Starting in ‘style’ by ever so slightly referencing the thousands of secondary online sources, Jonny Craig is a cadaver of controversy; allegedly lifeless after a multitude of supposed antics towards bands and fans alike. Substance, band drama, and dreamy Macbook deals makes ignoring his altercations to focus on the music quite a difficult process. I personally know people who been equal or worse on the bellend scale, so who are we to judge with complete disregard to unavoidable hypocrisy. Now, I am not going to make any conclusions on Mr. Craig and his past actions, as to be honest, I couldn’t care less, and it has nothing to do with me or with those whom were never affected by him, though it is necessary to introduce the above to give context to his latest venture. Involve yourself in the man’s torments, dabble with the idea of craving, and feel the fire down below; this is Slaves.
Instrumentally, Slaves walks the tightrope between cohesive and inconsequential. Through Art We Are All Equals might promote in title the idea of music bringing equality amongst all involved, but the band behind Craig simply doesn’t stick out. However, unlike the defined line between the man and his previous outings instrumental departments, there is immense balance between the weighted melody and the powerful presence of Craig. From the first track, “The Fire Down Below,” it sets the overall mood and pace of the band’s work throughout the album, which is a double-edged sword in deciding whether this release will set the group off like napalm. The chorus’ hook and punch is very catchy and well-driven,while the structure sets a template to the overall production and execution. Due to the album relaying a more tame Circa Survive, Tides of Man, and, of course, Emarosa, listening to the tracks in succession might breed a bit of boredom. However, unlike Emarosa, Craig doesn’t sit on top of the band and instead shares the mix equally despite his beatific yet dominating vocals. Though, if one were to look beyond this, the first thing that is noticeable while listening to Through Art We Are All Equals is the well-written phrasing on Craig’s part when working with the melodic progression of each song. Unlike the forced lyrical placement one would hear in prior ventures, the listener is faced with focused self-reflection and torment in the midst of pleasurable licks and echoes. The curtain has been pulled down to reveal, thankfully, a far less cryptic and erratic Craig in regards to theme and projection, and especially in tracks like “The Upgrade Part II” and “My Soul is Empty and Full of White Girls”, one can hear the 7 stringed instrumental curtain fit nicely with Craig’s barrage of emotionality.
Moving on, it is considerably difficult to progress towards clear observations on theme and vocals without acquiring the taint of presumption, so it is fair to follow one’s gut-feeling. After glossing over the various qualms the lyrics deal with throughout the album, I personally feel ‘hopelessness’ as the overall experience. It is a word that both attracts and repels in thematic realization, especially when used in modern alternative trends. On the one hand, you are expected to push it aside, judging it as a hook to pull in the feeble and instagramed into a catch involving outward mercy and online lyric banners, while on the other hand it brings painful attachment to those who never reflect on their own woes and weeping. I choose the latter when listening to this album. There is no breaking of the fourth wall that pretentiously addresses our own inner demons; it is a tragic production starring personified regret, while theatrics and damp melody ooze in the background with honest vocals pulling the audience in deep. One cannot help but hyperbolically describe the overall experience of this album. Even though there are creative stumps or points of repetition, as a complete experience, this album serves one assumed intention very well.
Forward, when you approach the guest appearances on the record, you will instantly hear that Natalie Craig plays a striking duet-like break in the album, which never loses focus or the painted image of them beside one another on a piano stool. However, Tyler Carter and Vic Feuntes’ appearances, while actually manifest and complimentary, merely create divergence to Craig, and actually confuse the listener. Even though the instrumental work may respect the guest vocalists in respect to their own groups’ tendencies, it simply throws the whole experience of Through Art… off, as one tries to reconnect with the intensity Craig hurls from start to finish. Touching on Kyle Lucas’ rap verse amidst this melodic maelstrom, whoever perceived such a banal addition would contribute to the experience of this deep album, clearly didn’t recognize the lack of musical chemistry in past collaborations between Craig and himself. This may be a personal preference, but such a powerful voice in my ears should not meet such monotone and forced rhymes. Again like Carter and Feuntes, Lucas’ appearance actually contrasts, and maybe if any of them adjusted their projection to match intensity of this album, it would’ve created choral-juxtaposition instead of awkwardness.
Where will Slaves go from this venture? It is very difficult to say considering the amount of staple post-hardcore work that holds this album up. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Craig reinforcing the melodious strength of the band, it would pass as a down-tuned template of the genre. It would’ve been nice to see a bit more attention given to the band itself, as the care one hears in the song-writing/vocal relationship must be applauded for its consistency. Possibly this album is the stepping stone to more creative work in the future, but for now, whether you’re a fan of Craig or really couldn’t care less, put on “Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Everything” after a hard night-out, and try not wanting to call your old lady to tell her you love her.
Buy Through Art We Are All Equals here: