Broadening The Horizons of Downtempo: A Review of ‘Sabella’s Dog Daze: Submission by Jason Cox
A quick glance at the state of heavy music would quickly make one aware of how overpopulated the scene is with bands that more or less sound similar. Nowhere is this more apparent than downtempo, a subgenre which takes the deathcore formula and infuses it with elements of doom metal, where the beats per minute hover as close as possible to zero without surpassing the threshold of human perception. While the low and slow method is used by downtempo groups to concoct some of the darkest music available, the well of originality runs very shallow through the scene as a whole with the exception of a few of the style’s forerunners. It is for this reason that ‘Sabella is so important.
‘Sabella is a downtempo band hailing from Elmira, New York. Their first full length album, Dog Daze, was released in July of 2017, and though it is very popular with those in the loop, the record is in fact a vital gem waiting to be unearthed by the entirety of the heavy music community. The record is preceded by a two-song EP released in early 2017 titled Closed/Doors, a release in which the band appears to have begun bringing their unconventional blend of traditional hardcore vocals and lounge-like singing featured on the new record to a place of prominence. The album begins with a riveting introductory track called “Apriled,” which recounts a personal tale of infidelity and love lost. The song is absolutely beautiful and, without context, those unfamiliar would take ‘Sabella for an indie rock outfit, making the next track, “Long Stays,” much more powerful as listeners are forcibly boarded onto a fast, steel-plated Uber straight to Moshville. Passengers reach their destination at “W. Clinton,” a tough track written with a hardcore approach, where the vehicle passes through a fireworks factory before stalling. That’s when the bass line from “Thunder Bay” begins pulling listeners into a gloomy sing-along that melts into the slowest, dirtiest-sounding breakdown imaginable. The entire record does an excellent job of seamlessly blending tracks together into what feels like a single sonic story book as opposed to a track-by-track offering common among similar bands.
The best part of this album is the unexpected genre-swapping that occurs between songs like “Up Like This,” “River,” and “Free Fallin.” The album as a whole has a generally forlorn vibe, which mimics the internal struggle someone might have when dealing with feelings of a past lover, and these sandwiches of songs accurately reflect that mood. Aside from the incorporation of more accessible cross-genre songwriting, what sets ‘Sabella apart from their contemporaries is their focus on hardcore elements in their song construction. Triumphant blocks of power chords, which move in ways that resemble the works of the hardcore’s greatest players, appear in the album but they are far lower and more crushing than ever before. This seems like a method that would be overused by countless bands by now, but given the focus on metallic elements in downtempo music, the execution comes across as fresh and invigorating when listening to Dog Daze. Being able to pull from multiple demographics of show-goers, ‘Sabella has a bright future ahead of them.