The previous Slaves BC album, All id Dust and I am Nothing, contained a few hints of where the band might go in the future, with its mixture of sludge, black metal, and hardcore having a personal, cathartic quality; but nothing could have prepared for the devastating of Lo, and I am Burning. The unstable, disconcerting black metal elements have been pushed to the fore, propelled along by an even more furious energy than has been seen previously.
Crawling along like the bastard offspring of Plebian Grandstand and the nastiest hardcore you care to name, Lo, and I am Burning is far from a comfortable listen. Laced through with religious imagery and symbolism, and with an emotional air that speaks to the personal nature of the lyrics, this is not an album for relaxing to. The guitars alternate between buzzing like a swarm of insects (most notably on opener ‘Lo’), hardcore brutality, and tar-drenched weight; the drums pound like the footsteps of an angry god; and the vocals are barely human, filled with such pain and viciousness that it scarcely seems credible that they came forth from human lips.
Whilst the initial impression is of an album built upon speed and intentionally overwhelming the listener, repeated listens reveal an album that is carefully structured, with changes in texture and tempo helping to ensure the album doesn’t collapse under its own weight. For sure, Lo, and I am Burning is a devastating listen, filled with violence and the promise of catharsis – but those aspects are made all the more effective by the inclusion of moments such as the slowed-down mid-section to ‘Honor Thy Father and Mother’ and the doom-laden ‘Unclean’. This album is no simple exercise is discordant riffs and shifting structures; there is an intelligence at play here that only really reveals itself after multiple listens.
What makes the album so notable, though, isn’t just the quality of the song writing and music on display. It’s that Lo, and I am Burning feels like an exercise in the most naked and honest of self-criticisms, confessing to all your flaws and striving desperately to do better, whether that promise be made to yourself, loved ones, or some higher power. The sense of catharsis and self-reflection is not unlike that offered by Converge at their most vicious, and gives the album a sense of connection and humanity that discordant black metal and chaotic, technical hardcore often lack. Also noteworthy is the 46 seconds of ‘Glory’, the devastation and emotional rawness of which seems incredible for such a short song.
Whilst discordant black metal often feels as if it’s one step removed from its creators, the emotional nature of Lo, and I am Burning makes this an album that feels like it needed to be created, for the sake of the emotional well-being of Slaves BC. Music like this does not arise from simple jamming of riffs; it is an album that communicates something fundamental, fulfilling a need every bit as fundamental as eating and drinking. The vitality and sense of catharsis offered is remarkable, and as impressive as Lo, and I am Burning is – and make no mistake, it’s very impressive – it’s this which will most likely see people talking about the album for years to come.
Lo, and I am Burning is due for release on 16 March 2018. It can be pre-ordered on digital via Bandcamp, with vinyl pre-orders due to go live on 2 March 2018 at The Fear and The Void Recordings webstore.