For the Sick: A Tribute to Eyehategod
he title For the Sick is literal—legendary junkie and Eyehategod singer Mike Williams was arrested on narcotics charges in Morgan City, LA in 2005, having fled there after Hurricane Katrina. He kicked his habit during three months in jail, then found out his New Orleans apartment had burned to the ground. Now, Eyehategod is playing shows again. But between various side projects (which include Soilent Green, Down, and Corrosion of Conformity) and court dates for its members, the band is still getting back on its feet. Thus, For the Sick—a massive tribute to Eyehategod comprising two discs, 34 bands, and 155 minutes, with proceeds going directly to the band.
It's also the sludge metal compilation of the year. The roster is a who's who of American metal's most burly and bearded, including Unearthly Trance, Alabama Thunderpussy, Kylesa, Swarm of the Lotus, and Lair of the Minotaur, who turn in a punishing take on "Peace Thru War (Thru Peace and War)." Some non-sludgesters, like metalcore outfit the Esoteric and grindcore madmen Kill the Client, grow chest hair and fit right in. Even a few celebrities show up, like Hank Williams III, who, as The Unholy 3, contributes an acoustic rendition of "Torn Between Suicide and Breakfast," and Lamb of God's Randy Blythe, who moonlights here with Halo of Locusts.
That the metal community came together for Eyehategod is no surprise—it probably owes the band serious royalties. Formed in 1988, Eyehategod has been to hell and back, having fought poverty, drugs, record labels, and each other. The band transplants the blues of Black Sabbath to the American South, mixing in hardcore punk and gallons of whiskey. Eyehategod doesn't write songs so much as sonic blasts, as monolithic riffs plow through hairy fuzz tones and Williams' howls. The band strips the blues of genre conventions, which may explain why so many others have copped its sound—even the most technical of today's young metal bands will boogie down now and then.
Covering Eyehategod isn't like covering the Beatles; the songs, whose identities come from amp settings as much as they do from riffs, offer fewer ways in. Thus, despite the multiplicity of bands and their quality of execution, the results are often similar. Bass tones rumble, feedback spikes, and one can practically feel the grit on guitar strings. For the Sick doesn't have much narrative arc. It's more an introduction to the hazy, electric world that is Eyehategod, with any track a worthy, if harrowing, entry point.
Thus, the aberrations stand out. Grindcore gods Brutal Truth gird "Sister Fucker" with bulldozing blastbeats; the well-named Byzantine drops its technicality in favor of down-home bends and slide guitar. New York's Bloody Panda delivers the "holy shit" highlight in "Anxiety Hangover," a 10-minute behemoth of funeral organ, bi-gendered screams, and riffs that lurch around like a dying drunkard. At 4:16, Yoshiko Ohara lets loose a paint-peeling wail, then settles into wordless, mournful singing. The moment best captures Eyehategod's spirit of desperation, yet points to new possibilities. If these bands are branches from Eyehategod's storm-ravaged tree, then For the Sick is a replanting of its roots.