Sabbath Assembly - A Letter Of Red review

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Band: Sabbath Assembly
Album: A Letter Of Red
Release date: April 2019

01. Solve Et Coagula
02. The Serpent Uncoils
03. Worthless
04. Weighing Of The Heart
05. Ascend And Descend
06. Hymn Of The Pearl
07. From The Beginning
08. A Welcome Below

Sabbath Assembly began their career as some kind of musical act for The Process Church, let's say an occult group of Bible lecturers with hippie convictions, as for love being the greatest virtue on Earth. It was occult, and that may have been a premise for a doom band, but the music consisted of trippy folk ballads. Now they've gone metal and kick ass!

The first track off A Letter Of Red, "Solve Et Coagula", puts me under a spell within the first seconds. The in medias res departure with a catchy riff, the singing, and that counter-time snare hit instantly clicks with me. Next second, that Ab7maj chord, answered later by an Ab6, is so fancy! It already sets the tone for the album, being a mix of '70s doom axed on power chords and Phrygian, like Black Sabbath would be, yet bringing those colors via extensive chords, demonstrating perfectly how doom can have a tasty harmony and how dissonance can be beautiful, used in a certain context (I should especially mention "Ascend And Descend" here). The riff is cool, the mid-paced drums, too - quality headbanging guaranteed. Then at the 16th second comes already a new melody in the vocal department and a new drum pattern, for my great pleasure...

I'm not gonna dissect the whole album measure after measure; I'm already sounding like a tool. I'm just saying that this music is rich and well-crafted. It's also varied, since all tracks are not designed for the same purpose. The other hit song is "Ascend And Descend". The rest of the tracks are rather epic doom, darker, more evocative, or folk ballads. "The Serpent Unfolds" is an atmospheric song, using a lot of synths and guitar effects. It aims to feel mysterious, and the combination of galloping tremolo and humming drone traps you in a long anticipatory state, reinforcing the dreariness of the reverberating vocals. The next songs will have more or less momentum, but will share the same ideas.

Let's address the vocals, maybe - quite unusual. As far as I can tell I only know one other band, called Lordian Guard (featuring Warlord members), using the same vibe. A low voice, pushed by very little power, almost spoken, and singing round notes, swelling, barely being in tune for a short moment before falling back for effect purpose. To be frank, this may be off-putting for some people, but I really dig it. It has style, it's original, and it contributes a lot to the general atmosphere. Let's say this is the eldest priestess of the cult singing.

The fourth song, "Weighing Of The Heart", severs with metal for a bit to propose a beautiful and sad ballad accompanied by psychedelic tremolo sounds and tribal percussion. It's amazing how this band has managed to keep its roots intact, on top of being a great metal act, and also to excel in those different styles all at once. A Letter Of Red is their fifth album, and for every record the formula is a bit different, so go check the others out.

I'm not done mentioning how cool the thrashy dissonant riff of "Hymn Of The Pearl" sounding like buzzing insects is, or how nice "A Welcome Below" is, a very soft and bitter ballad with a transcendent outro... How this album swarms with good ideas from start to finish. Well, I'm not used to assigning ratings, but let's reward them with a big 9 just to tell everybody they should listen to Sabbath Assembly instead of leaving a wonderful band to vanish into anonymity.

Written by Ansercanagicus | 28.05.2019


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

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