“Oi! What are you doing?” – SLAVES make waves from first note to last. Acts of Fear and Love is not a record you can afford to sleep on.
SLAVES, deservingly, have been a name on the tip of most people’s tongues for near on three years by this point. As one of the most energetic bands in all of music right now, it is hard to find anyone like the diverse punk duo from Kent. Who can go from playing a sweaty, 100 cap venue in Dover one night and then appear on Sunday Brunch the next morning? SLAVES can. Their meteoric soar to stardom has come – primarily – as a result of their first two albums, 2015’s Are You Satisfied? and 2016’s Take Control. Now, over two years later we finally have what every SLAVES fan has been looking forward to for what feels like forever – LP 3.
The album opens with the word “OI” which is the most fitting introduction to the band for anyone who has never listen to them before. This somewhat perfect beginning opens The Lives They Wished They Had with a bang. From here, the track continues to accelerate with excellence. The title hook is beyond infectious, it really gives you a SLAVES induced headache. As the song swags through its verses and chorus a couple of times, we are left with a few slaps of the cymbals and a guitar notes ringing in your ears – you are not prepared for what is to follow. 30 seconds of sheer carnage ensues with Isaac Holman slapping the life out of his toms and Laurie Vincent thumping every note from his six-string. The haunting “SLAVES” shouts at the end of this track, again, perfectly deliver the most accurate impression of the band. Bold, brash and ready to blow your ears off. When I listen to this band I very rarely associate their music with social commentary or political messages like I would with artists such as Enter Shikari. However, the more you unpick the simplistic elements of their music and lyrics, you really get to see how intelligently SLAVES deliver their message. This song is a testament to this.
Cut and Run was the lead single from this album, and after hearing the opening track (and its ending in particular) it confuses me a little. Although Cut and Run is a catchy little ditty, it doesn’t feel as exciting as its predecessor. However, the fact that this tune doesn’t fit the normal SLAVES blueprint is probably why they chose to publish it first. Similarly, Chokehold is another one that doesn’t fit the ‘normal’ SLAVES mould. The almost anthemic chorus is somewhat a new addition to the SLAVES sound, but with this track, it is clear to hear that they have perfected it. Both of these singles are highlights of the album for sure.
Bugs opens with an electrifying riff. This makes the song. The drums that join the party only amp up the energy. The vocals of Holman enter with as much rapscallion nature as the instruments. Once more, the title of the song makes the hook of the song. I must mention that by saying this, I am not deeming the track as being predictable. It couldn’t be further from this. Although it doesn’t leave you guessing about what the hook of the song is going to be, the way it is approached on every occasion is fresh. Similarly, the post-chorus riff keeps the song pumping, pushing the notes out of your speakers and straight down your throats. We reach the breakdown and SLAVES once again prove why they are at the top of their game. The hip jigging riff that closes the show is incredible and only amps the pace of the track further. Holman’s screams of “BUGS… BUGS… CHEW BUGS” are so simple but so effective. This song has left me marvelling over how a two-piece can produce a sound so big.
Magnolia, despite alluding to the colour of off-cream paintwork, is one of the most gripping songs I have listened to in a while. The ringing opening of “did you know 65% of all UK homes contain at least one Magnolia wall? I bet you didn’t. Incoming” pulses through your headphones in a distorted manner as the song opens. The chorus, the hook, the vocals… everything about this song is incredible and I urge you – SLAVES fan or not – to give this one a listen. Artificial Intelligence, once again, gives us a different flavour. Almost metallic in sound, the song is unique and provides us with one of the last hurrahs before the album is brought to a close. A perfect blend of feedback and reverb, it is hard to imagine that a band will ever sound like this again. In a similar vein, Photo Opportunity is another unmissable track on the album. Starting slow, this song expands further and further with every second. The riff that opens the song, and continually features throughout, sounds like it could be found in a nursery rhyme. This song features all the bells and whistles (quite literally). Photo Opportunity is an ode to the downsides of fame and it is refreshing to hear a band discuss this so fruitfully.
Daddy is the slowest, most soppy, bop on the record. The opening riff feels nostalgic and Holman’s vocals are the softest seen on the album. The choice to sing rather than shout makes Daddy the perfect moment of reflection within the release. Coupled with the heartfelt lyrics seen on this one, the vibe of this song is approachable and warming. This softer vibe is mirrored in the titular and final song, Acts of Fear and Love. This track has a distant feel to it, the layers really build to complete the atmosphere of the song – it is a little reminiscent of Angelica from 2016’s Take Control. The vocals and distorted guitar only add to this further and once again we see SLAVES play with the boundaries of their sound. The album is brought wonderfully to a close by this song, we are left to mull over what we have experienced and where on earth the band can go from here.
SLAVES know how to write a banger, that is indisputable. However, with Acts of Fear and Love, they have written an album. From start to finish, this release is wonderfully balanced and gives you a delightful representation of what the band are about. Although the release is short for an LP, only stretching to 9 songs, it feels full and you get a sense of satisfaction when you have finished listening to it. It makes me proud to have shared a postcode with these guys. Bravo.
You can catch SLAVES on tour at the end of the year: