Heavy metal monks...
Genre: traditional/folk metal
The Lord Weird Slough Feg, or just Slough Feg, is a band that has been on my rader for some time, but which I never got around to exploring. With the cult band's recent signing to Metal Blade, the label has decided to re-issue Twilight of the Idols (1999), Down Among the Deadmen (2000), and Traveller (2003), providing me, and other curious souls with an excellent oportunity to explore this band.
Slough Feg are known for their brand of traditional metal which draws extensively on Celtic and medieval folk music, and for their eccentric – but brilliant - comics-, sci-fi-, RPG-, fantasy-, and folklore-based lyrics. And you know what, I gotta tell you straight away that, having heard the band for the first time on this box set, I am an instant fan of their music. It's simply some of the best traditionally oriented metal I have heard in a long time.
Production-wise, Twilight of the Idols is the roughest of the three abums, but musically it is really outstanding (as are the two other albums, I should say). The music draws extensively on the best that NWoBHM had to offer and bears a lot of resemblance with the first Iron Maiden album (without being a rip-off), but these traditional metal elements are combined with elements from Celtic and medieval folk music, and, what I really love is that Slough Feg do not make use of folk instrumentation as is otherwise typical of folk metal; they make use of the traditional guitar-drums-bass instrumentation and use it to perform both the metal riffs and folk melodies. Taking cues from Maiden and Skyclad alike, Slough Feg make use of song structures that are not exactly simple, some of which border on being progressively inclined. Rougher than the two other releases in the box set, this is still superior to much other traditional and folk-oriented metal I have enjoyed, and it is a great choice for re-release.
Much cleaner in production is Down Among the Deadmen, but the style of music is pretty much the same, and the band further explore the combination of traditional metal and folk music. The compositions and the performance is considerably tighter, and the metal riffing has been given a more prominent position, without tipping the scales. Just check out the perfectly balanced 'Heavy Metal Monk'/'Fergus Mac Roich' pair as well as the epic sounding 'Cauldron of Blood' and 'Troll Pack' whose rhythmic patterns almost iconically reflects the heavy lumbering about of trolls. Really, this is brilliant stuff!
Traveller is perhaps the most artistically successful of the three albums in the box set, being a sci-fi concept album based on the 'Traveller' RPG (which in itself is a stroke of genius). Musically, the album is pretty much within the same style as on Twilight of the Idols and Down Among the Deadmen, but with slightly more complex – and, dare I say, progressive – song structures and a performance which reflects a natural development in professionalism from the previous albums. Although still full of folk-based elements (just check the brilliant tracks 'Professor's Theme' and 'Vargr Moon'), this album leans more towards traditional metal than the two other albums in the box set. There really is no weak track on this album, but I would still like to mention 'Vargr Moon' as the absolute highlight of the album. Combining traditional metal and folk melodies, the song is varied and even ventures into power metal and power thrash territory. Taking the listener on a musical journey, this song is a perfect representative of a brilliant album in a brilliant box set by a brilliant band.
If you, like me, have been interested in Slough Feg for some time but never had the chance to enjoy the band, here is you chance to snatch up three top quality albums in one fell swoop. For my money, this is what folk metal should sound like: folk melodies, but without the metal resting in the background, and the sophisticated song structures go well together with the traditional metal riffage. If you are into the likes of Storm's Nordavind and Falconer's Armod, then you are bound to enjoy this collection – in fact, all three releases in the box set are far superior to the former and rival the latter in brilliance
Aw, hell! Slough Feg are geniouses. I am an instant fan. And there's nothing you can do to change that!
(review originally posted as seaoftranquility.org)