It's a crime this hasn't been reviewed yet. Traveller is the fourth and possibly most distinctive studio album of San Francisco's own Slough Feg. After listening to this album, I trust many of you will agree with me that this is a group that should be touring with the likes of Iron Maiden. Why? Slough Feg are known for their infectious vocal melodies, compelling lyrics, driving rhythms, and memorable riffs and melodies. Of their five albums, they havenít released a bad one yet. And on top of that, their live show is a spectacle that is not to be missed.
Though most of their songs revolve around themes of Celtic mythology and folk tales, Traveller is a concept album with a sci-fi bent. Itís based on a now-defunct penínípaper RPG by the same name, but explaining the story behind this album as well as the setting of Traveller would take more time than I really have. Suffice to say that the main issue of the story revolves around conflict with an alien race of dogmen called the Vargr.
The album opens up with marching riffs of The Spinward Marches
, an instrumental clocking in at just and a minute and a half, which immediately is followed by the breakneck riffing of High Passage/Low Passage
. This high adrenaline number makes the listener feel like they really are piloting a spaceship in a high-speed chase through treacherous asteroid belts. In a bit of a self-referential moment, the lyrics include vocalist Mike Scalzi (the mastermind behind the band) singing the song in first-person perspective and referring to himself as a ďskyway corsair.Ē Slough Fegís lyrics have had a recurring them of the highway corsair, here adapted to the setting of the Traveller album. The energy and wailing solos never stop to let the listener catch their breath, creating a rollercoaster ride of an opener that gets the blood pumping and ready for what else is to come.
follows this up with equal energy to, but more of a desperate feel than High Passage/Low Passage
. A nice segue into Professorís Theme
which features several memorable riffs and melodies in one compact package. Mike gives the already chilling lyrics an added touch of menace as he sings out the words of the eponymous Professor.
is a mid-tempo number, more drawn out than the songs preceding it. It also has a much moodier tone, constantly building up tension, but only seldom resolving it before only going back to slowly building it back up. About half-way through, the tempo picks up and the tone of the vocals and instruments becomes almost feverish. Though not as bombastic for the most part as the other songs that have come before, this is one of the most inherently dramatic songs on the album.
Just when you think the album is in danger of starting to slack off, Vargr Theme/Confrontation
picks up with a proud marching tempo and riffs. The first half of the song is very anthemic and haughty, but soon turns into something more vengeful and angry. In case you havenít noticed, the ability to convey a variety of moods, sometimes within the same song, is a hallmark of Slough Fegís trademarks. Pay attention to the vocal melody in the final two minutes of the song, as it will be revisited later in the album.
The strength and pride of this song makes way for the acoustic riffing and sad vocals that open Baltechís Lament
. Mikeís melodramatic vocals herald disaster and despair before the electric guitar comes in followed by the bass and drums for a solo. The song ends on acoustics as it began.
Once more, the pace is picked back up with one of the best songs on the album, Gene-ocide
. This song contains some of the most memorable melodies, both on guitar and vocal, as well as one of the best solos on the album. Which among an album full of tasteful, memorable solos and uniquely styled melodies is really saying something. This song brings out images of action, drama, and galactic conflict all at once.
Following up is the shorter, more visceral Curse of Humaniti
. Short, tasteful solos and galloping rhythms back a narration of the coming of the fight to the finish. The tension in the music is thick enough to cut with a knife and keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Next is another stand out track, The Final Gambit
. The vocal melody I mentioned from Vargr Theme/Confrontation
is revisited here, though there are several for different sections of the song. A tasteful usage of double bass drumming gives an extra drive to the overall feel of the song. The galloping rhythms of the verses give ample headbanging material while at the same time there really is no line in here that you wonít find yourself sorely tempted to sing along with. Itís a highly bombastic and dramatic number thatís earned a spot on my favorite mp3 list for some time now.
As a slight reprieve, The Spinward Marches (return)
is exactly what it sounds like, providing a very cool segue into the final song on the album, Addendum Galactus
. This melodramatic piece covers a variety of tempos and attitudes and features a spoken-word section. The melodies would feel equally at home in a movie soundtrack, and slowly fades out to an ambiguous ending that concludes this album perfectly.
Any metal fan owes it to him/herself to buy this album or at the very least give it a chance. I guarantee it will be unlike anything youíve ever heard before. This stands out as one of the most high-quality and unique metal albums of recent years, an underrated modern classic.