Slot: Nu-Metal Tales of Childhood Virtue in Danger

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Nu-metal kingpins Slot have been the subject of our attention on several occasions in the past, the last time being in May 2009, when the band released a net-single on a voluntary pay-as-you-wish scheme. We noted at that time the rather curmudgeonly and ungrateful air of many fans' comments, who were grumbling about the ensemble's work-rate whilst showing no apparent desire to pay anything. In other words, they were taking the music for free - and still complaining. Undaunted by such problems, Slot have just released their fourth album, entitled - understandably - "4ever." Equally unflustered by the current economy, they have donned even more dramtic costumes - and published this new album in a very expensive format. Russian fans with spare cash can pick up a "gift edition "of the CD that contains a second disc, loaded with media, a sticker, and a poster.

Formed in 2002, the band has always taken good advantage of its Moscow roots, using connections to the film industry to bless several thrillers with their borderline screamo. It probably comes as no surprise to learn that the soundtracks on which their songs appear usually involve a lot of people hitting one another and breaking things. Their own, equally dramatic "breakthrough" can probably be attributed to the the start of 2007, when a national music competition declared their second CD to be Best Rock Album of the Year. A thirty-town tour followed, and the group has remained at the forefront of Russia's rock scene ever since, probably - it seems fair to say - as the nation's best-known exponents of nu-metal.

The gentleman on the right urges us to concur.

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This renown, in ways that can be deduced from the quintet's appearance, is due not to any success with online experiments or tight-fisted geeks. Slot's theatrics require - logically enough - a theater; the band's reputation as a hardworking, touring outfit is often foregrounded in articles and interviews. Take, for example, this recent text from a Siberian newspaper, in other words from a journalistic source documenting the efforts of a Moscow ensemble very far from home. "One of the band members dives into the crowd - in good rock 'n' roll tradition! He is returned to the stage both safe and sound. Once the Novosibirsk concert is over, the musicians arrange an autograph session and happily get snapped with everybody who wants a pic.  One guitarist messes about beneath all the flashes from fans' cameras, while another chats with young admirers. Nobody tries to tear their clothes off or rip out a handful of hair out as a souvenir..."

Would you challenge this man for a fistful of fur?

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The band, in other words, travels a great distance across Russia, puts on a very physical show, and is not "mistreated" physically afterwards. The same issue of hard, honest, and respected work even popped up in an interview after this particular concert.  When asked whether they have a recipe for success, the members of Slot answered: "We don't have a 'recipe,' so much as a 'path' to travel. What we mean by that is you've got to work a lot, have a certain degree of talent, and get a good group of people behind you, too. The kind of people you can work with over long periods. And you need some luck, too. In fact, a miracle..! Musicians starting out today must find themselves some supporters who'll understand them - and think along the same lines...."

"Artists need a lot of energy; they need to get moving! And they certainly shouldn't try two careers at once. Holding down a regular job while you play music won't get you anywhere... You've got to slog away - constantly. And, of course, have some faith in yourself."

Artists need a lot of energy; they need to get moving! And they certainly shouldn't try two careers at once. Holding down a regular job while you play music won't get you anywhere... You've got to slog away - constantly. And, of course, have some faith in yourself.

Faith is more important than planning; the world can pull you in all kinds of unpredictable directions.

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This concept of the group's experiences as a "path" requiring both hard work and faith does not, in toto, create a very jolly worldview. It suggests that one must pass through a series of "narrow," predetermined obstacles, which may - or may not! - lead to considerable doubt and discomfort. "Work" and "faith" express the rather contradictory ideas of self-determination and its possible ineffectiveness. In that light, it's interesting to note that with this album, the band is moving increasingly into an aesthetic and outlook that draws upon Japanese animation.

With a fairly narrow range of colors.

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There was, of course, the springtime EP, "Anime," about which we wrote, but this youthful Asian symbolism has become a larger element of Slot's stagy appearance and lyrics. The new album contains several tracks that speak directly of small animals, children, and other diminutive figures struggling against larger, sometimes ominous forces. These tales of virtue threatened are part and parcel of the anime aesthetic, which was initially designed by Japanese artists several decades ago without any ethnic specificity, precisely in order to give characters an international appeal. Animators were hoping to use childlike heroes, for example, to represent innocence or honesty per se, rather than a young person from a particular place - with a (merely) local relevance.

The heroes and heroines of classic anime have long embodied that importance of character traits over physical ones - and not only with their faces. Their limbs are often long and delicate, suggesting no great muscular strength (in times of struggle), whilst physical movements around them are shown to be swift, dynamic, and not always instigated by the character in question. In short, the world moves both quickly and forcefully, sometimes with greater power than the hero can handle.

Likewise, in the area of speech, much of what is uttered comes in the shape of dramatically bold speech bubbles and a preference for exclamatory remarks, rather than polished dialog.

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In short, this style - quite literally - of wide-eyed innocence hopes to evoke sympathy for the difficult experiences of a delicate physical frame in a rough and tumble world. If we look at the CD's back-cover artwork, these same emphases are handled in a specific way. Now and again in the subject matter of the band's new songs, as in the track "Voodoo Doll" below, childlike wonder and impending physical danger go hand in hand. The CD cover gives these lyrical motifs a visual form. More specfically, we see a cherubic figure perched atop a very high building. On her back is a propellor-like device, made from the wings of angels.

This same device looks a lot like the back-mounted propeller known to millions of Russian children from the "Karlsson" cartoons, based upon a series of famous tales from Sweden.

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Here, though, they appear to be made from the wings of deceased angels. The propeller is therefore a kind of "downgraded" physical tool, made from a failed celestial being, which - in turn - is hopefully able to counteract the equally physical force of gravity. If this machinery and upwards effort fail, though, the streets below look very dark and distant. The degree of risk is high.

And then, if we flip the cover over, the same symbol of effort and "faith" (of which the musicians spoke above) is rudely detached from its owner, and turned into a windmill. A machine that would hopefully allow for some control and safe "altitude" in the physical world has now become a mere plaything, which does little more than react to external forces. It is totally subject to the "winds of fate," so to speak...

...that can play havoc with your hair.

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As a result, then, for all the volume, screamo stylings, grand or vampiric costumes, even, Slot's new album embodies an outlook that owes more to Japanese anime and its tales of threatened, childlike virtue. Just as those cartoons visualize those same dangers through the graphic representation of speed and blunt, onomatopoeic "speech" across a quiet, fragile body, so Slot's new lyrics speak of youngsters, dolls, and small animals buffeted by rapid forces beyond their control.  This is a world where an "angel-prop" will probably not help.

In the Karlsson cartoons, the weight of our chubby hero is often too much for his own back-pack, and, as a result, he bumps painfully against obstacles. The fate of our rooftop angel would clearly be worse if her own machinery failed.

In a world deemed to be so unforgiving and uncontrollable, "faith" in one's proud self-definition is a difficult, if not risky stance. It is better - as the band say - to work hard and pray for a "miracle." One jumps into the deep end of ongoing, unpredictable effort - and simply hopes for the best. All of a sudden, stage-diving takes becomes a philosophical statement. The leap into the crowd becomes a leap of faith.

Ten feet of grass and a metal fence in between don't help.

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Audio

Slot – Enamel
Slot – Flash Mob
Slot – Lia-lia
Slot – Mouth to mouth
Slot – Peace/World
Slot – Voodoo Doll

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