We live in turbulent times and who better to dish up some slightly surrealist commentary on the matter than everyone’s favourite punk rock duo Slaves? Album number three – Acts Of Fear And Love – draws upon those two titular opposites that so heavily plague society in what transpires to be their most competent piece since their rowdy debut.
“Oi!” is the first word we’re treated to from the ever-abrasive singer/drummer Isaac Holman on opening track ‘The Lives They Wish They Had’ alongside guitarist Laurie Vincent’s bone-rattling guitar riff that already showcases a much grittier style than usual. As album openers go, this is a smart choice to establish the overall tone here. Dishing up some wry remarks on our social media-obsessed culture, you can practically hear Holman’s grin rising above the fuzzy racket as he berates the futility of online personalities. “Nobody, I repeat, nobody gives a shit”. Now that’s punk rock.
‘Cut and Run’ follows next; it’s a pleasing hybrid of soundscapes, managing to combine a catchy pop chorus with Slaves’ usual ruckus of slashing guitars and hypnotic drumming. There is a distinctive return to their earlier thrashing sound here. ‘Bugs’ is a pulsating rollercoaster, complete will furious guitar shredding and an equally as manic tempo. Overall, production seems tighter and more energetic than ever before.
Lyrically, Slaves have never been masters of subtlety and nuanced thought, preferring instead to cut straight to the point in a rather self-assured fashion. But in a world of such turmoil and fake news, the need for a no-bollocks approach has never been stronger. Acts Of Fear And Love sees Slaves being as astute as ever. ‘Magnolia’ is a clever allegory for everyone’s insatiable desire to be completely perfect, whilst ‘Chokehold‘ takes on a male perspective over a breakup which, when not slightly sarcastic, comes through as sincere. Throughout the album, Slaves present to us a refreshingly honest take on the pitfalls of modern existence and thus, tell a compelling narrative.
Their sophomore album (Take Control) managed to showcase Holman’s ability to actually sing rather than constantly scream into the microphone, and this is something that is expanded upon more comfortably on this LP. Tracks like ‘Daddy’ and ‘Photo Opportunity’ run more like soft-spoken word and the collective power of Holman’s vocals and Vincent’s acoustic-esque strumming is fitting when considering the reflective nature of the songs. Perhaps more importantly though, it shows that Slaves are broadening their musical horizons, which bodes positive things for their future.
With a running time of just under half an hour, Acts Of Fear And Love is a short, but sweet experience. Gone are the frankly useless ‘skits’ from album two, as well as any weaker tracks that bogged down the general flow. It seems that Slaves have made the wise decision to streamline their style both lyrically and musically in order to create a more coherent LP – and it works.