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For the Sick: Eyehategod’s “Take as Needed for Pain” Turns 25

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While the liveliness of New Orleans is notorious, what is lesser-understood is life in the city itself. In a place where the streets can be compared to the crust of the moon, every bump is felt, and it’s uphill both ways. Yet, hometown heroes Eyehategod paved the way for an enduringly nihilistic take on all-American rock-‘n’-roll now known as sludge. But 25 years ago, before the troop beat the odds of hurricanes, addiction, and death, they recorded their pivotal record Take as Needed for Pain. Through a stealthy collection of tortured tracks, the album cryptically tells the story of life in a region of the United States often quickly dismissed as culturally vapid.

After the folding of Intellectual Convulsion, the small French label who released Eyehategod’s first full-length In the Name of Suffering (1990), Jimmy Bower (Down, Superjoint), Brian Patton (Soilent Green, Outlaw Order), Mike IX Williams (Corrections House, Arson Anthem), Joey LaCaze (Outlaw Order), and then-bassist Mark Schultz were picked up by Century Media. It is noteworthy that a major label took notice of the band’s revolutionary slow-and-steady style while their act was still going over the heads of audiences opening for White Zombie and Pantera. Yet, the five-piece retained a DIY approach, finding refuge in an abandoned department store for the recording of their follow-up. Coincidentally, the digs played a hand in developing the gritty fullness of their signature sound.

As feedback gives way to detailed instructions on the insertion of a catheter, it became apparent that the world had stumbled upon a grotesque form of metal yet to be seen or heard. While second wave black metal was in the throes of its reign of terror in Europe, Eyehategod was, too, pioneering a new movement by drawing from the roots of their homeland. The cracks in the sidewalk arrive at the surface as sudden screeches distort until they dissipate; static hangs alongside oppressive rhythm guitar, personifying humidity percentages higher than some of their prognoses. Described as “curdled,” Williams’ wrenching vocals convey the underlying anxiety that occurs when death suddenly appears above ground without warning. This horror element also possesses a less demonic approach as the album art proves reminiscent of a collage found in the raided home of a backwoods serial killer. Throw in a dash of delirium and a pinch of dehydration, and you have Black Sabbath and Black Flag’s lovechild gestating in molasses.

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The legacy of Take as Needed for Pain is a surface that can only be scratched in just a brief commemoration, but it’s worthy of its day in the court of Southern justice nevertheless. While d-beat served as a central component to the composition of Venom and Celtic Frost, Eyehategod holds significant responsibility for blurring the lines between metal and hardcore back on North American soil. While some acts birthed after 2000 only re-packed what were effectively bootleg copies of Take as Needed for Pain, others have paid homage while still contributing a new chapter in their own right. Vintage samples, for instance, have become the details of some of the most-loved doom albums of the new century, from Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone (2000) to Weedeater’s Sixteen Tons (2003).

As evidenced by rumblings of a new album coming next year, Eyehategod has defied doomsday scenarios like LaCaze’s sudden death and Williams’ extensive health challenges by continuing to produce cohesive full-lengths. Nonetheless, with a little help from drummer Aaron Hill and a fresh liver, Take as Needed for Pain remains at the heart of what metal fans think about when they think about Eyehategod. Even in ripe old 2018, it wouldn’t be an Eyehategod show if some hapless edgelord didn’t yell “play ‘Sister Fucker!’” after it’s already been played. Williams’ live soundbites about shooting up Drano and the audience’s engaging in incest provide the same disturbing sense of comfort that Take as Needed for Pain’s samples provide — a feeling that could only be cultivated by endless carnival. As times has molded Eyehategod into friendly “White Neighbors,” we are not left with a sanitized form of sludge, but rather, a point in the movement that says, “I’ve overcome.”

Follow Eyehategod on Facebook. Catch them on tour this month with The Obsessed.

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