“Men have become the tools of their tools.” — Henry David Thoreau
Slough Feg has long played an unfashionable form of classic metal. It’s warped by Celtic folk-punk diversions, time travelling lyrical paradoxes, and topped off with a heavy dose of snark, courtesy of band leader, vocalist, and guitarist Mike Scalzi. This is the band for true metal connoisseurs (read: snobs) clad in denim vests and Banzai headbands, made by connoisseurs as opinionated and unrelenting as their fans.
Although they exist in this bubble, classic metal appreciation is on the rise. Slough Feg are a potential figurehead for the burgeoning movement now that they are signed to the biggest label they’ve yet been affiliated with, Metal Blade Records. However, Scalzi suffers from no delusions of grandeur. Instead, he is awkwardly hilarious, crotchety and straight talking. This isn’t “shitty music… noisy and unmusical” that brings home bacon. Instead, it’s “weird, sci-fi metal that always has some weird space wolf on the cover.” The upcoming Digital Resistance delivers just that. With the recurring lyrical theme of the negative impacts of technology on mankind, it’s a tongue-in-cheek critique of a serious issue, made by a man who teaches for a living and feels those effects constantly.
“I have to really fight hard to get the kids to stop talking on their cell phones, text messaging, and [to] not plagiarize all their papers they write from online sources… So, on a daily basis I encounter these things, and have to say, ‘Put down the phone. Stop looking at the computer. THINK,’” begins Scalzi. “It became part of the record, but it is more of a serious contemporary theme with a sci-fi bent. Put those two things together, and I have the everyday experience of ‘how can I do this job? How can I stop these kids from being cyborgs?’”
He continues, “Of course, you can merge that serious issue with dramatic, exaggerated science fiction concept with songs… It’s heavy metal: you’re kind of making something that sounds dramatic and entertaining.”
The album is both. Unlike 2009’s The Animal Spirits, which was decidedly downtrodden and comparatively raw with its punk-ish charms in comparison to the triumphant nature of such albums as Twilight of the Idols (1998), Down Among The Deadman (2000), and 2007’s Hardworlder, among others, this album is a return to the norm. As per usual, the references to history, science fiction, mythology, literature and mundane experiences are constant.
The checklist: the album title was conjured through a conversation at the bar. “This guy… said something like, ‘You’re part of the digital resistance, are you? You collect VHS tapes and all that.’ The single, ‘Laser Enforcer,’ was dubbed after a friend who had to ‘enforce certain rules to teach other students how to use a laser in a lab’ — somehow, laser enforcer was the technical term for what he was doing. Now, that’s such an awesome, silly thing.” “The Luddite” refers to the English textile artisans against machinery; the opening track “Analog Avenger/Bertrand Russell’s Sex Den” is apparently “a metal version of ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me,’ by the Police.”
“Of course you have the musical aspect of it, like the first song… is about the actual consequences of this technology on music, and how everything is kind of bland and it’s all about production,” continues Scalzi, whose distaste for current music is well documented. “It’s almost always complete shit, just irredeemable fucking garbage.”
Now ranting, he says, “You’d think that with all this digital technology in the recording studio, people would be making albums that sound like Yes, or something complex, like Queen. Shit, you know? All this great technology, what the fuck are they doing with it?”
If you’re Mike Scalzi and company, you’re recording with the same producer you’ve always worked with (Justin Weis), and making yet another fantastic album, complete with tracks that are continuations of previous songs (on Digital Resistance this is closing track “Warriors Dusk”, a continuation of Down Among the Deadman song “Warriors Dawn”). So yeah, you do it by being a complete dork that makes music for love over gold, even if you laughingly sum up the conversation by claiming
“I don’t want to be obscure, I want to be a rock star like everybody else!”
Buy Digital Resistance from Metal Blade Records on February 18.
By Sarah Kitteringham