Sabbath Assembly have been gifting us with music firmly entrenched in eerie discomfort since 2009. In the early years, their releases centered upon the teachings of the Process Church of the Final Judgement, which made them disturbing to the point of near-inaccessibility. In what was a positive career move, the band decided not to regale us with further hippy cult weirdness on 2015’s self-titled release, instead focusing on pure occult songs, resulting in an excellent album that catapulted the band (in our eyes at least) to the top of the occult rock food chain. Now two years later, Rites of Passage finds the band attempting to maintain their grip on the Dagger ov Occult Awesomeness.

This iteration of Sabbath Assembly is slightly different than 2015’s. We still have Jamie Meyers casting her spell on the mic (as she has done in the past for Hammers of Misfortune and Wolves in the Throne Room), Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Disrhythmia) providing guitar wizardry, and Johnny Deblase back on the bass, but also playing are original Sabbath Assembly drummer Dave Nuss and Ron Varod (Psalm Zero’s bass player) joining in on second guitar. Varod complements Hufnagel nicely throughout as their guitars interweave seamlessly, often counterpointing Jamie’s vocals in haunting fashion. In fact, the entire band is firing on all cylinders here, with amazing chemistry and rock-solid cohesion on every track. Having a crackerjack band lends legitimacy to the material that might otherwise be missing.

Much like Sabbath Assembly was a stylistic departure from the band’s older records, so too Rites of Passage continues the band’s evolution. For one thing, the songs here are longer than on Sabbath Assembly, routinely clocking in from five to eight minutes in length. Other differences are subtle, as on opening track “Shadows Revenge,” which launches with an optimistic Hammers of Misfortune feel to it. The changes here are the dual guitars winding and snaking around Jamie’s vocal lines, the longer, more complex arrangement, and Nuss’s finesse drumming, which is the standout instrumental performance through the entire record – and that’s saying a lot, with Hufnagel on guitar. But listen after listen I found myself drawn to the intricate yet not overwhelming drumming. Overall, “Shadows Revenge” hints at the progression Sabbath Assembly have made.

Sabbath Assembly had a more traditional, uptempo, psych rock feel to it, and a lot more Kevin Hufnagel guitar work. While the opening track and follow-up “Angels Trumpets” carry on in the same vein, the album dips into gloom and doom afterwards, with more focus on atmosphere and the all-round band performance. Jamie opens “I Must Be Gone” with a low, salty vocal line like we might expect from an aging witch, showing us the depth and nuance she’s capable of. She performs all lead and harmony vocals throughout, and her work is even more entrancing than previous albums. “Does Love Die” has her gracing us with airy, haunting harmonies atop foreboding acoustic guitar, while massive closing track “The Bride of Darkness” has the entire band blowing us away for nine roiling, doom-encased, witchy minutes.

It’s hard to find drawbacks on Rites of Passage. While the songs are lengthy, the arrangements hold interest throughout. Lyrics are much less decipherable than on Sabbath Assembly, which is disappointing, because the subject matter is weighty, covering topics such as losing one’s religion, taking care of a loved one suffering mental and physical decline, and other transformative moments (hence the album title). When you’ve got a singer with the talent of Jamie Myers, and your schtick is occult rock, listeners need to hear the lyrics to be truly enthralled.

Overall, Rites of Passage is a more varied, yet at the same time, spellbinding effort than the excellent Sabbath Assembly. What the band set aside in terms of riffs and solos has been made up for in composition, songwriting, and the feeling the band was all in on this effort. Production is equal to the task of these songs, with tons of dynamics, haunting guitar tones and a mix that makes you feel as though you’re in the room with the band. Sabbath Assembly continue to push their music in the right direction, maintaining their claim to the top of the occult rock heap.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: sabbathassembly.bandcamp.com | sabbathassembly.com | facebook.com/SabbathAssembly
Releases Worldwide: May 12th, 2017

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    that embedded track is a solid 4.5 holy balls

    been craving something in the Darkher/Chelsea Wolfe/Trees of Eternity/Nicole Saboune vein lately, super excited to get into this one

    • Sean Sky

      I was just listening to Chelsea Wolfe last night and this morning. Abyss is so good.

      • Hideous destructor

        It is. But it doesn’t sound much like this.

      • Carlos Parlo

        If you like Wolfe I highly recommend Marissa Nadler. Saw her open for Pallbearer earlier this year and have been a big fan ever since.

        • Sean Sky

          I’ll have to check her out. I’m also a fan of Emma Ruth Rundle.

    • GardensTale

      If you’re cool with something that goes more towards dark melancholic singer/songwriter than metal (for some lonely hours in a small room), I recommend Emma Ruth Rundle. She has a lovely voice and managed to silence a room full of metalheads on Roadburn.

  • gr8fl
    • Gage

      My thoughts exactly

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Didn’t actually care for the 2015 release, but will give this a go. However, I do like the “MMMmmm… Fingers! NOM NOM NOM” skull on the cover.

  • Eli Valcik

    Shit, this band has a redhead. I literally have to buy the album.

    • anonbr666

      A devil worshipper redhead? I instantly threm all my credit cards at the PC screen when I saw her pic.

      • Eli Valcik

        The devil worshiping isn’t terribly important. I just see the red hair and go bind.

        • AnnieK13

          That’s funny – I met my first serious boyfriend only because I am a redhead and his goal was to meet every redhead in our school…silly boy.

          That said, the embedded track is OK but not loving it.

          • Eli Valcik

            Hahahaha, that was my goal in school!

    • Wilhelm

      If it weren’t for the full sleeves…

      • Eli Valcik

        Whatever floats your boat, but I’m down with tattoos.

      • herrschobel

        what ? what´s wrong with you ???? a redhead with full sleeves…whats to dislike ?

        • Wilhelm

          I don’t find tattoos on women attractive in the least – I guess a lot of metal guys do, to me it’s like putting ink blots on a Van Gogh, but to each his own.

          • herrschobel

            does liking metal make me a metal guy ? ;-) …. the tattoos need to be good in the first place ..that goes for everyone … and if it comes with the right attitude it´s very beautiful IMO …

          • Eli Valcik

            I hear you, I don’t mind tattoos but I am a artist so I love really cool looking tattoos. They arnt really a turn on or a turn off.

  • Mephisto

    Mesmerizing artwork. Made me check out the back catalogue of Alex reisfar. Beautiful surrealistic compositions with landscapes of…. O wait, wrong meeting..

  • smmarx

    Figured it’s worth noting that Ron Varod also played guitar for a while in Kayo Dot.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Yup, Kayo Dot as well, I elected not to mention that for arbitrary reasons. ie I was over my word limit already.

  • Chris

    Sounds a lot like old Faith and the Muse. I dig it.

    • Wilhelm

      This is not what the rest of the album sounds like, I loved the old FatM stuff too!

  • Styler

    Loved their last album, looking forward to hearing this now!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Surprised that Druhm passed this one up to one of you youngsters, life must be hard at the top!
    Damn these guys move quickly, which gets a tick from me. I love her voice and the authentic dark occult sound they peddle.
    I’m still enjoying the last one and will pick this up with out question!
    Nice write up Mr HnR.

    • I needed time away from the Ready-Bake Coven.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Once in a while the Master Banhammare bequeaths upon the uninitiated an album of unfathomable quality. This time around I happened to be the first to hit Refresh, and snagged it.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Is he not merciful!

  • Ta2dlam

    I’ve been so absorbed with Trees of Eternity when I want desolate, chilling atmosphere but this will certainly be heading into the rotation.

  • Wilhelm

    The embedded track is amazing, sadly the rest of the album is more retro occult rock, I really was not that impressed.

  • Westpaceagle

    Still waiting for distorted guitars…a little more artsy, a little less fartsy. Come on guys

    • Tofu muncher

      word

    • Kronos

      Not brutal enough?

      • Westpaceagle

        Yeah I reckon that sample track can’t really be considered metal at all, or am I missing something? Maye the other tracks are heavier. To me it sounds like Enya went off her anti-depressants or something.

        Edit: I am not bitching or anything, nothing wrong with mixing it up. Its not like the trve cvlt cup of 2017 runneth over at this point

  • groverXIII

    These guys are still pretty alright, but they’ve never (for me, at least) topped the first album with Jex Thoth on vocals. Her voice was absolutely perfect for the band.

  • Eli Valcik

    I know this is kinda a late comment but did anyone else besides me love their 2010 release?