Review Summary: Muddy, miserable and misanthropic
The New Orleans sludge scene is a movement which has been widely-recognised and critically acclaimed for some time now, with bands such as Down, Crowbar and indeed Eyehategod pioneering the movement, and this 1992 release is perhaps the album that kicked it all off. Eyehategod themselves have been the subject of much acclaim within sludge metal, and are renowned for their misanthropic lyrics and generally pessimistic vibe.
Although the name 'Eyehategod' is deceiving in a sense that it may lead to the presumption that the lyrics might be blasphemous or sacrilegious (when in actual fact the lyrics mainly touch upon personal issues, misanthropy and society), with regards to sound, you know exactly what you are going to get with Eyehategod. Thick, muddy guitars - a feature that has become imperative to sludge metal - pummel the listener like a ton of bricks, cascading in a viscous swirl of melancholy. The guitar tone really helps to complement the aforementioned misanthropic vibe in which 'In the Name of Suffering' so forcefully creates, using a high amount of bass with very little room for any mid-range or treble. The bass itself seems to effortlessly combine with the guitars, and bassist Steve Dale is often given space to show his skill and creativity via numerous bass breaks. This is apparent in the very first song, 'Depress', as the song starts on a grim bassline before descending into a vast cacophony of doom-inspired sludge.
Although this tone would have been considered the heaviest sound possible at the time of the album's inception (before bands like Electric Wizard and Sleep then took it to unthinkably heavy levels), an inevitable by-product of this is that the songs become fairly difficult to distinguish from one another, proving to be the record's main fault. This is not helped by the lack of variation in the drums. Although the percussion is steady and fits well with the rest of the instruments, Joe LaCaze doesn't have any interesting or original beats to offer, and instead seems to only help each of the songs stagnate towards the end of the album.
Having said this, Eyehategod manages to incorporate tempo changes to liven the album up in places (best seen in the songs 'Man is Too Ignorant to Exist', 'Run it Into the Ground' and 'Hit a Girl'). These tempo changes often come unexpectedly and bridge the record's slower and more cumbersome movements with faster, headbang-inducing ones, ala Autopsy (particularly in their sophomore effort 'Mental Funeral'). It seems as though one minute the song is plodding along very sluggishly and in typical doom metal fashion, and then the next minute the band suddenly bursts into a hardcore-inspired section, with up-tempo riffs and break-neck drumming leading the assault.
On top of this, vocalist Mike Williams delivers a stellar vocal performance, often howling manically and almost painfully. These vocals really suit the aesthetic of the music, and superbly complement lyrics such as: "I scar my body, like a good boy, it takes practice at self abuse..." Without these vocals, the misanthropic vibe would simply cease to exist.
In summary, 'In the Name of Suffering' is an excellent debut album by Eyehategod, and was important for the development of the band and for the sludge movement as a whole. It was arguably because of this very album - along with The Melvins' 'Gluey Porch Treatments' - that sludge metal is now synonymous with thick, muddy guitars and a generally slow, brooding atmosphere. These characteristics, along with Mike Williams' tortured vocals and numerous tempo changes, ensure that the presence of stagnation within the album is disregarded enough to conclude that 'In the Name of Suffering' will give listeners a thrilling listening experience.