The album begins and ends with the sounds of shattering glass and bloodcurdling screams. In between is some of the ugliest, most misanthropic noise ever to be committed to tape. Twenty years on from the release of their third album, EyeHateGod are recognised as arguably the definitive sludge metal band, with ‘Dopesick’ standing as the musical peak of the band’s tortuous – and torturous – existence. While ‘Dopesick’ was a high point musically for the band, it was not so for the member’s personal lives, as its title reveals. During recording sessions that frontman Mike IX Williams has described as “basically a near death experience”, the band were almost barred from the studio due to their unhinged antics.
Of all the pioneering New Orleans sludge bands – including the likes of Crowbar and Acid Bath – EyeHateGod were the most extreme, taking their cue from hardcore punk’s nihilism and primitive arrangements, but slowed to a crawl. Although they shared influences with the speed-happy thrash bands of the preceding decade, their music was a world apart from the lengthy song structures and virtuosic musicianship of those more mainstream artists. Even in the murky world of metal, Mike IX stood out as a particularly deranged presence, his twisted, abstract lyrics rendered unintelligible by his larynx-shredding howl. Squeals of tinnitus-inducing feedback pervade every moment of ‘Dopesick’, and tracks like ‘Ruptured Heart Theory’ and album closer ‘Anxiety Hangover’ proceed at a lethargic pace, Jimmy Bower and Brian Patton‘s guitar riffs oozing out of the speakers like New Orleans swamp water. And when you think you have them figured out, they hit you with a frantic hardcore breakdown, as in the opening track, ‘My Name is God (I Hate You)’.
The thing that raised EyeHateGod above the morass of great NOLA sludge bands was the bluesy groove they injected into their riffs. Not since the early days of Black Sabbath had a band made the blues sound so downright evil. If Howlin’ Wolf had grown up listening to Black Flag and Melvins, he might have written a song like ‘Dixie Whiskey’, which highlights EyeHateGod‘s damaged hardcore blues at its most sleazy. Drummer Joey LaCaze is the band’s secret weapon: his playing achieves the looseness of a late-night juke joint blues jam while remaining crushingly heavy, particularly on the demented swing of ‘Zero Nowhere’.
After ‘Dopesick’, the band took four years to deliver its follow-up, ‘Confederacy of Ruined Lives’, and then a further fourteen for their superb self-titled album. The band has endured drug addiction, Hurricane Katrina, a spell in prison for Mike IX and, most recently, the tragically early death of LaCaze. But to this day they remain at large, busting eardrums and corrupting minds. If you like your metal slow and nasty, do yourself a favour and check out this classic of degenerate filth.
This EyeHateGod article was written by Joe Turner, a GIGsoup contributor