Monday, July 9, 2012

Sabhankra - Swords Of The Night (EP) (2012)

Evolving from a one man side project into a full band, Istanbul, Turkey's Sabhankra aren't short on epic song structures, and flowing symphonic elements. This five piece have built their following thanks to a foundation of melodic death, folk, and power metal. And while finding the proper proportions has proven to be a difficult task, it has also been a fruitful one, garnering praise from around the world. But with a new EP released to the masses, it is time for this Turkish powerhouse to move to the next level, and secure a label home for their art. The four songs on "Swords Of The Night" may have the right idea, but a less than stellar finished product may lessen the impact.

The cinematic feel to the opening of the title track is vast in scope, and gives you a wide open view of what is to come. As the full band enters, you are greeted with blistering double kicks and raging guitar riffs. The production values, though, don't necessarily match the intensity of the music, leaving the drum levels to drown out the other elements. The aforementioned folk influences are clear in the guitar work, with whirling, twirling notes blasting through. As you crash head on into the verse, your first taste of the vocal lines awaits. Screeching ahead, singer Savas Sungur gives your ears all they can handle with his abrasive tones. Around the midway point, you come to a section that feels disjointed, at best, with each member seemingly playing their own way. Taken separately, all of the pieces make sense. But together, it does so much to hurt the momentum, that even a promising breakdown section can't regain all that was lost. The overwhelming volume differences leave the subtleties of the guitars and keys wasted far too often behind the massive drum sound.

It would seem that some of those production woes are fixed in the early stages of "It's All A Lie," a far more thrash oriented song. The guitar work cuts through clearly, a sure fire way to get the long haired listeners swinging. This a victory, through and through, with the band locking together in a powerful gallop, one that pounds at you from all angles.The breakdowns sets the table for a simple, but effective solo, one that may have you finally seeing the talent you are witnessing. That feeling carries right through into "I Leave My All," which sees the return of that strong keyboard element. It sets not only the tone for the track, but adds so much to the overall mood. But the recording and mixing come into play again, with the vocals feeling flat, and the overall track lacking the punch that a solid mix would give. It takes away from the music at hand, a damn shame, given the emotional weight on display. It all comes full circle on "The Moonlight," a beautiful piece from start to finish. Maybe it is the absence of vocals that rings so triumphantly here, or maybe the synthesizers just hit their stride. But this sees the band at their best, heavy yet delicately constructed. The melody is deeper than before, with a richness that makes you crave more.

It is so hard to separate the idea from the finished product. Through the course of these four tracks, there is very little doubt that Sabhankra have all of the talent, the creativity, and the desire to craft track after track of metal goodness. But when you hear these songs, the way they are presented here, there may still be lingering doubts. It's hard to blame the band for a poor mix, or an unbalanced one. But when it directly affects the result, it is simply impossible to ignore. Engineering skills not withstanding, "Swords Of The Night" is promising. And if you can look past the somewhat stale exterior, you will be treated to a juicy center that will leave you feeling satisfied.


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