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A decent, if uneven debut
on November 5, 2013
Formed out of the ashes of Fates Warning in 2006, Connecticut's Slavior emerged with a debut in 2007. Armed with the instrumental chops that came along with being involved in that legendary other band, and a production job, Slavior are not exactly fighting an uphill battle. But still, even when taken on its own terms, this eponymous affair shows a boatload of potential, what with the super-dexterous Mark Zonder providing the excellent drum work, and the guitarists ripping out a handful of surprisingly good solos. (What is most impressive about these solos, though, is the fact that they are surprisingly varied and progressive -- you will very rarely ever hear the same one twice.)
As a result of all of this, Slavior posses s a sound that should perhaps be best described as nu-ish progressive metal, as it falls somewhere between Fates Warning, Tool, and Rush mixed with some Sevendust, Deftones, Helmet, and Faith No More-influenced elements. But before this review comes across as too gushing, let it be known that this band encounters a few snags over the course of this ten-song set. This usually comes from bogging down too heavily in nu-metal-inspired territory, and sometimes from just being too -- if not generic -- un-unique-sounding. But no matter what the case, the fact remains that the songwriting is always clearly still a work in process, and once the band hammers out the finer details involved with it, then the sky will be the limit for them.
"Slavior" opens with a surprisingly heavy and hard-hitting metal note in "Origin," which is fueled by sludgy, downtuned riffing, a stoner metal-derived guitar tone, pounding, driving rhythms, and crashing drum beats. Some memorable vocal patterns, including some really catchy choruses, are also included, here, as a proggy string section that is promptly followed-up by a blistering, screaming guitar solo. As such, "Origin" might have nu-metal-ish vocals and lyrics, but overall, it is far from being a nu-metal song. And "Shatter" is an apt follow-up in that it is equally as good, thanks to it boasting excellent, jazzy, and dexterous drum fills not just in its intro, but throughout the whole track. Some interesting, funky bass lines and an adherent main groove also pepper the arrangements, here, as do some pretty backing guitar harmonies.
From its textbook nu-metal intro to its meaty guitar riffs, terrific hooks, and nu-ish angst, to its soaring melodies, and radio-ready clean singing, a strong nu-metal vibe lurks throughout "Swept Away." But "Altar" atones for this fact by boasting an epic scope and really bright and colorful melodies created by nicely textured string arrangements, soft, supple crooning, Soulfly-esque tribal beats, and Rush-like swing. Then comes another venture into nu-ish territory as "Another Planet" has a strong, Godsmack-ish grungy undertone to it and lurching, Disturbed-influenced grooves. But the tune's beefy, churning guitar hooks, prominent, ear-grabbing bass lines, and excellent, proggy, soaring guitar solo compensate for any shortcomings. Some progressive, Rush-like choruses don't hurt matters, either.
Aside from some catchy, single-ready clean singing and synth-abetted choruses in the latter, nothing really stands out very much in "Deeper" or "Dove," two pieces of generic, run-of-the-mill modern hard rock. But then the album storms back with the title track, which is fairly interesting right from the get-go, thanks to its use of heavy, dark guitars, solid, steady bass work, and thundering drums offsetting a soaring melodic choruses and some tastefully-used tribal percussion. A ripping, and very flashy guitar solo is also dropped into the mix, here, thus helping to make the arrangements even more dynamic.
"Give It Up" is an up-tempo and certainly very unusual mix of hard rock, alt metal, prog rock/metal, and hip-hop -- yes, you read that right: Hip hop (!). Fortunately, the number's blistering guitar soloing is its saving grace; it's what prevents it from becoming a piece of 100% pure Sevendust worship. The record then closes in not-too-hard-rocking fashion, with "Red Road" being a fairly bland piece of power balladry that practically has "saccharin sweet" and "modern rock radio" written all over it. But with that having been said, there are some virtuosic, prog-ish, and exceedingly technical guitar solos included, here, thus making the song well-worth hearing at least once.
As you can see, "Slavior" is a mixed an uneven affair. But it has more than a couple promising moments, and even great songs that clearly point towards the fact that the band is headed in the right direction. It attests that this band has not been able to reach their full potential, but they almost surely do it the next time around. So now the only question is: Where the heck is the follow-up, guys?