Artist: Slough Feg
Album Title: The Animal Spirits
Label: Profound Lore
The production on this record is a little thicker and fuzzier than on the last couple of albums, which is a nice change -- it's a perfect match for the hard-rock-influenced songs they're playing these days. The drums, too, are a little distant, but not in a bad way. I really like the way the vocals sound, also: they're not quite as up-front in the mix, giving the album an informal, off-the-cuff feel.
I loved Ape Uprising when it came out, but it's worn on me a bit since. This record, however, feels a lot more enduring. "The 95 Thesis" is probably the best metal song about Martin Luther ever, assuming there's another one; the interplay between the vocals and the guitar is top-notch. "Free Market Barbarian" reflects Scalzi's frustration with the empty sameness of metal today, and while I can't agree, his overwhelming disdain makes for an utterly convincing performance. The "Lycanthropic Fantasies"/"Ask the Casket"/"Heavyworlder" section is just plain amazing: the way these three songs slot together is nothing less than genius, as is the mid-paced, epic way they each unfold. Each is superficially similar, yet deeply unique, and the vocals -- the vocals! It's as if Slough Feg took the brilliance of "Tiger! Tiger!"/"The Sea Wolf" and made it last for twelve minutes, plus "Heavyworlder" is even space-themed; if I had to listen to this for the rest of my life I'd be well satisfied.
After that, just about anything would be a let-down, and I have to admit that I could do without the cover of "The Tell-Tale Heart". "Kon-Tiki" more than makes up for it, though, with quirky, rhythmic riffing and catchy vocals. I especially like the "so much for missionary gods..." section, good stuff! "Second Coming" and "Tactical Air War" are great, also, though they couldn't be more different. The former's deeply personal lyrics and bluesy guitar make the latter's frantic riffing and pounding pace hit even harder. The guest performance from Brocas Helm's Bob Wright is perfect, too.
I enjoyed the hell out of this record, obviously, but I can't help thinking that the band might benefit from slowing down a bit: an album with the best tracks from the last four albums might have been something to compete with Traveller, and that'd be special indeed. As it is, though, we've got more Slough Feg, so why complain? Highest recommendations.
Standout Tracks: "The 95 Thesis", "Lycanthropic Fantasies", "Ask the Casket", "Heavyworlder"