Slaves – To Better Days (Album Review)
SLAVES – To Better Days
Released: August 7, 2020
Matt McAndrew | Vocals
Colin Vieira | Bass
Weston Richmond | Lead Guitar
Felipe Sanchez | Rhythm Guitar
Zachary Baker | Drums
So I hear Six Flags in the US have some pretty huge rides, but I bet it’s got absolutely nothing on the rollercoaster of a journey Slaves have endured. From line up instabilities, to a number of label changes, it’s safe to say this five-piece post-hardcore band from Sacramento have experienced anything but smooth sailing. The upcoming album To Better Days is not only the introductory record to new vocalist Matt McAndrew, but also the final release under the name Slaves (read our full article here).
McAndrew may already be familiar to you if you watched The Voice (US), as he was the runner up of Season 7 (2014). After being left high and dry by their previous vocalist an hour before their flight to begin their 2019 European tour, the band enlisted McAndrew to fill the void. After then completing their Australian headline tour for Beautiful Death, McAndrew was just too good to pass up and became a permanent fixture of the Slaves line up.
Slaves have really put in the hard yards for this album, releasing a total of seven singles along with videos for all of them. That may seem excessive, however I think it’s worked in their favour as it has given fans time to warm up to the new era with McAndrew as vocalist.
Now I know a lot of us (myself included), thought that the departure of Craig would result in the end for Slaves (I mean, how do you even begin to replace a voice like that?!) I could babble on about how McAndrew fits into the band as easily as Cinderella fit into her glass slipper, but To Better Days really speaks for itself, so let’s get into it.
The album starts off with intro track ‘To Better Days’. Building the anticipation for what’s to come, it teases you with samples from the next track ‘Prayers’, which it then powerfully weaves itself into. ‘Witch Hunt’ continues to incorporate these sporadic samples with autotune and echoey background vocals throughout. This is a theme that continues over the entirety of the album and is implemented extremely well to add texture and a lightness to tracks that are quite dark in context.
‘Talk To A Friend’ is a track that will get stuck in your head for days and you won’t even be mad about it. It’s catchy as hell and will make you feel like your dance moves are better than they are (you know people can still see you when you’re dancing in the car right?) Lyrics ‘I wouldn’t talk to a friend the way I talk to myself’ speak to how badly we can treat ourselves, the general meaning to this track will hit home with a lot of people.
The final release we were given before the album drops was ‘Eye Opener’. Sprinkled with deep, chunky bass riffs, spiralling guitar chords and a chorus that potentially puts all other choruses to shame, this song is just SO good. It really showcases McAndrews’ powerful vocal range, hitting some jaw-dropping highs.
‘Bury A Lie’ was another single we received earlier this year. It’s a little slower in pace but still heavily overflows with emotion and has one of the catchiest melodies on the record. ‘Heavier’ was the very first single that dropped with McAndrew as vocalist. I have been jamming this song non stop since it was released last year and it’s earned a well deserved spot in my Most Played playlist.
The band caught wind of some students at School of Rock in Arizona (I know, I also thought School of Rock was just a movie with Jack Black) who were learning to play ‘Heavier’, and took the time to surprise them at rehearsal. Matt even jumped in and sung along while the kids played! What a life changing experience! It’s things like this that make Slaves such a huge force to be reckoned with. In such a competitive and challenging industry, it’s so special to see bands take the time to give back and support other musicians no matter how big or small.
I tell you what, I was reeeeeeally hoping for an acoustic love song on this album and we got it! ‘Footprints’ left me with goosebumps so big I had to go and turn my heater up (and no, it’s not because Melbourne is freezing at the moment.) Guitar and heart strings being played with here and I just CAN’T. STOP. PLAYING. IT.
Both ‘Cursed’ and ‘Wasting My Youth’ come complete with infectious choruses that will ensure you are left humming them for days to follow. This really is Slaves forte and they nail it every time. We all know that catchy melodies can often become a little annoying or repetitive but Slaves always seem to sidestep this, I am never mad to have one of their songs stuck in my head.
‘Clean Again’ is a short little interval track at just over 1 minute long. It slows the pace again and cuts back to a raw acoustic sound with just one guitar and vocals. Matt doesn’t even sound like he has to try, his voice is unquestionably angelic and so effortlessly pours out these immense layers of emotion every time. Second to last track ‘Secrets’ is actually a bit more pop punky and grungy in comparison to the other tracks. Matt’s vocal delivery is more relaxed and less polished, but they absolutely nail this sound as well (is there anything this band can’t do?). If you’re after an edgy teenage angst vibe, this track is for you.
The evident theme of the album is predominantly based around relationships, whether that be with yourself or others, whether they be good or bad. ‘Like I Do’ is a track that speaks quite heavily to the conflicts between how others treat you and how you treat yourself. It’s catchy as hell and pretty fun to sing along to the lyrics ‘No one fucks with me like I do’ at the top of your lungs.
It may not have seemed so at the time, but I think losing Craig was truly a beneficial alteration for Slaves. Not only sound wise, but McAndrew has provided a more positive, upbeat atmosphere for the other members, which is certainly something they all needed after the constant frenzy to eventually find their footing.
It’s absolutely true what they say, ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey’. Maybe without the highs and lows, we wouldn’t have been given such an incredible album like this one. It’s not often that I can easily say there is not one single song on this album I don’t like. It’s an integral step in the right direction and I am so damn excited to see this band get the recognition they deserve.
Slaves are undoubtedly heading on To Better Days with this categorically superior album. Enriched with soaring choruses and contagious melodies, you’ll be happy to have these tracks stuck in your head for many days to come. It may be the end of the Slaves era, but it is just the beginning for this powerhouse group of musicians.
Slaves – To Better Days tracklisting
- To Better Days
- Witch Hunt
- Talk To A Friend
- Eye Opener
- Bury A Lie
- Wasting My Youth
- Clean Again
- Like I Do
To Better Days is Out August 7 via SBG Records. Pre-Order here
Review By Rhiannon Porter
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Digging the new album!