Eyehategod put Louisiana on the map as the mecca of sludge metal with its brand of apocalyptic blues, and remains pertinent to the scene, even in the wake of its various changes. This continued relevance is aided by the fact Eyehategod never broke up since its inception in 1988—not when frontman Mike Williams spent 91 days in jail, or when founding drummer Joey LaCaze tragically passed away. What’s even more impressive is how well-received that 2014 self-titled album was, considering the fact it dropped well over a decade after Eyehategod’s first four albums. Seven years later finds A History of Nomadic Behavior ready to further a storied legacy of swampy, cynical violence.
Whether it’s My War-style punk or merciless heaviness, “Built Beneath the Lies” really has everything a great Eyehategod song needs. Williams’ iconic snarls drip with venom, injected into the veins of what develops into a violent blues groove. Aaron Hill chops up his rock n roll rhythms to match the riffs of guitarist Jimmy Bower and bassist Gary Mader, giving “Fake What’s Yours” Black Sabbathy syncopation in contrast to lumbering doom metal death marches. Eyehategod’s balance of time-tested rock structures and extreme music has become a lost art in a lot of modern sludge metal, which makes these singles quite refreshing.
Williams’ lyrics go beyond the usual “corruption sucks” mantra with an underpinning of rugged tiredness: “All streets, fake peace/ Bold face regret/ Welfare, warfare/ High risk reward.” Such lines make “High Risk Trigger” an apt summation for the 2021 state of mind, but it’s “Circle of Nerves” that really offers choice words on the world’s collective headspace: “Broken by the separation sadness/ I live in a hole in the ground.” Both songs feature spiraling, descending guitar licks and abusive rhythm breaks, glued together by a baneful outlook. In this way, Eyehategod remains the sonic equivalent of a rabid dog in the bowels of hell. There’s no room for pity or remorse—only misanthropy and riffs… and for the most part, that works out fine!
The inexplicable 11-bar structure of “The Outer Banks” belies Eyehategod’s free-flowing songwriting approach. The odd timing isn’t noticeable unless it’s overtly sought after. Those nasty chugs and triplet arpeggios just feel great, whether it’s conventional or not. The band’s chemistry remains incredibly potent during these slower, trudging numbers, as with the chaotic, propulsive “Three Black Eyes.” The latter has less room to breathe, which does hinder its ability to stand out from the heavy punk lexicon, but that doesn’t stop Eyehategod from channeling raw emotion when it counts the most.
The pathos of Eyehategod is most noticeable in the howling, groaning vocals, which “Current Situation” spotlights to a legitimately disconcerting effect. Half the song’s runtime amounts to Williams wailing like a dying animal over punishing feedback layers, adding a real scare factor to the band’s legendary riff mongering. Indeed, enjoying A History of Nomadic Behavior really depends on the listener’s enjoyment of mutated Louisiana grooves. At the very least, deeper cuts like the slow, chugging “Anemic Robotic” scratch that itch to satisfaction, along with the gargantuan, dirge-like progression of “The Day Felt Wrong.”
The grimacing weightiness of Eyehategod blends nicely with its reckless hate, which does a remarkable job at making up for some lack of variety. Unfortunately, the album slows down at the first major curveball: the one-minute interlude “Smoker’s Place.” Sure, that smokey walking bass line and straight head swing ride cymbal pattern work pretty well, but the guitar lead has no time to develop before it fades out with no connection to the next cut.
“The Trial of Johnny Cancer” provides more effective divergency, starting with a chilling spoken-word sample of a paranoid shut-in, but the formula of primitive blues riffage and Williams rattling off anti-social platitudes wears out its welcome during four-and-a-half minutes. Closing track “Every Thing, Every Day” remains much more interesting, even though it’s longer and ends with the same sample, and that success comes down to well-developed songwriting.
The final cut ramps up the tension with subtle riff changes, as the lyrics progress from describing societal misery (“Get up and go to work/ Go to school/ Everyday”) to a violent psychosis (Kill your boss/ Everything, Everyday”). The way Eyehategod connects relatable drudgery to unthinkable actions is haunting and made transfixing by the slow-burning arrangement. It’s this anti-humanitarian nucleus that keeps Eyehategod alive in the sludge metal pantheon.
A History of Nomadic Behavior packs a punch to reckon with the sonic slugfests it follows up. While taking more time to build upon certain ideas and diversify the songwriting wouldn’t’ve hurt, it’s great to hear a pivotal band like Eyehategod making relevant statements and dealing damage with the genre they helped create.