By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Holding the banner for true metal high for going on three decades, headbanging San Francisco outfit Slough Feg plays to its loyal fans at the Elbo Room in Oakland this Friday night.
Though founded in central Pennsylvania in the late 1980s, the Lord Weird Slough Feg (as the band was known initially) had relocated to San Francisco by 1990. Fronted by guitarist/singer and principle songwriter Michael Scalzi, the group crafted a sound that was true to it’s unusual name reportedly taken from a Celtic myth. Drawing sonic influences from the twin-guitar attack of Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden with occasional touches of Celtic folk, the band made a name for itself with its theatrical presentation featuring flaming torches and warpaint to go with their galloping metal anthems.
Several demo tapes were followed by the band’s self-released, eponymous debut in 1996. That effort attracted the attention of European imprint Dragonheart Records, who would release the next several albums starting with 1999’s Twilight of the Idols. By the time the group recorded their celebrated follow-up album Down Among the Dead Men, Scalzi had been joined by noted San Francisco metal guitarist John Cobbett, who had already established himself with the bands Osgood Slaughter and Unholy Cadavar. That latter group also featured Scalzi as a member and would morph into the group Hammers of Misfortune.
Scalzi and Cobbett would earn a higher profile with both outfits after the release of their respective conceptual albums — Hammers of Misfortune’s breakout debut The Bastard in 2001 and the Lord Weird Slough Feg’s sci-fi opus Traveller, that was based on a late ’70s role-playing game similar to Dungeons and Dragons. With the two talented players and songwriters contributing to each other’s bands, both groups put out a string of acclaimed releases that further spread their notoriety.
Scalzi would depart Hammers of Misfortune by the mid-2000s to focus his attention on Slough Feg, with the guitarist leading new configurations of the band through more sci-fi epics like Hardworlder and Ape Uprising! Slough Feg recently put out its first new album since 2014’s Digital Resistance.
Issued in June by the group’s current label Cruz Del Sur Music, New Organon finds Scalzi and company unleashing another batch of tunes spotlighting their familiar twin-guitar attack and the band leader’s concept driven songwriting (the title tune refers to a book on the scientific method published in 1620 by English philosopher Francis Bacon).
For this Friday night gig at the Elbo Room in Oakland, Slough Feg is joined by fellow Bay Area metal veterans Blind Illusion. Founded by guitarist and sole constant Marc Biedermann in 1978 when the musician was still a Richmond high school student, the ambitious band initially tried to mix elements of hard rock and metal (Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest) with prog rock and jazz fusion (King Crimson, Rush, Mahavishnu Orchestra). In the early ’80s, the influence of the burgeoning thrash movement crept in and completely changed the band’s sound.
Though the band would experience a near constant turnover in membership through the decade, the band became a staple of the Bay Area metal scene with such notables as John Marshall (Metal Church), Larry LaLonde (Possessed, Primus) and Les Claypool (Primus) cycling through the band. Both LaLonde and Claypool would play on the band’s debut effort The Sane Asylum for Combat Records in 1988 that was produced by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. While Biedermann would put the band on an extended hiatus during the ’90s, he resurrected the group in the late 2000s. The current version of the group features Anvil Chorus and Heathen guitarist Doug Piercy. Relatively recent SF metal project Nite featuring Van Labrakis (Satan’s Wrath, Mencea), Scott Hoffman (Dawnbringer, High Spirits), Bryan Coons (Older Sun, Motorhome) and Pat Crawford (Serpents of Dawn, Older Sun) opens the show.
Friday, Feb. 21, 9 p.m. $10
The Elbo Room