Slaves BC – All is Dust and I am Nothing (Veritas Vinyl, 16 February 2016)
Still putting together my best-of list for 2015, but I think the 2016 list is finished. twitter.com/SLAVES_BC/stat…—
Eric Yanyo (@valley_of_steel) December 30, 2015
Whoops, I guess I forgot to say “Spoiler Alert”…
Seriously, though, that was my initial reaction on hearing this full album for the first time. I know it’s still very early in the year, and there will be plenty of high-quality releases yet to come (and I’ve even heard a few good ones already), so it’s ridiculous to make such a proclamation at this point. But I can assure you this record will definitely end up in my Top 16 list, probably very close to the top of that list. Because it’s that good.
Pittsburgh-based blackened doomy hardcore ensemble Slaves BC are certainly no strangers to this website: a little over three years ago I wrote about their first EP we mean nothing, as well as a split 7″ and a split 12″ since then. In between all of that, I’ve seen them play live probably a dozen or so times, and managed to become pretty good friends with the members of the band in the process.
Now, hopefully none of you are thinking I’m being overly positive about this new album just because I know these guys personally. In fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth: to be perfectly honest, outside of their involvement with the band, as far as I can tell, these people have the absolute worst taste in music. I’ve never been to a party or gathering with any of them (particularly co-guitarists Sean Singer and Rick Van Newkirk) that hasn’t been soundtracked by Limp Bizkit or Nicki Minaj. I really wish I was making this up. But on the other hand, I’ve noticed that at least 90% of drummer, vocalist, and principal songwriter Josh Thieler‘s wardrobe consists of Converge t-shirts, so maybe the hardcore/noise/metal influence has snuck in through osmosis?
In any case, this new record continues the trend of Slaves‘ last few releases, sounding even darker and heavier, and also increasing both the complexity and the intensity. Compiling two of the three songs from we mean nothing, a few others that have been live staples for a while, and some newer material, this debut full-length All is Dust and I am Nothing represents the culmination of a project that Thieler had been planning and writing for years: a concept album entirely based on the biblical book of Ecclesiastes.
That book takes its title from the Greek Ἐκκλησιαστής, a translation of the Hebrew term קֹהֶלֶת, which is the name the author uses to refer to himself — and which means, approximately, “one who gathers people and preaches to them.” It makes sense, therefore, that it consists mainly of philosophical writings — ruminations on the world and life, what it all means and what purpose it serves. Many people will be familiar with one song whose lyrics come almost directly from this book: Pete Seeger‘s upbeat and hopeful-sounding “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (or The Byrds‘ more commonly known cover version). However, there are multiple ways in which the writings of Ecclesiastes can be interpreted, and the direction taken by All is Dust (if you couldn’t guess from the title) is the more pessimistic, perhaps even nihilistic, viewpoint. Not only is this life a brief, transitory stopping point that ultimately serves little purpose in the grander scheme of existence, but this world and everything in it is in fact meaningless and of no real significance at all.
One would expect such a bleak view to inspire some rather angry, anguished music, and that’s exactly what you will find here. Those who’ve heard the band’s first EP will already be familiar with the crushing duo of “Everything is Meaningless” and “Everything Under the Sun”; the newer songs that bookend these are no less powerful or pessimistic. In addition to these two songs, a definite highlight of live shows is the ultra-heavy riffage of “Dust” (and the unison-screamed lines that come in a pseudo-breakdown near the end of the song), so it’s definitely nice to have an official studio recording of that track. Elsewhere, checking out the thunderous explosions that are scattered throughout opening track “God Has Turned His Back” and the insanity that is “Nothing Remains but Death” are clear indications of why bandleader Josh has stopped pulling double-duty in the live environment (the band has recently recruited former Meth Quarry vocalist Adam Bailey — who had already made guest appearances at numerous Slaves shows previously) to serve as onstage frontman.
Showcasing the band’s range, the penultimate song “There is Nothing for Me Here” is a bit more slow-paced, with almost bluesy guitar wails paired with the depressive shouting throughout; the combination sounds like the inner soundtrack of someone who has almost totally given up hope. In contrast, the final track “Why are We Here” is one of the album’s heavist, and certainly among its ugliest, being filled with an especially excessive amount of feedback, and some rather putrid vocals that are evocative of a band like Indian or Lord Mantis. Overall, between its sound and its subject matter, this album is quite the soul-crushing experience, an experience I cannot recommend highly enough.
All is Dust and I am Nothing is currently available for preorder (right here) in a variety of pretty colors (see the image below for a sampling), and I’m told that these will begin shipping soon, so as to hit your doorstep by the official release date. I understand that your purchase also will include a free download of the first song (which can be previewed using Bandcamp, scroll down below the image of the records) right away, plus the whole thing once it becomes available.
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