Sabertooth Zombie - Dent Face. [7 inch] (Cover Artwork)

Sabertooth Zombie

Dent Face. [7 inch] (2008)

Twelve Gauge

Who's to say what makes a band special? Now more than ever, there are scores of "competent" bands vying for attention, many paying obvious allegiance to a specific genre and offering nothing new in terms of musical adventurism or, worse yet, displaying a complete lack of heart and conviction. For me, there are many qualities in bands that can catch my ears, but in recent years the biggest draw I have felt has been towards bands that show a total disregard for any type of rules while still managing to get my neurons firing. Sabertooth Zombie fits that definition to a 'T.' Playing a blend of thrashy hardcore and experimentalized stoner riffs, this prolific group has laid down their strangest but probably still most listenable release to date.

At its core, Sabertooth Zombie is a mid-`80s style crossover hardcore band. However, with their aforementioned experimentalist tendencies, there are remnants of Black Sabbath and other older metal and rock bands constantly bubbling through the ever-present layer of overdrive. What really sets this release over the top, though, is the perfectly used free-jazz saxophone on two tracks. Maybe it's a nod to Nation of Ulysses or just a last minute addition, but it totally works. To match the appropriately raw production values, the vocalist has a rough shouting approach that may not appeal to some, but fits the vibe of the band.

On this release, SZ has toned down the political ranting, but the sentiments are surely still there. Take the lyrics to "Campaign" that describes in detail the physical deterioration of society's poor before hysterically and tragically announcing a solution: "I'll send you to war." It's a common subject for punk rock, but sounds fresh and powerful with this new approach. Another lyrical highlight is the last track "That Fleeting Hero," where the vocalist creates something of a punk rock anthem with "My status symbol is a middle finger, resisting existing, bury me in obscurity" before the refrain "Born to lose" over a ripping Motörhead-esque riff.

Sadly, punk rock isn't always as individualistic and risk-taking as it should be, but Sabertooth Zombie is certainly doing their best to fill that void. This is a highly energetic and original release that is worth checking out by anyone into punk and hardcore.