Having already established themselves as NOLA’s chief purveyors of decadence and drug-addled desperation, Eyehategod could only get better with time after their first two full-lengths, In the Name of Suffering and Take As Needed for Pain. Their bluesy but challenging brand of feedback-soaked, punk-informed sludge metal was unlike anything else in metal at the time, and it’s my opinion that we have Mike Williams & co to thank for the sustained popularity in all things sludgy. Their third full-length, Dopesick, is arguably the high point of EHG’s career, and more than that, a watershed collection of songs for the sludge metal scene that revolutionized the union of hardcore and metal.
While EHG’s first two albums helped establish their misanthropic, dirty brand of Southern-fried misery, it was on Dopesick where everything fell into place: The blues riffs had a thousand layers of grime and weed resin on them, Mike’s vocals were at their most unhinged, and the punk sections were even nastier than before. Opening cut “My Name is God (I Hate You)” offers the most complete picture of the album’s ingredients: A slow-burning riff erupts with feedback and matches Williams’s phrasing before a Black Flag-esque ups the tempo and sets everything on fire, but it stays only briefly as the song’s second half crawls along at molasses speed and shreds listeners’ ears with feedback. Not all of the songs follow this template — some cuts like “Peace Thru War” rely on their blues-soaked hardcore riffs — but overall, Dopesick was the high point of EHG’s songwriting up to this point and showcases all of their strengths.
The recording sessions of Dopesick are steeped in rumor — supposedly, producer Billy Anderson called Century Media asking to kick the band out of the studio because of their unhinged and dangerous behavior — but apart from the lore and legend, Dopesick is an absolutely timeless album and sounds even more relevant now than it did in 1996. This is a history lesson in sludge. Dig in.