Country: South Africa
Style: Hard & Heavy
Release Date: 9 Dec 2022
There are a couple of bands out there called Slave New World, it seems. There's one in Emmerich, Germany who play new wave hardcore, and there's this one in Cape Town, South Africa, who play a commercial heavy metal with an American flavour. Maybe neither of them took their name from a Sepultura song. Maybe this Slave New World took it from Trivium's cover. Maybe they just thought it was a cool name because the influences here would seem to be trendier American bands, albeit with the trendiness turned down in favour of good old fashioned riffs and hooks. They're still there but maybe as remnants of an early sound.
Angels Falling and Break the Silence set the mould. Both flirt with nu metal but settle into a more hard rock base, bombastic with a big back end and catchy choruses. It's an interesting mix because it feels a little heavier than it is. This came to me with a heavy metal label but it's really hard rock through and through, just hard rock that needs to be played loud on good speakers. And yeah, I do realise that all hard rock should be played loud but not all hard rock begs for it. This gets down on its knees and begs for volume and it's every aspect of the sound that does that.
It's there in Andy Wood's vocals, which are clean and soar in the vein of a Bruce Dickinson or Geoff Tate, always demanding more space to expand into. He's fond of building not just within this song or that but within individual lines, starting with a particular level of intensity and then ramping up to another one by the end. He does that throughout Never Say Die, a spotlight song for him, but it pervades the album. If often feels like we're listening in a club with the bass pumped up, only for a song to end and we suddenly realise we've been shifted to a festival environment.
It's there in the back end too. Gabo Acosta gives the impression that he'll hit each of drums just a little bit harder with each speaker that gets added to the stack. Michael Naranjo's bass is high in the mix, which flavours the overall sound considerably. It's also there in the guitars, which are the most metal thing here. Darryl Burmeister isn't following Wood into Iron Maiden territory, playing in a slower and heavier vein, but I'd be surprised if he isn't the metalhead in the band. There's at least one point, a couple of minutes into Overdrive, where I felt that I recognised a section and it seems to me that it's from a Maiden song. I can almost sing it in my head but it's being elusive.
And it's in the overall sound, because many of these songs mirror what I said about Wood and his escalations. They don't have intros in the traditional sense; they have a different style of intros in which someone, usually Burmeister, sets up what we're going to hear in the song proper, but with a sort of suppression filter thinning out the sound considerably. Of course, they thin rip that filter away pretty quickly to boost us into the song with the full mix in effect. That happens immediately with Angels Falling and continues all the way to What Have I Become to close out the album.
Now, there is an exception to that gimme volume mindset. If You Bleed has a softer approach with a ballad mindset. It keeps that big back end but it's toned down greatly and, while Wood remains emotional, trying to build it, it's inherently a smaller song than everything else here so it doesn't really work. The song itself isn't bad and might play decently in an acoustic set but it feels as if the band, except maybe Naranjo, have just dialled everything down and that approach doesn't work in this company, especially partway through the album.
For the most part, though, this is hard rock that could easily become heavy metal if the band were in that mood. My impression overall was that it's similar to Queensrÿche but with the progressive metal translated into hard rock and the volume amped up to compensate. Of course, I have no idea if Slave New World were aiming for that or if it's just where they ended up in my ears, but then I'm without much information. In fact, while it seems clear from photos that there are four musicians in the band, I'm going off a two year old Facebook post to identify the actual line-up. Whether I'm up to date or not, it's good to hear some more hard and heavy music from Africa.