Sabbath Assembly

Quaternity

Written by: EW on 27/02/2014 22:09:16

I have a slightly uneasy feeling about where SA are headed today. Their debut album "Restored to One" had a distinct purpose which stood it apart from all other releases musically and thematically, while avoiding the trap of self-indulgence which can easily in anything attempting such a concept as they have willingly entered. The vocal presence of Jex Thoth was significant in this but equally too was the steady and involving tempo provided across tracks like "Glory Hallelujah" and "The Saints Shall Inherit the Earth", which despite the serious intent of the project retained a wry smile, a sense of humour in the ridiculousness of it all, sensing that if this was to be a one-off project it had to remain a lingering one. Sophomore "Ye Are Gods" lost both the magical Jex Thoth and it's self-awareness. Morose and inspiring it has not had the lasting effect of "Restored to One", meaning new album "Quaternity" is crucial to the future prospects of this quasi-devotional, perplexing duo, centered around Dave 'Xtian' Nuss and vocalist Jamie Myers. They here take a look at the four deities worshipped in the theology of the Process Church of the Final Judgment (fully explained in my review of the debut LP) before the album closes with a droning psychedelic 20-minute take on the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. While many of the avant-garde textures don't sit within my usual spheres of knowledge the lack of vibrancy on show is causing me to question the duo's own connection to their topic with the supply of quality material seemingly run dry, a point of view not helped by the album notes stating an excerpt in "Lucifer" features a member of the Church performing his own version having complained the band were not "getting the hymns right". Though of course I have no prior knowledge of what is 'right' and 'wrong' about Nuss and Myers' own renditions it is a curious admission to make.

The echoing, transcendental vocals which open "Let Us Who Mystically Represent..." give no clues to the uninitiated as to what direction the album, or the band for that matter, are headed - frankly anything from ethnic world music to drone doom would not be amiss after it. The acoustic guitar strains and single violin constituting "Jehovah on Death" do little to move the album beyond the introductory phase until a few chords are pieced together three minutes in, but for the total of five minutes it gets nowhere. "The Burning Cross of Christ" instantly starts on the front foot with a plaintive clean electric guitar lead generating some depth alongside the transitional acoustic chords, but as yet the continued absence of percussion means the more upbeat numbers which highlighted the first album are nowhere to be found. The emphasis this therefore places on Myers' vocals reveal that, while a competent singer, her deep tones are too staid and colourless to lead a musical campaign based around subtly changing rhythms as found here. She is heard to explore the lower regions of her range in "I, Satan", in which to create a sense of foreboding a heavily distorted guitar and slow percussion performance come into play. Oddly the mini solos which spit out on occasion are distinctly Slayer-esque... a far cry from the slow rhythms marooned behind them. It then comes with great pleasure to hear the variance of some male vocals in the opening passages of "Lucifer" (courtesy I believe of Daron Beck from Pinkish Black although I might be wrong here, the liner notes not being particularly clear), a track which utilises a pleasant background of atmospheric synth for a piece that reminds me of Johnny Cash's darkly ominous yet beautiful cover of NIN's "Hurt".

Whether the duo's proximity to the Church's original artistic intention is waxing or waning is a moot point in my eyes compared to the overall listening experience which has descended into the unexciting and turgid on "Quaternity". "The Four Horsemen" focuses on Myers' vocals which echo into the darkness like a single tenor singing in an empty cathedral, before a dual guitar lead provides arguably the highlight of the song as they wail into submission against the prolonged discourse of the remaining acoustic meandering. The song closes in Myers' passive apocalyptic strains as the track's subject matter ride off in reflection of their destruction, bringing to an end the bottom-heavy album. In truth no matter how they execute their material, whether it be gospel or acoustic-tinged, Sabbath Assembly will always sound unique but the dry delivery of much of "Quaternity" makes it a hard listen and a difficult recommendation. For a sense of the quirky and unique this band are a good bet but you may wish to start earlier in their discography.

4

Download: Lucifer, The Burning Cross of Christ
For The Fans Of: Johnny Cash through to Year of the Goat
Listen: Facebook

Release date 28.03.2014
Svart Records

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