Whilst so many bands babble incessantly about Satan and declare their hatred towards God Sabbath Assembly have a direction that is like a breath of fresh air and go into depths far more fully and comprehensively than so many of their peers. Dave Nuss takes us once more into the musical devotional hymnals of 60s cult Process Church Of The Final Judgement and again it is an enlightening and beguiling experience in Quaternity their third album. It is again the music that is the central focus and there have been some changes in personal and narrators but the central core of Nuss and Jamie Myers (ex Hammers Of Misfortune) remain. You can approach Sabbath Assembly on a simply musical level and listen and allow the enchantment to waft over you or you can seek higher learning within the lyrical frame and the whole doctrine of the Process Church and the narrative trinity of Lucifer, Satan and Jehovah. Perhaps if you are interested in this you can read more from this interview conducted with Dave Nuss on release of last album Ye Are Gods.
I was not expecting any real change of style on this album and thankfully did not get one as the whole idea and performance is so unique in the first place anyway. A clean and fragrantly harmonious female choral vocal takes us in to ‘Let Us Who Mystically Represent’ and immediately I am enriched by the heady devotional fragrance of it. A sinister organ is the only other fleeting presence on this sublime introduction and is suitably supplied in austere fashion by ‘Nameless Void’ of Negative Plane. It is as though we have entered the ante chamber and with Jamie and Darren Black (of Pinkish Black) vocally opening the doors fully as the chant of ‘Jehovah On Death’ is invoked. It’s a lilting sermon and one that is gentle and musically minimalist with focus on babbling strings and classical instrumentation. Jamie takes up the main vocal parts and they are witchy and somewhat sinister in accordance with some of the soundtrack centred music which sounds like it could have eerily crept out of an occult film. ‘I shall take vengeance upon my adversaries” are words intoned and again so gently it is at odds with the message which you are well aware is conveyed with utter seriousness. One feels at peace listening to this almost, you can really see the appeal of a cult who surrounded themselves with such rapturous sounds which are brought into our world as faithfully as possibly in a way that will appeal to pretty much anyone who would open themselves up to them. The likes of ‘The Burning Cross Of Christ’ is no baptism in fire as one may expect but again a soothing exercise in gorgeous neo-folk. Jamie Myers lushly leads this with shimmering guitar lines bathing you in a caress that just has you melting into it.
‘I Satan’ takes things into a different realm and picks up the instrumentation and the vocal delivery onto a much more threatening and vengeful level. Wrath is vented via some strident guitar lines courtesy of Gorguts Kevin Hufnagel. With the more forceful vocals and this emphasis I am strangely reminded of Maitri and Christian Death, perhaps aptly so. There is definitely malevolence behind this number though and it is like the acid trip has just turned very bad. Satan has won, the beast is unleashed. Not everything in the past was transposed as faithfully as it could have been apparently which led former Procession Anthony D’Andrea to complain to Nuss about not getting the hymns quite right. This led to ‘I Lucifer’ being exactly laid down via the phone line and we hear this next as the stifling mood lightens. It’s like a slice of Americana, a pioneer ballad as this is evocatively sung with male vocals sounding not unlike Nick Cave (Darren Black I assume). It is a beseeching plea of one looking for the light to lead to Lucifer and it is again quite magical.
All this leads to the epic 18 minute The four Horsemen, as biblical a feast as one could imagine. Jessica Kinney (Wolves In The Throne Room, Sunn0))) leads in with some dazzling liturgical chanting before the glistening guitar work shimmers in. Also accompanying Jamie is narration from Mat Khvost McNerney and I really had to do a double take on first listen as he sounds quite similar here to the parts played by Genesis P-Orridge on the last album. As it settles down to the voices and a lone harmonic guitar chord it’s a completely captivating experience and giving the poetic prose your complete attention is the only option open to you.
I suppose you will get out of this what you are prepared to put in, Sabbath Assembly are as close to a religious experience as I am likely to find and I guess for many others they have a similar fervour. If you have not listened before then it really is worth dipping into the music, it won’t preach, steal your soul, convert or control you into a sinister cult but you will certainly gain something and be touched by it!
(8/10 Pete Woods)