Montreal’s The Great Sabatini are one of the latest additions to the excellent French label Solar Flare Records’ roster, and with label mates ranging from Sofy Major to Pigs, you could probably hazard a guess before hearing them that they’re going to enjoy damaging eardrums. Correct. Hailing from the Great White North, The Great Sabitini deal in hardcore-influenced sludge with a slightly off-kilter sense of humour as evidenced by the demonic muppet yearbook picture that graces the cover of Dog Years, their third album. This isn’t just another sludge band in the vein of EyeHateGod however – The Great Sabatini are one of those rare bands who throw a bit of personality into their music and that’s what makes Dog Years such an enjoyable and, at times, perplexing listen.
While some sludge and hardcore bands can be a bit too earnest, macabre or even political, you get the sense that The Great Sabatini aren’t taking themselves too seriously, mainly choosing to concern themselves with the tone and sheer heft of their dual baritone guitar, dual vocal assault. Combine this with the rumbling bass and manic drums, opening track The Royal We starts off like Floor if they had written a song entirely on the bomb string, before breaking off into a glorious half-time sludge riff. Guest Of Honour and Nursing Home demonstrates the band’s penchant for breakneck math-punk while Periwinkle War Hammer best illustrates Steve Sabatini’s considerable drumming ability, seemingly making the song fall apart whilst simultaneously keeping the band in time with incredible fluidity.
Elsewhere the band branch out and take a few interesting turns; Aleka is kind of a warped, sleepy delta blues track and Pitchfork Pete is a sleazy character study of a dude who enjoys “jerking off at the mausoleum.” Most striking of all is closing track Life During Wartime which is a strangely poignant and epic piano-led number, entirely different in feel from the rest of the album. All this to say that The Great Sabatini are not just playing by-the-numbers sludge, but rather mixing things up, and transposing their punk attitude into new forms of musical expression beyond what you might be expecting.
At times they sound similar to label mates Pigs, both in the gnarly low-end guitar department and in their vocal delivery, but then who hasn’t been influenced by Unsane, directly or indirectly? Also, the mix throughout most of Dog Years makes it sound like the singers are trapped down a well which suits the unnerving lyrical content perfectly and adds another level of unease to the album’s creeping sense of menace. With The Great Sabatini, Solar Flare Records have further strengthened their roster and with Dog Years, The Great Sabatini have created their best album yet. Cohesive yet willing to deviate from the usual sludge fare, this set of songs will slowly win you over and the album a must-listen for fans of sludge, post-hardcore and noise.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin,