Slough Feg / Solstice
4 August 2011
Upstairs At The Garage, London
Solstice shows have been rare occurrences over the last few years and it was an expectant crowd that pushed forward in this small venue as they took to the stage. Whilst some of the new and stand-in band members may be unfamiliar, so is first song I Am The Hunter, which gave us a taste of the band’s long awaited Englander album. Its apparent Solstice will not be breaking their tried and tested “metal” mould and the new song bodes well. However, its flow was interrupted by Rich Walker’s guitar amp failing half way through the song, with the Solstice mainman warning us “Never by an amp from eBay the night before a big gig!”
Soldiering on, the remainder of the set is drawn from last album, 1998’s New Dark Age.Cimmerian Codex hits hard with head’s banging to its gargantuan riff. In a stand in role for this tour, Felipe Plaza of Chilean doomster Procession handled the hymnal vocals well for the most, with just a few off key moments during final song The Sleeping Tyrant. Plaza called for some doom dancing, as New Dark Age II’s snail pace riffs were ground out.
Throughout, Solstice were a picture of concentration and whilst perhaps that’s down to the lack of live activity, that focus paid off with a very solid set and here’s hoping it’s not too long before that new album is completed and more live shows occur.
I Am The Hunter / Cimmerian Codex / Cromlech / New Dark Age II / The Sleeping Tyrant
I can’t believe it was all the way back to Halloween 2005 last time Slough Feg passed through London, just down the road at the even more intimate Hope & Anchor. That night they completely owned and it was a similar experience tonight. Whilst I am a fan of the band’s recorded material it’s the live environment where they really hit another level. Tuned into their instruments and each other they present a highly organic sound that flows through the one hour set.
In describing their sound, take a bit of old Iron Maiden, the Celtic edge of Thin Lizzy and, as shown during High Passage / Low Passage, even a bit of Megadeth like guitar duelling. Actually that last song was a bit of annoyance as I was caught in the ridiculous bar queue during it. Honestly, pack a venue with metallers and put only one barmaid on, what’s that about!
Back on topic, Slough Feg take us on a journey through all of their eight albums, with an unsurprising greater focus on their latest, The Animal Spirits. Lycanthropic Fantasies shuffled along in an almost waltz like fashion, before frontman Mike Scalzi dispensed with his guitar and careered around stage during a cover of the Alan Parsons Project’s The Tell-Tale Heart. To be truthful Scalzi careered around even with guitar as Johan’s squashed pint and bruised eye from the headstock testify. It’s like Scalzi enters a trance and is guided by his guitar.
Returning to the stage in a rhinestone shirt, Scalzi tells us he knew he’d have to do something special since they were supporting Solstice and so he’d borrowed it from Neil Diamond.
Quite frankly I could have watched Slough Feg all night, but as the much requested The Red Branch led us to closer Sky Chariots, time was up and the band departed without encore. Criminally overlooked, Slough Feg deserve to be playing bigger venues.
Slough Feg setlist:
Highlander / The 95 Thesis / High Passage/Low Passage / Ape Uprising / Lycanthropic Fantasies / The Tell-Tale Heart / Second Coming / Traders & Gunboats / Hiberno-Latin Invasion / Galactic Nomad / The Red Branch / Sky Chariots