It is impossible to talk about New Orleans’ darkest sons without taking a moment out to consider their often chequered history. Formed in 1988 by the ‘Godfather of the NOLA sound’ Jimmy Bower the band would mark their debut for Century Media four years later with the raw and primitive ‘In The Name Of Suffering‘ and perfecting their visceral mission statement the next year with the rightfully lauded ‘Take As Needed For The Pain‘.
The later years were less kind to the band with departures, internal disputes, a difficult third album (1996’s Dopesick) and hiatus.
In 2000 the band seemed back on track with the far superior ‘Confederacy Of Ruined Lives’, but other bands and debilitating drug habits seemed to stop EyeHateGod from gaining any momentum and the band drifted from compilations to live recording and intermittent touring.
Much has been reported of the band following Hurricane Katrina; Williams subsequent imprisonment and drug rehabilitation, the 20th year anniversary shows, but ultimately still no new material for fans or critics to get their teeth into.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and it is no surprise that a band that helped define the sound of a genre, nay, the sound of a region, surrounded by so much folklore and drama – from bloody recording sessions, polarising support slots, the patronage of Phil Anselmo (a man reasonably well known in Metal circles) and of course I may have mentioned the drug habits – that the longer they stayed away, the bigger the myth would become until a quarter of a century later the band would actually be more popular now than they have ever been, despite not releasing an album for nearly fifteen years!
With the weight of such expectation the more cynical could be forgiven for wondering quietly if, in reality, EyeHateGod, given their patchy history, weren’t a better prospect on paper than in the flesh.
Fortunately last year signs of life in the twitching corpse emerged in the shape of the single ‘New Orleans Is The New Vietnam‘. A brutal, short reminder that even an old knife can still cut deep with its blues heavy thunder, but in true style, tragedy struck the band following a European tour when drummer Joey LeCaze passed away from respiratory failure, breaking the heart of the rock community.
Finally, after what seemed like insurmountable odds, this month the long awaited album has arrived and for all the expectation, promises have to be delivered. Fortunately if you are a fan of the band, or even if this is your first time, you won’t be disappointed.
From the up tempo bludgeon of the opening track and recently released preview ‘Agitation! Propaganda!‘ with it’s almost Grindcore churning fury, to the punch drunk reeling closer of ‘The Age Of Boot Camp‘ this is an album that shrieks with pissed off attitude.
EyeHateGod have, for me, always been at their finest when they channel the deep Southern Blues grooves that Bower has made more palatable to the mainstream with Down and slam them head long into the hardcore brutality of D.R.I. and here the pulsing stomp of the likes of ‘Quitter’s Offensive‘ and ‘Nobody Told Me‘ is twisted into a malevolent shape that drips with feedback and a fuzz laden snarl.
The noticeable thing about the eponymous album is how focused every member sounds on it; the sometimes erratic Williams is a man reborn as he spits, growls, moans and bellows his way through rhetoric that is observational, bleak and cutting, yet manages to channel it into something hooky and memorable. Unafraid to turn the microscope on himself on ‘Parish Motel Sickness‘ with it’s lurching riffs he screams “Sometimes I’m stuck together, sometimes I come unglued” with the conviction of a man who has really lived what he is singing.
Elsewhere on ‘Flags And Cities Bound‘ he gives a nod to his recent Scott Kelly collaboration Corrections House and delivers a surgical dissection of American culture in a spiteful spoken word piece that is one half beat poetry and the other half a disenfranchised manifesto.
It would also be a disservice not to mention the contribution of LeCaze, always a skilled drummer, here he forms the bedrock that allows the band to ply their trade, whether it is the off kilter patterns of ‘Try To Crack The Hard Dollar‘ which breaks down into a loose open jam at the end or the straight forward pounding of ‘Robitussin And Rejection‘, letting the cascading guitars take the centre stage. It is a both uplifting and deeply sad to know that he went out on the back of having recorded some of his best work.
With all the brouhaha that has surrounded the band and their savage delivery, it is sometimes all too easy to overlook the fact that EyeHateGod are a band steeped in this rich blues history and their latest release is no exception. Bower, compardre Brian Pattern and bassist Gary Mader wring huge slabs of meaty metal one minute and almost tender moments like on ‘Worthless Rescue‘ which comes across as the knife welding older brother of Down’s ‘Stone The Crow‘ before breaking into another run that sounds like it was born out of endless jam sessions. Okay it is not everyone’s idea of the Blues, but you’d be slightly ignorant to deny the influence; at times it is like it’s like getting punched in the face by Robert Johnson’s ghost and at others it’s full of snotty punk attitude like on ‘Medicine Noose‘, a track teased out on the recent live dates.
If I have one criticism of this Lazarus like come back, it is the omission of last years ‘New Orleans…‘ single and that is purely for selfish reasons as the song was such a good addition to their aggressive arsenal, it would have been nice to have it sit alongside the other eleven tracks that detonate like smart bombs.
Despite the recording process being a initially strained one, with ‘Dopesick‘ producer Billy Anderson and the band unable to find common ground in the original sessions, once friend Anselmo and Down producer Stephen Berrigan pulled them together at the former Pantera man’s home in their native New Orleans, they managed to not only finish the album but help create a record that should legitimately seal their legacy as one of the most legendary extreme bands around.
‘EyeHateGod‘ is one of their best sounding records, both in terms of sonic quality and in terms of song writing and hands down their best since ‘Take As Needed For The Pain‘.
Misanthropy has rarely sounded so gleeful and good.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden