Published Jun 14, 2019When grindcore godfathers Napalm Death started using their original logo again in 2000, it marked a shift of musical style back to their genre-defining extremities. Likewise, the San Francisco band formerly known as Slough Feg hadn't used their original title, the Lord Weird Slough Feg, since 2003's Traveller album. But bandleader Mike Scalzi takes back his band's formal title (and dispenses with their folksy metal of yore) on the blazing New Organon, a decisive return to their more metallic, take-no-prisoners songwriting.
Not that they had strayed far from the power-metal leanings of previous albums — namely 1999's Twilight of the Idols and 2000's Down Among the Deadmen — but New Organon brings together all their finest musicality into one cohesive and effective statement. Album opener "Headhunter" immediately puts all the metal cards on the table, as the tribal rhythms and floor-tom-heavy work of new drummer Jeff Griffin give this cut the velocity needed to accelerate to battle speed. Certainly Scalzi, whose voice is self-described as "Neil Diamond on steroids," adds his gravelly vocal stamp to each track.
Scalzi's day job is teaching philosophy, and two slower tracks address his view of ancient Greek works: the creeping analysis of "The Apology" addresses Plato's trial of Socrates, while the Queen-esque "The Cynic" is a swinging ode to Diogenes to be played as a slow-dance request at a renaissance fair. "Being and Nothingness" perfectly encapsulates the dual-guitar gallop of Judas Priest, and the stutter-step riffage of "Discourse on Equality" seems to underline the pre-Socratics Heraclitus and Thales' debate on the nature of the universe.
Scalzi and guitarist Angelo Tringali sense when to shred and when to give a song breathing room, as they expertly lead the majestic "Exegesis/Tragic Hooligan" through moody passages and the album's most glorious guitar solos. The furious, Iron Maiden-like title track even features a magnificent NWOBHM breakdown and Scalzi's rugged vocals. The raw production only adds to the unsung brilliance of this band. New Organon delivers triumphantly traditional metal, the way it should be rendered, Mephistopheles be damned. (Cruz Del Sur)