Slough Feg: Live at The Unicorn, London
Last night I bought a shirt that had a picture of a dog wearing a spacesuit on the front. I did this based on the opinion of a man I met in a kebab shop, while arguing about whether or not Venom were any good. Welcome to a fairly average Slough Feg Gig.
Camden’s Unicorn (not to be confused with the nearby Unicorn Theatre) is an odd place. God alone knows how it turns a profit, perched on the top of a hill on Camden Road. It’s way off the main drag, it’s main clients seem to be a few slightly pissed local retirees, and it spends it’s nights annoying them by featuring a constant barrage of noise, crust, punk and metal bands.
And it’s always free to get in.
This comes as a surprise tonight, because while you may not have heard of them, Slough Feg are kind of a big deal in certain circles.
Forming way back in the early 90s, they launched out of Pennsylvania (although now, perhaps more sensibly call San Francisco home) as “The Lord Weird Slough Feg”, and have been ploughing a furrow of excellent but woefully unfashionable, and uncommercially unclassifiable Heavy Metal ever since.
They are also excellent. A great example of the hard school of knocks rock band. Constant touring is the rule of the day, interrupted by consistently solid album releases. Slough Feg’s biggest problem (If you decide it is a problem) is that they sound like nothing else on Earth.
Oh, there are some influences that emerge. There are plenty of twin guitar harmonies that owe a certain debt to Maiden and Thin Lizzy, but they have chosen a weird, atonal scale to cook them up. The whole sound has a weird touch of Scotland to t, as though these are bagpipe tunes that have been stolen by Saxon.
Before we go into the set – the kebab shop incident. If you ever needed any proof that Slough Feg work very hard for a living, then realise that they are quite willing to line up in a greasy kebabery for one of those weird cheap pizzas, after having driven for eleven hours straight. Last night they played at Muskelrock festival in Sweden. Today they are here, and are arguing the toss over shitty/classic metal bands (We finally decide that Venom and Hellhammer are terrible, but are also loads of fun) before going back to the venue to play their balls off.
Onto the show!
Unfortunately we missed openers Brule tonight, but I’m glad I caught Seven Sisters. They seem to boast a combined age of about 13, but they must have spent every second of that time worshipping at the throne of the first three Iron Maiden albums. It’s a riot – songs called ‘Avenger’, screaming high notes and rip-roaring twin guitars abound. It’s an energetic trip back to the height of the NWOBHM, played with talent and genuine enthusiasm. See if you can grab a demo next time they are in town.
Slough Feg take the stage with little ceremony. A couple of ‘hey heys’ to check the mics are on, and we’re away. Ploughing through a range of obscure tracks and classics, it’s a fun journey through the band’s history tonight. Guitarist/Vocalist Mike Scalzi is on particularly fine form.
Stripping down and leaping onto tables to roar out choruses. If you’ve ever been to a really loud gig, you’ll know about that moment when you aren’t actually hearing the music, but are instead feeling it vibrate right up your ass. There’s a couple of those moments tonight, and they are both courtesy of Scalzi’s deep, bassy vibrato, as newer tracks from 2014’s ‘Digital Resistance’ album vie for attention against fan favourites like the little-heard High Passage/Low Passage.
Slough Feg may not be headlining Glastonbury anytime soon, but they are an important band within the scene, so seeing them perform in such an intimate setting is a rare pleasure that exemplifies their sheer talent and professionalism. This is a band that has practiced Hard, at the peak of it’s road-warrior powers. It’s not cool, it’s not hip, but it is full of an insane joy that you need in your life.