Photo credit: David Martínez
When I visited New Orleans for my first extended stay during the fall of 2009, I happened upon the Louisiana Music Factory as I wandered the streets of the Quarter. Located at Frenchmen and Decatur, not too far away from the banks of the Mississippi River, the Factory is a haven for local music aficionados, replete with just about everything you can think of that’s related to the Big Easy. As I browsed the downstairs bins I came across a section labeled “NOLA Metal.”
Intrigued by the band names I saw but did not recognize I asked one of the guys working the counter if I could listen to something. I had noticed some CD players set up for customer listening. He said, “Sure. What do you wanna hear?” I said, “I’m interested in some of the bands in the metal section. I don’t know any of them.” “For reals?” the twenty-something year old man responded. “Well, come on over and I’ll tell you about them.”
It was at this point that I was initiated into a world of music I was previously unaware. New Orleans was much more than Dixieland jazz and Louis Armstrong. It was home to a subterranean world of doom and swampy sarcasm, as set to word and music by Goatwhore, Soilent Green, Graveyard Rodeo, Crowbar, and Kingdom of Sorrow. Head and shoulders above the rest, according to my guide into the sludge of screaming vocals and distorted guitars, was EYEHATEGOD, with Goatwhore a close second. However, when my guide said the name “Eyehategod,” he let out a sigh, as if the very name was worthy of reference.
Being sensitive to the passionate responses to the music the people I meet adore, I immediately—albeit randomly—selected an EHG disc from the bin. What I wound up taking home with me was the band’s 2000 release, Confederacy of Ruined Lives. Ever since, I’ve been listening and pondering the appeal of a form of music that is so aggressively cynical and sacrilegious. The fact that Eyehategod emerged in a place as conservative as Louisiana, as opposed to Los Angeles or New York, fascinated me all the more.
When listening to any given song, the words are consistently unintelligible. In fact, I often wonder if there are any lyrics, as Mike IX Williams shouts, growls, and shrieks his way through tune after tune. On the other hand, the song titles are evocative of a world filled with decadence, corruption, and political decay. “Left to Starve,” “Take As Needed for Pain,” “Methamphetamine,” and “New Orleans Is the New Vietnam” signify a derisive outlook on the world in which this music embodies an obnoxiousness qua social and political satire that I haven’t seen since The Dead Kennedys or Circle Jerks.
For me, Eyehategod is less about being anti-Christian or blasphemous and more about unleashing the frustration of a world built on the religious hypocrisy of powerful men. Eyehategod speaks, or rather rages on behalf of the powerless and disenfranchised. The junky, the dropout, the ex-con, and the people whose lives they destroy—the ones who by definition are denied any chance at the so-called American Dream, a dream reserved for the wealthy and well-connected. “In the Name of Suffering,” as one song title proclaims, because suffering is all some people have to their name.
When I finally saw Eyehategod perform live for the first time at Club Red in Mesa, Arizona on Saturday, November 8, 2014, I was amazed by the intensity of the audience’s connection with what was happening on stage. The band was tight and performed as a single organism bound with the wrath instigated by an absurd world. Eyehategod is a shout against religious conformity, self-righteousness, and the lethargy of an indifferent society. Eyehategod because God—the one wrapped in the flag and forgotten after church—hates me!