REVIEW: ‘Sabella – Perennial [EP/2015]


Artist: ‘Sabella

Album: Perennial – EP


Humans put themselves through significant strife on a daily basis—enduring the worst and most wicked things life has to hurl at them, and still returning day after day, season after season for more. After all, life is a race—even if it is many marathons in length—and the winner is simply the one who will have made enough of a mark on this world to survive long after they have carried on. In that aspect, ’Sabella can safely mark themselves as winners among the rat-racing hordes of heavy musicians out there to make their mark. Perennial is just that—a brief, bitter and brutalizing EP that will withstand as many listens as the listener cares to give it, returning each time with beautiful, blossoming lyrical themes lined in morose, murderous frames of dissonance and devastating heaviness. While no man or woman borne of flesh and bone might have what it takes to withstand the ever-pressing test of time, returning for seasons stretching into infinity, the heavy-hitting blend of hardcore and nu-metal that ‘Sabella bring to the table is something truly Perennial.

‘Sabella find themselves at the instrumental crossroads of dissonance and directed, punishing devastation. Perennial is a brief, blistering amalgamation of all things heavy—built on a foundation of punchy, catchy percussion, packed down by drummer Jake Williams. Williams is neither over-the-top nor dull, as his performance throughout Perennial is sturdy and integral in nature, with few flashes of floral, decorative technicality that add extra punch to particularly noteworthy parts of the album. “Hollowed Out” and “House of Glass” are two great examples. Here, Williams smashes huge, gaping patterns into the listener’s head with scant seconds of fast-paced intensity to draw the listener’s attention away from the overall track—the fills during the “House of Glass” being the most ear-catching of these moments; however, mistaking Williams’ structural role for monotony or mediocrity is nothing but folly, as his work is bouncy, bold and bone-breaking from beginning to end. Williams’ wicked drumming foundation is bolstered by the bodacious grooves from bassist Nick Bollock. Bollock’s bass is dripping with beefy, mammoth tones that lumber alongside Williams’ drumming like a steamroller traveling alongside a tank. Each thick smack of Williams’ kick drum is echoed with Bollock’s bold bass tone, making grooves like the one that kickstarts “Frostmourne”—which were already skullcrushing—even heavier and more intense. Between Williams’ perfunctory percussion and Bollock’s bass tracing each pattern ever-so-carefully, ‘Sabella are still left with a foundation in desperate need of filling—which is just what guitarist Connor Hogan does. With all the noise and chaos that pours forth from Hogan’s guitar, one would think ‘Sabella was home to two—or even three—resident riffsmiths. However, Hogan fills out each track with a careful combination of chugs, riffs and ear-splitting, soul-shearing dissonant shrieks that give every second of Perennial a full, mature sound. “House of Glass” is, again, an excellent example, where the climactic, monstrous breakdown is filled in with fills from Williams, and sounds from Hogan’s guitar that could sooner come from a Nazgul than any fretted instrument. Where chugs and groove-tinted beatdowns reign on Perennial, make no mistake—each track is an instrumental battle, with lurid, dark grooves fighting against drifting moments of ethereality; best seen in “Frostmourne.”

It takes more than innovative instrumentation and bizarre, off-kilter grooves and chugs to make a record that transcends the modern listener’s attention span, however. The avid music enthusiast (as most who are involved in the heavy music community tend to be) has access to countless new albums per week—what makes Perennial truly stand out among them? While the answer lies in ‘Sabella’s overall dynamic, a hefty portion of that dynamic is provided by Markus Russo’s unique vocal style and incredible lyrical prowess. Russo trades in an array of shrieks, growls, brees and squees for untouchable levels of emotion. Every syllable to every song Russo touches is dripping with feeling to a point where it’s practically tangible. During the eerie, off-key introduction to “Frostmourne,” the listener will without a doubt feel goosebumps running up their arms and raising hairs on their neck. During “Hollowed Out,” the listener can feel Russo’s spit on their cheek and his words clutching at the heartstrings inside their chest. Perennial might not have 2015’s most diverse or technical vocal element, but it does have one of the most gritty and real feels to it among any EP released in recent history. It transcends production (or lack thereof) and studio parlor tricks—Russo’s uncompromising vocal approach is due to nothing more than pure, honest feelings expressed without filter or relent. At the end of the day, is there really anything more that a listener could want from the vocals in a hardcore band?

Everything about Perennial seems to be crafted as a part in the “bigger picture.” Even in spite of its incredibly short run time, Perennial is magnificent and dense with emotion and energy. Beginning from eerie, subtle beginnings, “Frostmourne” flourishes into a full, vivid soundscape of driving intensity and mind-numbing passion. Where “House of Glass” is straightforward aggression—or as straightforward as anything ‘Sabella does—other tracks like “Hollowed Out” favor groove and grisly, winding, churning riffs over no-holds-barred anger. Each aspect of Perennial functions in cycles; where Russo (aided by Hogan) begins with chilly, frosty cleans, he ends in infernal, aggressive misery. Likewise, ‘Sabella’s instrumentation follows suit, roaming from jagged, sharp song structures that freeze the listener’s ears like shards of ice, “House of Glass” ends with breakdowns that would make hades look like Alaska. The takeaway message is simple: writing Perennial off based on brevity would be the biggest mistake possible. ‘Sabella don’t simply throw three single tracks together: rather they have written comprehensive, flowing songs that function in perfect unison, where no detail is left unattended.

‘Sabella see greatness with their sophomore release and grasp it, prodigally making Perennial an album that will stay in listeners’ iPods, phones and car stereos until the second coming. Catchy breakdowns, cutthroat grooves and heart-rending emotion all packed in an under-10-minute display of masterful instrumentation and second-to-none storytelling, Perennial is a rose with the spirit of a weed—coming back to blossom season after season, decade after decade, no matter the weather.



For Fans Of: Barrier, Kingmaker, The Chariot, Misgiver

By: Connor Welsh