Eyehategod – Eyehategod (Housecore Records, 27 May 2014)
Enabler – La Fin Absolue du Monde (The Compound, 27 May 2014)
I will not be getting any sleep tonight. I’ve already accepted this as an unfortunate but unavoidable truth, and am now working on moving on. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve discovered that since about age 30, it has become way more difficult to function on litte (or no) sleep, and now that I’m hitting the halfway point of that decade, getting enough rest has become a very precious commodity. It isn’t ever easy, especially when my two-hour (each way) commute necessitates that I leave home at 5:00 in the morning, meaning I have to wake up around 4-4:30. That wouldn’t be so bad, if I were able to fall asleep around 10:00 each night, but that’s a rare occurrence — and tonight in particular it will be completely impossible.
I’m going to the Eyehategod/Enabler/Ringworm show at The Rex Theater in Pittsburgh (part of the tour I wrote about last week). The show is scheduled to start at 7:00, but in addition to the three touring bands, there had been two local openers scheduled (Under Everything and Hericide), and then somewhere along the way the Dune sandworm-named band Shai Hulud got thrown into the mix (I guess they are currently on their way home from a tour and just happened to be passing through town today and so now apparently they’re playing at this show as well). Naturally, with six bands, even if things kick off exactly at seven, there’s no way it’ll end anywhere before midnight — and that’s the absolute best case scenerio. Add in an hour drive to get home (that two-hour commute I mentioned involves bus-riding and walking), and I probably won’t be able to be in bed any earlier than 2:00. Falling asleep that late and waking up at 4:00 would probably make me even more tired and miserable than if I didn’t sleep at all. So here we are.
But, shit, what am I going to do — NOT go see Eyehategod in their first appearance in this area since …… well, the Bandsintown archive goes back more than seven years and doesn’t have a single Pittsburgh date listed. Neither does Setlist.fm have any mention of them playing here. In fact, the only thing I could find after an extensive five minutes of web-searching was a couple YouTube videos from a show in the summer of 1998. Basically the point I’m trying to make is, this is a pretty monumental event, and if I don’t take advantage of this chance to see one of the most important bands in the history of sludge metal, I might never have another opportunity.
* * * * * * *
Last Tuesday (27 May), New Orleanian legends Eyehategod released a brand-new album called Eyehategod through their friend Phil Anselmo‘s label Housecore Records. This self-titled effort is their fifth full-length overall, but more significantly, it represents their first album since Confederacy of Ruined Lives (Century Media) nearly fourteen years ago. A lot has happened since then: with the rise and fall of Napster, the entire music industry has basically been turned upside-down during that span. Approximately seven-hundred-eighty-three-thousand new sludge bands have emerged, which all cite EHG as a main influence. And on a much sadder note, drummer Joey LaCaze died of respiratory failure in 2013, sometime after his parts were recorded, but before the new album was fully completed.
The band members themselves have certainly kept busy during this lengthy discographic gap. To name just a few: guitarist Brian Patton has been moonlighting in Soilent Green; guitarist Jimmy Bower found himself behind the drumkit for Down, while playing guitar alongside drummer LaCaze in the instrumental psychedelic rock band Mystick Krewe of Clearlight; Mike IX Williams has made guest vocal appearances with countless other people, including MD hardcore band Strong Intention‘s 2012 seven-inch Razorblade Express (which I wrote about here), as well as forming the experimental metal group Corrections House (which I haven’t yet had the chance to write about, but whose debut album Last City Zero found its way into the top ten of my favorite albums of 2013).
Well, if there was any worry that time and and space may have somehow dulled the nihilism and hostility the band has always been known for, opening track “Agitation! Propaganda!” swiftly puts this to rest. Right off the bat, we find all the hallmarks of classic Eyehategod: plenty of noise and feedback, hard-hitting punk-style drumming, sharp-edged angry shouting/snarling vocals, and most of all, those great sludgey riffs.
This first song also features a cool moment (from about 0:50-1:00) of bass-only riff over the drums, while both guitarists chime in with duelling feedback. This format pops up again numerous times over the next 40+ minutes: for example, right at the end of “Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar,” then in the intro to “Parish Motel Sickness” and “Nobody Told Me,” and especially the cool slow-bass-groove during the first couple minutes of “Flags and Cities Bound.” And speaking of awesome slow grooves, another big highlight is the guitars+bass unison deep chugging main riff of “Quitter’s Offensive”.
Of course, the album has plenty of up-tempo moments too — nowhere more prevalent than in the beginning minute or so of “Framed to the Wall” where the pacing (if not precisely the rhythm) feels very d-beat-esque. Naturally, the tempo slows significantly just after this, to serve up some nice contrast — just one of countless “invisible oranges” moments throughout the record.
On Bandcamp, you can preview one of the tracks (#8, “Robitussin and Rejection,” yet another definite highlight — where the riffs and vocals are simply oozing with nasty sludgey gunk. In a good way, of course!):
* * * * * * *
Ohio-based (and Wisconsin-founded) punk/metal hybrid Enabler, some or all of whose members might have been in diapers when Eyehategod first got together as a band (I don’t know this for a fact, but it’s entirely possible), also released a brand-new album last Tuesday (27 May). Although Enabler may be the younger of the two bands, between splits and EPs and full-lengths, their discography is already every bit as extensive — and their list of former band members actually stretches a little longer. I’m sure the recent relocation from Milwaukee to vocalist/guitarist/recording drummer/principal songwriter/sole remaining founding member Jeff Lohrber‘s native Ohio, but it also feels as though a band philosophy of constant reinvention from one release to the next is at work here, similar to how Today is the Day has been known to operate.
In fact, you may recall earlier this year when I wrote about some news from the TITD camp, which contained the revelation that that band’s new line-up now includes Mr. Lohrber as its new drummer. In other related news, THAT band’s vocalist/guitarist/principal songwriter/sole founding member, Steve Austin handled mastering duties on this new Enabler album.
This album, La Fin Absolue du Monde, featuring cover art done by Pittsburgh’s own Chris Smith (of Grey Aria Design Studio), is the band’s first output as a trio — or so I’ve been led to believe based on promo photos I’ve seen (the line-up is very similar, if not identical, to that of the October 2013 EP Flies, which was also released through Earsplit PR‘s The Compound Records, but the press shot that accompanied that EP had four people in it). While being reduced to a single guitar player (in the live setting, that is — the recording often features more than one guitar part) might give the songs somewhat more stripped-down arrangements than the band previously had, the overall sound is definitely not any less full or any less heavy. At least, that was the impression I got when I experienced their performance in Pittsburgh back in April — the sheer amount of energy feeding through those three musicians and through the crowd was staggering.
For a band that’s primarily identified with the hardcore/punk scene (although just as much beloved by the metalheads who’ve become familiar with them), Enabler clearly bring a wide range of influences to the table, which infuse this album’s sound with many interesting dimensions. Case in point, some tracks including “New Life” and “Neglect” feature recurring guitar leads that wouldn’t seem out of place in a traditional heavy metal (or maybe a proto-thrash) setting, albeit turned way up to more of a grind-punk tempo. In the markedly chaotic mid-section of “Balance of Terror,” bassist Amanda Daniels (who elsewhere contributes snarled/growled vocals in tandem with frontman Lohrber throws in some haunting clean singing that just sort of hover in the background, serving as a counterpoint to all the noise and madness surrounding them.
In general, this music makes it difficult for the listener to pick out a specific genre: most of “Rain Darkness” and “I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This” tends to lean in a more straightforward (metallic-tinged) punk direction, while “The Exiles” starts off in a distinctively (punked-up) thrashy vein. Even when the band exhibits what seem like crossover tendencies (the minute-long “Prey,” e.g., or closing track “Consequence” which seems to take everything that’s led up to it, and then kicks the metronome up a few more notches), there are plenty of other things going on. Incredibly, this wide variety is displayed within the context of songs that don’t allow much room for the themes to develop much: nearly all are under three minutes in length, most of them not even reaching two minutes. (The big exception being “Felony” which, at nearly six minutes, allows for an intro, interludes, and outro, all of which serve to set up a rather dark and moody vibe.) Yet, the band is able to employ sudden stops and direction shifts all over the place, while still maintaining a relatively homogenous blend — that is, sticking with a fairly distinctive “sound” — throughout the fourteen tracks contained herein.
Check out a preview of a few of the album’s songs here:
* * * * * * *