veteran acts, but the stretch of years that eventually resulted in 2014’s Digital Resistance exposed a vulnerability previously hidden to the public eye. Simply put, a disconnect was encountered.
Strip away the tags normally used to categorize Slough Feg—galloping, melodic, “Celtic,” hard rock, metal, etc.—and poll long-time fans about which other defining characteristic is most responsible for grabbing and keeping them connected to the Feg camp over the course of these many years, most would eventually agree with one fundamental conclusion: energy. Songs like “I Will Kill You / You Will Die,” “Traders and Gunboats,” “Highlander” and “Simian Manifesto” all pack energy to the rafters in a way that practically forces listeners to get out and witness the band live in order to experience that electricity in person. And therein lies the key: fundamentally and above all else, Slough Feg is a LIVE band, and the early records captured the essence of that live energy to an extent where the principal point that separated them from being studio overdubbed descendants of Live and Dangerous and Unleashed in the East was a lack of routine crowd noise.
Fittingly, “The Lord Weird” has also made its triumphant return to that simplified cover (layout / design by Annick Giroux) for the first time since 2003’s Traveller, and with it comes all the blunt rawness and force that fueled the band fifteen years ago. Guitarist Angelo Tringali characterized New Organon to me very simply as “an honest record” during an all-too-brief conversation at one of their recent shows, and that’s probably the most fitting descriptor one could attach to this work. There are no studio cheats to be found here, and evidence of warts and scars are gladly exposed, because warts and scars are part of the human experience and provide an extra measure of authenticity—something that’s sadly missing from a fair share of big metal acts these days.
That title track hits the alleyway with the hubris of a 70s’ street gang—a rough-and-tumble drum beat that, according to Scalzi’s words in a recent Decibel track premiere, served as the blueprint for the cut, with the rest of the song’s players eventually following suit at full gallop. That distinct Slough-strut is a familiar one, but it’s been a while since it’s felt so…gristly and tough. Some may potentially turn their nose up to the extra dirt consciously left in the corners of the album’s mix (courtesy of The Fucking Champs’ Phil Manley), but again, it very much suits the live energy that’s historically pumped the band’s heart.
That unmistakable swagger is tattooed all over New Organon. Sometimes it punches a little slower, but still with the hands of a proven heavyweight—the thumping “Discourse on Equality,” for example, which delivers its heaviest blow by way of Adrian Maestas’ formidable bass, or the moody “The Apology” that eventually lumbers into one of those hallmark Slough Feg choruses.
Other times, the strut burns the barn with reckless haste, like the glowing “Being and Nothingness,” or the stellar “Uncanny,” which features Adrian behind the mic (!!!) and one of the most infectious gallops the band has generated in years.
Also as expected (or hoped), there’s plenty of those wobbly eccentricities that have always served to keep The Lord Weird Slough Feg…well, weird, particularly in the second half of the record. “Sword of Machiavelli” gives a nod to the sort of woozy, sing-along sea shanty one might hear floating from the wall of a bar at 2am while resting outside in the gutter (recorded by an entirely different human—Batuka—who was also responsible for the Laser Enforcer 7”), and “Coming of Age in the Milky Way” is as playful and swaying as a tire swing in a monkey habitat. Just try to pry that little “survival’s my only criiiiime” earworm out of your head.
The entire journey simply screams “The Lord Weird Slough Feg,” which isn’t exactly new, but it has the added bonus of sounding as if the band suddenly teleported directly into your living room to perform. Or, you know, wherever you happen to be listening to New Organon—not much good can come out of Slough Feg beaming into your living room while you’re cranking these songs in the car, because they will probably break some shit and eat all your cereal if you’re not there. Lock up your Hummels, there’s a new Slough Feg in town.
Again, connection is key here. And being true to your pedigree without offering up diluted covers of your own songs. At its core, New Organon represents an awareness that a reconnect to the same primordial soup that got the band excited about being a band in the first place was necessary, and the result is something that renews the motivation to see these songs live. Some bands make music that’s primarily meant to live in your head as a solitary companion, others make a ruckus that’s intended to be shared at ear-splitting levels amongst friends. It’s pretty clear on which side of the fence this band stands. Slough Feg’s birthright is to be loud, their environment is unquestionably the stage, and New Organon reflects both realities in a way that remains faithful to the band’s history that glorifies energy like a god.
Tailor-made for stone-aged revelers that jump up and down like delirious protohumans when they hear something that sounds like Thin Lizzy being bulldozed by Brocas Helm.