posted on 6/2004 By:
There seem to be fewer and fewer bands in the progressive metal genre that release anything of any interest. We have the good old standby of Dream Theater and uh… Dream Theater. In the past few years, I’ve heard very little progressive metal that has sparked my interest. Now that you know where I’m coming from on the genre, I did in fact enjoy Sabbtail’s new album, amazingly enough! This is probably chalked up to the fact that they’re not full of weak emotion and cheesy bullshit.
The element that makes or breaks prog metal (or pretty much any metal band) is the vocals. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I heard Mats Levén’s vocals. His vocals also grace Yngvie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force, a band I’ve never really given any thought to, but in Sabbtail, his vocals have a chance to take center stage instead of relentless guitar wankery.
This Swedish quintet combines a variety of styles into their prog, mainly classic rock and jazz-fusion. The organ/keyboards are very jazzy and southern Baptist, and the guitar tone is what accounts for the classic rock sound. The use of string pulling sounds very Judas Priest or Ozzy-esque, and throw it all together with nice grooves and you have a very solid foundation.
The songs on Nightchurch are pretty much hit or miss, but in a deceptive way. “Wishful Thinking” seems interesting at first, but ends up being horribly repetitive. The opposite is true of “Don’t Know You”; from the first repetitive beat you’d think it was gonna drone on forever, but it ends up having some really interesting solos and interplay between the keyboards and guitars. “Contemplation” starts with an intelligent sounding riff, but ends up having annoyingly contrived vocal hooks and lyrics, but then again the solos almost revive it in the end. “Your Fear” starts off pretty aggressively, but ends up having an uninteresting solo and formulaic structure. At least they kept me guessing!
Sabbtail’s Nightchurch as an album is very symbolic of the genre of progressive metal. Just when you think it’s boring, it’ll surprise you with something fantastic, and just when you were beginning to enjoy it again, something monotonous will head your way. This album had just enough funkadelic twists and turns to make it worthwhile, and it was the best progressive metal I’ve heard in quite a while, but that isn’t exactly saying much from what some would consider a dying genre. Either way, it is worth a look if you’re a prog fan, or even just a fan of killer solos.
Outcast - Fabulous soloing and killer grooves mated with spot-on vocals
Don’t Know You - A surprisingly interesting & upbeat offering
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