Slaves BC – Lo and I am Burning (The Fear and the Void Recordings, 16 March 2018)
The new record from Pittsburgh’s blackened hardcore doom juggernaut Slaves BC officially hit the streets about a week and a half ago. Considering this writer’s lengthy history of covering the band, it’s pretty shameful that I haven’t gotten around to writing about this one much sooner. Especially in light of their last album All is Dust and I am Nothing landing so high on my list of 2016’s top releases. And yet, “The world is an ugly, ugly place. Virtually everything and everyone in it is awful.” I used that line in a different review just a few days ago, but that axiom is a terrific way to succinctly summarize why I haven’t managed to write more often over the past few months.
Coincidentally, it also describes Lo and I am Burning to a “T” (as well as the general underlying themes upon which the album is based). Two quick spoilers: first, Lo marks a huge step forward for a band that has essentially dropped all the other descriptors that used to follow “blackened”; and also, this is going to be a strong contender once again when year-end rolls around. Here, we’ll take a look at the album in slightly more detail, and that’ll be followed by the info about the band’s record release show — which will be coming up in just a couple weeks here in Pittsburgh, featuring Vile Creature (whom we’ve also discussed quite recently) and Imperial Triumphant (who you can expect to hear much more about on this site in the near future)!
This album captures a band that has experienced a few line-up changes over the past couple of years. As always the core remains singer/drummer/principal songwriter and lyricist Josh Thieler, along with guitarist/backing vocalist Sean Singer. But the bass position has undergone a replacement (which you normally wouldn’t expect to have any impact on a band’s sound within this genre, but more on that later). Also, their live show has seen its personnel modified as well (which can be experienced at the release show in April): a new second guitarist, as well as some helping hands on drums — freeing Mr. Thieler to perform his lyrics as nature intended (a 180° flip from how things had been handled over the past several years, with the bandleader stuck behind a kit while handing off vocal duties to a guest performer).
As the first official release with this current arrangement in place, some shift in overall sound would be expected. But the group has been on a collision course with extreme blackness for quite a while, increasing in complexity and putridity with each newly-written song. (It’s worth noting that the 2016 full-length was partly re-recorded older songs and partly newer material, while this album was entirely written and recorded in the modern era of the band.)
One of the few remnants of sludginess or doominess is when opening track “Lo” starts off a bit slowly and purposefully. But almost immediately, the black metal guitars are off to the races, the intricate drum patterns kick in, along with the harsh and acidic-to-the-point-of-vomitousness vocals, and it hardly feels like the listeners are allowed a single second to catch their breath for the remainder of the record.
These nine tracks — mostly between three to five minutes, with one shorter exception (“Glory”) that gets chewed up and spit out in just under a minute, and one longer (the aptly-titled closer “Unclean”) at about seven and a half, with huge amounts of feedback and distortion dominating the last few minutes and turning the whole thing into an almost-inorganic wasteland — are filled with wave after wave of blackish guitars, complex drum/cymbal interplay, and surprisingly prominent bass counterpoint parts; for the most part segueing straight through.
One main way to characterize this music would be DENSE. There are so many layers to unpack here, it’s unquestionably the type of album that takes at least three or four listens to really “get” it all. That’s not to say the casual or first-time listener won’t also be rewarded — the venomous energy and overall tone of animosity allow for a great aural experience. But once you really start to dig in, the subtle details really start to shine: like the patterns of cymbal crashes, those basslines, the blend of various vicious guitar tones, and layer upon layer of some of the ugliest vocals ever pressed to vinyl.
You can grab Lo and I am Burning digitally right here. It’s also available on a really cool clear LP with black plus a blue/green splatter (if it hasn’t sold out yet!), or you can also choose the brown or black versions.
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Winterforge Promotions Presents:
Slaves BC Album Release Party
with special guests Imperial Triumphant, Vile Creature, Tartarus
Friday, 13 April 2018
at Howlers, 4509 Liberty Ave Pittsburgh (Bloomfield)
full details here: http://www.facebook.com/events/249399645602985/