Monday 15 March 2021

Eyehategod - A History of Nomadic Behavior (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Punk/Sludge Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 12 Mar 2021
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I knew Eyehategod had been around a while, but I was surprised to find that they were founded all the way back in 1988. They've also had a pretty stable line-up, with two of the four members in place since their demo days; I'm sure drummer Joey LaCaze would still be there too had he not passed in 2014. It's only their release schedule that's fighting them. For a band formed the same year as Cannibal Corpse, Paradise Lost and Nine Inch Nails, it's surprising to realise that this is only their sixth studio album, given the healthy double digit output of those other examples.

I'm not sure I've ever heard Eyehategod before and I certainly can't say that this is my favourite style of all time, but they do what they do very well. Generally, they're regarded as sludge metal and there are certainly some huge riffs here, but there are few songs that really live or die on those. They have a confrontational style that's epitomised in the hardcore punk vocals of Mike Williams that sound very sarcastic indeed. He's not just singing with his audience, he's arguing with them and he has the mike.

That's only one reason why they sound very punk to me. There's a stop/start mindset to the music that makes their often already short songs feel even shorter. The Outer Banks, for example, with a creeping riff, only runs two and a half minutes but a big pause and tempo shift halfway makes it sound like two songs of a minute plus rather than one at double that. They often made me think of the Accüsed but with a serious pace drop. Even in the faster second half of that song, Eyehategod sound like an Accüsed EP played at 33rpm instead of 45rpm.

The other punk angle is that this is a deliberately rough around the edges recording, as if it's not the actual album but we've been made privy to an early rehearsal tape that would normally be polished in many ways before release. Nobody in this band cares about tidying up loose endings, presumably of a shared mindset that feedback is a crucial part of their sound. It works to my mind in Three Black Eyes, which is one of the most agreeably loose songs here, but not on Current Situation, which may actually feature more feedback than notes. Some of these three minute recordings are two minutes of song and another of plugging in instruments and checking that the guy in the booth is awake.

But, like I said, they do this well. I actually don't mind Mike Williams's vocals, because they really fit this sound. Jimmy Bower's riffs are as crushing as anything this loose can be and I liked the prowling bass of Garry Mader a lot. He's always plugging away as a reliable backdrop even when the rest of the band gives up on songs like Current Situation and The Day Felt Wrong to experiment with feedback. Sure, there's Discharge and Black Flag here, but there's some Swans too.

The last time I was this unenthused by an album that I actually reviewed (holy crap, there are plenty I don't review because there's way too much good stuff out there for me to haul the hatchet man critic persona out) was the Hum album from 2020 that did so well in the end of year lists. The big difference between the two is that, while this isn't my thing, I can easily get why it might be yours. I couldn't get why anyone would listen to, let alone like, that Hum album, but this is clearly good stuff and many of my punk friends would dig it.

Eyehategod are heavy and angry, but they're playful and inventive too. Even I got into songs like The Day Felt Wrong—"Who do you trust? Who do you trust?"—or Smoker's Piece, with its sleazy vibe and even sleazier bass, and this isn't my scene. If it's yours, then I recommend this even if I'm not likely to ever haul it out again. Well, you never know.

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