SThe-Great-Sabatini-Dog-Years-Artworkpend any time listening to The Great Sabatini and you’ll realise that this Montreal-based quartet aren’t a one-trick pony. Their fans must all come hard-wired to embrace change since, like a kid on jungle juice, their music never settles. One minute they’ll be locked into spewing forth melancholic post-hardcore to an elephantine drumbeat, the next they will be weaving sludgy riffs around hammering, avant-garde thrash.

The fact that Dog Years represents yet another tweak to their musical direction should therefore come as no surprise. In their own words… “This one is a rare instance in which we quit screaming like we had our balls in a vice long enough to try singing like we had our balls in a vice. Not really willing to go all the way clean with it, but it was a slightly different approach.”

The album (that’d be the one sporting the satanic Muppet on the front) opens at breakneck pace with a volley of disembodied, cathartic howls piling into a series of chugging, jagged rhythms. All first four tracks attack with a conviction and power that will both alarm and disarm. In those 9 short minutes, these Sabatini boys manage to find room for both doom-ridden swagger and speed-hungry insanity. Then, with a cursory flick of the wrist they sweep all that aside, eliminate the throat-scouring vocals and throw in the melodious and mind-bending Torche-esque stoned groove of “Reach” and an acoustic, steel-stringed slice of evocative Americana with “Akela”.

By keeping the production raw, they retain a sense of the chaotic, hastily-assembled magic that only a band on the edge can produce. The little hits of feedback and splattering dissonance seal the deal. King of the lot for atmosphere is the crushing menace of “Pitchfork Pete”. Perhaps it’s the gaggle of ritual chanting that does it but somewhere in here they manage to reproduce the kind of manic fervour that only a lynchmob could possess.

Yes, it’s scattergun and, yes, it may not be the easiest thing to sink your teeth into but The Great Sabatini simply aren’t afraid to venture down paths less-travelled and, by god, that’s a rare and heroic thing for a band to do.

(7/10 John Skibeat)