The follow-up to Eyehategod’s self-titled album in 2014 has been a long time coming, with vocalist Mike IX Williams dealing with liver failure and a subsequent transplant as well as the band choosing to spend three years touring rather than rushing a follow-up. Whether you love or hate the sound, Eyehategod’s particular brand of sludge and doom is instantly identifiable and the resulting album A History of Nomadic Behavior doesn’t drastically reinvent the formula, instead providing some fine tuning that make sense given the band’s age and the current times we’re living in. It’s an album that consistently goes for the throat in both its scathing, nihilistic lyrics (which are harsh even by this band’s standards) and instrumentation, and those that have gelled with the controlled chaos of their 90s output will find this to be a fine addition to their discography.
The base of Eyehategod’s sound remains the same, with a good dose of southern swagger and bluesy grooves trading paces with faster moments that bring in that punk influence, all wrapped up in a healthy dose of feedback. These guys essentially wrote one of the main scripts that a lot of sludge bands would follow over the past two decades, and it works just as well throughout A History of Nomadic Behavior but the biggest difference is the noticeable level of studio polish. Where albums like Take as Needed for Pain and Dopesick were as purposefully gritty and jagged as possible, this material is a bit more focused on the weight and heaviness of its instrumentation rather than trying to scare off listeners with sheer abrasiveness. There’s a bit more melody to some of the leads and the bigger feeling of some of Jimmy Bowers’ guitar work reminds me of Corrosion of Confirmity circa Deliverance while still having that distinctive Eyehategod tone. A History of Nomadic Behavior retains that sense of unpredictability, with songs sometimes ending during what would be the mid-point for other bands, and you’re never quite sure when the slower, methodical grooves and swagger will give way to bursts of faster instrumentation or bursts of feedback. This approach naturally lends some new twists and turns that weren’t present on the band’s prior material, and while a few songs do get stuck in that transition between feedback and riffs for just a bit too long I found that many of them had some real staying power. At this point, finding the sweet spot between aggressive, jagged tones and catchier licks makes sense for Eyehategod and they do give listeners plenty to dig into.
Mike’s off-kilter performance has always been a unique element for the band, as his approach has always fallen somewhere between screaming and spoken word, with the lyrics being easy to make out no matter how fast they’re coming at you. With the additional clarity present on A History of Nomadic Behavior, Mike’s abrasiveness is front and center and at points almost overpowers the rest of the band. It’s clearly a deliberate choice and while some are likely to find it a bit too much, given the way the lyrics provide a harsh commentary on a flurry of current topics it makes many of them further stand out to me. In particular, “The Trial of Johnny Cancer” and closing track “Every Thing, Every Day” really hit their mark, and there’s a sense of discomfort with how nihilistic yet true the material is.
Eyehategod has made subtle tweaks to their formula, so if you weren’t a fan in the 90s this album isn’t likely to change that. But those that have been drawn in by their bluesy swagger, abrasive and in your face lyrics, and occasional walls of feedback will find that this one has the hooks to draw them back. I personally found it not quite at the same level as their best work from the 90s but slightly more impactful than the self-titled, and it’s a sign that even after thirty-two years they haven’t lost their bite. A History of Nomadic Behavior is available from Century Media Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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