17 February 2014
by Rob McAuslan
As long-time leader of Slough Feg and a founding member of Hammers Of Misfortune, Mike Scalzi’s credentials are well and truly established – nine records with this outfit since 1990 speaks volumes to his tenacity, if nothing else. After two decades of relative obscurity, Metal Blade picked them up last year, which should hopefully ensure that one of metal’s best-kept secrets at least get a fair shot with their latest release.
Describing the Slough Feg sound has always been selling them a bit short, which may be a reason for their lowish profile so far. Welding Celtic harmonic sensibility and folk rhythms to the traddest of all metal and overlaying that with Scalzi’s smart wordplay and powerful vocals (reminiscent of a young Ian Anderson, but with more grit and drive) isn’t a lot to really speak of on paper, but you kind of have to hear it to really get a sense of how well the whole thing comes together. The overt NWOBHM cast to their work takes a bit of a back seat on Digital Resistance, allowing more of the Lizzy-esque guitar interplay to take centre stage. For fans looking for the thrilling charge of a ‘Tactical Air War’ or ‘Warpspasm’ may feel a little let down.
If you know the band at all then Digital Resistance is a far less angry effort than you may expect. Opener ‘Analogue Avengers/Bertrand Russell’s Sex Dungeon’ lays the groundwork for the rest of the record perfectly, with a more relaxed moroseness about the harmonies than Slough Feg have used to in the past, and a lighter, more “heavy prog” touch to the writing than the blazing proto-thrash ferocity the band can command. That isn’t to say they have abandoned pace and weight altogether – the title track and ‘Laser Enforcer’ have their fair selection of chunky, ripping riffs – but the overall feel is more of resignation and reflection than fury.
This all leads up towards the creation of a curious dilemma: there are absolutely no issues with recommending this record to people that already know and love Slough Feg, but it isn’t the ideal entry point for those new to the band. The songwriting and performances meet their usual high standard of course, but it lacks a little of the fire and wit that makes them so essential when they’re in their pomp.
Sounds Like: One for the fans, really, but no less good for it.
Standout Tracks: Laser Enforcer, Habeas Corpsus, Digital Resistance