REVIEW: ‘Sabella – Dog Daze [2017]

Artist: ‘Sabella 

Album: Dog Daze


Have you ever had a fever dream? Almost everyone has had a fever; Been infected with pyrogens that trigger an elevation in your hypothalamic thermoregulatory set point. Your mouth dries out, your skin flushes and you sweat, although no amount of perspiration seems able to cool the fire that feels as if it’s burning your insides up. You have a miniature hell inside you, an inferno that won’t stop—so you do what you’re supposed to do when you’re sick: sleep. Suspend your own consciousness in a vain hope that maybe your dreams are more comfortable.

Except they aren’t–they’re just weird and unsettling. Moreso than normal.

Your perception of reality becomes hazy and hard to get a grip on; you oscillate between feeling almost too comfortable and feeling like you’re on the edge of death. This feeling—this sense of perverse perceptual purgatory—is kind of like the feeling captured in the debut full-length record by New York act ‘Sabella. Dog Daze, pun aside, puts the listener in a foggy…well, daze, wherein the band toggle between ten-ton breakdowns fueled by riffs that could start brawls in a nursing home and melancholy, dreary and nearly-depressive indie/folk infused soundscapes that sound close to the likes of Basement or Turnover. The result of this unusual amalgam is just that—unusual—like listening to the soundtrack of a fever dream where comfort is almost impossible—in the best way possible.

Dog Daze is more than another full-length record in 2017’s already bursting cornucopia of remarkable releases—and this is true in many ways. First and foremost, Dog Daze sees ‘Sabella dividing their efforts into a two-sided LP sort of format—an A side (tracks one through six) and a B side (tracks seven through thirteen). True, this isn’t new, but it is another way in which the band differentiate themselves from their peers in a less obvious fashion. While it would be easy to make the generalization that side A heirs towards the heavier side and side B is more atmospheric (or vice versa), that simply isn’t the case. From the first song, “Apriled,” ‘Sabella have the listener on the ropes, wondering if they’re listening to the same band. ‘Sabella’s guitar strums with a warm, melancholy demeanor, swathing the listener in a foggy, gloomy atmos—the kind of feeling you get when you attend a funeral of someone you used to know really well. But by the time “Apriled” morphs into “Long Stays,” the harsh and oppressive quartet that delivered albums like Perennial are back in full form. An explosive cavalcade of percussion erupts from the haze of “Apriled” and launches into a full-force onslaught, accompanied by an immense bass groove that pervades the foundation of the entire album. The duo lay down a filthy, raw low end that serves as a firmament for a series of skin-ripping riffs from the lacerating guitar and floor-shaking breakdowns that stand to level entire city blocks. Dog Daze continues in this fashion—with songs like “W. Clinton” and “Thunder Bay” hitting the listener like sledgehammers. This is especially true of some of the harder and raunchier songs from the release’s B-side: “Wars,” which stands to be one of the heaviest tracks ‘Sabella have penned to date, as well as “The Noise” and the uproarious “Free Fallin’.” These songs see a more streamlined percussive style, keeping things simple but sinister, working with the bass to make sure the listener is practically suffocating under a dense and dismal layer of grit. Meanwhile, the guitar remains loud and dissonant, ranging from ruthless, chuggy devastation and humid, infernal riffs that capture the heat and burn of a fever and shove it into the listener’s head.

Then, however, there are songs like “Apriled,” “River” or “Green Thumbed.” Even portions of “Whisper” see the lukewarm and hazy modus of melancholy, grunge-tinted alt-indie return. The percussion takes a backseat to both guitars—with a bass that slinks softly around each thick kick drum smack, and splashes of floral fretwork that tread a line between aggressive and totally pacifist in a way that is truly difficult, bordering on impossible, to describe.

Just when you think Dog Daze couldn’t get anymore odd or unusual, the band’s vocal dynamic comes into play. With ‘Sabella’s primary vocal style manning the helm when it comes to hectic and hoarse screams, shouts and growls and additional support from the group’s guitarist handling the cleanly sung and crooned vocals—and some of the harsh brays on songs like “Long Stays”–‘Sabella are far from done perplexing the listener. The one uniformity seen throughout Dog Daze is the incredible poetry found within the lyrics. ‘Sabella’s dynamic duo are just as poetic on rampaging tracks like “Wars” or “W. Clinton” as they are on the soft-spoken songs like “Apriled” or the humbling “River.” In fact, somewhere between the last sentence of “Apriled” and the bold, explosive (but brief) lyrics within “Long Stays” is where Dog Daze truly takes off—with the coarsely shouted “I’m not the kid I was in those Dog Days (Daze?),” the listener is suddenly hooked; they’re in, all or nothing, vying at the edge of their seat for the next snippets of lyrical brilliance ‘Sabella have to offer. The vocal elements throughout Dog Daze are as diverse and engaging as the lyrics—while they don’t see much change from Never Home or Perennial, that’s just fine; why alter an awesome thing? The duo are brilliant, accomplishing an array of heaviness and poetry that aren’t oft seen when it comes to music of this genre, or from a band this young.

Dog Daze is just shy of 30 minutes of incredible music that excellently captures the feeling of discomfort; be it physical, like a fever, or mental—like dealing with growing up and growing away from youth and love. ‘Sabella use dissonance and devastation to break chains of depression and angst, then use crooned, clear and crystalline segments to soothe wounds and revive the listener’s tattered spirit; but they don’t do it in a way akin to any other act. They function with the cohesive structure and precision of a well-oiled machine, yet the emotional intensity of a stuck-and-bleeding heart. Dog Daze is an album as suitable for lifting heavy in the gym or sitting alone in a dark room—it is constantly driving and energetic, yet also darkly introspective: if you let Dog Daze into your head, there is no way of knowing what you’ll find when you try to chase it out.



For Fans Of: Kaonashi, Every Time I Die, Turnstile, VCTMS, Balance and Composure, Basement

By: Connor Welsh