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the SLOT - Break the Code
CD Reviews
Written by Justin Boyer & Doctor T.   
Friday, 02 September 2011
the Slot CD Review
Break the Code
the SLOT - Break the Code

Typically, reviews on the Zine are conducted individually, one writer, one musical product. However, in the interest of trying something new, this review will be written by two writers here at the Zine, Justin Boyer and Doctor T. The intent is to provide some variation in the interpretation, two views instead of one. So, let’s proceed.

Break the Code is the first major release by Russian band the SLoT from Moscow. . . in English. The band has been around for a while and are considered a force in Russian music. But, they’re the first Russian band to take direct aim at America. In fact, the band has already performed with Limp Bizket and KORN and have produced a version of Linkin Park’s "The Catalyst". And this release appears to be getting solid interest with prerelease demand being substantial through a number of outlets. Additionally, the band is already seeing airtime on several American media outlets, with more expected as the CD begins to appear on American CD players. Their reputation in the former Soviet Union suggests that they will appeal to music critics as well; they have won numerous awards from top names in the Russian music industry and have seen various tracks utilized as movie soundtracks. So, with all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Break The Code.

 

CD Info
2011
Neurodisc/Fontana/Universal Music
16 Tracks
Mostly English Lyrics


 

Justin: 

Nu-metal was all the rage back in my high school days for good reason. Linkin Park, the most well-known band from this genre, commonly wrote songs related to identity. In high school, the identity crisis persistently confuses us and makes us rethink various aspects of the identity that we took for granted during our naïve elementary school days.

Often in Nu-metal, the music sounds extremely aggressive with thunderous drum beats, forceful guitar sounds, and angry vocalists who interpret the uncontrolled and confusing feelings of love, hatred, and apathy. Many times, the primal aggression within this sound works cathartically in that it displays the torment of seeking out one’s identity within the chaos of the teen’s psyche.

Certainly, the SLoT’s music displays all the defining elements of the nu-metal sound. Lyrically, many of their songs describe the difficulty of finding one’s identity during their teen years. Many of the songs appear to be written from the perspective of the teen who struggles to seek out their identity within the meaningless wasteland of the teen experience.

Impressively, the band’s music videos intelligently reflect these themes within their music. For example, in the song "My Angel," the music video is set within the literal nihilistic desert of the teen experience. The lyrics themselves reflect the insatiable desire for tangible meaning. Interestingly, there is an angel present in the music video although he appears as a mummified angel which legitimizes the search for meaning but eradicates the reality of completely finding it within life.

Another song that offers insight into the ordeal of the teen identity search is the least aggressive track on the album: Mirrors. But the song still sounds intense as Nookie skillfully screams aloud the woeful lyrics: "So I tell myself that I’m alive…I’m alive. Even though I’m not.. I know I’m not." In the teen experience, there is often doubt about the authenticity of one’s reality because one’s identity seems nonexistent as well as meaningless. Instrumentally, the music grows with intensity while Nookie’s voice soars as the song seems to convince itself that it is indeed existent. Even if the human voice of the song appears indecisive as to the identity and shape of the song. As the song reaches its end, there is a consoling "Tick, Tock," that reminds the listener that both the song and the listener are both truly alive.

Normally, I do not find myself listening to this genre of music anymore because the themes are not as relevant as they would have been during my teen years. But, this band has persuaded me otherwise, suggesting that the defining themes of the teen years are universal themes. Searching for either meaning or finding one’s identity reoccurs throughout life because these experiences help us to consciously remind ourselves that we are indeed alive.

Initially, I found the first two tracks "Break the Code," and "Bullet," to be too discordant and therefore I nearly dismissed this band. Then, I listened to "My Angel," and was enthralled with the sound and impressed with the band’s skill in constructing a sound that effectively evokes the emotions of the song. This was clearly displayed in "Mirrors" where the song artistically sounds like it has a clear purpose.

For me, the nu-metal genre is not exactly my favorite since I prefer music with more symphonic influences. But, the SLoT creates high quality music which helps it to transcend the barriers of the genre. Nookie‘s voice specially and the masterful guitar work helped to win me over. Still, some songs like "Break the Code," and "Bullet," are often not as inventive and poetic as songs like "My Angel," "Lego," "Mirror," "Two Wars, and "Dead Stars." Knowing this genre’s high popularity within the States, I’m fairly certain that America will respond enthusiastically to this band.

Score: 8.0/10

Favorite Tracks: Dead Stars, My Angel, Mirrors, and Lego

 

Doctor T:

I’ve been familiar with the SLoT’s music now for a number of years, the Russian versions anyway. Of course, I didn’t have a clue what it was all about but I sure liked the music which is, in many respects, different from the classically oriented music I generally prefer. But, I was into Linkin Park and KORN long before I was into Nightwish and Within Temptation so this was certainly not new territory for me. The lyrics have been altered for this product from those delivered in the original Russian, and that includes the meanings in many respects. And, Justin has captured much of that meaning in his comments above. Songs like Break the Code discuss this direction, and the pain and the attempts to deal with this pain, and they do it with some clearly American lyrics:

Forever dying you shelter your shame. To you my life was a fucking game.
I see... so tired of the cross that I bore alone for so long not alive.
Now I am alive.

Lego is probably the biggie as far as a single, from what I’m reading. It’s a larger sound, not really all that typical of the music but clearly one of the best. The SLoT is a duel vocal lead sound, and those vocals are at their best here. As is the background music which actually provides something approximating a symphonic initially. It’s interesting to note that the SLoT is made up of some pretty technically astute individuals, and all with serious musical backgrounds. Nookie is, for many, the face of the band and with a face like hers it’s not hard to understand why. And, she comes by her musical talent naturally; she is the daughter of a master Soviet opera singer. Cache, in addition to doing lead vocals, handles programming and lyrics, the Russian ones, in addition to being a photographer and graphics artist and lyricist for other Russian bands. Nixon, is the base player and the English language specialist with the band. Id is the lead guitarist and runs his own mixing and mastering studio, working with several Russian bands. And finally, The Dude remarks that he is a fan of extreme sports including biking and snowboarding. The SLoT is nothing if not an interesting bunch.

But, back to the music. One of the interesting things about this production is hearing an actual English version of songs that were originally done, both musically and in video, in Russian. Maybe one of the most dramatic of these is Dead Stars, long one of my favorite songs from the SLoT from way before they ever thought of doing it in English. I always saw it as a bit of a science fiction production, all that Star Wars stuff with Nookie and Cache settling old scores while waiting for Armageddon. But now we get lyrics which take the song, and the video, in an all new direction, one somewhat broader in interpretation if less than fatal in actuality:

In my imagination for as far as I can see
Into my infinite wasteland, you chose to join
And never thought about escaping from so much gravity
Now you’re pulled into this madness: my reality.
In the void

The SLoT is best seen as a visual experience tied to the music. There’s a reason why they’re so popular as a live act and you can see the direct connection to the American acts they’re working to emulate. I found this interesting video of the band, live in concert in Moscow, complete with a "really different" ad preceding the actual video which you may or may not get, be prepared. But, you do get a feel for the power of their live performance; Linkin Park’s got nothing on this. The song is Alone and, with this one, we get a hint in the direction of the Gothic, something the SLoT has not been known for as a rule but one which clearly has influenced them to some extent. The lyrics point the way:

We’re here alone... we’re so alone... we’re here!
We’re all the same: anonymous.
Apathetic eyes--omnivorous.
Androgynous words are petty.
I’m here alone. I’m not ready
for these vague hands and open arms
to summon me and cause me harm.
One more dead end is all I’ll see...
so I cannot... I’m not ready.

Several of the songs take that harder direction we often see with nu metal, songs like Vamp and Kill Me Baby One More Time. You see the direct connection here to related sounds, Guano Apes comes to mind. But the band can also do the softer stuff, tracks like Mirrors where Nookie turns to that lovely sound that only the top female vocalists can perform. But the predominant direction is somewhat harder, cuts like Broken Mirror which more closely approximate Mirrors but in a different format, more of a danceable interpretation.

Break the Code is a major release, from a number of perspectives. It’s almost a bridge between East and West, something those of us from the old Cold War days would have once seen as impossible. Thank goodness those dark days are gone. The SLoT is only one of many outstanding Eastern sounds making inroads into the Western music scene. But, they are clearly one of the best. Expect to hear much more.

9.5 / 10

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