Louisiana’s Eyehategod are back with their punishing new record, A History of Nomadic Behaviour. Rich Holmes spoke to frontman Mike IX Williams about what drives the sludge veterans in their 33rd year…and why they’re not going to change any time soon.
A hell of a lot can happen in seven years.
Or should that be a lot of hell.
Since Eyehategod released their self-title comeback in 2014, US cities have burned, culture wars have been fought in capitol buildings and on the streets, and a devastating pandemic has swept the globe.
Eyehategod, however, are no strangers to turmoil.
The seminal New Orleans sludgers were battered by the effects of Hurricane Katrina and, in 2013, they had to endure the tragic death of founding drummer Joey LaCaze.
And while the band’s 2014 opus – their first in more than a decade – signalled a renaissance for the Louisiana veterans, just two years later singer Mike IX Williams was hospitalised, suffering from liver failure.
It’s no surprise, then, that after Williams underwent a successful transplant in 2016, Eyehategod decided to make up for lost time.
With their frontman revitalised, they hit the road with the likes of Corrosion Of Conformity, OFF! and The Obsessed, and took their hardcore-tinged doom blues across the world, from London’s Desertfest to Vietnam and Tasmania.
A History Of Nomadic Behaviour, therefore, is an apt title for the band’s new record – their fifth full length since their 1990 debut, In The Name Of Suffering, scarred the face of heavy music forever.
Born of chaos, written over several years, and recorded and reworked between tours, 2021’s offering is an unsettling, jarring work.
Williams plays more widely with spoken word this time out, his contributions moulded by the influence of in-demand producer Sanford Parker – who is also the vocalist’s bandmate in Corrections House.
But from the opening bars of Built Beneath The Lies to Every Thing, Every Day’s stumbling, abrasive rants, it’s tense, visceral and unmistakably Eyehategod. Jimmy Bower peels of those bayou-born riffs as only he can, and Gary Mader and Aaron Hill switch between swing and savagery at the turn of a dime.
“Nothing has changed man, nothing has changed at all and I am happy for that,” says Williams of the band’s latest chapter. “We may have evolved some and matured a little, but we are still the same people and we still love to play.
“We still put 1000% into the music.
“Once again, it’s that power in the music that drives us to do this continually.”
One thing has changed, however.
A History Of Nomadic Behaviour sees Eyehategod stripped down to a four piece, after guitarist Brian Patton quit for family reasons in 2018.
Patton had appeared on every album since 1993’s Take As Needed For Pain.
His departure could have been damaging.
Williams, though, reveals the band have simply adapted to the circumstances…
“We just move forward no matter what,” he says. “Of course it’s different, but we just take it as it comes. Live, Jimmy just puts amps at both sides now.
“I like it actually because it’s more compact.
“It’s more like a punk thing and it’s kinda simplified.”
Indeed, while Eyehategod may have been integral to the surge of Sabbath-inspired bands who, in the 90s, turned their backs on speed to go slow and low, they’ve always blazed with hardcore punk’s intensity.
Plodding trad metal chops or rock star trappings have never been their thing.
A History Of Nomadic Behaviour has gristly grooves aplenty, but there are passages of The Outer Banks which flail with DC hardcore’s unrestrained energy.
And on The Trial Of Johnny Cancer and Circle Of Nerves in particular, there are echoes of Black Flag’s punishing, jagged workouts.
“I love Black Flag,” confirms Williams. “They are one of my favourite bands – the power they had, coming out of punk rock in 1978, which was when I got into punk…
“I think they are very important and also their lyrics were more personal, they were singing about personal politics – we were influenced by that.
“There are also bands like (80s Santa Cruz punks) B’LAST!. Those guys are incredible, there are Black Flag references there but they do their own thing. I love that band.”
Eyehategod – paving the way
Mirroring the experience of doom legends Saint Vitus, who faced a hostile audience when they supported Black Flag in the early 80s, Eyehategod were an anomaly in the metal scene as thrash peaked.
Songs like Depress – In The Name Of Suffering’s caustic opener – were bringing a new level of violent extremity to heavy music, but at first it simply didn’t resonate with metalheads in awe of Dave Mustaine and Kirk Hammett.
Williams recalls opening for Louisiana thrashers Exhorder in his band’s early days. “People hated it,” he says. “There were very few people who got what we were doing.”
Fast forward 30 years and sludge and doom, in their many guises, are widely embraced by the metal community.
The success of festivals like Desertfest and Roadburn is testimony to the music’s popularity and its ability to connect like-minded fans at a global level.
Acts like The Melvins, Crowbar, 16 and Weedeater are revered…and the sounds sculpted by Bower, Williams and friends in 1988 have inspired countless acts to pick up Gibson SGs, downtune and turn up the feedback.
It’s a different landscape to the early 90s.
But while the growth of the doom/sludge scene opened up new avenues for Eyehategod, it hasn’t fundamentally changed Williams’ mindset…or the band’s core DNA.
“Eyehategod has been my whole life since 1988,” he concludes. “We wanted to play the music we were hearing in our heads.
“We were listening to Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, and we were listening to a lot of Soundgarden and Jane’s Addiction in the 90s too.
“We just wanted to do what we wanted to do.
“We didn’t care.
“And we still don’t care what anyone thinks – it’s just now it has become acceptable!”
A History Of Nomadic Behaviour is out now on Century Media