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Deathvalves - Slaves

by Kira Schlechter at 01 June 2020, 7:04 AM

Heavy music has been revisiting the ‘80s quite a bit lately, so it probably makes sense that a trip back to the ‘90s is inevitable. The Greek band DEATHVALVES adopts a decidedly post-grunge retro vibe on its latest, “Slaves.” This is their fourth album since their inception in 2006; their most recent was “Dark Stories From The Past” in 2016.

The opener, “Fight The Fire,” is crunchy and dark. T’s voice has grit and snarl and the little sort of spoken-word parts are interesting. There’s a pleasantly chugging main riff and the higher guitar lead in the chorus serves as a nice counterpart. As is the case with many of the tracks, it’s not clear exactly what we’re talking about here – perhaps the narrator is having feelings or thoughts they’re trying to hide or conceal, maybe even from themselves.

There’s plenty of Sakis’ quality drumming in “All Or Nothing,” pairing plenty of low end with cymbals and dovetailing well with the guitar melody. The chorus is solid and to the point (choruses are definitely a DEATHVALVES strength) and the melody in the fade out is full of regret and ache. This one might be an urging to let go of pain, to let a catharsis happen (“Open the door and raise the pain/Walk through the past and break the chain/Open the door and burn to the core”).

Tracks like “In The Air,” “Memories,” and “On the Edge” are well-balanced, with lots of pleasant low end, and are refreshingly brief, if a bit forgettable. Most songs here seem to follow a similar pattern and the overall sound is pretty much the same, but what they do, they do well. They’re simple and straightforward but that’s not bad, and they deal in simple sentiments – they’re definitely personal but not too revealing. “On The Edge” might be a reference to addiction of some sort (“You wanna be the god/to strip my soul inside” and then when he says “To set my spirit free of you”), but again, nothing is a concrete statement here, and maybe that’s the point – maybe it is just supposed to be observations that reach no conclusions.

Two standout tracks mark the album’s midway point, however. “In A Rut” starts with a terrific liquidy bass part from Chris and an equally good guitar part marks the start of the groove. The chorus is nice and bashing, and there’s a fun bit of cowbell before the bridge. When everything quiets down and the drums and bass take over, that’s excellent, and T changes his voice to match – he gets all growly and crawls under the music before going back to his usual range in the actual chorus.

This one poses some interesting thoughts (“What’s new with the scene today,” and “What’s new about rock n’ roll/They say ain’t nothing today/It’s just the old behind the new”), but again reaches no conclusions. It is a bit of a smackdown to the detractors, though (“All that you are made of/Is just a freak show/You love to hate it,” but we don’t care, we’re doing it anyway). “Snakebite” has a strong guitar melody, and the chorus is terrific soundwise – the sonic buildup to the actual words is great. It seems like this refers to someone, but it’s not clear exactly who (“At 1910, birth of a legend,” they say, perhaps it’s someone in racing as they allude to), but it kind of doesn’t matter because that chorus is such a potent sing-along.

The later track, “A World Behind” makes no exact statement either, but the second verse is well thought-out and thought-provoking – “Would you ever/Put yourself in this position/To feel what the others feel/Is that pain strong enough/To create desire/Strong enough to change you” – an idea that could be most applicable to what’s going on in the U.S. right now.

But we end with the acoustic ballad “Lost Again,” which definitely does make a statement, and it’s a memorable one. T’s voice is gritty and raw here as he fully acknowledges he screwed up – “I can be so dirty,” he admits, “But I love you.” The sound of the chorus musically is stark and haunting and bare, and the bridge is two lines of pure pain, “Oh lord, feel so lost again,” with just his voice, nothing else. I’ll take a ballad if it’s done well and this is done well – it’s not sappy or melodramatic, it doesn’t plead, it’s just hey, I screwed up and I’m sorry.

While it’s a little uneven and a little retro, “Slaves” overall is mature and internal and reflective.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Fight The Fire
2. All Or Nothing
3. In The Air
4. Memories
5. On The Edge
6. In A Rut
7. Snakebite
8. Against The Time
9. A World Behind
10. Lost Again
T. Sydrome - Vocals, Guitar
Thanasis Valeras - Guitar
Chris Sven - Bass
Sakis - Drums, Vocals
Record Label: NewDream Records


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Edited 08 July 2020

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