Slaves
Through Art We Are All Equals


3.5
great

Review

by Alex Dansereau USER (11 Reviews)
June 30th, 2014 | 159 replies


Release Date: 06/24/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Shooting for the stars and falling slightly short.

What is there to say about Jonny Craig that hasn’t already been said? The man’s natural gift for singing is exceeded only by his gift for self-sabotage. Bands, fans and even girlfriends have been taken in by Craig's powerhouse voice, only to be stabbed in the back by his deeply flawed character. His drug abuse and flippant disregard for common decency to his own fans became the stuff of legend. Yet his immense talent has sustained his career through many pitfalls of his own making, and he has apparently overcome addiction to form yet another band, this time enlisting former Hearts & Hands guitarists Alex Lyman and Christopher Kim to create the absurdly titled Through Art We Are All Equals.

In Craig’s previous efforts, the listener could ignore his checkered past and focus on his stunning, emotive voice and the intricacy of the musicianship backing him up. This is not the case on Slaves’ debut, as Jonny takes center stage for the entire album, only letting up for the occasional guest spot. Accordingly, this is Craig’s most personal album, as he faces his failed relationships and self-destructive personality head on. There are several moments on the album where Craig gets surprisingly reflective about others’ perception of him:

“Torture myself, that's what I feel I'm worth
Torture myself, well aware that the pain is somewhere else
You can root for the villain, I'll take that title, I'll take the heat now and be your rival”


- “There Is Only One God and His Name Is Death”

Elsewhere, Jonny (alongside Vic Fuentes) opens up about the hurt he has caused to friends and lovers alike:

“Don’t make me wait for a falling star
I’ve been afraid that the blood in my heart
Won’t sing for me a melody that’s ours
Drown me in the rain, I’d swim and sink for you
You were the only, you were the only saving grace I ever had”


- “Starving for Friends”

It’s not high poetry, but every line sounds sincere, and delivered with Jonny’s passion and intensity the lyrics are quite effective, especially compared with the nonsense he spouts in Dance Gavin Dance or the lazy lines of his myriad solo tracks.

One of the most instantly noticeable aspects of the record is how vocal-centric it is. This can be a positive thing, considering how strong of a vocalist Craig is, and how well frequent Jonny collaborator Kris Crummett produces his vocals. However, Craig’s vocals tend to drown out the music throughout, relegating everything else to the background. Additionally, the band is hardly on par with the musicians that have previously supported Craig in his various earlier bands. The intricate guitar lines and complex melodies of Relativity and Downtown Battle Mountain are typically replaced with generic metalcore-influenced chugging, to the point where many of the songs start to blend together. This is disappointing considering that guitarists Lyman and Kim frequently excelled in Hearts & Hands. Jason Mays’ bass is often drowned out in the mix, so there is nothing spectacular to speak of there. Thankfully, Tai Wright of Four Letter Lie and D.R.U.G.S. provides excellent drumming throughout, and does a lot to add energy to the proceedings.

The guest spots on the album are generally well-placed, adding just the right touches to their various tracks. The highlight is Vic Fuentes on album closer (and standout) “Starving for Friends”. Something about the production makes his voice much less grating than usual, and his well-written melodies come close to outshining even Jonny Craig on his own band’s song. Tyler Carter adds a nice touch to the closing of “The Young and Beyond Reckless”, and Jonny’s sister Natalie displays that vocally, she is essentially the female version of Jonny as they trade lines on “The Hearts of Our Young”. Even the usually terrible Kyle Lucas manages to put in a tolerable performance on “The King and the Army That Stands Behind Him”, adding some rap rock swagger that helps to distinguish the track from similar songs on the record.

Slaves had their work cut out for them on this record, as several of Jonny Craig’s previous records have become go-to staples among post hardcore fans, due in no small part to his signature vocal stylings. While Slaves’ debut may not be quite on par with the best of Craig’s previous work, he manages to show improvement on several fronts while putting in perhaps his best and most consistent vocal performance to date. While the band is sometimes lacking in creativity, and seems to coast along hoping Craig will pick up the slack, he actually manages to do just that, and the introduction of new vocal melodies goes quite a way in showing that Craig has the potential of being more than a one-trick pony. If the band manages to add more variety and sound less formulaic on their next release (assuming there is one… you never know with Craig), they have a real shot at rising to the top tier of today’s post hardcore scene.



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3.2
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Comments:Add a Comment 
beachdude
June 29th 2014


287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

My first review... be cool everyone

Digging: Brand New - Fight Off Your Demons (The Demos)

zakalwe
June 29th 2014


8518 Comments


Good effort dude.
I was excited as I thought this was Slaves as in the two piece English punk band who are one of the best things to have come out in years and who wouldn't be seen dead singing them quoted lyrics.

Digging: Melvins - Hold It In

beachdude
June 29th 2014


287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, there's been a lot of confusion about those two bands, the English group has been giving Jonny crap on Twitter about using the name of an already established band. I believe they signed to a major record label recently too.

zakalwe
June 29th 2014


8518 Comments


Ha, yep sold out already!

Cygnatti
June 29th 2014


21353 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Shite

beachdude
June 29th 2014


287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Album and review both? Or just the album?

beachdude
June 29th 2014


287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Honestly I can see why people hate this, his lyrics definitely come off as obnoxious sometimes and the music is frequently bland... but imo the emotion in the songs makes up for some of the shortcomings.

TheSpirit
June 29th 2014


17930 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

You use "frequently" like 4 times in that 3rd paragraph. Good review though. You and I share the exact same sentiments

beachdude
June 29th 2014


287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks... yeah I need to shake up my vocabulary choices a bit haha

Futures
June 29th 2014


11685 Comments


probably sucks

Digging: Mock Orange - Nines & Sixes

YakNips
June 29th 2014


11967 Comments


I like JC but yeah Im not sure if Ill like this

Ill give it a try

Digging: Purge. - Sewage

beachdude
June 29th 2014


287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

My expectations were pretty low so I was pleasantly surprised.

xpaincakex
June 29th 2014


170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Definitely a decent album but the band brings Jonny down. Just not on the same level but that's probably because its their first release together. Jonny was amazing on this though.

YakNips
June 29th 2014


11967 Comments


woah you got featured on your first review! congrats

DreamAgain
June 29th 2014


273 Comments


Am I the only person in the world who DOESN'T like Craig's singing style? That soul vibe and whatever he does with his voice.. it just doesn't sound good to me, and never has.

Slut
June 29th 2014


2470 Comments


this is exactly what i expected it to be

YakNips
June 29th 2014


11967 Comments


well it sounded good on DGD
and on Ghost Runner on Third
and on Emarosa

DreamAgain
June 29th 2014


273 Comments


Emarosa was about a hundred billion times better before Craig was even in the band.

YakNips
June 29th 2014


11967 Comments


a hundred billion eh

idk I never enjoyed emarosa that much anyway even with craig

beachdude
June 29th 2014


287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Wow this just got featured... crazy.



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