REVIEW: Slaves – Beautiful Death [2018]

Artist: Slaves 

Album: Beautiful Death 


In the age of science, death is becoming more and more a taboo topic. We invent pills, medications, fitness regimens, diets and trendy, waist-slimming, welcome-to-the-better-you products on an annual (or monthly—or weekly) basis to prolong our lives. We waste our days fighting for mere minutes tacked on to our telomeres. Which is why, sometimes, when one makes the notion of death being a natural and even beautiful instance, jaws drop, hearts pound and the whispered, muffled disparaging comments flair up. 

But Slaves—they have captured the natural beauty found within the dialectic that defines the relationship between life and death—they’ve found it, and bottled it on Beautiful Death. 

It would be easy to start this article with a laundry list of the ways Slaves (and a certain frontman) in particular have had a storied past—but that isn’t why you’re reading this or why I’m writing it. I’m writing this to tell you that, yes, even with a reputation built less around the music and more around personality and past, Beautiful Death is probably one of the most stellar, breath-taking, beautiful and mesmerizing releases you’ll hear all year and beyond. 

When you’re lead by a name and voice as big as Johnny Craig’s, it’s hard to really be known for anything else—and even moreso, it’s hard to get heard as anything else. However, on Beautiful Death, Slaves manage to make every musician just as integral to the band’s overall dynamic as Craig’s voice itself. Westin Richmond brings dazzling fretwork into the mix with guitar lines that shine and sparkle as brilliantly as they burn and roar, especially during dynamic, groovy tracks like “True Colors” and “Back to the Roots.” Richmond works with bassist Colin Viera to create an instrumental backbone for Beautiful Death that fuses alternative rock, post-rock, post-hardcore and R&B in a fashion that is simply unlike anything really prominent in any major music sphere currently. The duo are catchy and creative all at once, creating segments to songs (like the introductory portion to “Back to the Roots”) that hit pretty damn hard, yet moments like “The Pact,” which is a subtle, minimal musical framework that adds just enough integral structure to the song to allow to truly close the album properly. Then there are sing-along romps like “True Colors” or “I’d Rather See Your Star Explode”–songs releases as singles that have already likely garnered hundreds of plays on thousands of iPhones worldwide—that don’t fade with time, but rather see Viera and Richmond working together to create a funky, snappy, bouncy and fun style of post-hardcore infused with a little something extra. 

However, regardless of the beautiful instrumentation, Craig’s voice remains a crucial selling point to Beautiful Death—because when it comes to beautiful, few things corner the market as well as his vocal prowess does. Every song on Slaves’ sizable new offering is a testament to Craig’s talents, ranging from relatable, catchy lyrics to jaw-dropping sonic majesty. A personal favorite, “True Colors,” as well as “Back to the Roots,” see Craig clearing his conscience of love gone awry. Meanwhile, the mellow “The Pact” is an almost unsettlingly honest monologue concerning his relationship with his parents and family. Then there’s the sharp-tongued (with an even sharper wit) “Petty Trappin’,” infusing an (even more) overt hip-hop and R&B influence. It’d be easy enough to go on and on for every track on Beautiful Death, but it’s easier to say that the Craig I fell in love with on Whatever I Say is Royal Ocean and his several other exceptional offerings is alive and well, in a more matured and emotionally complex reservoir.  

Beautiful Death is a beautiful album. Period. One of the first non-heavy albums I’ve fallen in love with in a long time, Beautiful Death stops at nothing to bombard the listener with feelings and fantastic, sing-a-long choruses (even though Craig’s voice is so stellar you might rather stay quiet) that are second to none. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of Craig’s dalliances and reputation, there is no denying that the effort he puts forth with the other exceptional musicians in Slaves is practically perfect.  



For Fans Of: Emarosa, The Plot In You, Dance Gavin Dance 

By: Connor Welsh