Album Review: EYEHATEGOD Eyehategod
For a band that basically invented sludge metal (with a little help from the Melvins), NOLA native sons Eyehategod have distressingly little studio output under their belts. In fact, aside from a stray demo or new comp track, they haven't released anything since 2000's Confederacy of Ruined Lives. The band have never really went away so much as just splintered back into their plethora of side projects before any meaningful amount of songwriting could be accomplished. 14 years after that last hateful kiss off, they're finally back with the self-titled Eyehategod.
Let's be frank here: Confederacy of Ruined Lives was a solid enough album in its own right, but it did find the group abandoning their own singular ethos a bit, now sounding a little too much like Mike IX Williams fronting COC (probably no small coincidence, considering EHG's own Jimmy Bower had spent considerable time playing with COC's Pepper Keenan in Down by that point). The grooves were there, but so was a sort of polish that didn't mesh well with Williams' tortured vocals.
This marks the final appearance on drums of the recently deceased Joey LaCaze, a loss recent enough that the band found themselves hastily recruiting Aaron Hill to fill in at last October's Housecore Horror Festival. LaCaze has a patient and somewhat arhythmic yet pounding percussive style that recalls Dale Crover (Melvins), which is about all you can ask out of a sludge metal drummer. "Medicine Noose" in particular showcases his heavy hands to powerful effect. The man will be missed.
What Eyehategod gets right is backtracking to the band's glory days, being as it were a sort of mash up of the greatest strengths from Dopesick and Take as Needed for Pain. It also acts as a corrective to the various band members' consistently not-bad-yet-not-great track record of their other projects in the last several years (Corrections House, Outlaw Order, Down's IV Part One EP). It acts as neither a reinvention nor a new benchmark setting but rather a reaffirmation.
That's not to say that Eyehategod is a watered down version of the band's mid-90's output. For one thing, it does retain the groove-oriented focus of Confederacy, it just does so in a more unvarnished manner that better honors the quintet's hardcore roots. Speaking of which, opening track "Agitation! Propaganda!" leans heavily on those h/c values, a breakneck punk rock beginning giving way to a Southern laced groove on the back nine that comes off like a cross between Off! and Crowbar.
"Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar" even boasts a decidedly stoner groove, more Fu Manchu than COC, but though these first two tracks hint at a renewed sense of purpose, they turn out to be poorly representative of Eyehategod's true breadth. In terms of band classics neither of them quite make the cut. "Quitter's Offensive", on the other hand, doubles down on "Hard Dollar"'s catchy accessibility with a grimey riff that would qualify as one of the better things Down had recorded in recent memory if it had been written by Pepper Keenan instead. There's also a conventional song structure at play that proves the band have become adept at writing a good old fashioned rock song if they want to.
A decidedly more adventurous sense of structure can be found on tracks like "Robitussin and Rejection" and the aforementioned "Medicine Noose", both songs bipolar studies in shifting moods, anchored jointly by Hill's none-too-subtle percussion and Williams' always-pissed vocals.
I'm not quite prepared to put this on the same level as Dopesick or Take as Needed, both genre-bending classics that redefined heavy metal, but in terms of consistency and sheer "fuck yeah!"-ness this is right up there in that first tier of must have Eyehategod platters. Welcome back, boys. You earned it.
[ED NOTE: due to a misread of the press release, the original published review indicated that Aaron Hill plays drums on this recording. That is not in fact the case – Joey LaCaze had already laid down these tracks prior to his passing – so the review had been amended to reflect this]