Eyehategod first sent shockwaves through metal’s underground way back in 1990 with their debut album In The Name of Suffering. The New Orleans band cemented themselves as a pillar of sludge metal, innovating a dark, slow and bluesy style. Sometime after the release of their 2014 self-titled LP, which was their first full-length album release in 14 years, vocalist/lyricist Mike IX Williams found himself in grave condition; years of alcohol and substance abuse placed his liver and life at risk, leaving the future of his role in Eyehategod to be unknown. Williams pulled through, recovering and eventually finding his way back on stage with his fellow bandmates and creating a new record.
A History of Nomadic Behavior is the first Eyehategod album in seven years and comes with a considerable change in approach. A key element throughout previous records was the band’s abrasive presentation; bombastic riffs and distortion bashing alongside intense drumming, Williams’ wretched screaming, contorted and angry. These qualities remain within A History of Nomadic Behavior, but in altered form. This is a different shade of Eyehategod.
Williams has always shown a knack for poetic lyricism even at the band’s most bleak and vulgar. This album is said to reflect the band’s life over the past few years; while it is personal in many regards, it also speaks to societal and political issues. Having a way with words like that of William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski, Williams’ writing is abstract, but coherent. His words act as a puzzle for the listener to absorb and figure out. “Trigger emotion reactor/ Day job hangs by a thread/ This place is slowly unraveling/ Cold hearted condition…”
Vocally—for all the hell he’s gone through physically—Williams sounds superb. His rough screeches remain enticing and grimy, still broadcasting an air of savagery. Where things get a little odd—and positive—are the instrumental performances throughout the album. Eyehategod have not forgone their relentless heaviness per se, there is just more restraint when compared to their past songs. Rather than go for the balls-to-the-wall approach, the band opts for an experience that is more contemplative than pummeling.
Album opener “Built Beneath The Lies” has Williams shouting over a vibrant rhythm; Jimmy Bower’s guitar playing has a playful twang to it, the distortion lingering alongside each of Aaron Hill’s drum beats. The flow settles down eventually, the instrumentation coming to a crawl. “The Outer Banks” starts with a sludgy tone, Gary Mader’s bass thumping low against the gloomy ooze of guitar twang. Out of nowhere, the track abruptly shifts into high-octane speed, making for a solid call back to older Eyehategod material.
That said, A History of Nomadic Behavior lacks the violent punch as found on records like Dopesick and the self-titled LP. It’s equally bizarre and intriguing to hear this other side of the band. Each instrumental component pulls its weight. The drumming and bass bring some flavor to the sludgy churn of the guitars, the blend allowing for music that’s unexpectedly catchy. This isn’t to say there is no grit to the album, there’s plenty, the heaviness just sounds a lot less hostile.
“Three Black Eyes” is a wicked trip, its guitars taking on various tonal shifts to keep the rhythm exciting. “The Day Felt Wrong” is a sort of happy medium among the different styles on the record; where some sections display the instrumentation stirring with sonic spice, other portions scale back to allow distortion to linger. “Smoker’s Place” is a brief, chill instrumental cut, bluesy and short enough to warrant a craving for just a little more. “Every Thing, Every Day” makes for an ideal way to close out an Eyehategod record. Its nihilistic lyricism is perfectly elevated by the melodic rhythm, the guitar exuding a playful spirit of aggression. “Wrecked world/ Damage done/ Eyes stare/ Never last/ Rested soul/ Never come back.”
The overall shift away from more abrasive instrumentation might potentially be divisive for some listeners. Though the record lacks the ferocious nature of their past releases, it is still a commendable experience. This version of Eyehategod continues to provide poetic depth while also laying down some saucy rhythms thick with sludge and rampant hardcore adrenaline. A History of Nomadic Behavior isn’t the most striking record in the band’s career, but it is a unique one.
Label: Century Media
A graduate of Columbia College Chicago's Creative Writing Program, Michael Pementel is a published music journalist, specializing in metal and its numerous subgenres. Along with his work for Treble and Bloody Disgusting, he has also written for Consequence of Sound, Metal Injection, Dread Central, Electronic Gaming Monthly and the Funimation blog.