Written by: AP on 28/05/2014 15:35:04

Everything about Eyehategod reeks of weed: their inception on April 20th, 1988 (a date alluding to the 4/20 number ritual in cannabis culture); vocalist Mike IX Williams' hazy, rambling personage; and the fact that they like to do things on their own terms, and at their own lackadaisical pace. 14 years have passed since the release of their most recent LP "Confederacy of Ruined Lives" - this despite the fact that already in 2010, guitarist Jimmy Bower announced they were working on a new album, playing their first new song, entitled "New Orleans is the New Vietnam", one year later at Roskilde Festival on July 01st, 2011. Needless to say, the anticipation was mounting for their long awaited fifth studio album, and subsequently it was not without some euphoric relief that the group's fans' patience was finally rewarded in late March with the release of the official details for what would be a self-titled record, accompanied by its first song, "Agitation! Propaganda!" for streaming.

Whatever its qualities, "Eyehategod" was always destined for legend: it is the last time you'll hear the work of drumming artisan Joey LaCaze, who passed away in August last year from asthma induced respiratory failure, on record; and the myth and lore surrounding a band whose members seem perpetually to be at odds with the Law will continue to heighten their standing as elusive blue collar misfits sticking it to the Man - an attitude loved by punks and metal enthusiasts alike. Indeed, of the four prongs of Exhorder's legacy - the NOLA scene pioneered by Crowbar, Down, Eyehategod and Soilent Green - Eyehategod's always was, to me, the only one stretching past the boundaries of traditional metal and into punk & hardcore, an influence present to this day and one which the band pays immediate homage to with the aforementioned opening track, "Agitation! Propaganda!", and later on with the blinding rage of "Framed to the Wall".

Bower once said, "Black Sabbath mixed with Black Flag with a little bit of Skynyrd and the element of blues" was the most telling description of Eyehategod's sound, and the truth of his words still echoes today on "Eyehategod", a distressing cacophony of sound which, with Williams' lyricism and snarling vocal delivery, continues to encapsulate the ruins of life with no equal. Indeed, true to tradition the record is awash with scratches, screeches and feedback, boasting the sort of raw, visceral and organic production that plants Eyehategod's feet firmly in the same dirt the rest of us tread and brings their music, however enigmatic, intimately near the listener's heart and mind. You feel right there with Williams on the ultra groovy, trudging "Parish Motel Sickness", clutching a bottle of Bourbon on a comedown in some dingy motel room, hating life and sucking in the lethargic smoke from Bower & Brian Patton's dense, blues ridden riffing, and losing yourself in the oppressive pounding of Gary Mader's bass and LaCaze's percussion.

The sound of the Deep South - all decaying overgrown industry, pungent swamps and suffocating humid heat - won't be captured so impeccably by anyone else as it is by Eyehategod on tracks like the tantalising "Worthless Rescue", its abounding stoner riffs creating an immediate and unforgettable impression; or the already mentioned "Framed to the Wall", Williams' spitting of "Framed to the wall in a picture! Trapped in a hole with a hooker" in the chorus portraying the decadence, stagnation and resulting lethargy of working class life there with frightening vividity. It's refreshing to discover that in their 14 years of absence (mind you, not from the live circuit) Eyehategod have lost little, if any of their urgency, and certainly none of the crushing weight and maddening psychological pressure that earmarked them as one of the leading actors of the NOLA movement, not to mention an important progenitor of the sludge metal genre.

"Eyehategod" is every bit as unpredictable as a drug addict and as frenzied as a violent drunk, yet it is also laden with the class of groove that has the power to cradle both of those personas into a disturbingly soothing sleep. The interplay between sizzling southern fried riffs, Williams' distressed screams, and an often free flowing rhythm section on the likes of "Medicine Noose" and "The Age of Boot Camp" is sublime, and even though a number of the songs (such as "Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar" and "Quitter's Offensive") do feel a little underwhelming at first, the lumbering nature of the beast as one piece of music is anything but. The LP is thus aptly titled as a reflection of the presence of all the aspects that make Eyehategod one of the best sludge metal bands in existence: this is what Eyehategod should sound like, and despite my initial concerns for the mental and physical well-being of some of the members given their outspoken substance abuse and the resulting very real danger of incoherence and lack of tightness, that is exactly what Eyehategod have achieved on this self-titled outing. It's been a long time coming, but rest assured, the release it provides is every bit as cathartic as my writing here will hopefully have suggested.

Download: Parish Motel Sickness, Nobody Told Me, Worthless Rescue, Framed to the Wall, The Age of Boot Camp
For the fans of: -(16)-, Buzzov*en, Rabbits, Weedeater
Listen: Facebook

Release date 26.05.2014
Housecore Records

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