Szabotage Drops EP

The half-dozen songs on Vancouver-based quartet Szabotage’s EP Six-Pack do an impressive job of summing up where this unit is right now. Their destiny might have played out a little different so far if it wasn’t for the pandemic, God knows that’s true for many people, but I believe the band is probably quite pleased by how things have turned out. Six-Pack is an outstanding EP.

A lot of music listeners believe rock, as a genre, is old hat across the board. This review won’t attempt to deconstruct tired cliches about rock’s decline, but no one can listen to the EP’s first song “Mistakes Were Made” and hear an example of a dying art form. Szabotage is ready to take on the world. Victor Szabo’s guitar ravages everything in its path and there’s a general everything including the kitchen sink aspect defining the song that kicks off the EP on a wild note. The song’s final 30 seconds or so veers in an unexpected direction and may divide listeners.

“Channeling” is more inflamed metal with a wide-open throttle. It’s exciting to hear how the band’s songwriting manages to work in many variations, however, without ever reducing the song to a frantic hodgepodge of ideas. Everything makes sense. The Canadian four-piece draws from a deep well of influences for their music and never sounds like imitators doing so. Phillips’ vocals for this track, careening all over the map while remaining on point throughout, show off one of the biggest reasons why.

“Are We Machines?” is the latest restatement of a theme in rock that’s almost as old as boy meets girl. Szabotage, however, puts this song of self in their own musical and lyrical language that utilizes that frame of reference without ever being a slave to it. Phillips, once again, is an important reason why these songs possess their own peculiar character. They are familiar, yet signature.

“Joyride” has the same effect without ever repeating itself. Szabo doesn’t immediately emerge as a stylist of note on his instrument but, over time, you may find it dawning on you that he has an idiosyncratic take on typically predictable songs and structures. It doesn’t wander too far outside the listener’s comfort zone, however, and that fresh touch of inspiration is enough to excite even the most jaded listeners. “Fremont” ends Six-Pack consolidating the achievements of this EP and casting its musical eye towards the future. It gives Szabo’s bandmates, particularly the rhythm section of bassist Mike Dykeman and drummer Grant Moynes, the biggest stage yet for them to explore their talents on this release.

Many will finish this EP eager to hear more and I can’t blame them. Szabotage sounds like a band intent on restoring the rock’s genre primacy as a creative force in modern music and they certainly play with single-minded missionary zeal. The talent’s here as well and I expect it will continue growing by leaps and bounds with each new song and performance. We’re in for one hell of a ride.

Michael Rand

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