Doom and Gloom: Eyehategod- A History of Nomadic Behavior
Halfway into your third Hand Grenade, you stumble drunkenly out of the Tropical Isle bar. You look back disgustedly at the Bourbon Street establishment swaying behind you. Fuck this, you think. I’m not gonna stick around in this tourist trap bullshit. I’m gonna get the real New Orleans experience. You adjust the string of out-of-season Mardi Gras beads draped about your neck and set out on your way. For the next couple of hours, you wander about the Quarter, getting progressively lost as you get progressively wasted. Eventually, you are approached by a smirking man missing no less than three of his teeth. He prophesies: “Hey man, I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes!” You scoff. You’re too savvy to fall for this played out scam. “I’m onto you,” you reply, “I ain’t falling for that!” It is at this point that the man produces a clearly empty pistol and proceeds to beat you vigorously about the face and head. As you fade in and out of consciousness, your mind keeps returning to the sign you saw on the expressway earlier in the day: “Fat Females, Full of Eggs”. Eyehategod has got a new album out, guys.
Chances are if you’re reading this, you already know what Eyehategod sounds like. Their concoction of Southern-infused doom and nauseated hardcore filtered through waves of feedback is legendary and extremely distinctive. They’ve never put out a bad album, and this time is no different. However, they had me damn worried for a moment. A History of Nomadic Behavior starts with its weakest foot forward. “Built Beneath the Lies” just isn’t a very good song. It’s disjointed, and not in the usual way that Eyehategod songs are. The parts just don’t fit well together. Additionally, the song feels hollow and weak compared to everything else that I’ve ever heard by NOLA’s crustiest sons. Part of this is due to the weirdly clean production (more on that later), and part of it is just that something is off about the track. It sounds almost like a random collection of leftover riffs to me. I dunno. You may end up having a different opinion.
Luckily, “Built Beneath the Lies” is an anomaly. A History of Nomadic Behavior is a bit like a snowball in that it picks up momentum and quality as it moves along, until it reaches “High Risk Trigger” and never really has a low point after that. In fact, I think that song is damn near as good as “Sister Fucker Pt. 1” or “Medicine Noose”. It’s Eyehategod in top form. Like the best Eyehategod songs, it’s got that mystifying blend of noise and groove that is simultaneously anxious and fun.
One of the coolest things about A History of Nomadic Behavior is its experimental nature. All the Eyehategod trademarks are here, of course. Jimmy Bower still throws out greasy blues and punk riffs like a burning frydaddy going through a windshield, and Mike’s still got that sarcastic rage that nobody else can match. That being said, they mix it up a bit here. “The Trial of Johnny Cancer” is essentially a warped country anthem, and “Smoker’s Piece” has more than a bit of lounge music in it. There’s other, less pronounced oddities here and there, and I ain’t mad at them.
Alright, let’s get at the elephant in the room: the production. Part of my initial disappointment with A History of Nomadic Behavior was tied directly to its production. Eyehategod are one of those bands whose environment bleeds directly into their music. Their songs have a layer of decay and filth to them that mirror Louisiana, especially New Orleans, surprisingly well. This is what makes the choice of such a clean production so puzzling. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s a sterility to this album’s sound that is damn distracting. I’m not saying that the songs are hermetically sealed or anything, after all, these guys are the kings of sludge for a reason, but it’s definitely a negative influence on my ability to enjoy the album. It’s got a nice heft to it, but it’s just kinda dry and flat sounding. Hmmmm. Okay, let me put it another way, Eyehategod’s albums usually sound very much like the band sounds live. This one does not.
As much as I’m ragging on the production in regards to its impact on the instruments, my criticism does not extend to how it affects the vocals. Mike IX sound plain awesome here. The clear production enhances everything in the vocal department. Mike’s characteristic bile and frustration are that much more pungent now that they’ve been pushed up in the mix. Additionally, I cannot tell you how great it is to be able finally clearly hear his lyrics. Their stream of consciousness social commentaries are made much more profound when they can be understood within the context of the music vs having to look them up separately.
So, is A History of Nomadic Behavior worth your time? Overall, yeah, I gotta say it is. Despite its weak start and oddly clean production, it’s a very good album, and it’s worth a listen to any fan of sludge. Unfortunately, you can’t get it from Bandcamp because the guys at Century Media don’t internet too good, but you can get it here.