While I enjoy almost all genres of music (hardcore dance, trance and techno are just beyond my understanding and therefore ability to enjoy), hard rock and heavy metal and the various genres that they spawn are beyond a shadow of a doubt my true and life long love. I’m on a constant quest to find not only newer artists operating under the broad hard rock and metal umbrella, but also established artists that weren’t/aren’t wildly popular that I might have missed. Slough Feg is a shining example of an established artist that I am absolutely kicking myself for just discovering last year, but am I ever thankful that I did take a chance on them.

Profound Lore is a Canadian label that in recent years has been putting out a consistent number of quality releases in the underground metal world. I was on a somewhat steady streak of purchasing enjoyable releases from them last year (Cobalt, Amesoeurs, Ludicra, Coffinworm, Yakuza) and had gotten to the point where I decided to buy some upcoming releases from them without having the foggiest notion what the artists or their albums were going to sound like outside of the hyperbolic descriptions label head Chris Bruni had up on the website. I placed a mailorder for Dawnbringer’s “Nucleus”, StarGazer’s “A Great Work Of Ages” and Slough Feg’s “Animal Spirits”. Ultimately, I went three for three on this gamble, but Slough Feg especially is a band that I have come to be a tremendous fan of.

I remember there was a tweet from Profound Lore while they were packing up the Slough Feg pre-orders that said something along the lines of “Packing up all the Slough Feg pre-orders. Guess none of these people have heard the first two Iron Maiden albums.” On the contrary Mr. Bruni, I think it more likely that those people HAD heard the first two Iron Maiden albums and LOVE them. And there comes your first hint as what to expect from Slough Feg as Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut and follow-up “Killers” are definite influences.

When I first turned on “Animal Spirits” I knew to expect some sort of traditional heavy metal in the vein of ’80s NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal for those of you not up to speed with the metal jargon), but I just didn’t imagine that it would be as good as it was. As mentioned previously, the first two Maiden albums are definite touchstones along with the galloping duel guitar attacks of Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy as well as a Celtic influence. The lyrics certainly hint at time spent listening to Dio (solo band and Rainbow) which of course, any heavy metal musician worth their salt would have spent time doing. As far as I can tell, Slough Feg is the baby of vocalist and guitarist Mike Scazi who started the band in 1990. There have been various members in and out since, but the current line-up has been stable since 2007. {Scazi also served time in San Francisco’s cult metal act “Hammers Of Misfortune” and from the albums I’ve heard by that band, he was definitively the best part.} Aside from being a killer guitar player, his vocal delivery is also perfect for the music that Slough Feg delivers. He is a traditional heavy metal vocalist in that he actually sings and you can understand the lyrics (most of the time). Think Bruce Dickinson, but no high notes or air raid sirens.

I found “Animal Spirits” to be such a thoroughly enjoyable listen, that the next morning when I woke up I thought I might have dreamt it, but I listened again right away and realized that it was indeed real. So, I of course started doing my homework on Slough Feg and came to discover that they had six albums prior to this release. As a music collector, there is no better feeling than discovering an album you love has an accompanying discography that you can delve into. I immediately purchased “Animal Spirits” predecessors “Ape Uprising” (2009), “Hardworlder” (2007) and “Atavism” (2005) and found them to be equally as impressive. There were still three more albums to purchase from when the band went by the moniker The Lord Weird Slough Feg, but I wanted to digest the four albums I currently owned before getting into those.

As my fondness for Slough Feg continued to grow, I discovered that the San Francisco based band, sadly, very rarely toured and especially on the East Coast where I am located. This was of course a major bummer, but then as luck would have it, I discovered that they would be playing this year’s SXSW in Austin, TX which I would be attending. I was on a high until I discovered that they were actually playing on Saturday night and I was leaving Saturday morning. Curses!!!!! So close…..but, then I found out a week before leaving that they had actually booked a gig at a venue I’d never heard of before (I’ve been to Austin a few times) on Friday night, so the stars weren’t quite misaligned for me yet. I went online and figured out where the venue was from where I was going to be spending most of my time and discovered that in a worst case scenario it would be a few miles walk (which doesn’t offend me) if I couldn’t catch a cab (a notorious difficulty in Austin during SXSW) and as an added bonus, the place was apparently considered Austin’s best dive bar. Score!

Long story short, this bar was DIVE defined. Absolutely amazing! They had a nice little stage set up and plenty of elbow room (I loathe crowded bars) and when I entered the venue I was so excited that I felt like a 14 year old going to see their first rock concert. By accident, I wound up chatting with Slough Feg’s bass player (who was wearing incredibly tight red pants and a tight sleeveless zebra t-shirt…he looked like Rudy Sarzo from a Quiet Riot video to give you a better visual) and expressed to him how psyched I was to see them. He was a completely gracious and kind guy (as most metal musicians I’ve met tend to be) and I was relieved to have confirmed with him that I hadn’t missed their set.

After waiting in a long bathroom line because a couple was copulating in the bathroom (now that’s METAL), I grabbed a beer and got myself a good spot amongst the thirty or so people gathered there to watch Slough Feg. What followed was the best 45-60 minutes of live music I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in a long time. Slough Feg certainly aren’t young pretty boys (Scazi really reminds me of actor Peter Weller aka Robocop and guitarist Angelo Tringali somewhat of J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.), but this is heavy metal and not a beauty pageant. It is really hard to verbalize how much they kicked ass live, but you can get a hint of it by watching this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aULCpcqmOf0 My arm still hurts from pumping my fists in the air so much during their set.

When the band finished playing, I shook Scazi’s hand and told him how much I thought they ruled and then went to the merch booth and purchased the three titles I was missing from their available in print catalog (when they were known as The Lord Weird Slough Feg), “Traveller” (2003), “Down Among The Deadmen” (2000) and “Twilight Of The Idols” (1999) along with a t-shirt and a button set. I haven’t worn buttons on a jean jacket since junior high school, but Slough Feg inspired me to do just that.

I’ve been listening to Slough Feg consistently for almost a full year now and grow to appreciate them more with each listen. I hope to get the opportunity to see them live many more times and certainly for them to get out some more recorded work.

In proof reading this piece, I can’t help but smile at how much of the teenager inside me is bursting through with the discovery of this band. The best music will always inspire that kind of awe, wonder and happiness in you no matter how old you are.

So, to summarize, if you love the first two Iron Maiden albums, Dio (solo band and Rainbow), the duel guitar attacks of Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy (and Lizzy’s Celtic influences) and just good ‘ol fashioned heavy metal that makes you want to drink a few beers and take on the world, then you need to drop whatever it is you are doing and check out Slough Feg immediately.

Here are links to listen to five of the seven albums I mentioned above on Spotify (in order of release from most recent to oldest). I recommend starting with their most current album “Animal Spirits”, then going with “Atavism” (which unfortunately isn’t on Spotify), then “Down Among The Deadmen”, but in all honesty, they are all pretty great and worth your time:

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