Review Summary: Onwards.
What is there to say about Slaves
at this point that hasn't been said? Starting out as ex-Dance Gavin Dance singer Jonny Craig's pity party, it eventually evolved into a far more competent band than DGD themselves ever were (sorry, folks), if only because Craig was surprisingly superb at finding various backing bands to put up with him every few album cycles and had a very impressive soul-tinged voice to compliment the music (he was basically Tyler Carter without the suck). But with every Jonny Craig success, there's always heroin there to screw it up for him, and Slaves' backing musicians eventually got tired of his stubborn refusal to get clean and booted him out like Dance Gavin Dance did so long ago, recruiting Matt McAndrew, more or less the only good semi-mainstream talent to come out of The Voice
bar Christina Grimmie, to take over. Certainly, they've seen better days, and that's what fuels their aptly-named fourth effort To Better Days
To Better Days
owes far more to pop than it does to post-hardcore, likely to capitalize on the success of Bring Me The Horizon's latest works (something nearly EVERY scenecore artist is doing at this point). Synths and programmed drum beats are brimming throughout the album, but unlike many of their genre peers such as The Word Alive and even BMTH themselves, they manage to consistently make it work throughout the entire album. Matt McAndrew's vocals are most definitely the highlight here; he has everything that made Craig so successful but amplified to greater levels and with flaws far less apparent. The backing band are at the top of their game as well—guitarists Weston Richmond and Felipe Sanchez as well as bassist Colin Vieira compliment McAndrew with some of the strongest riffs this band has brought to the table despite the genericity, while drummer Zachary Baker provides a fine backbone to the rhythm section. What truly powers To Better Days
is both McAndrew's vocals and the deeper shift into pop—rather than going utterly bats**t insane and forgoing any attempt at substance for style like Telle Smith and Jared Leto did, Slaves are content to mix their comfort zone in with the deeper pop territory, and it surprisingly makes the album a refresher.
What the band needs to improve on right now are their lyrics. Sometimes they're flashes of greatness (primarily in the verses), and other times they fall right on their face. For every "Witch Hunt" ("I was hoping we could let the dust settle / Till you started looking for a mark from the devil") and "Heavier" ("I take the blame / I wanna change / But I can't settle the score / Now I'm a slave to better days / And I'm not willing anymore") there's a "Like I Do" ("No one ***s with me like I do / No one ***s with me like I do / And after everything I've been through / No one ***s with me like I do"—did they buy this chorus from Ivan Moody?) ready to kill your confidence in the band's writing ability. The prowess is there, but it needs to be drawn out a bit more. The other weak spot is unsurprisingly the mixing; nearly every mixing problem of the past several years is present in To Better Days
—brickwalling, suffocation of dynamics, and it's ilk. But at the bottom line, To Better Days
is a renaissance for the band. With Craig out of the band and their visible willingness to improve and try other things, they're well on their way to better days.