Slaves - Through Art We Are All Equals (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Through Art We Are All Equals (2014)

Artery Recordings

Jonny Craig's a helluva character. This, we know, but still, you can't deny his vocal talent. No matter what his misdemeanors, there's always a small part of me willing to hear his musical outlay and see if it comes anywhere close to his earliest Dance Gavin Dance days. After a stint in Emarosa, some solo outputs and of course, another string of controversy, Craig finds himself with Slaves, looking to mend the polarized debates he often sparks. Through Art We Are All Equals is his attempt at finding redemption, offering apologies for oh, so many things, but also, a forum to show us that he still has a voice that can work magic. Sadly, while it's a great and welcomed platform for his sincere emotions, raw honesty and heartfelt words, the album (ironically titled) feels much more like a PC—assembled product than a work of art.

As expected, experimental tones and progressive tempos fill the album's ambiance. It's rife with slick riffs and that A Lot Like Birds/Rise Records feel — grindcore disposition as prominent as ever. "The Fire Down Below" best indicates this and as an opener, sets the stage for this vibe throughout. What tracks like these, found ever—present and a bit too much on the record, really do is highlight that Craig, as good as his voice is, has no musical direction. It's yet to find a spot to shine and still, for some reason, lingers in this genre. I'd like to say it's stagnant but I wouldn't want to be too harsh, but in reality, these songs feel so repetitive and overdone, especially by Craig throughout the course of his topsy—turvy career.

The electronic—synth templates all come piling in as well to further create a disjointed feel, which the likes of Vic Fuentes and Tyler Carter as guest vocalists, don't help at all. "The Young and Beyond Reckless" and "The Hearts of Our Young" feel a bit gimmicky despite Craig's best attempts to show that his lyrics are testament to his past mistakes. Sure, he seems passionate about righting wrongs but the album really drags on and on. Mad props to the drumming though — feisty, well—timed, hard—hitting and adding a lot of fuel to songs that are musically mediocre and lacking ingenuity.

Again, it's a shame to see most of this come off like such a product rather than art. Maybe he'd have been better off going it acoustic. Slaves do try to put Craig at the forefront, letting his words stretch out, but it's a bit much and as a band, it's regressive because you can barely tell what they really have to offer. Sadly, when they do step up to the fore, it's very mundane and very average — lacking creativity enormously. It's hard to take Through Art We Are All Equals seriously because you expect Slaves to be in the headlines pretty soon for the wrong reasons — and by that, of course I mean, Craig. I'm a huge fan of his and I hope he's onto a better path, but musically, he seems to finally have run his course. Slaves, as a podium for him, follows suit as a band that's lacking drive and focus and seems to be a carbon copy of many other bands, who are all barely listenable. Is there potential there? Sure! Do I see them tapping it? It's a resounding and emphatic —— NO.