Saboter - Architects of Evil - (8.5/10)
Published on November 2, 2018
It’s hard to go wrong with classic heavy metal but it is very easy to also go “meh”. The so-called New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal (NWOTHM) did make it clear that an old sound could still be fresh and adventurous but reverence of the classics sadly does not immunize one against Sturgeon General’s rule. Saboter were an example of this, getting off to a solid if unremarkable start of workmanlike heavy metal that did little to distinguish itself from the crowd compositionally or aesthetically. They seemed like they would be another forgettable band that at best would be a serviceable opening act but little else. Warp forward two years and a line-up change later and these spikes-and-leather-destined Greek warriors make it clear they strike deadlier the second time around. Featuring the explosive skin-smashing talents of extreme metal veteran John “Maelstrom” Votsis (Dephosphorus, Embrace of Thorns, Ectoplasma, Thou Art Lord, etc.) and the tenacious attack of axe-maniac Apostolos Papadimitrou from hate-spewing death-thrashers Rapture, Saboter have made considerable improvement since Mankind is Damned, finding a distinct voice of their own and generally just kicking a lot of ass.
Having improved their musicianship considerably, Saboter’s sound has gone from a semi power metal leaning straightforward Judas Priest esque sound to a technically refined and dynamic King Diamond esque sound with a slight progressive tinge. While they aren’t as technically oriented as say, Sacral Rage (whose recently released sophomore is a total banger), the newfound tightness allows them to write longer, more complex songs with better variety in riffing and pacing. Maelstrom’s drumming will no doubt draw the most attention initially with his signature full-throttle rolls that frequently steal the show but that’s not all they have to offer. Guitarists Apostolos and Chris both possess a newfound versatility and tenacity. The Judas Priest influence a la Painkiller is here in how they take classic metal archetypes and inject it with a steroid dose of aggression and punchiness. It has been augmented with a wider variety of styles and phrasings, utilizing dense riffing and shining melodies in a variety of forms whether it’s triumphant lockstep marching to vicious high-speed barrages. From simpler and sturdy rhythms they work in a good deal of melody not just in their guitar solos but directly into the riffing, possessing an eye for implementing leads not just as riffs themselves but at strategic junctions with which to best build tension and enhance the raw power present. Even better, they counterpoint Antonis Vailas’ powerful bellow, now taking on a quasi Mercyful Fate esque character in not just his powerful yet wandering bellow but the wider variety of range and modulation present. He’s rougher than the legendary Danes and even employs nasty snarls on occasion. For the most part, he takes a more maniacal or wildly desperate approach that comprises a large part of their more theatrical side.
Some of you might be familiar with the rapid fire air-raid “The Temple of Rlyeh” and the demo version of the topsy-turvy rollercoaster “Sword of the Guardian”, both on youtube, but this is just a small slice of the wild adventures awaiting you. “Rose Red” sounds simple enough with its cadenced gallop with a few short rhythmic discursions and it would seem to repeat this for the chorus. However the riff gets morphed by craggy cymbal-accented pounding palm mutes, interspersed with more active staccato wrist work that turns a seemingly plain riff into a monstrous one. “Golden Owl” on the other end lunges straight for the throat with the band at their most furious with the singing taking a multifaceted set of personalities, each a character in a twisted play of turbocharged lead-riffs and absurdly jam-packed technical breaks. The album’s two major epics, “To Glory We March” and “Order of Charity”, demonstrate more of their growth. The former is the kind of invigorating battle hymn you’d normally associate with the Manowar-worshipping crowd yet under Saboter’s command they deliver a type of brooding melancholy and stalwart resolution, really letting Antonis’ voice shine for some of his finest moments in its first chorus. Of course, that won’t prepare you for the cartwheeling fretboard dance when it kicks up the tempo, ending it in a tornado of violence. The other however goes for a more ominous route and at 9:48, it’s their most complex track to date. A slowly climbing sense of tension pervades it, assuaged with a mournful lead pattern, before a chilling instrumental segment appears. Soon we’re abandoned in an ominous clean segment, Antonis narrating the tale of horror therein over a digitized synth-organ before a simpler slightly arabesque set of solos brings us to a wild snare syncopated pedal riff over which dances increasingly violent and daring tenor singing. It’s an incredible way to cap off the album and I hope a sign of things to come in the future.
The album’s shortcomings are mostly in some of the riffing occasionally falling back on stock galloping archetypes, settling into the classic metal equivalent of the dreaded thrash chug. Granted it’s nowhere near as irritating as that genre thanks to the superior melodic sensibility but after hearing their more acrobatic and colourful moments, I would definitely love to hear them focus on more moments like the previously described closer, “Sword of the Guardian”, and “Golden Owl” which are by and far the most fleshed out and utterly furious works of theirs. When then the pedal crashes into the metal and the band unleashes a barrage, it’s utterly unstoppable though I would not be against them further diversifying the types of riffing they’re capable of at slower tempos. I would also love to see them further explore the kind of horror-themed storytelling they’ve themed much of this album out of with Antonis’ voice being perfect for these excursions into the shocking and the forbidden. Where they stand now is regardless as one of the best not only in Greece’s burgeoning classic metal community but against all participants world wide. Hail and fucking kill.