Eyehategod: Eyehategod

After a 14-year absence, New Orleans sludge-metal outfit Eyehategod return with their most brutal and best record yet.

Above: Photo by moberg5 from Eyehategod.ee

Eyehategod saw their share of low points in the 14 years since their last full-length record. They include Hurricane Katrina devastating their hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, and in the following days the arrest of vocalist Mike Williams, who spent 91 days in jail where he underwent intense detox for heroin, and then in August 2013, drummer Joey LaCaze died of respiratory failure.

For many bands, this would have been enough to call it quits, especially a rag tag outfit of Southern metal heads like Eyehategod who’ve been slowly but steadily mastering their sludgy swap metal since 1988. But the band has forged on, and this past June, released a self-titled LP, their fifth record and first since 2000’s Confederacy of Ruined Lives.

What’s fascinating about Eyehategod is that in their 26 years of existence, the band’s sound hasn’t really evolved much. The production quality from their nearly lo-fi first record, 1992’s In The Name of Suffering, has definitely gotten better on subsequent releases, but stylistically, the band still inhabit that backwoods, voodoo realm that fits nicely between the crystalline phrasing of Mastodon and the apocalyptic stoner motifs of High On Fire.

On their self-titled latest, Eyehategod showcase this with 11 cuts of hazy yet destructive fury – all of which feature the work of late drummer LaCraze. Throughout the record, the band’s sound touches on the finer, historic points in metal and stoner rock calling upon the sorcery of Black Sabbath, the angst of early Alice In Chains, a touch of bleaker Black Flag and Pantera’s southern charm.

Piercing tones of high-end feedback erupt at the get-go on opening cut, “Agitation! Propaganda!”, which quickly gives way to a grimy punk attack filled by Williams whose screams cut through like a bloodied machete. These metal and hardcore tropes are nothing new, however. In fact, Sacramento, California, thrashers Trash Talk use the same techniques and do so with equal the gusto and ferocity.

But Eyehategod ratchet up the doom-factor up considerably thanks a dark and spatial production quality. That same cavernous factor that gave Jesus Lizard’s records their creep-tastic vibe, which can be attributed to producer Stephen Berrigan. Berrigan produced guitarist Jimmy Bower’s other group, metal supergroup DOWN, after sessions with Billy Anderson, producer of 1996’s Dopesick, didn’t work out.

The jagged guitar-and-drum play at the start of “Quitter’s Offensive” is downright delightful in it’s up-tempo delivery, while “Robitussin and Rejection”, is a disjointed mess of fuzz and jarring rhythms complemented by Williams’ venomous shrieks.

“Flags and Cities Bound” is the record’s most climactic moment, which at over seven minutes, manages to maintain its savagery through a wave of feedback and then a muddy mess of lumbering guitars. The track’s twisting and turning instrumental phrases are almost confusing at times until a thunderous coda where the late LaCaze delivers a backbreaking drum solo.

There aren’t any real surprises at work on Eyehategod, and that’s just fine. Its relatively simple approach of no frills instrumentals meets raw, demented vocals feels surprisingly fresh in its earnestness. Eyehategod play to their ferociously metallic strengths while never compromising their identity as swampy sludge-rockers, and the result is an album that’s equally impressive as it is brutal.

RATING 7 / 10