A nearly twenty-year-old band with a disc called Atavism in its catalog on a label known for its pre-1985 metal jones releases another retro heavy metal record? Get outta here! Next you’re gonna tell me the new Hatebreed’s got breakdowns in it. As with every other album in their catalog, Slough Feg’s seventh, Ape Uprising!, defiantly bucks two decades’ worth of progress in the metal world. It’s even tough to reconcile the term “new album” with Ape Uprising!’s analog, leather-clad, early-80s swashbuckling sound. This is the hard rock/metal hybrid your older stepbrother would bump at a teenage sausagefest in his mom’s basement, singing “Never coming down from the trees! / Never bending down on my knees!” with fists shaking at the sky.

Who needs the new school when there’s still so much life in the old? There’s more vitality in the earthy Iron Maiden gallop of “Overborne,” and the raw Thin Lizzy guitar twinnage in “Shakedown at the Six,” than in any of the hyper-compressed tech-metal and deathcore coming out these days. Mike Scalzi and Angelo Tringali’s axes jig, rumble and thrash through the ten-minute title track like the epic melee it portrays, and shred the fuck out of “Ape Outro” and “Nasty Hero.” Scalzi possesses a throaty baritone ready for battle, capable of roaring “It’s fight or flight / Our strife continues on / You found the might in / Your opposing thumbs” without a hint of cheekiness.

If you couldn’t piece it together from the album title and lyric quotes above, Ape Uprising! documents a successful simian insurrection against a race of enslaving humans, told from the point of view of the apes. Concept-wise it’s ripped straight from the Planet of the Apes mythos, but in Slough Feg’s version there is no mercy for humankind, only hatred and domination. In the swinging, acoustic-tinged “White Cousin,” the race of men sound repulsive: “They come with pink eyes / And lily-white skin / They hide underground / And burrow within / White cousins – Albino slaves.” Who wouldn’t want to destroy us? Slough Feg’s sincerity (not to mention Scalzi’s balls) turn a silly album conceit into an indictment of the corruptive cycle of power.

There’s an uncomfortable tension between the upbeat melody coursing through Ape Uprising! and the dark Hobbesian worldview it portrays, and that dynamic helps elevate Slough Feg above their countless anachro-metal peers. The advancements over their last album, Hardworlder, are slight (e.g., Slough Feg recall a new old band – Black Sabbath – on the doomy opener “Hunchback of Notre Doom”), but you don’t look to Slough Feg for novelty. You look to them for vintage metal tunes and blazing performances, and Ape Uprising! delivers on both counts.

metal hornsmetal hornsmetal hornsmetal horns half

(3 1/2 out of 5 horns)

– SR

Show Comments
Metal Sucks Greatest Hits