Tumbleweeds roll across the open Australian outback. The camera rolls across the plains, showing endless desert until it meets with the glistening asphalt of a long-lost highway. A lone rider can be seen in the distance, seemingly riding his iron steed across the thermal waves of heat lines radiating from the blacktop. A voice whispers out, “Open the gates,” and, with that, the introduction sets the scene for Sydney heavy metal act Sabïre’s debut extended play, Gates Ajar.
The first proper track, “One For The Road,” kicks off the EP with an energy that will be maintained across the release, bringing us back to the open road, the last beer ‘n’ a shot struggling to repress the hazy memories of the night before. While the riffs are unmistakably Heavy Metal, they retain the rock-and-roll quality of metal in its infancy, still feeling the birthing pains as it pulls further away from the blues roots. The production feels like the warmth emitting from the pavement, with the aforementioned drums coming through clear and cohesive as the tinny guitar tone bleeds its sass across the eardrums. Reverb is used liberally throughout, making for the wide-open sound so critical to the execution. The bass is subtle and retains the “felt-not-heard” aspect – content to stay in the background as it casts subtle magic, laying hooks that will make themselves more and more known on future listens.
The best part about “Rise To The Top” is that so much can be accomplished in its three minutes and fifty-five seconds – doing the dishes, working out, pounding a case of beer in one sitting, folding laundry, walking the dog, and, of course, railing an eight ball of cocaine off of the thighs of a burlesque queen down at Leather & Lace at three-thirty in the morning – because everything becomes a montage while it’s running. The driving mid-tempo was made for anthems, and the phased guitar tone builds upon the foundation as the vocals send it on home. Scarlett’s ear for vocal harmony is in full play here, as the oh’s and woah’s that weave in and out beneath the main vocal lines provide subtle touches that breathe full life into the track.
Speaking of Leather & Lace, the two middle tracks call homage to heavy metal’s longtime fascination with BDSM. “Black Widow” hits the sweet spot of feeling free ‘n’ sleazy while being handled with a wink – it should be noted here that Sabïre never lose their fun and carefree spirit throughout the EP’s duration. This isn’t to say the song lacks sincerity, it could easily be read as a letter of bittersweet affection towards the erotic adrenaline rush at the cruel mercy of a stone-cold seductress, yet the pinch harmonic that censors out the end of the line mid-song can’t help but cause a chuckle of appreciation for its attempt at tongue-in-(um, “cheek,” yeah, we’ll go with that) censorship. And if that wasn’t enough, take a wild guess as to what “Slave To The Whip” is about.
Finally out of the dark underbelly of the red light district, “Daemons Calling” brings us back to the Big Twin engine-revving motorcycle fury, shifting riffs from the slower intro to the speedy meat of the song like gears as it hits the open, deserted highways of the Australian desert, leaving everything else that may be occupying the mind in the dusty trail behind it. The solo screams off the trail of the falsetto wails, flinging burning rubber across the asphalt as hellfire spews from the chrome. Max velocity is reached when all instruments save for the slow melody of guitar drop before building back at a slower pace, reflecting the serenity in high-speed flirtation with death before reality kicks back in with the main riff and chugging palm mutes of the engine.
Sabïre’s debut closes out with “Make Me Shiver,” and the choice for a closer couldn’t be a better one. Shed are all the sleazy references, yet somehow cranks the fun up even more with it’s honest description of the endorphin-fueled euphoria of falling in love (or lust?) with an infectious chorus that grabs the brain like hormones on a week-long bender. It’s so pure and intoxicating, defining what Sabïre really are at their core: good, fun, rock-and-roll heavy metal that touches on both the classic NWOBHM sounds of Tank and the distinctly American stylings of bands such as Ratt, while keeping the seams that stitch the two hidden behind it’s own distinctive sound. Gates Ajar is currently available for download on Bandcamp, cassettes available for preorder from Ropes & Bones, CD and vinyl announcements are expected this year as well, so keep an eye out for this one!
*If you aren’t watching Canadian heavy metal this year, you should probably get on that. – ♥R