Never walk into something religious unprepared. Not only is it so that you don’t offend someone, but you also might offend your own senses. I mean, there are animals you shouldn’t eat, gestures you shouldn’t make, so there ought to be music you should not just listen to. That’s not saying that Sabbath Assembly’s Self-Titled album is forbidden ground.
I do recommend reading the interview Daniel Arom conducted with the band, which illuminates the project Sabbath Assembly and might help understand the music better. Sabbath Assembly is a project inspired and based upon the The Process Church Of The Final Judgement. This was a religious movement in the seventies, with a rather different take on Christian principles (though that is not even entirely correct). The church developed later into what is now known as Best Friends Animal Society, which is in fact a cool bunch of people by what I’ve read.
Anyways, this does mean that the whole album has a thoroughly spiritual feel and atmosphere to it. Previous records differed from this, in the much more chanting and ritualistic feel, that gave a much more ceremonial feel to the music. Thanks to the vocals of Jamie Myers, that element is still present, reminiscent of early doom/folk albums from a bygone age, and although this record is more a rock album, the music feels peculiar, occult and now and then a bit stiff.
Think Death In June meets The Devil’s Blood and you get the jist. A song like Confessing A Murder has a thunderous, full rhythm which is never too grand to overwhelm the vocals. This is typical throughout the record, the pace is never high but the passages are dense and layered, giving a nostalgic feel to the music combined with tempered guitar riffs. The whole mix sounds very measured, making the band sound different from generic metal bands.
There’s a playful and poetic quality to the lyrics, which form the central part in all the songs. It’s like the band pays homage to a high priestess, who speaks the words of worship. The Firey Angel of Desire is one of those songs, where the words really click. The subtlety of the music and vocals in a soaring, feeling is broken for a moment for the track Ave Satanas, where a powerful invocation takes place with some bombastic moments.
Some special praise is reserved for the beautiful final track in the album, Shadows Of Emptiness, with minimal distraction from the voice of Jamie Myers. There’s only the violin of Eva Vonne and some gentle guitar plucking. It carries the intensity of the previous tracks onwards, but brings the almost zealous nature slowly down to an easy outro and it’ll leave you wondering about the intense experience you’ve just gone through.
The Self-Titled album is one of their finest and most accessible releases, especially if the general term ‘occult rock’ is something that somehow describes your tastes. The sound is something that clings to you and envelops you, but in a very distinct way. Finding a place between doom, psych, folk and heavy rock, this is one for the lists.
Scribed by: Guido Segers