It’s only days to go. Cape Town, do you have your tickets yet? Or are you standing amidst those who feign at the thought of supporting a “non-metal” festival? Synergy Live is upon us, and it sees local 80’s-metal inspired Sabretooth taking up a co-headlining slot alongside international headliners, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Well, we at M4A are delighted to see that Synergy Live, otherwise regarded by many a metalhead as a commercial jock-fest, is opening up to wider diversity with organisers latching onto some harder acts. We feel that this bodes well for the future. So it was for this reason; this and that Sabretooth are poised for the launching of their self-titled debut album, that I ventured out from my lair in the distant mountains to visit Sabretooth and find out a bit about the who, why, what and how. A thought which struck me, as I drove down the dim streets of an industrial warehousing district on the approach to their band room, was that Sabretooth has been relatively quiet within the typical “metal circles” of late. I decided to make this a part of my enquiry. I arrived to the sounds of double-bass drumming, chuggy riffing, and somebody’s guitar wailing out a lead solo – comforting sounds for one such as myself. The guys gave a warm welcome. So as not to disturb them too long from practise, we leapt straight down to business.
Intent on learning where the band had been lurking since I last saw them on the M4A Stage at Ramfest in March this year, I began with “where the hell have you guys been?” It was interesting for me, albeit slightly disturbing, to have learned that the Sabretooth band has found themselves somewhat distanced from the local metal scene of late. It would seem that since the band has taken on their new vocalist – who is not a screamer or growler – that many other bands on the local circuit now prefer to shy away from them as being “not metal enough”. The sentiment seems reinforced throughout heavy metal of today; so much so that it can be seen even in some titles such as one popular global website called: nocleansinging.com – and it appears to be filtering through all sphere’s of metal. I’ve heard of another great local band, Moment Of Clarity (who also have been quiet since Ramfest earlier this year), who have been on the receiving end of similar criticism.
Ryan Swanich, the band’s bassist, told me “although we have a clean-singing vocalist now, and we had a screamer before, the music has always been written with clean vocals in mind”, to which other members in the band all resounded in agreement, “and having Mauri join has opened up doors which allow us to play a lot of the stuff we had always set out to play. This doesn’t mean that we are not still metalheads ourselves, or that we don’t enjoy other metal bands. Our music just reflects another approach”.
Nikolai, who plays keyboards, also pointed out “as soon as there’s clean vocals, a lot of people are, like, ‘but this is not metal’, yet what metalhead out there would deny a band like Iron Maiden?”
One thing is clear, however, and that is to say that Sabretooth are going places with or without the blessings of the greater metal community. It has been proven by their appearance at many gigs and festivals over the last year that people of all musical tastes can enjoy some heavy music if it has a point of accessibility to it. In the case of Sabretooth, that accessibility can be summed up as a combination of sensibly written music with enough musical skill and flash, coupled with vocals where people of all sorts can clearly listen to and identify with the lyrics – a claim which few metal bands can make. But the point of this article is not to debate the credibility of who deserves to be called “metal” versus those who may not. The genre tends to reinvent itself every couple of years or so, and an older generation always grinds its teeth at a younger who muscles in to declare obsoletion. In the case of Sabretooth, this is the opposite since they are a younger generation seeking to propagate something of a revival to a sound which their own peers have written off as ancient history. Well, at least there of those of us who do remember; and to us, Sabretooth are a welcome breath of fresh air to the local metal scene regardless of how they get “branded”.
I wanted to hear about how Sabretooth came to be holding such a prestigious slot at this weekends Synergy live festival. As it turns out, although the festival has generally been focused on soft-core generic rock, jock, and electro-cock acts since their inception, they’ve begun to see value in adding some harder-edge bands. This shift can be largely attributed to Sabretooth themselves! The band has actually performed at the last Synergy Live as an upcoming act on a secondary stage, but they did so well in bringing the audience to life that organisers could not ignore them. Dean, who is wingman to co-founding member and guitarist Charles, explained: “playing Synergy was cool for us because it was a first time getting into a gig that was not specifically metal, and it proved viable. People got into [the music] immediately and the area livened up more than during any band which had played that stage prior to us”.
Apart from the 20:00 slot on Friday night at the Synergy Live Main Stage, Sabretooth have made some headway in other areas as well. I could not help but to notice the Monster Energy Drink cans cluttering up the place, and one of the members donning a peak cap bearing the three-clawed logo. Apart from being “fuelled” by the energy drink brand, the newly struck endorsement has also landed Sabretooth on the line-ups for a number of other interesting shows of late (which accounts for our not observing the band in the usual metal circuit for the latter half of 2011). With all the pieces falling into place, timing could not possibly be better for the band to release their debut album – and Hey, Presto! Here it comes. The band has been working slowly, progressively and with determination over the period of a year. But the hard work and perseverance is about to manifest itself in the release of their self-titled album in early 2012 for all of the world to behold. Keep an eye on M4A for the review when it is released!
Listen to Sabretooth’s brand new track off the upcoming album, “Holding On” below: