The comeback album. It’s kind of in vogue, isn’t it? Though Eyehategod never broke up, it’s been 14 long years since New Orleans’ finest sludge sons have released a full-length album and since last year’s 7” New Orleans Is the New Vietnam dropped, anticipation for a new body of work from Eyehategod has been frantic, and now here it is in the form of this self-titled.
It’s always a strange decision when an established band opts to leave a new record as self-titled. Sometimes it can suggest a lack of ideas or that the album is just a collection of tacked together songs rather a cohesive body of work woven together by a set of themes. It can also be a case of rebirth, which appears to be what Eyehategod have done with this LP.
The record has in fact been recorded for almost a year with the band sitting on the tracks, waiting to master and decide on a label (ultimately choosing Housecore Records and Century Media) but tragedy would befall Eyehategod, when drummer Joe LaCaze passed away in August 2013 at just 42 years of age and, having been in the band since In The Name of Suffering, and would leave behind a huge void in the entity known as Eyehategod.
His drumming performance is still here on this album though, with the record carrying a tribute message, and what a better tribute to pay to a musician than presenting his final recorded work in the full package that it deserves? There is however, another overwhelmingly tragic event that may have played a role. As Jimmy Bower explained in interviews last year, all the music was written after Hurricane Katrina devastated their home, which must surely have added to the band’s already bitter-tasting sound.
Albums such as this can often buckle under the weight of expectation. It’s been 14 long years after all. Some deliver, some don’t. Eyehategod’s next chapter is an invigorating one and shows that despite the years, the band hasn’t mellowed in any way, still trekking us through bluesy sludge that places a microscope over the hopelessness of destitution, addiction, crime, and abandonment. The misanthropy is, as ever, palpable.
Opener ‘Agitation! Propaganda!’ erupts with the band’s punkier tendencies and Mike IX Williams, as per usual, carries the bulk of that misanthropy in his vocals, one of the obvious Eyehategod trademarks, but musically speaking, the band has turned up the blues influences a notch or two and that all-important Sabbath vibe hasn’t been lost either. Just listen to the meandering grooves of ‘Nobody Told Me’.
‘Robitussin and Rejection’ on the other hand is Eyehategod at some of their most bitter, with Jimmy Bower reeling in the riffs into the doom-like realms while in similar tones, ‘Medicine Noose’ is one of the record’s heaviest numbers but shamelessly dials up the tempo once again with those sludgy southern waves that the band has so frequently made their own.
You could call Eyehategod a “return to form” and granted, it’s been 14 years since the last full-length, Confederacy of Ruined Lives, but that record was far from a dud but as a return to regular activity, it’s probably the best record that the band could have produced, with everything you expect from an EHG record intact, and is a fitting last work from Joe LaCaze.