Review Summary: Getting closer to closure
Enough has been said about Jonny Craig. His life of debauchery, past drug abuse, and infamous behavior have been synonymous with his name for years now. So much so, that it can get in the way of what’s paramount: The music.
A thing that is seldom mentioned about Jonny Craig is that he’s living proof that a fantastic singer cannot save a bad song. That’s been rather evident in his latest ventures. His voice couldn’t save the lack of creativity on Slaves’ 2015 LP Routine Breathing
. His voice couldn’t salvage the poor production on his last solo EP Find What You Love and Let It Kill You
That’s why when half of the members of Slaves either left or were forcibly kicked out in 2016, and the remaining members decided to seek new production talent with Erik Ron for their newest LP Beautiful Death
, a change in style was inevitable. This different headspace has brought along more contemporary production styles, more compelling lyrical content, and eclectic instrumental ideas that distance themselves from what’s typical of generic post hardcore—things that Slaves had severely struggled with before. What’s most important about this change, however, is that is shows that when Jonny Craig is surrounded by creative talent, his talent is made to shine.
Slaves’ latest LP Beautiful Death
is their best one yet. In large part because it’s easily Jonny’s strongest vocal performance since leaving Dance Gavin Dance over 7 years ago—and that’s because he does something different. On songs like” Deadly Conversations” and “Warning from My Demons” he opts to trade his traditionally manic crooning and boasts of ego with a slightly more reserved approach that shows some subtly and tact. Even when he does continue with that abrasive vocal style, like on the tracks “I’d Rather See Your Star Explode” or “True Colors,” it’s made much more impactful by being more sparingly used.
This isn’t to undersell the instrumental diversity here either. Instead of relying purely on Jonny’s soulful voice to show the bands R&B and hip-hop influences, they decide to adopt many of the production techniques and styles that have been in that genre recently. Tracks like “Patience is the Virtue” and the aptly named “Petty Trappin” have this trap-influenced percussion with a subtle clatter of hi-hats and bass loops that compliment Jonny’s voice perfectly.
That’s not the extent of R&B influence here. One of the albums major highlights, “Back to the Roots” features a hook that feels eerily reminiscent of 90s hip-hop acts like Bel Biv DeVoe and Bobby Brown all while mixing in some modern production techniques and fantastic guitar work. It’s obvious that Weston Richmond, Collin Viera, and Erik Ron all went into this record with a wide swath of ideas that are all impactful and at times even feel innovative.
The lyrical content here is among Jonny’s most revealing and sensitive. With the raw and exposing monologue about his past drug abuse and shame on “The Pact,” his open admission of the fear of loneliness on “Back to the Roots” and his charming confidence exuded on songs like “Petty Trappin” these songs are among some of his most heartfelt and emotionally poignant yet.
There isn’t much more that can be said about Beautiful Death
other than that’s it’s a fantastic album. It shows the evolution, adaption, and creativity that slaves truly needed to become distinct and special. With it’s myriad of influences from R&B, soul, hip-hop, trap all topped off with the trump card that is Jonny Craig, this LP comes together in a way that no other post hardcore band could feasibly pull off. Beautiful Death
is creative enterprise at its finest. It’s refreshing, imaginative and most importantly it says one thing: Jonny Craig is back.