Friday, November 25, 2005

Review: Slavelab - Turning Circles (2005)

Slavelab [ MySpace ]
Turning Circles

Home to Beck's beer, the northern German industrial city of Bremen has unleashed a new export in the form of Slavelab. Though founded in 1998 by guitarist Remo Süss and singer Peter Stohlmann, the band's first recording wasn't released until this year. Mixing a traditional metal core with elements of thrash, Turning Circles offers something to metal fans who enjoy their music loud and aggressive without forsaking melody.

The album hooked me right away with the intro. Instead of the flowery keyboard intros one normally finds leading off metal albums of all genres, Slavelab instead keeps it simple by laying down a threatening guitar lead atop a menacing riff. The intro also serves to foreshadow the capable guitar work of Remo and Jimmy Patterson, which overflows from each track on the album. One of my favorite songs on the album, the title track features an extended solo from Remo as well as an abundance of classic riffs. Of particular interest to me is the bass playing of Moritz Kölling, which thanks to the solid production is clear and distinct. His lines are complex and add just the right amount of groove and character to the songs, at some points being featured and at others barely discernible - but always an integral part of the mix.

The voice of Peter Stohlmann is perfectly suited to the type of thrashy metal Slavelab plays. He stays squarely in mid-range, but has a bit of roughness that enhances the emotional value of his style. The one point where he departs from his standard is the track "By My Side". While the rest of the album burns at a fairly raucous pace, this track is a flashback to the power ballads of the '80s. Peter drops his voice a little and, with his accent, actually comes off sounding slightly like Ozzy - though he occasionally goes overboard with his vibrato. Even so, that, coupled with the superb axework from Remo, results in this track being much more than just a change of pace and makes it one of the highlights of the album. While I've made much of the strummers in Slavelab, credit is certainly owed to drummer Christian Mastulla for keeping perfect time whether the beats are straightforward, as on "Maniac", or pummeling and intricate as on the appropriately named "Bludgeon".

Though Patterson has been replaced by Lukas Nowak as the band's second guitarist, Slavelab is a tight assembly of talented musicians who are poised to break out of the underground and make their mark on the metal world. For those who love classic metal from the '80s that has a crunch and drive reminiscent of bands like Anthrax and Judas Priest, Turning Circles is an album you should get your hands on. While a nostalgic sound is integral to Slavelab's music, it is by no means cliché or dated and will appeal to fans of contemporary power metal as well.

Track Listing
1 Intro 2:01
2 The Signs 3:34
3 Turning Circles 3:39
4 Paranoia 3:49
5 Bludgeon 3:10
6 By My Side 3:50
7 Maniac 3:27
8 Edge Of Sanity 3:53

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