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. Continue reading
Breaking from the embracing arms of The Process Church of The Final Judgement sees Sabbath Assembly reborn, emerging from their cocoon blinking into the light with fresh purpose and a redefining self-titled release. Although officially the bands fifth release Sabbath Assembly (Svart) really does sound like a new beginning for an act reinvigorated by pursuing a modified philosophy. Whether the freedom comes from stepping away from the scriptures of others, or through the musical progressions and developments they’ve chosen to make, nonetheless the evolution is welcome.
No longer tethering themselves to releasing the hymns of The Process Church, Sabbath Assembly sees nine wholly original compositions that, while occult in reference and dark in musical style, transposes their previous work into a new entity. Musically, while influences and styles are clearly rooted in yesteryear, the move to increase the presence of distorted guitars and the proliferation of NWOBHM breaks and passages amongst the Trouble-ed moments is a celebrated addition to their genealogy, meaning the band no longer sit under the “Occult Rock” umbrella, but embrace now their own, more distinctive, sound.
Jamie Myers adds a stronger, more dominant tone of Hammer Horror idiosyncrasy to her previous geniality, as quasi-ritualistic poetic intonations add to an overwhelming atmosphere of 1700’s witchcraft made flesh. Her new approach dovetails with the inherent upbeat catchiness of tracks ‘Confessing A Murder’, ‘Ave Sathanas’ and ‘Burn Me, I Thirst For Fire’, while Kevin Hufnagel’s 80’s influenced guitar work segues from Candlemass dripped doom-shaking to Satan (the band) esque gallops. ‘Only You’ teases a Mercyful Fate bolt, settles into a darkened brood, before racing to the end in a bounce of classic heavy metal riffery. Traditional metal solos enhance and embellish the album throughout, as do the melodic Witchfinder General touches and leads.
Taking an atmospheric turn for the latter third of the album means, dynamically, Sabbath Assembly feels a little strange; not quite tailing off, but as if emerging out the end of a night-time ritual into the stillness of the darkness before dawn as ‘Sharp Edge Of The Earth’ and the beautiful, folky ‘Shadows of Emptiness’ are reflective and breathy.
Of course this isn’t a “new band”, but neither is this a representation of previous ideology, either musically or philosophically. Whatever the impetus for the change in Sabbath Assembly, the culmination of the transformation is overwhelmingly positive in terms of their artistic growth.
Fascinated with the teachings and the hymns of Process Church of the Final Judgment, David Nuss founded Sabbath Assembly as a tribute to this underground, avant-garde, practically unknown sacred music. Since the Church worshiped both Christ and Lucifer equally, they were outcasted from society, even by other fringe religious movements, such as Scientology which they shared some history with. Because they were disbanded by the late 70s, the hymns were thought to be lost to antiquity until Nuss discovered them and interpreted them for his records. Ghost Cult scribe James Conway connected with Nuss for an interview and received an account of this history, a glimpse into their genius vision, and examined Sabbath Assembly’s new opus Quaternity (Svart) as well.
When did you first become aware of the Process Church of the Final Judgment?
In 2009 I met original Processian Timothy Wyllie who showed me an advance copy of his book Love Sex Fear Death about his time in the Process.
How did the music of the church first affect you when you first heard it?
There was no music to hear, only sheet music from the hymns. The hymns had never been recorded because they were thought of as liturgical, rather than commercial. So our idea is that these two could meet – not commercial in the sense that we’re raking in the dollars, but in that the songs could be presented in the public marketplace rather than exclusively.
Do you have any input from current members of the Church on the recording and writing process?
There are no ‘current members’ because the Church fell apart in the mid 70s, and most people who were members then are not very public about it now because of the negative press the Church received. Timothy Wyllie, who was in the Church from its inception til it morphed to be an entity called “The Foundation Faith,” was a kind of ‘spiritual advisor’ on our first album, Restored to One, as was Genesis P. Orridge on our second, Ye Are Gods. Then we started getting some critiques from a guy called Anthony D’Andrea who says he was in a Boston Chapter of the Church in the 70s. He said we weren’t playing the hymns ‘as they were’ back in the day’ – which I’m sure is true. We’re doing our interpretation! So he played a couple over the phone for us, and those became ‘Lucifer’ and ‘The Four Horsemen’ on our new album Quaternity.
Can you explain a little about the fourth element; the nature of evil and how it relates to the Christian Holy Trinity?
I don’t think it does relate to the Trinity exactly. The founding Church fathers (they were all men) deliberately left aspects out of the formation of the original Christian doctrines and creeds. These guys were not psychologists creating a balanced and healthy way for people to live; rather they were creating an autocratic government that needed a ‘spiritual’ component for validation of authority. Christianity was more multi-faceted before these guys starting decided who was a heretic and who wasn’t, creating a faux “Orthodoxy.” The idea of four elements is much more pagan, that is close to how nature actually works – solar/lunar, masculine/feminine, four directions, four elements (air water fire earth). The 4 is more about balance and natural reality, rather than political manipulation.
How did the recording of Quaternity come about and how does it relate to your previous two releases?
This is the second recording with Jamie Myers. How has she fit into the band and how does her approach differ from previous vocalist Jex Thoth? (If at all)
This recording was specifically crafted for Jamie’s voice. She came in a bit late in the game on the Ye Are Gods recordings cuz the songs were already done, so she had to fit what was there. This time we built our sound around her; we are so grateful to have her in the band. We took months making demos and sending them back and forth to her (between New York City and Texas where she lives), not rushing anything, so we could craft each track carefully, giving them each a unique voice.
Restored to One, the album with Jex, was much more experimental in that she and I had been working with a huge variety of musicians in developing the songs, and the recording of the album was almost improvised with a couple of last minute hired-gun jazz musicians. And Jex was eager to get back to her own project. Now, Jamie and I are in this for the long haul, so we’re really working on a true band dynamic.
There are many guest performances on Quaternity. Can you describe how some of these came about?
Daron Beck has been Jamie’s friend and neighbor since they were kids, and we have both been long time admirers of his voice and his band Pinkish Black. Mat and Marja from Hexvessel are total cohorts in the world of ‘holy rock n roll” so including them was an obvious choice, which led to our subsequent tour.
You have performed on stage with several metal bands despite your music having no obvious metallic sounds. What kind of reaction have you had from metal audiences?
Metalheads love Satan, so anytime we sing about Satan they are happy. And Jamie hates singing about Jesus so we don’t really do that much anymore, ha. Even though our music doesn’t sound metal exactly, she and our guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia) and I were all born and raised on distorted power chords and double bass, so we’d like to think the spirit of metal is in there. If you check out what’s “metal” going back the last nearly 40 years there’s a pretty big variety so we are thrilled to be part of it’s ongoing development.
Is there a limited number of hymns for you to adapt on further recordings or will you be able to continue Sabbath Assembly with music inspired by the Church or similar?
The next album is going to be all original tunes, inspired by our time working with the Church, but completely separate from it.
Do you have a dream artist or band to collaborate with, that you have yet to?
Honestly we’re done collaborating. Our unit is so tight right now that we don’t need any extra assistance.
What touring plans, if any do you have on tap for 2014?
We are touring Northern Europe in May, beginning at the Heavy Days of Doom Town fest in Copenhagen on May 4th. See you there!
Why should readers of Ghost Cult check out Sabbath Assembly?
Our goal is to create beautiful and uplifting music that supports all your angels and demons. The intention is to be affirming of wherever you’re at.
Dedicated to bringing to life the music of The Process Church of the Final Judgement, an obscure 70s religious movement that preached the necessity of worshipping evil as well as good to obtain spiritual balance, Sabbath Assembly is the vision of drummer Dave “Xtian” Nuss and vocalist Jamie Myers. Performing original Process Church hymns as well as their own interpretations, the duo have faced accusations of being a novelty act that is the only logical conclusion of the current occult rock trend but they don’t appear to care one jot, as third release Quaternity (Svart Records) proudly declares.
The first thing that becomes apparent is that Myers has one of the most captivating and ethereal voices this side of Diamanda Galas as her otherworldly and sensual tones bathe you in golden light on opening track ‘Let Us Who Mystically Represent…’ which sets the scene nicely, aided by some haunting organ notes. The eerie acoustic folk of ‘Jehovah on Death’ features some captivating dual male/female vocals along with refined and dreamlike cello and strings and if you close your eyes, you’re right there in the congregation feeling the love of the Church wash over you in all its transcendental glory. Well not quite, but it’s a strong effort.
‘The Burning Cross of Christ’ is easily the finest song on Quaternity, a powerful and evocative folk number that allows Myers to sing passionately and without restriction. However it’s quite a light number and it’s not until the treble-heavy tones of ‘I, Satan’ that the darker side of Sabbath Assembly is revealed and the teachings of the band take on a more tangible meaning. Unfortunately the goodwill generated is then tarnished by the eighteen minute long pretension fest that is ‘The Four Horseman’ which simply feels like a long and tedious afternoon in church rather than anything spiritually uplifting.
Not metal in the slightest, but truly a genuine piece of outsider music, Quaternity is an intriguing example of something that shouldn’t work at all, but somehow does. Whether they have God or the Devil to thank for that remains unexplained.