|Review: Slough Feg - Down Among The Deadmen|
|Down Among The Deadmen|
Label: Dragonheart Records
Year released: 2000
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: February 19, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
for:Down Among The Deadmen
"Classic" is a vague word, and to call a modern music album (no matter what genre) by it is a rather risky gamble, as we don't know exactly what will be considered "classic" or "timeless" in 20 years. However, I'm willing to take that fateful leap here and say that this album is one that will be remembered as a monumental album in its own right in years to come.
Slough Feg, or more formally, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, are not a conventional band by any means, and even in the few spots where they take influence from other bands, it's all twisted into an entirely new beast that sounds fresh and original, never sounding the part of the "back to basics Heavy Metal band" and never, ever becoming stagnant or stale in their poignant, exuberant delivery. For the uninitiated, Slough Feg play traditional Heavy Metal in the vein of classic bands like Iron Maiden, with more than a few nuances of the dirty, obscure, underground style patented in the early 80s by bands like Manilla Road and Brocas Helm, and also several ample doses of folksy, mead-chugging madness that do nothing but elevate the quality of the music on display. There really isn't an explanation for how this band is so great; they're just damned cool. They're great songwriters, and every song here has fistfulls of sticky hooks and headbangable classic Metal riffs, alongside the deep tenor of mastermind Mike Scalzi, who can do no wrong.
There's really no end to the fantastic songs here, with opener "Sky Chariots" being a perfect example of what to expect from Slough Feg: catchy and endlessly replayable. "Walls of Shame" is probably my favorite song here, with an absurdly cool folk melody to the main riff, alongside the wonderfully written lyrics. "Warriors Dawn" is a galloping 6 minute exercise in Heavy Metal mastery, and the trilogy of "Heavy Metal Monk" / "Fergus Mac Roich" / "Cauldron of Blood" is a good eye-opener for anyone who happens to think True Metal is dead. "Traders and Gunboats" is a volleying speed attack that never fails to please, with perhaps Scalzi's most powerful performance yet, and "Psionic Illuminations" is a slooooow, doomy outer-space stomp that will put a smile on your face. In fact, this entire album will do just that. Down Among the Deadmen will put a big old Metal smile on your face. Grinning ear to ear. Guaranteed. And I'll even refund you if it doesn't happen. Maybe.
Down Among the Deadmen isn't progressive or life-changing in its straightforward delivery, but it does what it wants to do extremely well, and it reminds me of the classic 80s albums in many respects. Like Iron Maiden's best albums, this is a solid collection of 100% all-natural Heavy Metal songs that can either be listened to individually or as a collective whole - and it's still able to be enjoyed fully both ways. There's nothing at all fake or contrived about this music, and the energy on display just goes through the roof, surpassing the dry, one-dimensional production job by about a thousand miles. From an outsider's unbiased perspective, this might even look like a parody of the Heavy Metal genre as a whole, but it's not; it's exactly the opposite. If there were ever a band so open and honest in their execution of the Heavy Metal style, Slough Feg is it. Forget your Metaliums and your Nevermores and your Enemies of the Sun, this is Heavy Metal. Their energy is unbridled and pure, and they do go over the top quite a lot here, but you'd be missing out if you discredited them for that, for the over-the-top stylings are part of Slough Feg's endless charm. These guys don't give a shit about current trends, just blazing through the entire 50 minutes of this album with a flaming, carefree, jubilant enthusiasm that will have even the most conservative and stiff metalhead headbanging and singing along within two songs.
There isn't any excuse not to love this band if you're a fan of Heavy Metal in its purest form. Down Among the Deadmen will indeed be remembered in Metal circles because it's boundlessly cool, infinitely replayable and just about the most Goddamned true Heavy Metal I've heard from the last decade or so. Slough Feg are a band with many, many talents, and this is an album with many fruits that will not stop pleasing, so if you haven't checked this out yet, then make it your utmost duty to do so. Superlative.
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