Sapien are a four piece sludge bands from Edinburgh, and are in possession of some class-A riffs. Seriously, listen to the start of ‘Regurgitator’ and tell me that it’s not a cracker. Thing is, with sludge bands it’s always about the riff. Yeah, the nihilism, the groove, the anguish and pain is part and parcel, but even the most nihilistic and nasty of them all, EyeHateGod, have some SERIOUS riffs. ‘Dixie Whiskey’ being the best. Fact. No arguments.
Anyway, back to Sapien. Their four track release of September last year, ‘Toad Handler’, is heavy. Like tectonic heavy. Possessed of a slab dragging groove, a tar thick guitar tone and a suitably raw vocal delivery, Sapien have some nice melodies mixed in with the sludge. The final two minutes or so of ‘Regurgitator’ has some nice flashes of melody before the steamroller riff returns. ‘Eye Of The Sun’ storms out of the gate much faster, and is reminiscent of more hardcore bands, like Hatebreed but without the breakdowns. This then melds into a spiralling solo that disappears underneath a huge chugging riff. Serious headbanging material here. Nice to see sludge with a bit of pace. Sometimes slooooow riffing can get a bit boring, but Sapien have a bit of speed and a lot of vitriol to power it along.
‘Shackled And Shamed’ follows with a more measured pace, mixing it up once again. The subdued intro leads to a couple more huge riffs, and howling pinch harmonics. The lead is bluesy and memorable, before an almost galloping riff takes us away. Sapien inject their doomy sludge with an energetic dose of good old fashioned heavy metal, and there’s something I can’t quit put my finger on that reminds me of Clutch. It’s strange to find a sludge band who have such straight forward RAWK bits, but Sapien do.
‘Toad Handler’ closes out with the title track, looming out of a haze of stoner doom. This is their ‘epic’ track, clocking in at over ten minutes long. It holds the attention with some big riffs, some subtle melodies and some psychedelic soloing. It then slowly fades out over a hypnotic dirge riff, which almost seems an easy finish to such a decent track.
What Sapien do is very good. ‘Toad Handler’ is a solid release, with some good songs and catchy riffs. What I worry about is their ability to stand out from the crowd. They are talented, and their music is good. But they need to take the excellent qualities and make something that is unique and immediately ‘theirs’. Otherwise I fear they’ll be lost amongst the hordes. Which would be a damn shame, because these four tracks are dynamite.
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson