It’s been a banner year for New Orleans metal. All three of The Big Easy’s heavyweights — Down, Crowbar, and Eyehategod — have returned to release new records this summer, and all three sound completely rejuvenated after their respective hiatuses. Eyehategod’s reemergence, though, might be the most unlikely of the trio. Reports from the ’90s tell of a ragged band constantly touring, as both an excuse to do drugs and a means to fund their addictions. It’s a dangerous combination, intoxicants and the road; yet Mike Williams and Co. have persevered for two and a half decades, and all four of their albums are strong, seemingly unaffected by the depravity Williams screamed about in songs and suffered from in reality.
Eyehategod’s new self-titled effort — their first in 14 years, following 2000’s Confederacy of Ruined Lives — is a worthy comeback and their most entertaining release since 1996’s Dopesick. It’s both urgent and raw, as if the band hasn’t aged a day, especially in the case of Williams. His volatile howl hits adolescent highs and scratchy lows on opener “Agitation! Propaganda!”, and the song’s d-beat gallop is a welcome dose of speed before the relentless, sludgy grooves that follow.
Lack of variation in the tracklist is the token criticism against Eyehategod records, and while this one has its monotonous moments (the stoned drone of the seven-minute “Flags and Cities Bound”), the memorable riffs and refrains come in swarms. Highlights “Parish Motel Sickness” and “Worthless Rescue” are effortlessly powerful with their fat Sabbath riffs and Williams’ shouts of pain. “Sometimes I’m stuck together/ Sometimes I come unglued,” he repeats. Ever the troubled songwriter, Williams battles his demons (mental illness, drugs, and social alienation among them) for the duration of the 43-minute record. He never seems to reconcile or purge himself of these issues, not a surprise considering he’s sung about them, both autobiographically and as an onlooking narrator, since the first Eyehategod album, 1992’s In the Name of Suffering. But the fact that he is still alive and emoting and coping with all this personal shit through aggressive music is inspiring. For Mike Williams, Eyehategod is a way of life, and perhaps the necessary counterbalance to his darker vices.
Essential Tracks: “Agitation! Propaganda!”, “Parish Motel Sickness”