Literature has always been a figurehead in music, most notable the Bible, inspiring hundreds of thousands of musicians all over the world to produce whatever they see fit. From Christian metalcore bands like Wolves At The Gate and Silent Planet to deathcore like Chelsea Grin and Searching Serenity to acoustic pop like Fairground Saints (who are very good live, thanks Carly Rae Jepsen for exposing me to something different and new on your tour). These diverse acts provide me with enough to the point that there aren’t many surprising elements to having religious affiliation; so in comes Slaves BC, a blackened hardcore band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and their unsurprising use of religious imagery from the Old Testament of the Bible and the Tanakh.
Unsurprising is merely an initial assumption, though, for there is a new feel to the story of Ecclesiastes, a Wisdom Book in the Old Testament and one of twenty-four books of the Tanakh (one of the eleven in the Ketuvim). It discusses the meaning of life, the inevitable death of everything, and that all actions of man are done in futility. Slaves BC take that absolutely savage story and manipulate it into an album equally as savage and sincerely crushing. This album is called All Is Dust And I Am Nothing, and there is nothing I could picture to envelop this album better.
Undoubtedly, southern hardcore tinges and twangs intermingle their way into a tangle of concept-driven hardcore, grindcore and deliciously dooming drone. These elements unite into a pinnacle of violence-inducing monstrosity, and then Slaves BC builds even higher from there, throwing brick after brick of punk, death metal, rawness, and pure black metal onto this structure. Never taken away from, however, is the root tom and snare trading off and leading this insanely borderless, rearing dragon to a place where its flames fill in literature’s most impressive offerings.
This scaly, nine-track basilisk plays off each genre. Sludge into grind into sludge into grind is what starts the album in the track “God Has Turned His Back” that plays into a static-y drone until it becomes a doom track known as “Crawling Through Nothing To Nothing” that sounds like a tamer Altarage before the vocals turn into an amalgam of tortured shrieks:
“Time by time we crawl and crawl and every man is dead and buried
Crime by crime and song by song our deeds are gone, our lives forgotten.”
Before you can process what was just blasted into your ears vocally, a new punk song called “Dust” is shoved into your ear canal over your thoughts. Heavy distortion and lo-fi/live-sounding quality continues throughout this thrasher, before buzzing into the bass of its successor “All Find Their Way To The Grave.” I’m not sure whether Josh or Sean is the one screaming over the heavy reverbs of each element, but it sounds like a different vocalist in the best way. A slow, bursting hardcore song that has a line I feel should be blasted all over hardcore diehards’ facebook pages:
All find their way to the grave”
This band charges on, with two more fuzzy tracks that are infectiously wonderful. The immediate follower is “Everything is Meaningless,” which tries its absolute hardest to instill that exact mindset into the listeners’ heads. Trading off of the dying solo, “Everything Under The Sun” takes that bleed, distorts it a little more, and makes the most interesting and genre-bending song in the release. The most heavy-hitting lyrics are embedded within a grungy post-punk song you would anticipate if Ceremony and Nothing had a lovechild. Of course, to solidify that it is the same band you’ve heard on the rest of the release, there’s a pretty wicked breakdown at the end before splitting off back into cleaner production.
“Nothing Remains But Death” kick starts that high-gear and gives you exactly the blackened hardcore you’d learn to know from the band’s Bandcamp and Facebook descriptions. This song begins the grand finale and the next song has my favorite element in heavy music: the ominous and suspenseful buried vocals that have the same intensity as the rest, but are just recorded further away from the microphone – you know what I’m talking about? They’re fucking BRILLIANT in the song “There Is Nothing For Me Here” and it perfectly encompasses the doubt and nagging thoughts in the back of your mind before swelling feedback of death pulls us into “Why Are We Here,” another viciously black hardcore song to close out this killer of an album, which you can take a listen to right down below.
I would label Slaves BC as a force to be reckoned with, seeing as religious language and terminology are appropriate, but instead they are the hand that creates the force that strikes and does the reckoning. Definitely pay attention to them – their power is going to do nothing but grow.