Christians pray for the men of Eyehategod. Which is good, considering the Louisiana sludge giants' 26 years of hardship, disaster, and even death.
They may have sold their souls on the bayou. But how else would they spawn heavy, full-bellied blues and give a pulse to stiff darkness?
"We're definitely influenced by John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, and all those blues legends," says Mike "IX" Williams. "That and industrial noise stuff that our late drummer, Joey LaCaze, and I were really into. That's where the feedback comes from."
Drum and feedback-laden foreplay is a hallmark of Eyehategod's live shows. And this weekend, before any chord is struck, their amps will start buzzing, sounding an alarm heard from New Orleans' Ninth Ward all the way to Miami's Churchill's Pub, where you can catch them tearing shit up.
It's been two years since Mike IX and his band visited South Florida. But this time, they have a new album for us. And if you listen closely, you can almost hear Robert Johnson's hellhounds barking in the fuzz. It's safe to say EHG keep spirits alive in their doomy dissonance.
"We'd already been playing a lot of the songs from our new record for a few years now, so it's exciting to finally put it out. It's bittersweet, though, since Joey didn't get to see the finished product," Mike says. "But at least all his drum tracks are on the record and they're really the best he's ever sounded. I still say he is a great drummer, because I'm sure he's playing drums somewhere."
It's likely that off in the cosmos Joey and Load frontman, Bobby, are in a brutal project together. And while this exciting new chapter of EHG's history comes in the wake of tragedy, their new drummer, Aaron Hill has a fresh outlook that keeps them busy.
"Aaron adds something different. I mean he's younger than us, so he kind of gets us off our butts to write new songs--I think he's helped write about six new ones -- whereas before it took us a while."
But with time --14 years to be exact -- comes a solidly thought-out piece.
Dropped a mere four months ago, Eyehategod's new self-titled album boasts 11 tracks of layered and varied doom, from relentless punk that swells with swampy breakdowns, like "Agitation! Propaganda!," to tracks like "Flags" and "Cities Bound" during which LaCaze's kit bellows.
There's undoubtedly more to the seasoned five-piece than hateful nihilism. In their 26 years, Mike IX and Eyehategod have dealt with tough times, and while this album has no shortage of violent tunes, they're laced with the kind of emotional maturity that only comes from experience.
Mike puts it this way: "I'm not a follower of any particular religion, but I have a lot of respect for them and I like to learn about all religions, or just hear what people have to say regarding what's beyond us. It's good to be educated and understanding."
Which is more than he can say of the sensitive extremists who berate their Facebook page.
"We'll get mean messages from random people, saying things like 'You're a sick asshole for calling your band that!' which I find kind of ironic, seeing as how they call themselves Christians yet find it pious to insult us out of the blue. I usually just tell them the name is for shock value, and that they oughta pray for us if they think we really need it."
And while they don't condone the my-god-can-beat-up-your-god mentality, they appreciate the prayers - -because hell, they've gotten this far.
Sure, in 2014, the name isn't as shocking as it used to be, but the men of Eyehategod carry a serious weight. Whether it's the burden of their experience or their vexing moniker, they enjoy themselves and urge others to do the same.
But if you feel so compelled, go ahead and give your rosary to Mike IX this weekend at Churchill's. He'll take it and thank you.
-- Mariel Zayas-Bazan
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Eyehategod. With Shitstorm, Set and Setting, Servants of the Mist, and Wrong. Saturday, October 4. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 6 p.m. and tickets cost $15 via speedfreekevents.bigcartel.com. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.