In keeping with the album-ic theme of “history”, this review is for an album that was released in February. This is deliberate and in no way down to us being crap or anything.
Slaves to Fashion have been around since the turn of the century, releasing a couple of albums, touring their native Norway and Germany a few times, going on hiatus, rearing their heads under a different name to perform pop versions of their old songs and then, in 2020, beginning a project documenting the wonderful range of our beloved heavy metal. Each month they released a song documenting a decade of metal’s history, borrowing from appropriate styles and genres, until in February 2021 the whole lot was packaged as an album: The History of Heavy Metal.
This is quite a challenge. First in narrowing down the influences and making sure you hit as many of the major players as you can. Gareth Endean underwent a similar brainache writing his recent (excellent) book, Half A Ton Of Heavy Metal. Next up is to write decent songs and to perform them. Slaves To Fashion were a prog metal band in their earlier years so the musical talent was bound to be there… but to get your head around not just covering but writing new material “in the style of” can’t be easy.
With ten songs to cover 1970 to date, I think they’ve done damn well. Sure, they’ve not hit every sub-genre and crossover, but that’s bloody impossible with new ones popping up more frequently than fresh zits on a 14 year old’s face. All the major ones are there from traditional heavy metal, through nu-metal, thrash, hair metal, power metal, folk metal, black metal and more.
Each song is different and some are effectively several songs stitched together (“The Evergrowing Tree” being a 13-minute example, so long its video was split into three parts). The way they’ve been written lyrically varies dramatically as well. Some are more fun and referential (“Thrash of the Titans” predominantly namechecks classic albums), others are more original creations (“The NU Wine”, “Garden of Chains”).
What impresses me most is they seem to have managed all this without ripping off any actual riffs. It would be so tempting to chuck in a few notes here and there, or wholesale, but Slaves to fashion haven’t done thing. They’ve taken the essence and the feel of some classic numbers instead. Take “Thrash of the Titans”, for instance. Halfway through it does that echoey speech thing as the word “puppets” is mentioned, then breaks into a slow, melodic, clean guitar section. Two minutes later there’s a nice crunchy riff that sounds a bit like you may have heard it before… but you haven’t. Not quite.
And this is what they’ve done throughout. Hinted heavily without ripping off, paying homage without playing covers. For someone who genuinely likes pretty much all of the Wide World of Metal, this is like having an eclectic playlist. A great celebration of fifty years of constantly evolving music.
Header image by Art by Stones Photography