One of the stranger aspects of Metal is its ‘thing’ for women being burnt at the stake. Doom Metal, in particular, positively thrives on it, as bands like Witchfinder General and, err, Burning Witch makes only too clear. So it shouldn’t really a surprise that there is not only a (Sardinian) Doom Metal band called 1782 (named after the last year a “witch” was burnt in Europe), but that its self-titled debut (Electric Valley Records) is a full-on concept album of hag-burning excess.Continue reading
Back in the early 90s, doom and stoner were pretty much the uncoolest of genres to be associated with. Playing fast and brutal was the order of the game and those who still clung to the belief that Black Sabbath were the coolest cats to ever strut their stuff were roundly ignored in favour of blastbeats and death grunts.
Now of course the tables have turned and everywhere you care to look you’ll see groups of scruffy young urchins in flares and suspiciously new looking Witchfinder General shirts being hyped to oblivion by record labels eager to show just how hip their latest purveyors of fuzz really are. If they sing about Satan; even better!
Now, without wishing to sound completely cynical, many of these bands are talented, hardworking and deserve to do well. After all, Sabbath really is the greatest and there’s no disputing it. Unfortunately however, there are numerous bands riding the coattails of this retro-rock/doom/stoner trend and Houston, Texas’s Funeral Horse are one of the worst examples.
Debut full length Divinity for the Wicked (Artificial Head) has a stripped down, no-frills sound that reduces the songs to the bare bones of hard rock and stoner. Sadly, the songwriting is generic in the extreme with riffs being repeated over and over with little thought for progression. When the members eventually do decide to switch tempos or riffs, the transitions sound clunky and amateurish. Add in some inexcusable long pauses during and between songs, a production thinner than Kate Moss and terrible, out-of-tune vocals and you’re left with a record that isn’t fit to serve as Wino’s drinks coaster.
Hopefully the band will note their failings on this record and return to some of the Sub Pop influences they displayed on earlier EP’s, as there’s really no place in such an overcrowded genre for something this weak.
Breaking from the embracing arms of The Process Church of The Final Judgement sees Sabbath Assemblyreborn, 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.
The Final Spire marks the swansong of doom metal institute Cathedral. Ghost Cult looks back with guitarist Garry Jennings on the remarkable career of his band, recording an album whilst knowing it would the last one and the Cathedral musical legacy. Continue reading