Silver Snakes’ Saboteur announces itself without frills. It’s a plodding, mid tempo march hammered out on snare and kick drum and overdriven guitar chugging through a martial chord progression. The vocals enter and we’re met with slightly nasal hard rock vocals. And eventually some more typically metal/gang vocals enter. Still, opener “Electricity” reminds one most of In Utero-era Nirvana. The record struggles with a similar tug between Sabbath-esque metal, noise, and pop melodicism.
There’s none of Kurt Cobain’s anguish or decadence. There’s none of Sabbath’s cough-syrup slithering doom. There are touches of industrial influence (the distressed synth-sounding bass that opens second track “Glass). It’s at this point that one might begin to pick up on a second and somewhat less auspicious comparison. What initially seems a paean to A Senile Animal styled paean to the Melvins once re-contextualized with a certain pop industrial metal that tried to cash in on Nine Inch Nails in the 90’s leaves you with a comparison to acts like Stabbing Westward (who briefly highlighted 120 Minutes with breakthrough hit “Save Yourself.”)
Ultimately, Saboteur and Silver Snakes is a band which attempts to update certain strains of the 90’s & early oughts (grunge, pop-industrial, nü-metal, emo) for the 21st century. They’re wise enough to focus on capturing the sound of the band (who aren’t un-talented—they’re tight, the vocals are decent) but Silver Snakes are coming back to a well that should’ve been sealed off permanently when Kurt Cobain’s ghost trapped inside. The attempt to recapture that moment and (at it’s most shameless, cash in on it) has birthed many imitators and, unsurprisingly, a fair amount of embarrassment. Saboteur is decent enough to avoid shaming Silver Snakes for their effort, but they still should’ve known better. You can’t replace an icon. You can’t update something that’s timeless. And if you’re going to try, stay in a lane (all of a sudden, in the middle of “Devotion” we’re in a Between the Buried and Me track).
There’s too much going on here to ever lock in to whatever redeeming qualities Saboteur might possess (and one is left with the sense that there is talent here, for sure). And whatever you do lock onto isn’t particularly inspired, in terms of influences or referentiality. In trying to become some of the artists that they probably grew up dreaming of being, Silver Snakes have left us with a band that doesn’t really sound like anything at all, least of all themselves. And given some of the playing and singing on this record, that’s a shame.