While paying homage to their origins, Sacramento formed band, Slaves, opens up a transition into a new generation for the band. Not only will they be changing their band name in the future, they are using their latest album release, To Better Days, as a goodbye to the old message of darkness and offering instead a breakthrough and new beginning. Offering the angelic vocals with heavy lyrical content, the album blends heavier post-hardcore elements with dance beats that anyone will be tapping their feet along to.The 2019-early 2020 tour introduced new vocalist Matt McAndrew, who was met with a lot of support from fans. To Better Days is the first album leading fans into a new generation of the band, an end of the Slaves era and the beginning of something much more.
The title track, “To Better Days” is a short, EDM/dance intro, blending perfectly into the next song, “Prayers.” The first full song kicks off with heavy guitar, squealing the intro dance track feel. The vocalist lures you in with his clean, angelic vocals with a twist of the rebellious grit and lyrics that give you a pang in the gut. You can feel the longing for more in his voice, and the lyrics hit with the message of not feeling like you belong, and the longing to help a loved one out of their problems as well. This track clues us in to the message of the whole album; the struggle to find hope in darkness, and seeking it out while struggling through a relationship that is also broken.
“Witch Hunt,” is a catchy track revealing the dark undertones of a toxic relationship. The song’s content discusses the toxicity in its worst, where the person you fell in love with is slowly destroying you, but still you stay seeing the good in them…and it manipulates you and twists your perspective until you don’t know which way is up anymore.
One of the singles that were released earlier this year, “Talk to a Friend,” is a self-love anthem.
The lyrics, “I wouldn’t talk to a friend the way I talk to myself. The voice in my head needs some help,” shows how this song is ripe for the era many of us are in…for those who are stuck in quarantine, being forced to cope with the isolation and inner destructive voices in their head. This era in our universe can be seen as an opportunity to hone in on our mental health and break free from anxiety and depression, to focus on inner healing. “Talk to a Friend” encourages this message and hits home for a lot of people.
Paired with “Witch Hunt”, “Eye Opener” appears to be part two, or the feelings the morning after a bad fight. “They say true love’s blind,” the vocalist sings in the chorus. As the epitome that the relationship is not healthy comes, the song progresses, and instead of the cycle breaking, you can feel the person falling back into it again. In this toxic relationship, you get the sense that in this instance there’s manipulated to stay… for the small good moments, or the thought that they deserve one another, falling into the lie that, “we can be broken together,” or “I do not deserve better.” Either way, it’s a self-destructive mindset that can keep someone in a relationship even if they feel their eyes open about its unhealthiness.
The next song, “Bury a Lie,” is a true showcase of the vocalist’s skill. He has a smooth, velvety voice that blends with the instruments and the two seemingly opposing genres of dance and rock and creates a beautiful symphony of sound.
In “Bury a Lie,” the song talks about how the lies we hear will keep coming back if they’re not faced properly.
The intro of “Heavier,” is a familiar message to the way the band wrote songs, the “heaviness…I’m feeling anxious and its swallowing me whole.” This song seems to express that relapse in the healing process and the wrestling of inner demons weighing you down, feeling the heaviness of anxiety, fear, and depression. There could be a fear of being alone, facing fear of facing darkness alone.
The next song, “Footprints,” sequels “Heavier” perfectly, an acoustic showcase of vulnerability and feeling love that helps give hope for healing and mending a past of brokenness, “I used to not think I was enough…I was happy to be wrong.” The song processes through finding love that gives hope for something more than a life of brokenness and inner demons. It could even be in a toxic relationship, the good moments that give you hope that not just one, but both parties can overcome their brokenness…not alone, but united.
The intro of “Cursed” starts with a wail of the electric guitar, and continues with a message of longing for better, but feeling trapped. “Our lucky stars are falling down so hard it hurts. I’m sick of being lost, and keeping fingers crossed.” The dreams that were dreamt seem so far away as the self-destructive cycle continues to spiral out of control.
Another song of self-realization, “Wasting my Youth,” reflects on the past songs in the album and displays the struggle in moving forward because the person they love is stifling growth, but they stay in their place out of the fear of being alone.
“Clean” is a short, emotional song about the feeling when you hit a dead end in a relationship. “I was dying to be closer to you, somehow,” but when a loving relationship turns sour, sometimes we find ourselves running in circles and stuck in patterns… and in some cases, it might be better to leave if you can’t start clean again.
The next track, “Secrets,” describes the feeling when one person is carrying the weight of two people’s brokenness; both people want to escape it, but as they try to break free from their own problems, they grow further and further apart. Near the end of the song, the chorus is halted, like a toxic cycle being broken off. The song is finished with electric guitar strumming gently and fading into the background quietly.
As the conclusion to the album, “Like I Do,” is another single that was released before the album. The song seems to show a real hope after breaking a self-destructive cycle and breaking free from a stifling relationship. All the previous songs in the album talked of breaking free, but “Like I Do,” is the first true step forward.
We can be our own worst enemy, sometimes… staying in destructive patterns because we are afraid of the unknown. But sometimes we need to face that fear and own our brokenness rather than denying it, and choose to use it to break free and find hope. We are responsible for our own brokenness. We can choose to ignore it, stifle it, but it will continue to spread and rot inside of it. “Like I Do,” owns its past and chooses to nurture it and not let it define them.
Slaves is a band that no longer represents their band name. With former members battling addiction and mental health issues, they are moving past a message seeming to encourage the cycles of addiction and negativity, and inspiring hope and healing instead in their new message. To Better Days is a new beginning, as well as a formal goodbye to the old way of coping with darkness.
Stay tuned for more updates on the band. I am looking forward to what their new message has to offer in the future.