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Sabateur - Vicious Circle

Sabateur
Vicious Circle
by Sean McGuirk at 30 December 2018, 9:22 PM

From Portland, Oregon, SABATEUR formed in 2009 and have gone through a few lineup changes before releasing their debut album, “Vicious Circle”. Herein are eleven tracks (plus the title track, an album-closing atmospheric instrumental) of Melodic Thrash Metal with a Neoclassical twist, recalling a period in the mid-90’s when the famed Big Four of Thrash were adapting to the times and churning out radio-friendly tracks with the help of some famous off-genre producers.

It’s impossible to listen to a track like “The Clocktower” and not hear TESTAMENT’s 1999 new classic “The Gathering” in the down-tuned melodic sensibility and Devon Miller’s excellent vocals. Miller is truly remarkable throughout the record; a mix of Chuck Billy and Bobby Blitz with a bit of Mustaine’s sadistic charm, and one of the main reason’s for the albums outstanding playability.

Speaking of MEGADETH, the guitar solo trade-offs between the multitalented Miller and Jesse Elkington on songs like “Can’t Kill Crazy” and “Tommy Gunn”, recall the infamous duo of Mustaine and Marty Friedman. Along with its overt “Hangar 18” references, the latter song reminds of the theatrical playfulness of SAVATAGE’s “Streets” record. SABATEUR don’t list SAVATAGE among their influences on their Facebook page, but they do list the adjacent TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, and while that may be surprising, the holiday super-group can definitely be heard on the album, with each song taking on a bit of a Neoclassical vibe. Some even begin with short classically-inspired instrumental pieces, the most effective of these is on the epic, “Black Widow”, which sets the mood perfectly, twisting and turning but never losing its way. This track follows the single from the album, “Frostbite”, which contains some great guitar leads and some strained highs from Miller, but mostly fails to register.

The ballad, “The Great Unknown”, shows off Miller’s range and clean tone, but doesn’t deliver the hook that the well-produced track deserves. Coming next is the standout and heaviest song on the album, “C-137”, which sees founding member and drummer, Zakk Negrinelli, taking the front seat with a speedy double bass driven groove. Showing off the bands versatility and penchant for surprise, about halfway through, the song turns into an 80’s Hair Metal honky tonk before returning home with a call-and-response of “I refuse! To accept!” that hints at the true power that SABATEUR can offer in a live setting. This all has the effect of making the final track, “Ensemble of Shadows”, a relatively short Victorian-style haunted ballroom thrasher, feel like an afterthought.

One underrated thing in The Big Four’s repertoire in their Headbanger’s Ball glory days was great pop-influenced songwriting, and while this album seems to have the production down pat (special merit going to Alex Huddleston’s dynamic bass tone that recalls David Ellefson in his “Peace Sells” era), it lacks somewhat in memorability. But let’s not set too high of a bar, as this is the band’s debut record, and for my money, they’ve already made the grade, managing to both set themselves apart with excellent musicianship all around and their ability to work in some interesting Classical and Prog Metal influences. It works goddamnit, and I look forward to hearing what these guys can cook up next.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. The Clocktower
2. Can’t Kill Crazy
3. Tommy Gunn
4. No Man’s Land
5. A Minute to Live
6. Rats
7. Frostbite
8. Black Widow
9. The Great Unknown
10. C-137
11. Ensemble of Shadows
12. Vicious Circle
Lineup:
Devon Miller - Vocals, Guitar
Zakk Negrinelli - Drums
Jesse Elkinton - Guitar
Alex Huddleston - Bass
Record Label: Independent
     


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