PICK OF THE WEEK: Slough Feg’s great ‘Digital Resistance’ warns technology is ruining our minds

Slough FegI was coming out of a doctor’s appointment the other day, headed for the pharmacy, when I had to jump out of the way. An attacker? No. An out-of-control car? Good guess, but no. Instead, I had to avoid three people with their heads down as they typed away on their smartphones while walking, none of them realizing or acknowledging I was in front of them. I probably could have just walked into them with no consequence, unless I knocked one of their phones to the ground.

It made for a robotic experience, and a sobering one, when it comes to the role technology plays in our lives. And hey, I am not professing innocence here! My wife and I commonly catch ourselves on the couch, only separated by the dog, as we type away on our respective computers or phones. We’ll laugh about it and wonder why we don’t maybe just talk to each other instead of spending so much time with our devices, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones. We’ll also lie in bed at night, looking at our phones, instead of doing something more constructive like reading. We’ve actually taken some steps to cut back on this one. We’re still working.

Slough Feg coverThese scenarios also serve well when it comes to “Digital Resistance,” the new, ninth record from Slough Feg. As their albums are wont to do, it has a common theme running through, though it’s not a concept piece like some of their other records. Our slavery to technology, and the way it is making us less likely to dig into a book, do some hard work, or research a topic beyond what’s at our fingertips are amazing statements as to how far technology has come and sad testaments to how undyingly we rely upon these devices. Even the cover art seems to poke fun at this, with two people seemingly ready to feed off the teats of a stone animal that very well could represent technology. They do a damn good job getting the message across on this album, and might even leave you singing along to hymns about your own behavior.

It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since we got Slough Feg’s excellent last album “Animal Spirits,” one of my favorite of that year, and if you’ve been along with the band ever since they still had “The Lord Weird” before their name, you’ll need no adjustments whatsoever. The band’s mix of classic heavy metal, rock, and Celtic folk is alive and well, and singer/guitarist Mike Scalzi (formerly of Hammers of Misfortune and Unholy Cadaver) is in fine, gruff voice, with his storytelling as biting, relevant, and even as humorous as anyone going. He’s joined again by guitarist Angelo Tringali, bassist Adrian Maestas, and drummer Harry Cantwell, as they do a fine job crafting music that should appeal to fans of pre-Dickinson Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Manilla Road, Jethro Tull, and, of course, the aforementioned Hammers.

“Analogue Avengers/Bertrand Russell’s Sex Den” opens the record, with Scalzi observing, “The lone obsolete engineer is here,” and, “The novice is guiding the seer, it’s clear,” putting into motion the idea of technology trumping actual intellect. On top of that, the song is a piercing one that should get your interest piqued in no time. Then it’s on to the title track, with riffy magic, references to killing technology (in a different manner in which Voivod delivered the message), a punchy composition, and Scalzi imagining, “Viruses burning through shields” and violated firewalls being torn down and destroyed. “Habeas Corpsus” pulls back the pace a little bit, opening with a Western-style section, then entering a cold, chilling pace that goes along with its murderous storyline, as well as really strong guitar work that’s a highlight of the song. “Magic Hooligan” has moments that feel like an old Rush song, primarily because of the guitars, and it’s a punchy track that gets in, makes its mark, and gets out. “Ghastly Appendage” delves into horror storytelling and feels like a tried-and-true Slough Feg song. The band takes its time, chugs slowly overs its running time, and all of a sudden it ends.

“Laser Enforcer” is one of the catchiest songs on the record, with Scalzi warning, “There are forces in this universe that you cannot comprehend,” as the band digs into a more rock-oriented groove. Toward the end, the guitars get more atmospheric and stretch out, almost like an extended Maiden section, before it wraps up with a couple more blows to the gut, with Scalzi noting, “Resistance is always pacified.”. “The Price Is Nice” has a strong classic metal feel to it, as it’s calculated and deliberately paced, with a rock-solid chorus you might want to call back, and some blistering soloing. “Curriculum Vitae” has a dark, ominous start, with an extended instrumental section. Acoustic guitars eventually slide in behind all of the crunch, giving you a taste of folk rock, and it’s one where the music takes the focus over the vocals. It’s a nice change of pace. “The Luddite” brings our storyline back into focus, as Scalzi notes, “Children stare with vacant minds,” paying off the warning that technology is sucking us dry, and the band hits on a 1970s-style vein with some especially warm guitar work. It all wraps up with “Warriors Dusk,” a track that feels like it could open an old film about street gangs, as they sink themselves into ideas of destruction and war, with Scalzi admitting, “Warriors don’t age well.” Hopefully he’s not referring to the band, because that’s definitely not true of them. The guitar work sizzles, the vocals grip you and force your attention, and the song catches fire one last time as it draws to a close. The album ends up feeling a little short at only 40 minutes, but I find myself satisfied nonetheless every go-around I spend time with this record.

Slough Feg might not adhere to trends and might not sound cool to some people, but they’re a true metal force that’s been going for well over two decades and always deliver albums that are catchy, unique, and thought provoking like “Digital Resistance.” They don’t need beasts and blast beats and over-the-top horrors to make their point. They look right at society, observe the downward trends we’re on, and then tell us how it very well could destroy us all. That’s scarier than some devil rising out of fire, because these things might really happen.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.sloughfeg.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/band/slough-feg

For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/