Though The Animal Spirits was a latecomer to the game (of 2010 metal releases), its addition to numerous ‘best of’ lists was no doubt cemented after a few spins, provided the listener was susceptible to its straightforward vibe, gut-wrenchingly emotive guitar and vocal work, and expertly crafted tunes; in other words, a Slough Feg fan, though previous familiarity with the Feg isn’t required in order to place The Animal Spirits on its perch.
The above mentioned specialties in which Slough Feg excel are universal throughout the band’s discography, though they’ve finely honed their skills over the years, setting their name in stone as masters of the heavy metal song. Mainman Mike Scalzi (college professor by day, heavy metal god of thunder by night) orchestrated everything perfectly; so perfectly, in fact, that when The Animal Spirits is played front to back, a slit opens in the night sky and a slice of pure blue heaven soars through. That might be a bit of exaggeration, but the point to be made is this: Slough Feg create/play in-fucking-credible, solid songs that weld together metal, classic rock, and Celtic influences flawlessly, and best of all is the fact that there are whole albums filled with these masterpieces; case in point The Animal Spirits.
The album opens with the upbeat, Manilla Road-ish “Trick the Vicar,” which boasts lyrics such as ‘out of the frying pan/into the friar,’ and then leads into “The 95 Thesis,” a head-nodder if there ever was one, thick with lush, layered riffs and a folkish vibe. “Matera Prima” follows more of a slow groove in the beginning, lurking into Maiden territory, and then kicks it up a notch at about its midpoint, jumping into a galloping speed and displaying blistering leads. “Lycanthropic Fantasies” is slower-paced and more passive, as is “Ask the Casket,” its jovial mood belying its morbid title and subject matter. “Heavyworlder” (perhaps a nod to 2007’s Hardworlder) is also perhaps lighter than most Feg material, but full in the heavy department. After that comes a rockin’ cover of The Alan Parsons Project‘s “The Tell-Tale Heart” (based on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name), and then the coolly natural “Con Tiki.” “Second Coming” was written by Santana…wait, no, that’s not right. It does give off somewhat of a Latin vibe, though, in contrast to “Tactical Air-War,” which thrashes and rages like a shark in a swimming pool, and features Bob Wright of Brocas Helm on guest vocals.
Essentially, if you’re looking for undiluted, intelligent and beautifully written heavy metal, then Slough Feg‘s your band. While The Animal Spirits has a leg up on Ape Uprising, it doesn’t (at least to this reviewer) quite top Hardworlder, though both are on the same plateau of excellence. Scalzi’s ability to piece songs together is unmatched. Do yourself a favor and check out The Animal Spirits.[Visit the band's website]