Review & Track Premiere: The Lord Weird Slough Feg, New Organon

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the lord weird slough feg new organon

[Click play above to stream ‘Headhunter’ from The Lord Weird Slough Feg’s New Organon. Album is out June 14 on Cruz Del Sur Music.]

For nigh on 30 years, The Lord Weird Slough Feg have served the greater good as classic metal’s gift to heavy rock. Or are they classic rock’s gift to heavy metal? Or metal’s gift to heavy? Plus Celtic influences? Whatever. The point is, across 10 full-lengths and a swath of other singles and splits, etc., the band have become one-of-a-kind practitioners of the metallic arts. New Organon is the San Francisco-based outfit’s first long-player in the five years since 2014’s Digital Resistance (review here) came out on Metal Blade, and it finds them reunited with Cruz del Sur Music for the first since 2009’s Ape Uprising! and 2007’s Hardworlder. It’s a solid fit, considering Slough Feg‘s traditionalist approach, and New Organon feels like a purposeful stripping down of tones and general vibe. Perhaps unsurprisingly to those familiar with Slough Feg‘s work, that suits the material well.

Across 10 tracks and a LP-prime 37 minutes, the four-piece of founding guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi, fellow guitarist Angelo Tringali, bassist Adrian Maestas — who takes a lead vocal on side B’s “Uncanny” — and relatively-new drummer Jeff Griffin (John Dust also plays on the album), set about renewing the faith of the denim-clad faithful while at the same time mining the lecture notes of Scalzi, a philosophy professor, for lyrical themes. From the Rousseau through Sartre, Plato through Francis Bacon, from whose work the title derives, Scalzi turns cerebral and existential query into the stuff of fist-pumping proto-thrash and heavy rock and roll. It does not seem like a coincidence that they should re-don their full moniker for the effort, having gone simply by Slough Feg since 2005’s Atavism instead of the full The Lord Weird Slough Feg, since the atmosphere in the clear but sans-frills production and the basic structure of the songs is no less directed to the band’s own roots than those of heavy metal itself. They are among the most woefully underappreciated acts in metal, too bizarre it would seem even for the most brazen of self-declared nonconformists, but all the more righteous for standing alone.

“Headhunter,” which opens, is also the longest track at just over five minutes (immediate points), and the band waste no time whatsoever in letting the listener know the order of things. Guitars intertwine in tense riffing for an early verse over tom runs and the chorus bounds through not quite paying off that tension, but driving it forward nonetheless. A post-midsection movement of starts and stops offset by NWOBHM-style lead work — not the last of it to come — leads to a more ripping-style solo and back to the verse telling tales of piles of shrunken heads and so on. It’s a rousing start to New Organon, and it leads to the brooding and likewise tense “Discourse on Equality,” on which the drums time quick stop-start thuds behind matching guitar/bass chug with a lead line sprawled over with the vocals.

slough feg

It is stomach-tightening, and when they finally let go a little bit and blowout consecutive solos in the back half of the track, it’s a palpable relief as, the go-where-they-want mood set, Slough Feg move into “The Apology,” with a creeping verse and a more standout hook, which perhaps is rivaled only by the title-track still to come as the strongest of the record. “Being and Nothingness” follows, and as every Slough Feg review must at some point include a Thin Lizzy reference, there’s mine, but even more striking is the initial thrust of the song’s intro, which emphasizes how well the band ties together thrash and classic heavy rock. New Organon is a dirtier-sounding album than anything Slough Feg have done in some time, and it’s meant to be. They’re digging in and inviting those who can get on board to do the same, but “Being and Nothingness” isn’t about accessibility. Cut short in its solo and giving way directly to the start of the title-track, it’s a moment meant to dangerously careen near the edge of oblivion, and it does that successfully without losing itself in the process, perhaps finding its completion in “New Organon,” with Scalzi donning Bacon’s perspective for the chorus, “The sum of my knowledge will conquer the earth/And the sons of my college will rise/And give birth.” Take that, scientific method of old!

The title-cut rounds out side A with more fervent chug and ripping soloing, squeezing in a last verse effectively amongst the fray, and turns over the proceedings to “Sword of Machiavelli” and an immediate shift in vibe. Slower and more fluid in its groove, it finds Scalzi‘s vocals more laid back and an almost garage-style feel to the drums and tape-worthy guitar. The shortest inclusion at 2:17, it soon gives way to the sharp, early-metal-style “Uncanny,” which brings Maestas into the vocalist role, which is a change that further builds on the signal sent by “Sword of Machiavelli” that the second half of the album represents a shift from the first. That holds true for the swaying strangeness of “Coming of Age in the Milky Way,” taking its title from Timothy Ferris’ 1988 book of the same name.

Near as I can tell, that’s as modern as the philosophy gets on New Organon, which is fair enough, and the more laid back sensibility that accompanies feels like a massive change from the tightened-fist of “Discourse on Equality” and “Headhunter,” turning back to the Thin Lizzyism on “Exegesis/Tragic Hooligan” with acoustic and electric guitars woven together effectively in the chorus, ahead of the fitting summary that is closer “The Cynic,” with one last megadose of soloing amid a roll-credits melody and something of a return to where Slough Feg came from on the first half of the record. Of course they end on a fading guitar ringout — how could they not? — but as ever with the band’s material, there’s more at play throughout New Organon than riffs and leads, and it’s in the less-tangible nature of what they do that one finds their personality. The sound of struggle in Scalzi‘s vocals. The quick turns of bass and drums. The willful way in which they set their own rules and then play at breaking them. The Lord Weird Slough Feg are unique even among classic metal loyalists. I don’t know if they’ll ever get their due for the quality of the work they’ve done over their time, but they’re clearly engaged in a broader conversation.

The Lord Weird Slough Feg website

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Cruz del Sur Music website

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The Lord Weird Slough Feg to Release New Organon in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

American traditional metal/heavy rock treasures The Lord Weird Slough Feg will issue their first LP in five years, New Organon, in June through Cruz Del Sur Music. As regards metallic righteousness, there are few of their caliber, and as they re-don their full moniker, having issued 2014’s Digital Resistance (review here) and several other outings before it as the truncated Slough Feb, one can’t help but wonder what that might mean in terms of the sound of the album itself. Certainly the fact that founding guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi is embracing his background in philosophy to greater degree than he has before is an interesting turn, though they’ve never exactly wanted for intellectual appeal. The life of the mind, plus riffs.

I’ll always remember what Bible of the Devil told me about Scalzi when I interviewed them in 2012. They had done some touring together, and because Slough Feg is a band with such character and because I’d never spoken to Scalzi, I asked what he was like. The answer I got was, “he suffers no fools gladly.” To sure, I’ve never had it in me to interview Scalzi since, because if I’ve ever been anything, it’s a fool. Especially on the phone.

Here’s PR wire info for the album. I already put in a request to host a track premiere, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that comes together:

the lord weird slough feg new organon

THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG Returns With First Album In Five Years, ‘New Organon’

“I didn’t want to just ‘put out another album,’” begins SLOUGH FEG vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi. “I remember telling people that I didn’t want to do another album just to do another album, like so often happens. So, we wrote a lot of songs and only picked the best ones.”

Such was the approach for SLOUGH FEG’s long-awaited tenth studio album, New Organon, which will see the light of day via Cruz Del Sur Music on June 14 in European territories and June 21 in North America. New Organon also marks the recording debut of drummer Jeff Griffin (who split studio duties with John Dust) and joins Scalzi and longtime members Angelo Tringali (guitar) and Adrian Maestas (bass).

New Organon is another definitive statement from one of America’s most enduring and unique true metal bands, whose penchant for THIN LIZZY-inspired guitar harmonies and Scalzi’s timeless storytelling has turned albums such as 2005’s Atavism, 2007’s Hardworlder and 2010’s The Animal Spirits into proto-metal bedrocks.

Since the release of 2014’s Digital Resistance, SLOUGH FEG did three touring jaunts through Europe in addition to some shorter American runs, not to mention the release of the New Organon seven-inch, which was issued last year. Scalzi freely admits that real life has gotten in the way of SLOUGH FEG making a new LP. That, and his desire to make sure the band still sounds fresh after nine studio albums. “A lot of stuff ended up on the cutting room floor,” he says. “There were some songs we tried to work out for months but ended up dropping because they bored us. We have to be excited about new songs or there’s no point in recording them. We dropped several songs I came up with and some that the other guys came up with, too. It’s tough, but sometimes you have to be honest with yourself and the people in your band and move on when an idea is not working. So, we came up with a lot of song ideas and only kept the ones that sounded exciting for months.”

In true SLOUGH FEG tradition, there is a strong theme running throughout New Organon, which was inspired by the 1620 book published by Francis Bacon of the same name. “It presents a new version of the scientific method, as originally presented by Aristotle 2,000 years earlier,” notes Scalzi, who is also a philosophy professor at a college in California. “According to Bacon and others, the science method had remained stagnant for this long period, through the middle ages and renaissance, and needed a refresher. ‘Organon’ refers to a scientific ‘instrument’ or more literally, ‘organ.’ So, it represents a new method for scientific revolution. The songs are all basically about philosophy—from my lecture notes! It starts out talking about primitive tribal society like shamanism as the first philosophers and then proceeds though the pre-Socratics era and then Plato, Aristotle, medieval catholic theology, enlightenment and then existentialist philosophy — mostly in chronological order.”

Fans of the band’s early output when they went under the extended name of THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG will no doubt be enthused for what’s in store on New Organon. The album has a more natural, if not “rustic” feel to it, recalling the band’s halcyon Twilight Of The Idols and Down Among The Deadmen era. “Very simply, the songs are more heavy, rough and produced rawer than the last album or two,” says Scalzi. “The themes are not about technology, but about ancient philosophy and science. It’s just more metal, but in a very primitive way — but that’s sort of our specialty anyway.”

Around the release date of New Organon, SLOUGH FEG will be trekking across the United States with labelmates SANHEDRIN. “We’ll be doing ten shows on the east coast in late May/early June, right about the time when the album comes out, including New York, Boston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh,” says Scalzi. “In early August, SANHEDRIN is going to come out we’ll do another run with them up and down the west coast.”

Track Listing:
1 Headhunter
2 Discourse on Equality
3 The Apology
4 Being and Nothingness
5 New Organon
6 Sword of Machiavelli
7 Uncanny
8 Coming of Age in the Milky Way
9 Exegesis/Tragic Hooligan
10 The Cynic

SLOUGH FEG/SANHEDRIN Tour Dates:
May 30 – Baltimore, MD, Metro Gallery
May 31- Brooklyn, NY, Saint Vitus
June 1- Montreal, QC, Bar LeRitz
June 2 – Ottawa, ON, Mavericks
June 3 – Toronto, ON, Velvet Underground
June 4 – Pittsburgh, PA, Spirit
June 5 – Detroit, MI, Sanctuary
June 6 – Cleveland, OH, Now That’s Class
June 7 – Philadelphia, PA, Kung Fu Necktie
June 8 – Boston, MA, Middle East

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Slough Feg, Digital Resistance (2014)

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Slough Feg Announce The New Organon Recording; Re-Sign to Cruz del Sur

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Maybe that’s just how long a Slough Feg record takes to absorb, but it’s kind of surprising to think it’s been three years since the perennial San Fran-based NWOBHM-via-Celtic-folk-via-classic-rock-via-you-don’t-know-what-the-hell-to-call-it-so-just-call-it-progressive outfit released Digital Resistance (review here). That album was their ninth as well as their debut release for Metal Blade Records, and along with the news that the Mike Scalzi-led troupe either will begin or have begun this month to record their 10th long-player, to be titled The New Organon, comes word that said offering will be issued via Cruz del Sur, with whom the band was previously signed for three highlight LPs between 2005 and 2009.

Too strange for the bigger imprint to know what to do with? Possible. Or possible it was just a one record deal. In any case, it was four years from 2010’s The Animal Spirits (review here), which was released by Profound Lore, to Digital Resistance, so even if The New Organon doesn’t show up until 2018, that would at least be on pace. Good food takes time, even if you don’t realize time has passed.

From the PR wire:

slough feg

SLOUGH FEG Rejoins CRUZ DEL SUR MUSIC

San Francisco true metal troubadours SLOUGH FEG have rejoined Italy’s Cruz Del Sur Music, the label behind the band’s heralded “Atavism” (2005), “Hardworlder” (2007) and “Ape Uprising!” (2009) albums.

Comments vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi: “We are happy to announce that we are back with Cruz Del Sur Music and will begin recording a new album in July! We believe that a smaller ’boutique’ label such as Cruz Del Sur is appropriate for our sound, fanbase and work ethic, and look forward to working with Enrico [Leccese] and company again.”

“I am extremely excited to have SLOUGH FEG back on Cruz Del Sur!” says Leccese. “It is always nice when bands you like track you down. It’s even more special when it’s someone you’ve worked with for about ten years and established a friendly relationship. It’s a recognition that we were doing something right in the past. I can’t wait to hear the new album and share it with the metal world.”

Continues Scalzi: “The new album will be called ‘The New Organon’, and the songs are somewhat of a return to the heavier side of our sound: more rustic, heavy, churning, medieval/Celtic and proggy sounding riffs, as opposed to the more ’70s rock sounds of more recent albums. But don’t worry: there will be a couple of rockers as well! We will also have some newer, experimental songwriting styles, mixing heavy rock and metal with the melodic sounds of ’50s and ’60s pop. Imagine DEL SHANNON singing for BLUE CHEER! After all, it wouldn’t be a SLOUGH FEG album without some bizarre surprises!

So, journey we more into the vaults of the Voi-vaudevillian…the Epic-cure for all Epicurean Angst and Ennui. The Celtic cacophony continues!”

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Slough Feg, Live at Muskelrock 2016

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Slough Feg Perplex the Pontiff and Confuse the Cardinal with The Animal Spirits

Posted in Reviews on November 23rd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

There isn’t much outlandish or sonically experimental in their structures or intent, but San Francisco metallers Slough Feg have always been regarded more as a critic’s band than a fan favorite. On their eighth album in their 20-year existence – a first release through Profound Lore (appropriately enough a critic’s label, literally and figuratively) — The Animal Spirits, the venerable four-piece reinforce this notion by simply being too good at what they do to be accessible. Understand, I’m not saying that Slough Feg is showing off Robert Fripp-style guitar manipulations or anything like that – their riffs have more in common with Iron Maiden, Dio and Thin Lizzy – but just that the band’s material is so full and compact that it’ll go right over the heads of most casual listeners. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing, and it’s only my theory, but The Animal Spirits, which follows 2009’s unabashedly awesome Ape Uprising! and offers no fewer moments of demented genius from vocalist/guitarist/auteur Mike Scalzi, seems to bear out that Slough Feg are working on a different level entirely from fans and most bands alike.

For example, take “Trick the Vicar,” the opening track of The Animal Spirits and seemingly the inspiration for the album’s scowling cover. At 1:55, the song is barely an intro, and yet Scalzi and fellow lead guitarist (they’re both credited in the liner notes with lead guitar and I’d argue that’s fair given how much time the two of them spend soloing and how often the lead tracks take the place of what most bands would consider rhythm tracks) Angelo Tringali pack enough barn-burning riffage and clever angularity into the song to make it feel three minutes longer, while the alliterative and referential lyrics wink at Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden and remind those who can keep up that it’s all in good fun. The galloping “The 95 Thesis” reinforces Slough Feg’s reputation as one of the finest American producers of classic metal, and what it and the instrumental “Materia Prima” that follows epitomize is the band’s ability to balance the epic and the unforced. Where some power metal feels over-the-top and stagey (granted, in some cases that’s the appeal), Slough Feg accomplish a sound no less grand with a feel as natural as low lights in a barroom. The defiant triumph in Scalzi’s voice on “Free Market Barbarian” is no less effective for the lack of pomp surrounding.

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