One of metal’s best kept secrets, San Francisco’s Slough Feg, has returned and the band once known as “The Lord Weird Slough Feg” isn’t any less weird as they near their quarter century in existence.
Band founder Mike Scalzi and friends are bringing their unique blend of stoner, progressive, folk and blues into one lovely clusterfuck on Digital Resistance. The mouthful that is the album’s opener, titled “Analogue Avengers / Bertrand Russell's Sex Den,” sets the stage for this unique journey. The song could easily be mistaken for some 70’s proto-metal anthem or the tune echoing from a meat-grinder at the gates of hell. This song will get your head moving, but not in the way one would expect from a metal band. Instead, you feel like a jaunty jig.
The album fully kicks into gear with the titular track and takes us into the driving stoner jams we we are waiting for. The song brings many modern day throwbackers like Graveyard, Priestess, and Saviours to mind, and this isn’t said to disparage any party mentioned, but rather to compliment all. Beneath this driving memorable riff-fest of a tune is actually a staunch stance against humanity’s growing dependence on technology. This theme is carried out through the album and is approached from a scholarly way, rather than the (now) cliche cries of “Big Brother” and “Unplug Your TV,” etc. Scalzi could easily just sound like a paranoid old hippie using buzzwords with great hyperbole, but he seems to know his shit. Not surprising considering, hei is a professor of philosophy. Smart guy, smart lyrics.
Songs like “Ghastly Appendage” and “Habeas Corpus” are just begging to be live sing-along anthems. I imagine the band bringing a sense of community to an audience akin to a Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly gig if they were to perform these tracks on stage.
“Magic Hooligan” further expands on the classic metal appeal of this band. This songs sounds like something right off of Paul Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden. This track is all about galloping rhythm, harmonized guitars, and gruff melody.
The mostly-instrumental “Curriculum Vitae” is a favorite for me on the record. The beginning is simple and hypnotic before breaking into something fans of The Sword’s lengthy instrumental breaks should appreciate. When the vocals do enter the song, they act as more of a bridge to more heavy metal greatness. This song, and much of the album, features a subtle inclusion of acoustic guitar strums into the mix. This adds even more of a traditional folk element that helps this record stand out further.
The album’s closer “Warriors Dusk” is perhaps the most soaring of anthems of the record. In the most traditional sense of the word this is a folk song. It tells the story of a group on a journey to a valley. Sure, this is a cliche if you look to much of the Scandinavian metal scene, but few of them are as introspective as this track. Perhaps, this is Scalzi looking at his life’s mission as a whole as he gets on in age. “Warriors don’t age well as it seems, when they shower you with mortgages and dreams. Was it something that they found to make you turn around?” barks Scalzi, “Promised you your dreams, and gave you they’re disease.” To me this sounds like a man looking at domestic normalcy as a scam. Kinda makes you go “hm.”
This is a great album. Perhaps the first true great one of the year of its kind (i.e. stoner, heavy metal, blah blah blah).
If this is your introduction to Slough Feg, (A) you’ve picked a great place to get to know the band and (B) Where the hell have you been?