Pittsburgh blackened metallers Slaves BC are back with a new album, Lo and I am Burning, and it’s one that shows just how far a band can go to reinvent their sound in a relatively short time. Slaves BC’s musical jump between their latest offering and 2016’s All is Dust and I Am Nothing is less a jump and more an oblique step, but in a way that highlights the maturation of the members through time spent refining their sound.
Taking plenty of cues from the Fallen Empire Records school of dissonant black metal, Slaves BC come right out of the gate here much more vicious and dark sounding than before. If you checked out the standalone track “Wither” the band released last year, you already have a good idea of what to expect; the crusty hardcore that underwrote the band’s sound prior still comes through, but is now warped from punk aggression to sludgy, tension-filled riffing like those that define tracks like “We Are All God’s Fault,” while angular black metal and piercing noise carry a sense of unease through these songs. This is all backed up by a good amount of death metal heft, a new element in the band’s sound that is entirely welcomed here; that breakdown during “Honor Thy Mother and Father” is downright nasty and shows a side of the band that hasn’t been seen before.
It’s not just the music that feels revitalized either. Lyrically, the album sees a turn away from allegory towards something more personal. While All is Dust and I Am Nothing used the book of Ecclesiastes from the Christian Bible as a parallel to human suffering, vocalist/lyricist (and friend of Nine Circles) Josh Thieler lifts back the veil to share stories from his own life. Lo and I Am Burning matches the darkness of its music with lyrical topics that range from suicide and feelings of worthlessness, to anger at the American political climate, to the death of loved ones and the grief that follows. This element of raw, familiar humanity lurking behind the darkness of the music is what makes this album really captivating. Many bands that play at this kind of abrasive sound attempt to back it up with lyrics covering the same kind of “satan and evil and darkness” tropes but Slaves BC understand that sometimes the real darkness is in your life around you, and its refreshing to find a band that doesn’t shy away from that.
If you thought Slaves BC pulled any punches before, there can be no doubt that on Lo and I Am Burning that this is a band giving 100% of what they have in service to their craft. This is a harrowing album that sees the band pushing themselves in ways they haven’t before and massively improving in the process. Lo and I Am Burning feels like it could have been made by a completely different band, and in a way it was: we’ve all gone through a tremendous amount in the recent years and there’s no way any of us have come out unchanged. In Slaves BC’s case, the change is very welcome.