The Great Sabatini - Matterhorn
The Great Sabatini - Matterhorn (2012)
Sludge Metal, Sludge/Doom Metal, Progressive Sludge
If there is ever a time for sludge to find itself in the spotlight, it’s now. With the success of acts such as Mastodon, Baroness, and High on Fire, it’s clear that the general metal populace is now aware of the genre that bands such as The Melvins, Crowbar,and Neurosis pioneered in the early ’90s. By mixing the slow, sinister, and monolithic riffing of doom with hardcore punk’s primitive technicality, aggression, and visceral nature, these bands would create a brooding yet equally aggressive antithesis to the then-popular Florida death metal scene. Then around the early 2000s, the band Mastodon would go on to redefine the sludge style by mixing it with elements of progressive rock, sparking a mass interest in the genre. But with the addition of guitar wizardry and jazzy drumming, a lot of the more ominous and gargantuan doom metal elements were lost, and thus a lot of the newer bands tend to have inherited a lot less doom metal influence. The Great Sabatini is not one of those bands.
The Melvins are generally considered the first Sludge Metal band. Yeah, they're as surprised as you are!
Hailing from the metal capital of Canada, Montreal, The Great Sabatini have come together to release their sophomore record, Matterhorn. As I mentioned, The Great Sabatini are not afraid to embrace the more monolithic aspects of the sludge genre while also dabbling in complimentary progressive elements. The band starts off Matterhorn with the pummelling track “City Limits,” that shows the band is just as capable of Mastodon-like calculated chugging as they are of brooding doom/sludge passages. This approach of sandwiching the slower, colossal riffs between the more technical passages really does help to keep the songs fresh and interesting. And not only are the riffs interesting, but bloody crushing as well. Yet even in times of aggression, the band aren't afraid to put epic, well composed solos over the massive riffs, giving songs such as the final track, "Sad Parade of Yesterdays", a very grand and mighty atmosphere. While The Great Sabatini can bludgeon you with both mathematical and monolithic approaches, they are also quite capable of being clean and peaceful. This is shown by the occasional transitional atmospheric piano piece, sometimes having post-rock-like instrumentals played over the interlude. These interludes are played out just to the perfect degree, being short enough that they don’t take over the mood of the song, but long enough to keep the punch of the abrasive riffing.
The album is structured pretty strategically and every song flows into the next one perfectly. The production is excellent, as every instrument is audible and the focus on effects during the cleaner, atmospheric bits is handled masterfully. The vocals are done particularly well, the harmonizing with lower octave screams being done perfectly, giving that sort of eerie, possessed element to the more intense vocal moments. The way the guitars are layered is done admirably as well, seeing as the duo guitar harmonizing in some of the riffs sends chills up my spine.
The Great Sabatini: Joey, Rob, Sean and Steve Sabatini. I don't know if they're brothers or if it's a pseudnym, but all their last names are all Sabatini.
All in all this is one of the more impressive sludge records I’ve heard in a while and it’s definitely up to the quality of metal that Montreal produces. Despite not particularly reinventing the genre, The Great Sabatini definitely found a way to give a personal spin on the style and I really hope they are able to churn out more monolithic riffing in the future. I guess if I were to make one criticism about this release, I’d say it’s too short! The album comes in at a measly 30 minutes, making it feel slightly anticlimactic. I feel that the opening track, “City Limits,” could have been twice as long, and one or two other tracks really would help give this album a more grand feeling. Regardless, Matterhorn is an album I definitely enjoyed and I hope The Great Sabatini manage to find themselves more established in the years to come. 7.8/10
Best Tracks: City Limits, Zacios, Null and Void, Wagons, Sad Parade of Yesterdays
City Limits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le06RAG_BRs
Sad Parade of Yesterdays: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXQ_PY_CNzE