Sabbath Assembly – Rites Of Passage

Having slowly transformed themselves from ’60s/’70s psychedelia into a full-blown Occult Rock/Doom Metal act, as well as having undergone several changes in personnel in their eight-year existence, it makes perfect sense that Sabbath Assembly see new album Rites of Passage (Svart Records) as a reflection on the transitional stages of life.

Although the band have sat comfortably alongside many other Doom/Metal/Occult Rock bands since their inception, it’s really only since their eponymously titled 2015 album (Svart) that those influences have become charged with a distinctly heavier sound, this latest release seeing the band fully capturing the direction they indicated with that record.

Their psychedelic, folky “Flower Power” leanings are still firmly in evidence, but by adding a more progressive, and metal approach, guitarists Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts) and Ron Varod (Kayo Dot), bassist Johnny DeBlase, and drummer David Christian are creating a much darker and more threatening sound these days.

Since replacing original vocalist Jex Thoth, singer Jamie Myers has been improving and changing herself, her own transformation never more evident than here. Her voice is still as soft and bewitching as ever, but she can also deliver a nasty, rasping bite which can appear and disappear almost without warning.

Right from strangely off-kilter opener ‘Shadows Revenge’ the progressive leanings are evident,  Myers’s voice gently coiling around each riff, ready to strike at any moment. ‘Angels Trumpets’ is eight minutes of wailing, progressive doom, guitars twisting and writhing, cavorting with each other as complex drum patterns shift and pulse behind them. All the while, Myers using her voice perfectly to suit each mood the song twists and morphs into.

‘I Must Be Gone’ builds from dark, ghostly verses into one of the strongest songs the band has written to date, ‘Does Love Die’ is gentle but atmospheric, and ‘Twilight of God’ ends in a very different place to where it began. Saving the heaviest until last, ‘Seven Sermons to the Dead’ and ‘The Bride of Darkness’ round off the album with savage but progressive doom-laden darkness.

8.0/10

GARY ALCOCK