Remember Dodecahedron, oooh and how a certain timeless scribe-god lauded their last effort as being worthy of emulation? Yeah, I ‘member, and I also ‘member thinking the lad a tad light in the heartbox when he confessed to its ability to bring him to actual physical discomfort. “That’s not a thing!” says I, omitting a slanderous phrase or six from this recollection for the sake of the children1. Dialing up the reverb and deliberately hitting “wrong” notes can establish a malevolent aesthetic effectively enough, yet I’ve never encountered music genuinely able to instill honest-to-God fear in me through sound alone. Well, “had” never. That Dodecahedron would eventually amass a following of sonic acolytes was never contested, but I can honestly say that nothing has ever, frankly, fucked-me-right-up, the way that my most recent Angry Metal Discovery has. With hands still trembling in fear, I will now do what I can to describe the horrors that Pittsburgh’s Slaves BC have inflicted upon me with their latest offering, Lo, and I Am Burning.
If you’ve assumed by now that Slaves sound similar to Dodecahedron, congratulations! Also, don’t do that, you ass. Dodecahedron is a fair enough comparison, but Slaves BC blend such repulsively tumultuous material with the more straightforward stylings and emotional mindset of Anagnorisis, then further enhance this chaos with the droning, dissonant mindfuckery of Plebeian Grandstand, creating something dark and downright disturbing. Not content to merely sound creepy, Lo is an introspective and almost invasively personal journey through the narrator’s past, apparently exploring a history intrinsically rooted in familial faith via shrieks that lie somewhere between black metal and Converge and winding up in some seriously dark places along the way. Whether or not the listener shares the band’s faith is irrelevant, the sincere and sincerely violent performance of “Honor Thy Father and Mother” captures the harrowing inner turmoil of “I am a failure/ I am not a man/ I will never be loved/ I will never find grace” to a nondenominational T. Lo is a terrifying thing of twisted family ties, spiritual sickness and crippling cognitive dissonance, and it fucking sounds like it.
Perhaps most unsettling about the palpable rage and anguish of such sacraments as “We are All God’s Fault” and “Lightbearer” is the organic manner in which each of Lo’s nine tracks meld into each other, so effectively in fact that I frequently missed them during early spins. This is more than a collection of cool songs; Lo is not just an album but an album—a sonic rendering of emotions that tell a story from beginning to end, one which can be divided into clear chapters and yet isn’t necessarily meant to be broken up at all. Constantly leaping from one realm of discord to another is the key here, and indeed the songs shift so frequently that a 30-second sampling of any given track will likely tear the listener through atonal black metal fuzz, feedback-laden sludge and ripping grind fury before one can process that aforementioned blackly eclectic spasm was but one passage within one single song. Lo, and I Am Burning is every bit as frantic as its name implies, and the spectacular manner in which this discordant collection of disparate sounds is able to coexist and function as a whole is nothing short of miraculous.
I know you impatient bastards are unable to wait for 750 words to see whatever number we Angry Metal Wordslingers attribute to our prose, which means you know that Lo is not an immaculate conception… just real damn close. Heartfelt and heart-stopping though it is, the album occasionally stumbles on its own hectic footing, sometimes lurking in the shadows of a particular riff or chord for just a touch too long to feel fair. Thankfully, this slight blemish mars things only once or twice, namely in “Lo” and by proxy within its continuation into “We are All God’s Fault.” Where 99.666% of the album is some of the most sincere and engaging metal I’ve heard to date, the flaw is minor, but it exists nonetheless. Also, there’s no cowbell to speak of, so frankly my hands are tied here.
Lo, and I Am Burning is a dark and troubling gem, a hoard of inner demons hurtling by, unleashed with so much honesty and trvth as to render the petrifying procession beautiful. Regardless of religious beliefs, I would urge all ye faithful to dissonant metal to make a pilgrimage to this album, as this is trvly faith-affirming stuff. Hear me, I beg.