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(44:09, Hands of Blue Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Love You Back 3:51 2. Mrs. Hero 3:00 3. Made to Meet My Eyes 4:41 4. Superstar (I Want Out) 4:36 5. Empty Chairs 4:19 6. Hands 4:02 7. Left Out in the Cold 3:36 8. Out of Here 3:09 9. Libido Ride 2:50 10. Facts on the Ground 10:05 LINEUP: Johannes Stole – vocals; keyboards; programming Torfinn Sirnes – guitars; keyboards; programming Vidar Ingvaldsen – drums; programming; vocals John Lind – bass, guitars With: Sten Arild Gronaas – guitars
Prolusion. The Norwegian quartet SLAVES TO FASHION was formed around 2008 as a direct continuation of the band Pedestrians of Blue, which at that point had toiled away for close to a decade with ample critical but not much commercial success. With a new name, this foursome crafted themselves a fresh start and the first chapter of it was released in February of 2011 as the CD "Artistic Differences", courtesy of the independent German label Hands of Blue Records.
Analysis. There are many bands around that dedicate themselves to following a distinct sound, an individual style or expression. The majority of them tend to be inspired by a minor set of artists, some by one in particular. Others seek out musical universes where they reside alone, and most of these cases tend to consist of artists producing material of a rather challenging nature. And then there's a band like Slaves To Fashion. They do explore a distinct sound few others have had a go at, but rather than seeking out a distant and lonely place where they would reside alone they have opted for something completely different, making a musical home on top of a musical crossroads of sorts, the crossroad itself not fervently explored by anyone, but all the roads leading to and from it extensively so. The overall sound of this band is one that resides on the dividing line between hard rock and metal, with 70's-influenced riff patterns going hand-in-hand with riff constructions of the kind that started appearing in the 80's, but always in a dampened manner, emphasizing melodies and eliminating the rougher edges. Gentler passages with bass or keyboards as the main motif providers are frequently inserted as stand-alone passages or cater for the verse parts of the compositions. Structurally, the songs tend to be relatively straightforward affairs, apart from the aforementioned inserts, that is, with a fairly common verse and chorus setup, the latter more often than not with a tendency to be of the sing-along variety. Occasional dramatic or mood-enhanced bridges are also part of this total package. If one can imagine a musical bastard child of Bon Jovi and Dream Theater, Slaves To Fashion is a band that is likely fits that description. And besides likeable songs with strong melodies, the role of lead vocalist Stole is one that takes its cues from the commercial hard rock approach in a purebred manner, the instruments at all times supplementing his delivery with the instrumental passages few, concise and more restricted than what is common for bands residing within or close to the art rock universe. Subtle keyboard motifs supplement the above in a dampened and refined manner, emphasizing the vocal melodies more than anything but also adding the odd exotic flavor, most distinctly so on Made to Meet My Eyes, a song that in sound appears to be a distant relation to Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers in that regard. There are also a few cases like Out of Here to be treasured, this particular item being a low-key affair sporting a fragile main theme with a careful mournful motif (by oboe or bassoon perhaps) later supplemented by digital strings. But those with a taste for true-to-life mainstream rock anthems get a few specimens of those to enjoy too, and the energetic Libido Ride is the best example of that. And at the very end of this disc, an eastern-tinged epic creation in the shape of Facts on the Ground, a 10-minute journey that borders on hard rock and progressive metal: a likely candidate for the "songs inspired by Led Zeppelin's Kashmir" category of compositions. The saving grace of an album such as this one is that it is well-made. One gets the impression that these guys create this type of music because they honestly like this kind of material themselves. The performance is enthusiastic, the mix and production are of high quality, and I never really get the impression that these songs are anything but honest. There's a general feeling of integrity if you like. Which is why I think this disc may also appeal to some of those who normally prefer their music to be of a more challenging variety.
Conclusion. Well-made, accessible and melodic music meeting at the crossroads between mainstream-oriented hard rock and progressive metal is what the Norwegian quartet Slaves To Fashion has to offer on its debut album "Artistic Differences". A well-made and honest production, following up nicely the sound and style these guys explored in their previous band Pedestrians of Blue and as such highly recommended to those who enjoyed the music the band made using that moniker.
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