February 22, 2006

CD Review: Slave to the System - Slave to the System

When I first heard of Slave to the System, my mind jumped to the conclusion that they would sound similar to acts like System of a Down. I guess the presence of the words "slave" and "system" set off a series of firing synapses leading down the wrong path. Needless to say, this album sounds nothing like that.

Slave to the System is a collaboration between current and former members of Queensryche in drummer Scott Rockenfeld and guitarist Kelly Gray, and members of Brother Cane in bassist Roman Glick and vocalist/guitarist Damon Johnson. They have come together and crafted a mature rock album that isn't just a rehash of their other work and evokes comparisons to Soundgarden. What you don't hear is Queensryche, and that is a good thing. I am a fan of Queensryche, but don't want to hear them trying to capture that sound in another project. I claim ignorance of Brother Cane's music, I have heard of the band, but have never really listened to them, so how much of their sound is here, I could not say.

This is a finely crafted album that focuses on the song, rather than the parts of the song. While all of those involved stand out as wonderful musicians, they have banded together and brought us a side project that feels more like a full time band than as a vanity project as some of these side bands tend to be. It is refreshing to come across a collection of songs that feel like songs. The album keeps a steady stream of songs where writing is king.

The self-titled album gets off to a strong start with the mature grunge rock "Stigmata." It is a high energy rocker that has incredible forward motion with strong rhythms and vocals. The flow continues on the next two tracks, "Ruby Wednesday" and the title track. Each featuring a distinct sound, in other words, the songs don't all sound the same. But they do have something key running through all of them, groove. These songs get caught in the grey matter and rattle around. You cannot help but groove along to the rock.

We slow down for a bit with "Live This Life," a mellowed out contemplation of life, a morose tone, but hopeful outcome. The mellow mood does not last long as the rock amps up for "Cruze Out of Control" which reminds me of Batmotorfinger era Soundgarden. Continuing the ebb and flow is the give and take between the two sides of the band, the higher energy post-grunge and the slower Staid style angst. "Abyss" is one of my favorite tracks, a slow sad tale in the twilight of a relationship. That is only the first half, there are still 6 more songs on this disk.

Slave to the System is a group of accomplished musicians and talented songwriters who have stepped outside the system to write a focused album, honing their skills in an organic environment where the music has a flow to it that may not be possible in a studio/label atmosphere. As mature as the music sounds, there is an easy flowing nature to it, nothing is forced, it is just great rock music. It is also an album that grows on you, the more you listen, the more you hear, and the more you will want to listen to it. If at first you are not sucked in, listen to it again, I guarantee that you will start to like it, if not love it.

Recommended. ***.5 / *****

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Anonymous said...

Just picked up the new Slave to the System album...it is GREAT! I would highly recommend it...

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