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SLAVES WAGE- Heaven or Hell

If you are a fan of classic metal, you need to check out these underdogs from Arlington, Texas. Slaves Wage has been honing its craft since 2004 and it really shows on their latest album Heaven or Hell. As a teen, I loved experimenting with the speed on my record player, noticing that my favorite Saint vinyl still sounded great sped up on 45 rpm mode (other than the chipmunk vocals!) In the same way, if you took a Place of Skulls record and sped it up, you would still get all of the heavy rhythm, but none of the sludgy doom metal, and voila- you get an idea of what Slaves Wage sounds like. In fact, when you hear the excellent song "Doom," the Place of Skulls reference will click for you. Now top that with Jeff Saenz' mid range melodic vocals, which sound eerily similar to Jimi Bennett of King James and Sacred Fire fame- so much so, in fact, that you might mistake these guys for King James. One song "Soul Slave" features some guest harsh vocals courtesy of Daniel Bas of Becoming Sons, but for the most part we're going back to the days when every lyric and vocal was decipherable (hard to imagine, I know).

Many bands that can boast of a guitarist with any merit often throw in an instrumental on their albums, but I have yet to hear anything like this. Heaven and Hell has 3 instrumentals, "The Eternal Triumvirate, Parts 1, 2 and 3" dedicated to our Triune God. These tasty pieces are spaced accordingly- parts 1 and 3 bookend the album and part 2 is sandwiched right in the middle. "Push" gives a clear picture of where this album is going- traditional metal with a lot of groove and uber-melodic vocals, this time with a bit of gang vocal bgv's. The title track is the standout cut, with Saenz' vocals and phrasing being the rhythm, instead of words that rhyme. Many bands attempt this (True Strength comes to mind), but few are as successful with this approach as Saenz' performance here. "I Feel You" starts out slower, and if your trigger finger on the fast forward button is too fast, you'll miss that the song builds into a searing crescendo around the 4 minute mark. On "Cry Out," first the drums, then the guitars will suck you into a serious headbang before the vocals ever begin. "All Alone" slows down for a real 90's hard rock vibe that doesn't fit well with the rest of the material. "The Stone" steps up the pace almost to a thrash pace, ala Eternal Decision. With mini devotionals to go along with the song lyrics, much like Sardonyx, Slaves Wage show that their music is not just entertainment, but a call to salvation for the lost. Artwork is nice and overall presentation is first class. Better bust out your air guitar and start crooning along: "Heaven or hell waits for youuuu..." (Sacrosanct Records) 4 Out of 5 Stars

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