Can it really be fourteen years since sludge behemoths Eyehategod’s last studio album? In 2000 the War on Terror was a mere twinkle in George Bush’s eye, nu-metal was in full swing and a social network was restricted to the guys you mixed with down your local on a Saturday night. But even though the world has changed so much in recent years, for the members of Eyehategod it’s been one never-ending struggle.
Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the members’ hometown of New Orleans in 2005 was a watershed moment in more ways than one and the intermittent bouts of homelessness and drug addiction that prevented the quartet from all but intermittent touring was bad enough. The tragic death of long term drummer Joe LaCaze last year seemed like the final nail in the coffin but with new album “Eyehategod” already recorded and the band appearing optimistic in interviews, hopes are high that they may have come out the other side with sanity and soul just about intact. As for the record, it’s a bloody belter.
Opening track ‘Agitation! Propaganda!’ announces Eyehategod’s return in certifiably vicious style as the Black Flag influenced assault tears out of the speakers like an armed crackhead hell-bent on giving you a malicious wounding. Jimmy Bower’s guitar is already weeping pestilent feedback just like you would expect and it aids the likes of ‘Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar’ and ‘Parish Motel Sickness’ in making you feel nauseous as well as exhilarated as the foul, grimy riffs begin to do their work.
Elsewhere, the sickness-stricken blues of ‘Quitters Offensive’ simply crushes with its simple yet malformed guitar lines as Mike Williams exhorts you to quit and admit defeat. Well you weren’t expecting a positive, uplifting message now were you? It’s strictly bad vibes all the way and Williams wants you to know this for although his throat sounds as diseased as ever, his lyrics are just a tad more legible than before. On guitar, Jimmy Bower cranks out a seemingly endless supply of gnarled, smoke-stained riffs that are what Black Sabbath records may have sounded like were they recorded in a New Orleans crack house in the middle of a riot. It’s grim, inspired stuff as the rapid brutality of ‘Framed to the Wall’ demonstrates while the barren doomscapes of ‘Flags and Cities Burned’ nods to Williams’ work in Corrections House and suggests that Eyehategod will never be beaten in the downbeat and depressed stakes.
Finishing off with the “Take As Needed For Pain” style classic barrage of ‘Medicine Noose’ and ‘The Age of Bootcamp’, a song that first appeared on odds n’ sods compilation “Preaching the End Time Message” in 2005, Eyehategod leave the record in familiar territory, but it’s terrain we know and love; unadulterated sludge misery characterised by molasses-thick, riff-based heaviness, feral screeching and a truck-load of bad vibes and negative energy. Throw in a simply fantastic performance by LaCaze behind the kit and you have everything you could ever want from an Eyehategod record. Despite being away for so long they’ve not wasted a moment and are as vital now as they ever were. The South has risen once more and you will be powerless to resist its call.