For almost fifteen years now, Slough Feg has been slowly and painstakingly building a rabid cult following by performing their thrilling brand of folk infused classic heavy metal.
After hitting a creative peak with their near-perfect Traveller and Atavism albums in the mid 00s, the band seemed to settle into a less metal, more rock terrain with 2007's Hardworlder, but returned with full metallic force on their superb 2009 offering, Ape Uprising.
On The Animal Spirits, the band chose a middle ground between their last two albums. Even if this works like a charm, since the memorable riffs, air guitar worthy twin lead guitar harmonies and Mike Scalzi's unorthodox approach to melody are all still there in droves, the album as a whole sounds more like a collection of leftovers than the true follow-up to Ape Uprising.
On a recent interview at metalsucks.com, Mike Scalzi, while commenting on the album's artwork, declared:
"That's how the music looks to me. The scratchy pen and ink, that's how it looks to me. That's how Slough Feg music always looks to me. We've always had artwork that's too modernized, too slick. It never should have been like that, it should've been more scratchy, because those are the images that inspired what our music was to become. More scratchy, more primitive... more comic book-y."
And that's exactly how the album sounds, there's a loose, relaxed, "let's just bash some tunes and have fun" approach to both song writing and recording that, even if it keeps the music fresh, ultimately knocks it down a notch below classic status when compared to the band's best efforts, much like it happened with albums such as Killers, Bomber or Van Halen II. That said, this is far, very far from a bad album, quite the contrary, the material is strong enough and the performances are, as always, passionate and flawless, it's just that I feel that two or three months of tweaking the tunes would've greatly benefitted the end result.
The main reason I'm not giving this album five stars is that up to this point, every Slough Feg platter gave me an instant anthem or two since the first listen but this time, I can't really point out a strong stand out among the batch. So, in the end, this album may be mildly disappointing, but what the hell, even the worst Slough Feg album is still much better than about 99% of this year's heavy metal releases. The Animal Spirits will still be spinning a lot on my CD player six months from now, something that I can't say about The Final Frontier... if you have even a passing interest on classic heavy metal, give Slough Feg a chance. You won't be disappointed, and you'll get a lot more bang for your buck than with any recent Iron Maiden or Judas Priest release.
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