As I listen to "Hardworlder" for probably about the 10th time since I got it (3 days ago), I'm trying to figure out whether it is better than Slough Feg's previous release "Atavism". My aim? To answer this by the end of this review.
Even after the first 5 times of listening to "Hardworlder" I felt like I still hadn't heard it at all. I found this intriguing given its general catchiness and easy listening style. But perhaps that is it. Even more so than "Atavism", this album is soothing and instantly enjoyable with its prominent thick melodies akin to most of your neo-Traditional heavy metal and smoothly transitioned tempo changes. Where "Atavism" is bright and catchy, "Hardworlder" is like velvet - gentle and alluring. Yet buried beneath this simplicity appears to be a highly enjoyable artwork, worth more than your average MTV song of the week.
"Hardworlder" in comparison to "Atavism" has a more doomy influence, along the lines of Pentagram, with its clear production and easily distinguished components. Mike Scalzi effortlessly carries us on a journey through outer space and starry mythology with his unique clean vocals which sound something like an Irish tenor not quite reaching his octave. Not in a bad way, the flaw sounds organic and contains a very lush tremolo to it. Furthermore guitar work is nothing short of brilliant, with plenty of well thought out and appropriate solos (including an utterly enjoyable instrumental "Galactic Nomad") accompanied by subtly directive drumming and rhythm guitars.
Injected into this doomy mix are two very much contrasting cover songs. "Dearg Doom" (a Horslips cover) and "Street Jammer" (a Manilla Road cover). Both are absolutely stunning but as mentioned the odd thing about these two songs are that they are, for the most part, much more upbeat than "Hardworlder". Clearly this was Slough Feg's intention and I think it is effective, assisting in the transition from the much more jovial sounding "Atavism".
The description "pirate-esque" for Slough Feg has been used by many and I agree with it. If pirates wrote heavy metal, this is what it would be. As such, I use the following analogy to describe "Atavism" relative to "Hardworlder": The former is the conquest, the looting, the plundering, getting the treasure and drinking to the rewards. The latter is the awakened hangover and recovery process, thrown in with some stories of the previous day's activities.
A neo-traditional album that deserves your attention, "Hardworlder" is a must for 2007. Drawing back on whether it is indeed better than its predecessor "Atavism", I think the conclusion is, you can't have one without the other. On par for quality, they can be listened to in sequence, for different purposes and without evening noticing the time, you will realise that a around an hour and a half will have passed before the albums have ended ... and even then and you'll probably still be able to throw "Down Among the Deadmen" on after it.
1. The Return of Dr. Universe
2. Tiger! Tiger!
3. The Sea Wolf
5. The Spoils
6. Frankfurt-Hahn Airport Blues
7. Galactic Nomad
8. Dearg Doom (Horslips cover)
10. Poisoned Treasures
12. Whirling Vortex
13. Street Jammer (Manilla Road cover)