Sabbath Assembly have always been odd, especially since they used their music to proselytize about the obscure religious splinter group known as the Process Church of the Final Judgment. This resulted in albums like Ye Are Gods and Quaternity playing like Manson-esque hippie cult indoctrination music and they were definitely an acquired taste with limited replay value. On their eponymous fourth album, the band saw fit to excommunicate themselves from said church and do their own thing, and the music is all the better for the decision. This is quite a different beast from previous outings – still trippy occult rock, but sounding more like a berserker Jex Thoth mixed with Ghost and something much darker and far heavier. It works amazingly well, as does the absence of those freaky liturgy pieces from the past. Changes aside, it’s still a very odd, off-kilter album and often sounds like someone having a psychotic break during a satanic mass, and that’s exactly why you need to hear it.
The new direction is immediately apparent on twitchy opener “Risen From Below” with its weird Killing Joke meets Helmet meets Led Zeppelin vibe. It’s a jangled, disjointed mess, but it works and feels like walking into a cult ritual whilst chowing a burrito – you don’t know what to do so you listen, chew and await developments. And developments impress again and again as Jamie Meyers hypnotized and terrorizes with her strange vocals. The guitar work by Kevin Hufnagel (Goreguts) is discombobulated but fascinating and the band is only just getting started.
Tracks like “Confessing a Murder” are edgy and enthralling and when “Only You” hits with its Black Sabbath groove and rocked out machismo, you’ll be dragged along, despite the freaky Satanic stalker lyrics. “Sharp Edge of the Earth” pairs acoustic guitar with sweet viola as Jamie sings like someone bathing in wine and infant blood as the creepy factor ratchets up to 12. Closer ” Shadows of Emptiness” leverages a 60s-70s vibe with tiny hints of “Hotel California” and Jamie is at her seductive but scary best.
This is the quintessential Jamie Meyers show from start to finish and if you ever wondered what a witch would sound like as she called you to certain doom, listen here. Seductive, beautiful and terrifying, she embodies darkness and light effortlessly in a way she hasn’t before and her vocals are nothing short of breathtaking. Kevin Hufnagel does his best work here too, giving each song a bevy of strange riffs, harmonies and solos. Even if this was an instrumental album, his offbeat noodling would command major attention.
Jamie’s possessed vocals and Hufnagel’s unusual riffing create a kind of disturbing intimacy and each song feels both lovely and hateful, like the music a dysfunctional but inseparable couple would create before devolving into murder and suicide. As the album unwinds Hufnagel borrows from vintage doom, psychedelic rock and Mercyful Fate to keep things interesting and Jamie sounds exactly like you’d imagine a Satanic high priestess would as she poised a dagger over your bare chest.
Sound-wise this is a brilliant recording – the kind of album that almost screams for a vinyl edition with its weird quirks and diverse musical foundation. If there are sonic flaws I’m not hearing them on my promotion copy and I’m nothing but impressed with the depth and richness of the mix.
This is a big surprise and an enormous step up for a band that has remained under the radar. That will end immediately when people hear this album. Sabbath Assembly is now the band Ghost would be if they actually worshipped the Horned Beast of the Apocalypse and weren’t just funning around. This coven means deadly serious business and unveils a huge revelation from quarters unexpected. Don’t miss it.