By Adrien Begrand
So you’ve got six full length albums, a host of splits, singles, and demos, and loads of well-earned credibility in the Bay Area metal underground. What do you do on your seventh record? Why, make an album about monkeys, of course. Evil monkeys, to be precise.
We’ve seen a lot of goofy gimmicks in metal, and monkey metal has to be a first, but if there ever was a band that could convincingly serve up a concept album based on the blatantly Hestonian notion of apes conquering the world and wiping out mankind in the process, it’s Slough Feg. Renowned for taking everything that’s nerdy about metal and selling it all with unblinking seriousness, the band, led by guitarist/singer extraordinaire Mike Scalzi, has been treading the same paths forged by Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Iron Maiden for nigh on two decades now, but it’s been in recent years that they’ve been making the most significant strides, 2005’s rousing, manic Atavism giving way to the tremendous focus of 2007’s Lizzy-esque Hardworlder. With Ape Uprising!, however, there’s a remarkable cohesion to it all this time around, the foursome finding a near-perfect middle ground between their primary influences.
The Sabbath-esque “The Hunchback of Notre Doom” is as terrific as the inspired title implies, “Simian Manifesto” erupts into a brilliant, Sabotage style coda, but not before Scalzi bellows some of his silliest lyrics to date (“Never coming down from the trees / Never bending down on my knees”). “Shakedown at the Six” is superbly executed Thin Lizzy groove, while “Ape Outro” and “Nasty Hero” both carry on at a blistering, NWOBHM-style pace. The real winner, though, is the stupendous, ten minute title track, which sees Scalzi and Angelo Tringali so subtly morphing from the tasteful twin leads of Lizzy’s tandem of Robertson/Gorham into the full on, galloping breaks of Maiden’s Smith/Murray duo. The record might be a bit preoccupied with those damn dirty apes, perhaps distractingly so for some, but there’s absolutely no denying that for all the monkeying around, this is one of the finest efforts Slough Feg has ever put out. Hail to the chimp!
(Cruz Del Sur Music)