SLOUGH FEG belongs to a genre of music that I like to refer to as time machine Metal. It differs from various retro approaches to either Heavy, Thrash, or any other style in that it doesn’t merely attempt to sound like it was recorded in an earlier time period, it all out succeeds and fools the ears into commanding the eyes to look at the release date a second time. It is the antidote for the modernist disorder that has left us a large amount of subpar, cookie cutter bands that only live for the next 15 minutes. Yet at the same time, it brings something new to the table that is just as welcome today as it likely would have been in the NWOBHM heyday of 1981.
“Ape Uprising!” is yet another in a continuing series of visitations to the roots of Heavy Metal music that were first set to earth in the 70s by BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, RAINBOW, THIN LIZZY, RUSH and others, with an equal affinity to where the genre bloomed in the early 80s with a whole new generation of faster and more aggressive maniacs. It falls short of the fury established by Thrashing members of the NWOBHM such as VENOM and SATAN, preferring the more Rocking variety of the day. The production practices are a little closer to the drier, overdriven guitar oriented, and smooth flowing feel of the 70s, as opposed to the treble dominated, heavier variety that would come later with the help of DIAMOND HEAD.
The band’s traditional Metal and Celtic Folk music influences have been noted many times, but what is less noted and heavily present on this release is the band’s traditional Doom influences. Smatterings of TROUBLE and SAINT VITUS mingle with the upper tempo riffs to create an intricate and very much multifaceted approach to what most view as a style with a very predictable formula. The opening song “The Hunchback Of Notre Doom” basically sticks to this slower and darker variant on older Metal, stomping at a punishingly low tempo with a deep droning and bare bones set of riffs all the way through, turning a mere 2 sections of chords into a near 5 minute long classic. Aside from this and the reprise of the main riff of the opening song at the end of “Ape Outro”, the Doom element manifests itself more in the dark character of the guitar tone rather than the tempo, but endures throughout the entire listen.
A lot of this album is very much in line with the “Jailbreak” and “Johnny The Fox” era of THIN LIZZY, from the dueling harmony riffs to the up tempo cruising that would have just stayed within the tempo barrier of the 70s. The fast riding double bass rocker “Shakedown At The Six” and the Folksy and anthem-like swaying festival “White Cousin” both bring a fair amount of twin guitar majesty to the mix, not to mention an expressive and attitude steeped vocal performance out of Mike Scalzi, whose gravely tenor is somewhat comparable to Mark Shelton, though definitely not as foreboding in character and a little closer to the plainer character of 70s Rock music. Likewise, although the general style of the guitar work is in line with late 70s sound the advanced technical nature of the riffs and lead work put it solidly in the realm of forward lookers like ULI JON ROTH and JUDAS PRIEST.
Although most of this listens like a technical version of most Metal/Rock oriented bands, there is a strong sense of progression and adventure that also brings some comparisons to RUSH. The magnum opus of the album and title track “Ape Uprising”, which sort of listens like an epic musical homage to “Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes”, is as technically ambitious as "2112", though not quite as long in length and not separated into multiple chapters. The riff style crosses into influences such as IRON MAIDEN and RUNNING WILD, although maintaining the lower grade of sound common to older analog technology. It ranks as one of the most impressive works this band has ever put together while still keeping a keen eye on maintaining a catchy approach to song construction that can be held onto.
Times may change, but it is unlike that bands such as SLOUGH FEG every will, and that is far from a bad thing. There is a strong case to be made that although the NWOBHM was quite an interesting phenomenon and largely consequential in shaping all future styles of Metal, it was also too short lived. There are plenty of songs left to be written in this style, and what better time to get these songs than today. If you think that Power Metal is only about keyboards, Neo-classical sweep picking, perpetual speed and high screechy vocals, take a listen to this album and then think again.
(Online May 15, 2009)