Slough Feg - Digital Resistance - (7/10)
Published on February 15, 2014
A new Slough Feg album is always cause for rejoice, over the years their sound has evolved, devolved, went left, went right, forwards, backwards; basically they’re a fairly unpredictable bunch of guys. Whilst I felt they peaked around Traveller/Atavism when John Cobbett was in the fold, I can’t say they’ve put out a bad album. Digital Resistance seeks to follow suit, and whilst I’ve personally found it a little disappointing, it is by no measure bad.
I guess we’ll delve into what I found disappointing first. Prior to release Slough Feg released two songs, the first of which was “Laser Enforcer” a number which delivered everything which attracts me to the band, the second was the title track, again showing all the wonderful guitar licks and dramatic vocal performances Slough Feg are coveted for. Sadly I’d have to say those tracks are really, the only two of their ilk here; as the vast majority of the album is a different beast altogether. Another thing and one that is painful to write is that I found certain parts of the album to be very…Phoned in. It’s distracting as there are elements to the album which push the band’s sound forward and into new territory, yet I feel they’re held back by a conscious effort to retain the vintage vibe of their previous opus. A lot of the guitar work feels stock, essentially atypical Slough Feg riffs, as well as some vocal lines which feel a little recycled.
I think the album opening up with an eccentric half-ballad/progressive rock number/should have been on a Hammers Of Misfortune album type tune pretty much showed me what I was in for. There’s without doubt a definite decrease in ferocity here too, with clean guitars being the most prominent they have in the Slough Feg sound to date. At times it gives the music sepia, spaghetti western style of atmosphere, which is particularly evident in “Habeas Corpsus” – more on that soon.
The main form of disappointment comes from personal expectation, though. The track-listing and album artwork really had me thinking this was going to be pugilistic, and in the vein of Down Among The Deadman. Hell, judging from the two lead off tracks it was a possibility. Really though, Digital Resistance is basically the further extension of their dusty, Thin Lizzy styled approach that they cracked wide open with The Animal Spirits, although maybe not as endearing. Certainly not as wild, with the exception of the drums.
There are some neat ideas put forth here, however. Outside of the aforementioned songs I’d heard pre-album release, there’s “Habeas Corpsus” a sandy Western styled number with a quality clean channel guitar presence, and involving rhythm section, this is one of the numbers I was hinting at earlier when talking of new territory. This song had a lot of potential to be seriously great, yet despite cool ideas and premise, essentially builds into nothing. “Warriors Dusk” on the other head, is seriously great. Exactly what I wanted to hear from Slough Feg, it nods to their past yet keeps in check with their current drive, and works on every level.
As is always the case with Slough Feg, the performances and production are nigh on flawless. These guys are seriously good musicians, and I have to say that Harry Cantwell’s drum performance is gob-smackingly good. Plenty of great fills, varying use of technique, and energy in spades, great stuff! The rest of the guys are largely business as usual, Mike’s vocals will likely always be endearing, and here he’s no different, although I don’t find the lyrics as exciting or captivating as I did in their past releases.
I guess it’s kind of weird, as this is basically Slough Feg yearning for the past, you know the days of analogue, before digital stomped all over its territory like a gargantuan gleaming giant. Yet in turn this makes me yearn for Slough Feg’s past, you know when they were wild and wrote crazy numbers like “I Will Kill You/You Will Die”, “Heavy Metal Monk” or “The Wizard’s Vengeance”. Still, like I said in opening, the music isn’t bad at all. I think overall this album will have its niche appeal, fans of the band should no doubt lap this up, and I think audio-snobs will get a kick out of the theme and recording. I can’t say I’ll be revisiting this one with all that much frequency, although I’m sure it’ll be worth the odd listen from time to time. The bottom line; business as usual, with further focus on the vintage, and lacking focus in fervour.