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Troll Teeth : Boiled Alive

The band formerly known as Sluagh take another step in all the right Trad directions.

I have a soft spot for the band formerly known as Sluagh. The New Jersey outfit worked hard to establish themselves, with founder Jim Eccles guiding them through a number of line-up changes along the way from their early (not always intentional) instrument-smashing and somewhat chaotic live steps, via the splendidly titled 'Unwanted & Worthless' full-length debut in 2014 (even if I never did get my official Exalted Woe version of that, at least I have a uniquely handmade CDr produced in the extended pre-deal period to compensate) and past the naming conflict (a later-formed West Virginia Sludge Metal outfit rather selfishly trademarked it). Really, you've got to admire that kind of dedication to producing good old-fashioned Doom'n'Roll against the odds.

And, seriously, nothing says 'Doom' like the determination of a self-released CD that you probably already know isn't going to recoup the production costs any time in the next decade...and you go ahead and do it anyway. Which is essentially where this first full-length as Troll Teeth comes from: packaged in the simplest possible cartoony card sleeve and pressed at a commercial disc duplication firm, it's certainly nuthin' fancy (sic) to look at. If you want to know what the lyrics are about, you'll need to dial up Bandcamp and filter out the typos. Likewise if you want any information about the band, though with better proofing.

But, really - what the hell, it doesn't matter! Troll Teeth aren't putting a glossy toothpaste commercial prospectus together, they're working up a sweat sharing their enthusiasm and love of heavy music. Which, by the way, does also contain some detail flaws analogous to the packaging. It's the slickest and tightest they've ever sounded, but there are still, for example, moments in some of the trickily abrupt tempo changes where the timing sounds a little off. Not horribly so, it just gives the impression of a one-take 'live in the studio' blitz where absolute technical perfection is less important than capturing an authentic feel.

And that feel is, indeed, authentic: straight out of the '70s, part-Sabbath, part-Pentagram, with added psychedelic fuzziness all fed into a jamming power trio format. Prototypical Trad Doom, if you like, in the sense of taking the original Heavy Metal sound and (mostly) slowing it down. Add in material that covers more social and political comment than anything else, and it's not a particularly dark or oppressive example of the genre. But it is an enjoyable one that piles on the guitar and bass riffs, slings in some quality lead lines, and lets the drummer hit plenty of things with a clear relish for the activity. I've always thought it a bit weird that clean vocals often arouse more of a love/hate binary than growls and extremes, but it'd be hard to fault the way Jim belts them out, mid-range hard rock style, in a way that makes me want to namedrop somebody like Axe's Bobby Barth, with a slight veneer of distortion on top. So I will.

While we're namedropping, it's worth considering the more psychedelic elements, where the guitar drifts off into jangling, spacy territory, or (as on the atmospheric 'Killing Fields') into what sounds like old-fashioned e-Bow, inclining me towards mentions of Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane. Well, bottom-line, it's actually quite an eclectic mix, if you want to deconstruct everything that's going on. But I strongly suspect Troll Teeth aren't very interested in that kind of overcomplicated thinking, given their mission statement of: "When a bassist, a guitarist, and a drummer all love each other very much, they get together and play really hard and 9 minutes later, you have a doom song". Possibly not coincidentally, the closing titular track on 'Boiled Alive' is indeed just a shade over nine minutes, which perhaps makes it the full monty love-in, but there's nothing wrong with the significantly shorter, punchier works preceding it.

So, getting back to that soft spot - no, I can't number this amongst the greatest albums ever made. But it clearly comes from the long and honourable tradition of rocking out for the sheer hell of it, which I do respect; it has a personality of its own, which I also respect, and it combines both a down-to-earth work ethic and a tongue-in-cheek playful attitude (their YouTube channel is named NoSexAppealBand), which I absolutely love. I am, sincerely, glad that there are bands like Troll Teeth still around, holding some kind of flame for "how they used to make 'em", but bringing it into the 21st century, and if you get that too, well, maybe just boost the number at the end of the write-up by a point or so and give them a bit of support.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Broken Teeth
2. Second Hand Stories
3. Ich Hab die Hacht Geträumet
4. Christian Killer
5. Propaganda Pt. I
6. Propaganda Pt. II
7. Killing Fields
8. Boiled Alive

Duration : Approx. 36 minutes

Visit the Troll Teeth bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-03-02 by Mike Liassides
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