There has been a lot of interest in The Process Church of The Final Judgment of late including a new film about the strange religious cult from the 60’s and 70’s. Therefore it at first seems somewhat strange that after four heady albums Sabbath Assembly have abandoned their narrative muses scriptures and hymnals to reinvent themselves all over again. This is no doubt reflected by the albums self-titlement but one must also consider the fact that nobody ever truly manages to abandon a cult and if you look carefully I am sure that devotes will find the presence of the Church lingering here. Founding member of The Process DeGrimston had himself been excommunicated from the Church and it was his heartfelt writings and love for what he created that touched the band members along with a lack of inspiration of any further music deriving from the already well recanted musical liturgies that led the band members to look at such a necessary rebirth. So it has ended, so it begins again are words that seem very apt here.
With the line-up of drummer David Christian, guitarist Kevin Hufnagel and vocalist Jamie Myers joined by new bassist Johnny DeBlase what we have here are nine much more standard rock orientated songs that on first listen sound somewhat removed from the devotional mystique of what the group laid down in the past. Insight will no doubt be gained from track titles and lyric sheets, for those of you getting them with finished copies of the album, that will enlighten and show hidden depth maybe proving that despite the music itself, the band have not strayed a million miles from things and reference to occult literature will be garnered within.
Perhaps it is time to just concentrate on the music though and over many listens, although I use the word ‘standard’ before these songs really do get under the skin and work their magic, one devoid of any unnecessary clutter provided by guests or any other trimmings. ‘Risen From Below’ gives a real rugged booming drum workout before the enchanting yet biting vocals of Jamie Myers capture attention with sinuous and somewhat dangerous sounding intoxication at their heart. If anything with the somewhat gothic guitar textures unravelling around it all I am reminded a bit of the cult of Christian Death with Maitri on vocals as much as anything else and the vibe is dark and very stormy. A really groove laden break lightens the mood a little and things get smokin’ around it as flares shuffle and the flower children really get the chance to strut their stuff and throw petals in the air for a moment. ‘Confessing A Murder’ takes a sultry and sensual approach not quite ready to deliver itself into incarceration and guilt but giving off a mischievous sense of flirtatious cat and mouse with a mid-section billowing instrumental break and a stomping groove throughout. The words ‘guilty m’lord’ seem waiting to be the only outcome here though but I reckon it was very much an act of passion.
You could probably make up your own stories and interpret each and every song here but one thing is assured musically this is heavier than anything else witnessed from the band. The vocals are completely empowering and show Myers really going for it echoing her own lines on songs ‘Burn Me, I Thirst For Fire, whilst the players really bring about their own apocalyptic baptism, occasionally meandering off down slightly different paths before honing things back in again with conviction and power bristling away. Songs never outstay their welcome but they are proper constructed songs rather than more fragmentary snatches that followers of the bands craft may have looked upon what we had previously from the group. It’s near impossible to choose a favourite number, each and every one of these has strong sense of identity and they will no doubt add a huge sense of substance to live performances of which I am still to witness for the first time.
There’s some classic 70’s style heavy metal riffs littering things and a strong sense of doom but Sabbath Assembly prove again and a again that despite these trappings they should not just be judged as another run of the mill occult rock band. For a start they are well studied both musically and narratively and history proves that this is no new flash in the pan act but one with fire and passion at their heart. Just one listen to a track such as ‘Ave Satanus’ should convince you of this, indeed one listen to any of the magical tracks here. Long live the new flesh, the cult is reborn indeed!
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)