Sabïre- J​ä​tt (Album Review)

July 3, 2024


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Sabïre’s debut full length has been a long time coming, as the project dates back to 2010 but it wouldn’t be until 2018 that listeners got a first taste with the Gates Ajar EP.  By this time founder Scarlett Monastyrski had relocated from Canada to Australia and recruited drummer Paul Corben for studio material while bringing in some additional members for live performances.  With a sound Scarlett dubbed “Acid Metal”, Gates Ajar showcased a band that encapsulated a little bit of everything heavy metal, glam, and 80s hard rock while still having nuances of their own.  2020’s Mistress Mistress single built on that incrementally, but four years later Sabïre has showcased just how broad their sound can be on J​ä​tt.  Dripping with sleaze and a sharper production, the material on J​ä​tt manages to feel nostalgic and fresh at the same time with plenty of high intensity riffs as well as infectious melodies.

At an hour and nine minutes and fifteen tracks I was a bit concerned going into this album that it might be a bit bloated, but the quality of the songwriting makes this length seem to fly by.  J​ä​tt is broken up into sections, with an intro, interlude, and outro breaking up the rest of the material.  “The Doorway (Entry)” starts things off in a more atmospheric and moodier direction with sparser, repeated instrumentation that has spoken word and soft singing layered over top of it.  But this calmer, darker approach doesn’t last for long as “Pure Fucking Hell” comes roaring in with rougher edged guitar leads and pounding drums.  The tempo here is closer to older speed metal and NWOBHM, but you’ll immediately notice how the production values make Sabïre sound different than some of the other bands of this type.  Everything sounds deliberately washed out yet there’s still a considerable amount of abrasion and grit to the guitar and bass tone, not only giving a slight psychedelic slant but also making the album sound like you’re hearing it on a cassette where the quality has degraded over time.  Considering the trend in heavy metal towards more polished and big productions, I appreciate J​ä​tt sounding a bit grittier and gnarly, as if I had to purchase it in a back alley from a shady character. 

Stylistically the group covers a tremendous amount of ground and rarely stays in one place for too long, sometimes going all-in on NWOBHM while other times opting for sleazy glam/hair metal and slower power ballads.  I was reminded of everything from Dokken and Scorpions to Lizzy Borden and Poison, but you’re sure to hear different influences depending on how deep your expertise on earlier hard rock and heavy/glam metal goes.  But no matter where the band goes, there’s always a catchy melody or edgier lead to catch your attention and many of these tracks got stuck in my head after the first few listens.  The sequencing works to Sabïre’s advantage, as the tempo is varied from one song to the next and you don’t end up with the slowest ballads all stacked together to drag things down.  Even at its softest, the “acid metal” approach to the recording makes it sound like you’re experiencing the melodies in an altered state and that adds to the appeal.  The material is consistent from beginning to end but highlights for me are “Ice Cold Lust”, “I’m a Rock”, “The Last Day”, and “Toxic Man”.  “The Last Day” is elevated with keyboards that have more of an 80s pop vibe, and there are plenty of other nuances like this that help the individual tracks to have an identity.  While there aren’t any tracks I’d cut from J​ä​tt, as even the interludes serve a distinctive purpose and enhance the atmosphere, “Your Rending Hands” and “Chained Down” do run a bit long and start to drag.

The rougher edge of the instrumentation and the catchy nature of the melodies drew me in, but it’s the strength of Scarlett Monastyrski’s singing that ties everything together.  His voice skews a bit more towards the rock and glam side, but there’s a sharper tone on the more aggressive tracks like “Pure Fucking Hell” and “Rip, Rip, KILL”.  The singing reminding me of Ratt and Winger on the glam end of the spectrum, with elements of bands like Grim Reaper coming out on the more traditional heavy metal sections, but the way the vocals echo across the recording gives them a slightly different overall feel.  Monastyrski really nails that perfect blend of powerful verses and infectious, earworm choruses on many of the songs, and many of them would’ve been anthems had they come out during the 80s.  In an appropriate nod to everything glam, there’s a ton of sleaze to the lyrics as well, but I’ll let you discover that for yourselves.

A few of the songs are a bit longer than they need to be, but Sabïre’s full-length debut remains a triumph.  It captures that combination of heavy metal, speed metal, glam, and everything in between in a way that feels far more authentic than usual for a band formed in the 2010’s.  Stylistically it hits similar vibes as recent Chez Kane albums as well as what Enforcer was going for on Zenith but with better writing, but the almost psychedelic and abrasive elements of the production give Sabïre a distinct sound.  Some people run the other direction from glam rock/metal, but if you don’t mind some sweet, sweet melodies mixed in with the rougher edges expect to get a lot out of this one.  J​ä​tt is available from Listenable Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg