Much has been said of The Great Sabatini’s work ethic. In an interview in 2012, guitarist Sean Arsenian said that the band never stops. “We never really stop working; we're either touring, writing or recording”, he says. It’s evident when you browse their discography that this is one of the hardest working bands in the business. With the exception of 2010, they have released new material every year since 2007. In 2012, they put out an EP and an LP. That’s an average of one recording per year for the last seven years. They did all of this while holding down day jobs and managing relationships and families. The Great Sabatini is back again this year with their third full-length album, Dog Years.
The Great Sabatini pushes the boundaries of their take on progressive sludge. The band half-jokingly calls what they play ‘swamp trench arithmetic’, but the description fits. Dog Years falls somewhere on the scale between Mastodon and The Mars Volta. Earlier recordings had elements of grind and doom, heavier moments that pummeled your ears. Dog Years brings a more mature sound; less destruction and more intricate. Make no mistake, the record is still sludgy and evil as hell, but it’s also more refined. The band tries to push the boundaries of their sound with every release, too. The album is full of odd time signatures and shifting dynamics. They make it a point to play out of tempo rather than boring themselves, and us, with the same time and meter.
The production on Dog Years is a finely crafted blend of muck. The guitars and bass are hefty, beefy endeavors. The vocals are a gnarly, snarly shout through most of the record. The drums fit right in. For all of that, each instrument is distinguishable and each is fun to listen to in its own right. Each track on the album is a fun beating, like the thrill of a fist fight. You may lose some teeth along the way, but you never stop smiling.
‘Periwinkle War Hammer’ is a monster of riffs and start/stop, beating drums. ‘Guest of Honour’ is a more straightforward minute and seven seconds of grindcore viciousness. My favorite track is ‘Pitchfork Pete’. It feels like a slow walk through a tar pit, with a chorus of chanting voices that give you the creeps. The last track, ‘Life During Wartime’ is one of the best examples of the band’s foul, unnatural zaniness. Punctuated by a slightly out of tune piano, it’s haunting and heavy and a fitting end to a phenomenal listen.