Cruz Del Sur
Company: Cruz del Sur
Crusty and archaic, but simultaneously fresh
Well hello, what's this? Funny band name (shortened from the Lord Weird Slough Feg), songs under three minutes in length, an album cover that looks like something straight out of Marvel Comics circa the 1970's...and that's without even getting into the music itself, where these West Coast-based nutters really work their weird, wacky wonders. Yes, in a metal world where every genre with more than three active bands seems to have settled into a formula, Hardworlder flies in the face of this somewhat unfortunate trend, sounding crusty and archaic, but simultaneously fresh---definitely not an outright retread of anything in particular that has come before.
The Slough Feg sound, as heard on Hardworlder, is a real mixed bag, filled with thick, crunchy, 70's-derrived riffing, Thin Lizzy-style harmony guitars, a vaguely Celtic sense of melody and storytelling, and lyrics that read like excerpts from the diary of a character from one of those nifty old Me Generation comic books with a forty cent cover price (and a $40 price in the collector's market of today).
Adding to this album's uniqueness is its odd structure, in which tunes--many of which are under three minutes in length--segue into one another, often in ways that seem completely illogical when you watch your player to notice when the track changes occur--as if there were a pressing error. But if one ignores the counter, these eleven fairly short tunes (plus two obscure and worthwhile covers) actually gel together quite well, taking the listener on a rich, cosmic mini-adventure despite the album's short duration (another 70's throwback move?).
Singer-guitarist Michael Scalzi's gruff bellow occasionally gets a bit tiresome, but at the same time is somehow well-suited to the more epic, (super-) heroic material like "Tiger! Tiger!" and the rest of the crazy medley of which that tune is part. He and new co-guitarist "Don" Angelo Tringali make a pretty good Gorham/Robertson-type guitar duo, trading old-fashioned but tasty licks between the deliberately dated riffs and well-executed harmonies. The covers of Manilla Road's chest-thumping "Street Jammer" and Irish band Horslips' plain weird (and rather funky) "Dearg Doom" complete the picture on a release that that is delightfully old-school, but without being totally derivative.
Lots of bands can play retro, particularly the superficial type of retro that seems to sustain Guitar Center and similar musical instrument chain stores here in the States. Going beyond simple imitation, however, means doing something more than just buying an overpriced "vintage" guitar and making sure your reissued 70's tour shirt is distressed in all the right places. It means digging deeper to find new things that can be done with old sounds, something Slough Feg seem to have mastered in a way that few bands can really claim to have done.