Slough Feg - Atavism - Cruz Del Sur Music 2005
14 Songs
Running Time: 38:12

As if fucking with our heads for two albums under the Hammers Of Misfortune moniker wasn't enough, Mike Scalzi and John Cobbett return with a new Slough Feg album, just to pound the nail further in. Whereas Hammers Of Misfortune plunders everything from metal to Camel, Slough Feg is Power Metal with emphasis on the Power. Still, it's a bent take on the form. Imagine, if you will, Frank Zappa horning in on an early Manilla Road recording session, and you have some small grasp of the powers at work here. When I heard that Slough Feg had followed Hammers... to Italy's groundbreaking Cruz Del Sur Music (also home of Mahavatar), I knew we were in for a great album.

And the band does not disappoint. In adherence with the title, - and it's strange to see this band in adherence with anything - Atavism isn't a "throwback" of sorts. There's nothing on this album that couldn't have musically been done as far back as 1985, but it's the way it's done here that makes all the difference in the world. 'Robustus' calls up the ghost of Bay Area thrash, but only momentarily, for once the soaring yet Herculean vocals of Mike Scalzi take flight, 'I Will Kill You/You Will Die' hurtles into the skies in full Power Metal glory, albeit produced as if recorded ten years ago instead of closer to ten months. After the more slick production of Traveller (which I still listen to from time to time), it's nice to hear somewhat of a return to form in the 'Portcullis', which may well have been played by the Neanderthals on the album artwork. This isn't a bad thing, mind you, perfectly fitting for those times when you just "have" to hurl the devil horns (or fingerless black leather glove) into the air every 3.3 seconds while cranking old-school metal, which is Slough Feg's stock and trade. The mid-paced gallop of 'Hiberno-Latin Invasion' is Iron Maiden from back when Bruce still wore denim; forceful leads, and a chorus that just begs to be sung along to, even though we may not be entirely sure what the lyrics mean. Now, the unpredictable doppelganger of Slough Feg enters in the form of 'Atavism', which is more Fairport Convention or Nick Drake than anything remotely resembling metal. Still, its dark tone and subject matter open the door to a mini-epic, which begins with 'Eumaeus The Swineherd'. I mean, really...what's a classic metal album without a song based on mythology? There are bands building entire careers on the backs of myth, but hardly anyone do it so powerfully as Slough Feg does here. The story picks up partway through the Odyssey, when a disguised Odysseus takes refuge in the hut of Eumaeus, a loyal servant awaiting the return of his master, who happens to be Odysseus. Without getting into the story more deeply (which you still should), I'll leave it said that if you can take a story about a pig farmer and make it into a great Heavy Metal song, you've done more than most. 'Curse Of Athena' and the brilliantly-titled 'Agnostic Grunt' carry on the tale, and contain more memorable riffs than the last two Rhapsody albums put together, proving it's not so much about flaunting your technique, but in making your technique work for the good of the song. Following yet another installment of 'High Season' (this one being part V), somehow we're slung into the outer galaxy for the space-themed blues rock of 'Starport Blues', which seems very, very out of place. Is it, though? No, not when you consider the source, and not when that source to consider is Slough Feg. It's simply that nothing is out of place, because this band goes everywhere. Reference the Uriah Heep stylings of the acoustic/electric 'Man Out Of Time', which is followed by 'Agony Slalom', as legitimate a Queen tribute as any American band is likely to produce. 'Atavism II' ends the album, and is proof positive that all is not right in the collective head of this band, with every influence of the previous thirty-five minutes being thrown into the musical cauldron. And remarkably, it works.

I can't say enough good things about this album, and even though you'll never likely see Slough Feg play within ten miles of an Ozzfest stage, any Power Metal fan who doesn't want to be laughed out of his weekly D&D tournament needs Atavism.Hell, I got it for free, but I'm buying a copy just for the lyrics and full artwork.

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