Slaves To Fashion – The History Of Heavy Metal
Release Date: 13/02/2021
Running Time: 59:17
Review by Simon Black
I’m really somewhat bemused by this release. Norway’s Slaves To Fashion started life as P:O:B. for the first ten years of their existence before reincarnating and taking a more Progressive Metal direction, then going more Modern Metal after a fairly major line-up reshuffle and now we get this, and I cannot decide whether it is a case of unintentional parody or honest tribute. Now Lordi took a narrower take on this sort of approach last year, but given that they were clearly taking the piss, we took it for what it was. This record is taking (as the title implies) a ten song voyage through the history of our favourite music genre and all its little sub-genres, with all the tracks having already been released one at a time over the course of 2020, which let’s face it, is a great way to relieve the monotony of lockdown. It’s an ambitious, if not always entirely successful project.
‘MCMLXX’ (or 1970 for those who aren’t au fait with Latin), does what you expect and bastardises the opening moments of Black’s Sabbath’s debut with the more Hammond organ driven hard rock sound of other contemporaries like Deep Purple. They even try and match the production values, but you get the idea. It sounds right, but the track does little other than tick boxes. Next up comes ‘The Priest Of Maidenhead’, which does exactly what you would expect it to do with a title like that, although it’s way more ‘Rocka-Rolla’ than British Steel, with not the slightest sign of Eddie at all. It’s one of the better moments on the record, as it stands up well on its own whether or not you get the references.
‘Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘N’ Roll’ takes us down the dubious commercial 80’s American radio-friendly territory, but mercifully without all the make-up or any risk of putting Norway’s contribution to the Paris climate agreement at risk through excessive use of hairspray. Like so much of that period, it’s by the numbers pap, making ‘Thrash Of The Titans’ a welcome breath of fresh air when it comes up next (and the emotions felt during those moments between tracks pretty much summarise the whole of that decade for those of us who lived through it first time round). As a song it’s also one of the stronger moments again and I would be interested to see what happened if they wrote more like this, although to be honest it’s still a little flat in its production, lacking the genuine ‘genie in a bottle’ energy of the likes of Testament, to whom the resemblance is strongest. At seven and a half minutes it also somewhat outstays its welcome, given that speed was the essence of this period.
‘Expressions Of Extremity’ is more aligned to the birth of Black Metal and probably owes the three original members of Venom some royalties for the first segment, although instrumentally it’s also channelling a lot of Mercyful Fate in its second phase, before heading towards the whole Norwegian movement. …Only with notably better production, which again rather misses the point of that whole movement with its Underground = Cool; Mainstream = Bad culture. Maybe they can go and repaint a Norwegian church to make up for it.
‘Garden Of Chains’ takes us through Grunge and like the original movement, keeps it mercifully short, so I am going to do the same. ‘The Evergrowing Tree’ is probably more comfortable Prog Metal territory for this band and with a nearly thirteen minutes of run time that does not drag. This is really where they are at their best, as it’s their home turf, albeit with more overt and blatant Fates Warning / early Dream Theater tropes in the opening segment, before taking into the more modern heavier and extreme sounding variants that have emerged in the decades since. It also pulls in touches of the Symphonic (and even some Rammstein, complete with German lyrics) just for the hell of it as an encore.
‘The Power Of Metal’ manages to encapsulate the whole cookie cutter Power genre in one track. It’s like taking every mytho-historical concept album from German intravenously in five minutes flat, although it’s missing the charismatic vocal performance of Kiske/Sammet proportions to go with the musical nods to the influential acts they came from. Meh. ‘The Nu Wine’ is the token Emo contribution to the record and quite frankly I hated it all then and I hate it still now (although parts of it are more Chester Bennington than the man himself was). Moving on and finishing, we have ‘Too Close (To See Clearly)’, which I’m calling their ‘Hoover’ track, as it’s sucking up everything else from Folk to Metalcore that didn’t find a home earlier.
So, how do I feel in summary? Well, it’s quite an achievement and it does absolutely nail some of the sounds of the periods. Supporting this (and because they were all released individually over last year) you have the added advantage of individual pieces of cover art for each track, which are very much more tongue in cheek than many of the tracks themselves and bring a huge smile to the face. Where this record does sometimes fail is that it feels like a musicologist’s technical analysis of each given style and does not always capture the essence or energy of the distinct sub-genres, but as an exercise in musical proficiency – it’s top notch! As a record that moves the Metal world forward, less so.
02. The Priest Of Maidenhead
03. Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘N’ Roll
04. Thrash Of The Titans
05. Expressions Of Extremity
06. Garden Of Chains
07. The Evergrowing Tree
08. The Power Of Metal
09. The Nu Wine
10. Too Close (To See Clearly)
John Lind – Bass
Vidar Ingvaldsen – Drums
Torfinn Sirnes – Guitars
Johannes Støle – Keyboards, Vocals
Stein Arild Grønås – Vocals (Backing), Guitars
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