For the past 13 years fans have come to know what to expect from The Lord Weird Slough Feg. That is, of course, catchy, uncompromising heavy metal with an unabashed sense of fun and just the right amount of heaviness. Ape Uprising, the band’s curiously titled 7th album, starts off with a curve ball. Living up to its name, “The Hunchback of Notre Doom” is Slough Feg’s first real foray into traditional doom metal. Of course it’s also the only track of its kind on the album, but I bet you thought I was going somewhere with that. You thought wrong. For Slough Feg, Ape Uprising is more of the same. For everyone listening that’s for the best.
Possibly the heaviest Slough Feg album in recent memory, Ape Uprising continues to pull the band farther from their folk-tinged beginnings. Ape Uprising is in many ways the culmination of what they started with Traveller. It makes no attempt to tip-toe around the band’s signature guitar wizardry, but the formula finally feels complete. A testament to this is the album’s title track, a ten-minute heavy metal odyssey that could actually stand to be longer. It doesn’t do anything particularly unique, it just does everything well. Mike Scalzi’s voice is as gruff and enunciated as always but it takes a backseat to he and Angelo Tringali’s acrobatic guitar work. The two guitarists spend much of the track’s extended runtime duelling and harmonizing, but it’s their 6 strings’ ability to add a larger vocal influence to a largely instrumental track that pushes the song into the upper echelon of heavy metal anthems. Not only is “Ape Uprising” by far the best song on the album but it’s quite possibly the best song the band has ever written. Since “The Hunchback of Notre Doom” is largely inconsequential to the album’s overall dynamic, and since “Overborn” is about as memorable as any red-shirt not named Janice Rand, “Ape Uprising” really gets the album’s engine roaring.
The next 5 songs may not be able to leapfrog “Ape Uprising”’s nearly unreachable plateau but they put in their fair share of work trying to. As the title track slows it segues almost seemingly into “Simian Manifesto”. While there’s clearly a stop-gap between the two, “Simian Manifesto” feels like a continuation. Somewhat broken in two, “Simian Manifesto” fluctuates alongside the inclusion or lack of vocals; as Scalzi rants and raves about how he’s “never coming down from the trees”, the song is a highly fragmented mid-paced snapper; as his voice fades, the tempo increases and the song quickly becomes a shred-tastic headbanger epilogued by a delectable bluesy groove. Serving as kind of a campfire prelude to the Iron Maiden-esque “Ape Outro”, “White Cousin” is a folky, acoustically driven track that does it’s best to make a liar out of me. Luckily “Ape Outro” makes a liar out of Slough Feg. Not only is it hard to believe that they “turned water to wine”, “Ape Outro” is more importantly the second last song. It may arguably be an outro to the Planet of the Apes inspired portion of the album, with “Overborn” or the title track serving as the beginning, but I’m not one to play guessing games. And why bother” What matters is that Slough Feg has once again struck gold. Not only do they sound reinvigorated, they sound better than ever. (SputnikMusic)