Review Summary: An album so generic, with so many forgettable moments and copy/pastes from it's predecessor, that even the writing jumps the shark and refuses to take itself seriously.Slaves
. A band name that seems uninspired enough that it’s seemingly predestined to fall into obscurity and blend around with its peers and competitors. But yet, it hasn’t. Slaves have, in fact, held a consistent following and fanbase that seems to want to support them as much as they can. Enough so to make one wonder: “How has this band gained its following? What makes them stand out from the other bands around them?”
To put it bluntly, the answer to that is Jonny Craig. The former Vocalist for Dance Gavin Dance
, who is infamously known for his golden voice and for essentially being a golden asshole. Being notorious in his past for starting feuds, being kicked out of tours and bands, and major drug abuse, he has been outcasted as the black sheep in his musical scene. Going through rehab, getting parts of his life cleaned up, and trying to make amends, only to once again dig his own grave by being kicked off of Warped Tour 2015 right when it began. And as a result, being forced to pay off a large sum of debt in a small amount of time, it almost seemed inevitable that Slaves
would fail and be forced to stop making music. Though, instead they somehow overcame this financial hurdle and large blow against their image, through the support of their fans. Through support of the people who wanted to hear their music, and who wanted to see them continue. And to repay the favor they decided to give their supporters what they want, the music. Deciding to release their sophomore album, Routine Breathing
, ahead of schedule as a thank you for the support they received.
With all of the drama revolving around the band and it’s fanbase, it seems that the meaning of this band in many people’s eyes has shifted. It’s not so much about the music, but more so what the musicians do. Even their last album was held with a focus, in many peoples eyes, as an apology from Craig, with nobody truly paying attention to the actual music, but instead the overarching message from the main musician. Because of that, the question here is: “What about the music?”
Well, it isn’t very special. Nearly all of the tracks sound the same or ultimately similar to the one before it, and the entire album sounds remarkably similar to it’s predecessor, which suffered from a very similar issue itself. The album even has the gall to essentially take a track from their last record, “There’s only one God and His Name is Death” and rehash it as the song “One God.” Riffs seemingly are recycled, the same muddy guitar tone is used throughout all of the songs, and Craig continues to hit the same notes that he has been for so many years now. There is barely any musical progression to be found here. The only notable change is the welcome absence of guitar chugging and moody breakdowns.
The album is also a whopping 15 songs in length, which in this records case is a bit of a detriment, as most of the songs tend to run together and overstay their welcome. All of them having the same atmospheric, onenote sound, that shows no exploration outside of the core sound that they’ve nearly bled dry at this point.
It seems that most of the effort was put into the singles: “Drowning in My Addiction”, “Burning Our Morals Away” and “Death Never Lets Us Say Goodbye” as they all hold a bit more of a structure and even seem a bit better produced than the other tracks on the album. Though even then I wouldn’t say that these songs are stand outs for the album as all of the rest seem to just be extensions off of these key songs.
The songwriting in Routine Breathing
is ultimately the most offensive thing on this record. All of the albums lyrics are so forgettable, uninspired, cringeworthy and hamfisted, it’s honestly a miracle that people can take this band and it’s muddled and confusing messages seriously. Ironically often having the message of “Wanting to leave their mark” when they barely seem to leave an impression on the listener.
Some of the song titles being so shallow and straightforward with no actual context, that the writer even resorts to giving them some of the stupidest and irrelevant sounding names like: “Shoutout to All My Toasters”, “We Are So Michelle Branch”, and “Running Through the Six With My Soul” that it’s almost laughable how much the band is trying to make it’s bland sound and songwriting stand out in all of the wrong ways.
Moments where the album actually stands out are few and far between, and those moments give you little reason for repeated play. “Shoutout to All My Toasters” Opens with a riff that is actually a bit experimental and is reminiscent of something off of a video game soundtrack, but afterward it continues to the same structure and lack of inspiration that plagues the rest of the album. “Winter Everywhere” sounds more like a Jonny Craig solo song then a Slaves song, and features a welcome vocal feature from current Dance Gavin Dance
vocalist, Tilian Pearson. Despite the fact that the song suffers from the same thing the rest of the album does, it's enough of a treat and deviation from the core sound of the remainder of the album.
Overall, Routine Breathing
is a jumbled mess of incoherent generic songwriting. Uninspired riffs and musicianship that carries through every track. And a lack of progression and effort that takes the key sounds and elements of the band’s previous album, and pastes them here. If Routine Breathing
is a sign of things to come, then Slaves need to change their tune and present something new. Lest they fade into obscurity and lose the following they’ve amassed through their drama. Because despite the fact that they talk about wanting to leave their mark through their music, they’ve done anything but.