Slaves’ apocalyptic punk has been praised worldwide since they first started making waves in 2012. Their socially driven lyrics and rambunctious rhythms have been worryingly infectious for years now, and their music is arguably more relevant than ever given England’s current social climate. ‘Acts of Fear and Love’ had a lot to live up to given the success of their previous two records, but on this LP they have worked hard to refine their sound and broaden into the realm of ballads too.
‘Bugs’ is an instant stand out track for me, which could be likened to their ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ song ‘Suicide’; Isaac’s tone champions his unique snarling angst, which works simultaneously with the raucous guitar riff Laurie plays. It is certainly a highlight for me as I adore the material off their debut EP, but I believe it also proves how much their sound has evolved since then.
Arguably, this is Slaves least commercial album to date. In an interview with NME, they claimed that they were now writing chorus’ purposely, but the gruelling, gritty guitar leads and thumping snares on tracks like ‘Chokehold’ are beautifully brutal - DJs would be brave to spin this record on their breakfast shows. ‘Take Control’ was Slaves at their most experimental; Mike Dee brought elements out of them that no other producer could. They have certainly taken aspects of that record and made them more succinct to the sound they want to be producing on their new LP. Their collaboration with Baxter Dury, ‘Steer clear’, was one of our first introductions to the duo’s mellow side, ‘Photo-opportunity’ is definitely inspired by this track, and makes their sound more diverse and elaborate. The distinct chorus is incredibly anthemic, and will go down a treat when they inevitably start headlining stadiums.
Tours with the likes of Kasabian and Foo Fighters shows the potential Slaves have to produce music for the masses, and tunes that are worthy of headlining Britain’s major festivals; this album has proved this more than any other. They continue to champion the beauty of simplicity; it is amazing how only two men can make the racket they do with the little equipment they have. This fails to hinder their presence on stage however and opening track ‘The Lives They Wish They Had’ will hopefully be thrashing its way into their setlist. The track is a social commentary of the fundamental problem with my generation; people’s obsession with their appearance stems from the insecurities they develop by over-engaging with social media. Slaves play with this idea in a humorous manor, Holman screams ‘approach with caution / I’ve got my muscles to an intimidating proportion’, which is as good of a lyric as you’ll hear nowadays.
On ‘Acts of Fear and Love’ Slaves promote the power of storytelling and maintain their status at the top of the rather unsaturated UK punk scene. It is fitting that both Slaves and Idles are releasing albums in quick succession, Britain is bitter and ready to blow. Tensions are high and the sheer aggression of these two punk outfits will hopefully foreshadow future change.