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The Hardcore Blues

20 years on, Eyehategod is still preaching the end-times message

Eyehategod

By Michael Byrne | Posted 10/21/2009

Eyehategod

Oct. 23 at the Ottobar.

For more information visit theottobar.com.

Releasing a record with a band like Anal Cunt isn't the way into most heavy music fan's hearts. Vile, homophobic, sonically unlistenable, the band has made a crude art of not just pissing people off, but making people hate Anal Cunt just as much as Anal Cunt hates them--the necrotic tissue of heavy music. Or, maybe, just a novelty act that won't quit. In the late '90s, AC got into what you might consider an unlikely collaboration with New Orleans' Eyehategod, one of the titans of sludge metal. And if there's an indicator of Eyehategod, the sludge band with a heart of bratty hardcore-punk, it's opening arms wide to Anal Cunt.

Vocalist Mike Williams, who yells and flays more than growls or sings, remembers the very early days of Eyehategod in the late 1980s. It wasn't a band then trying to be Saint Vitus or Pentagram or the Obsessed. Maybe Black Sabbath, but more so the punk bands the young EHG was digging, such as Black Flag and Flipper. Success was as simple as pissing people off. "In the early days we'd play with, like, speed-metal bands," Williams says by phone. "And we'd play as slow as we could and, like, throw shit at the crowd and insult people and break bottles and [we'd play] this nonstop feedback.

"People ask us or write [to us], 'You guys are trying to be evil,' and we're not trying to be evil," he continues. "[Eyehategod] was just a name that would piss people off. Nobody in this band, I don't think, really even believes in god, or the devil. It wasn't made to be evil--it was made to be obnoxious."

Of course, all of that is selling Eyehategod short. Even in 1988, while saying "fuck you" to anything and everything, the band was forming the foundation of something brilliant and, daresay, important. The band took viscous, vicious downtuned sludge guitar--repackaging the blues into churning, relentlessly dour and angry music--and packed it into songs with jagged, rusty feedback squall and even full-on noise passages.

"Our whole band has always been into Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten, Coil, and stuff like that," Williams says. "All these bands from back when it was called 'industrial,' before that meant dance music. [It's] where we got the idea for the feedback, the really noisy feedback." See: the band's 1990 demo, Lack of Almost Everything, rereleased in 2006 with the 1992 debut In the Name of Suffering, which feels like one big tide of feedback pinned down by hardcore-punk sludge songs.

In more than two decades, Eyehategod has only four "proper" studio albums to its name. The five-piece, which hasn't shifted lineups all that much, hasn't really had an explosive breakup and, unlike many of the touring old guard in 2009, isn't on some sort of reunion jag. Through the '90s and early 2000s, despite minor interruptions--"we've had our little breakups here and there, but nothin' that long, or nothin' that bad," Williams says--the band kept to its own pace. That is, until 2005 and Hurricane Katrina, which ruined the band's studio and gear. "That whole Katrina thing is really what set us back as a group," Williams says. "That set us back for years." Shortly after that, Williams got locked up in a small town Louisiana jail for about three months on drug charges, kicking a long-lived heroin addiction in the process.

This tour marks yet another Eyehategod rerelease, 2000's Confederacy of Ruined Lives (Century Media), and it couldn't come at a more opportune time. Doom, sludge, and even black metal have picked up considerable cachet among unlikely crowds. (Notably, EHG is on the roster for this month's indie schmoozefest, the CMJ Music Marathon, which promises to be a nice change.)

"We wouldn't have lasted this long if there weren't new people coming to the shows," Williams says. "It is kinda trendy right now. It's like how some of these indie/garage guys are all into black metal now. Thurston Moore is a big black metal fan. Jay Reatard is big into black metal. And that's great! But it's just strange how music intertwines and goes through different cliques, I guess. Like, these are the end times, and people are getting into darker stuff. And then there's just people that get bored with what they're listening to."

Part of the reason for Eyehategod's slow-moving output are a raft of side projects, notably including Down; drummer Jimmy Bower's Corrosion of Conformity/Pantera supergroup, Outlaw Order; Williams' crust band Arson Anthem; and his solo noise/spoken word project. Eyehategod actually has new songs written, and Williams promises that there will be another album, but adds, "We've been saying that for eight years now.

"We've thought the band was over before, but we've always come back to it," he adds. "I don't know when we'll know when it's time to say That's it. That's the cool thing about it. Some of the riffs are blues riffs, and you see these old blues guys and they're in their 70s still playin' the blues, so maybe we'll still be playing the hardcore blues when we're older."

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