Heavy in nature, sludgy in execution
Since their initial Louisiana inception, the lengthy history of Eyehategod easily could be painstakingly detailed in a three-hour-plus Ken Burns doc. Albeit having a career pan well over three decades (1988), never breaking up and widely innovating and popularizing a distinct brand of sludgy heavy music, Eyehategod has certainly seen their fair share of struggles. The tragic death of their founding drummer, Joey LaCaze, and the health and legal troubles of vocalist Mike William most likely stopped the band from releasing new music since their highly-acclaimed eponymous record, Eyehategod (2014).
Calling A History of Nomadic Behavior (2021) a comeback is odd, as the band never broke up, but it sure feels like it. Almost right from the get-go, the opening track “Built Beneath the Lies,” which is almost like taking one step forward and two backward, should spin the heads of people who are actual fans of NOLA’s Eyehategod and their definitive sound. The fusion of vitriolic, bitter fury is present in the lyrics and the band’s dynamics, but there is an undeniably encompassing staleness of lifelessness to the composition and production.
Perhaps in part to the addition of a newish drummer (and potential songwriter) into the mix, one can find an interesting (11-meter structure?) songwriting convention. This somewhat belies EHG’s punk-tinged sensibilities in “The Outer Banks,” featuring a somewhat intriguing chugging riffage, triplet arpeggiation and rapid snare rolling. “Fake What’s Yours,” of course, in Black Sabbath-esque syncopation tradition, is speckled with angrier shouting and buzzing guitars. This is also repeatedly found and polished on cuts such as “Anemic Robotic,” “High Risk Trigger” or even “Current Situation.”
However, much of the riff writing comes off as disjointed and more or less unfinished, especially for a final cut. In part of the mixing, Jimmy Bower’s heavy riffage sometimes ends up playing second fiddle to other instruments, usually present and upfront in an EHG release. The drum performances are up to flack, highlighted during some, particularly heavy, moments of “The Day Felt Wrong” and its following track, “The Trial of Johnny Cancer,” which could have been two conjoined tracks, or might at least be played, back-to-back live.
The sluggish stylings are not only found in the band’s tempos and riffage. The 43-minute runtime offering feels way longer than that, even though half of the ideas presented aren’t given the appropriate time to develop. The claustrophobic lack of variance is also capable here.
At their most cynical and aggressive, on “Three Black Eyes” and “Every Thing, Every Day,” EHG harken back to their angriest and filthiest incarnations of heavy, punk-soaked sludge. Yet, the band finds themselves not quite at a place of interesting homeostasis, as their sound has evolved in several ways and depressed in others. For one, the youthful rage comes off more like polite anger, due in part to the subdued vocal performances and overall punch of the instruments. Also, the songwriting is either not involved enough or too busy to the point of jarring distraction, leaving focus, among other things, to be desired.
And, well, sure, these problems might not strike quite a chord for someone just simply looking for misanthropic heavy rock music, but anyone passionately knowledgable with EHG’s raw sensibilities would sadly be let down by A History of Nomadic Behavior.