Underground sludge legends Eyehategod have pulled it together for what could be a breakout tour. The New Orleans band has been grinding it out since 1988, and it's been a rough, broken road. As documented in the group's lyrics, things such as addiction, incarceration and probation have taken a toll. Still, these haven't stopped the band from achieving cult status. If you don't worship Eyehategod, your favorite metal bands probably do.
Drummer Jimmy Bower plays in classic-rock revivalists Down, with former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo. The other players have recombined as Outlaw Order and played in outfits including Soilent Green and Arson Anthem. Most have more polish and a little less raw power than Eyehategod, which has recorded for Century Media and released a string of splits and singles between four proper records and assorted compilations.
EHG albums such as Dopesick are quaking crates packed with songs such as "Dixie Whiskey," "Take as Needed for Pain" and "Kill Your Boss." Each tune has a dirty riff that might move at speed of molasses, but will leave you infected, bleeding, and blown away. Dirty doom gives way to bluesy Southern rawk solos and sudden punky sprints. Singer Mike Williams slavers out pure-torture vocals about things that will kill you.
On the day of the tour's opening night, press duties were being handled by the new guy in the group, Gary Mader, EHG's fifth bassist. Mader, a New Orleans native, has been with the band since 2001, after growing up on the scene and watching their muddy swamp metal from the crowd.
A recent European tour almost ended in tragedy: Mader lost his beloved silk-screened Buzzo*ven jacket in Dublin and posted a passionate plea for its return on the internet. It later turned up with some of the band's drinking buddies. Now the crushing quintet is staging its first van tour since 2005. And this time, the world might be ready for them. After an all-night drive from NOLA, Mader called from Orlando, where the band was about to play the first of eighteen US shows. He spoke in a light New Orleans accent that's equal parts French, British, and Southern-American metal dude.
Eyehategod is playing at Fubar tonight with Nachtmystium and locals Black Tusk, Fister, Divide the Past and Man's Laughter. Doors are at 5:30, the show's at 6. Tickets are $20.
D.X. Ferris: Why do you think the scene is so receptive to Eyehategod now? Gary Mader: I think it's a combination of things. There's been a lot of personal obstacles along the way that have kept us from moving forward. And if it hasn't been personal obstacles, it's been our other bands. The time for the guys to jam is now. The personal obstacles that held us back are mostly gone - we can move about freely. We're free to leave the state.
There's a new record in the works, right? We've been working on a new record. It seems now we're all in the right head to write a good record. We've got five songs completed and a bunch of riffs floating around that need to be arranged.
What does the new stuff sound like? It sounds like what Eyehategod fans would expect from us - the same downtuned [riffs], feedback, the same approach we've followed. Over the course of time, we've become a better band. It seems like we've gotten to the point where we all jam in the same head. We've definitely progressed a little bit musically. We became better musicians - I use that term loosely.
Do you have a label lined up? We tossed around some ideas, but everybody's priority is to write the record first.
Is [Phil Anselmo's indie metal label] Housecore a possibility? It's definitely one of the considerations. We've been talking to Phil and there.
What it like being on the scene with Anselmo? You read the stories, and some say he's like an older brother, or sometimes the dad, or some says he's the godfather of the scene. He's definitely not like a godfather. I don't know that we really think about it in those terms. We're just a bunch of friends that hang out and jam - not to say that Phil hasn't gone out of his way to help the band over the years. We don't really think about our scene like it's something special, but I guess it is.
Pick one: Grief or Iron Monkey? Grief. That's one of those old, early bands I love.