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Sabbath Assembly have been around for a few years now, initially conceived in 2009 by drummer David Christian, "as a project to perform the hymns of the Process Church of the Final Judgement", before the band itself was born from these foundations. Recording four albums that were conceptually bound to the Process Church's theological underpinnings, we now have a fifth full-length release that's being touted in press ramblings as an album on which these Americans explore their own creations, free from their erstwhile associations. Blurb also states that "this album is about embodiment, addressing all the power and grit required to endure our human existence, rather than exploring spiritual philosophy alone." In essence, though, Sabbath Assembly have retained their occult thematic, although presented it within a more original, cult-free context. Thus, literary works now seem to serve as their textual inspiration rather being bound by the restrictive parameters of a prescriptive dogma and the Process Church's hymns. This is something of a rebirth for the band, if you will.

Music-wise, it's frequently all about contrasts, albeit blended contrasts. Dissonant sways and subtle, menacing cacophony are mixed into a more melodic core where guitar riffs/leads, varied drums, and a solid bass backbone, drive songs along in all kinds of tempo shifts. In fact, Christian's drumming is pleasingly varied throughout; at times, particularly on opening track 'Risen From Below', it sounds like he's playing a series of fills over lengthy passages, which has a kind of unsettling, quasi-anxious affect... engendering a subconscious urge to will the song to break into a more conventional structure. In actuality, it's songs' unconventional twists, mixed in with more familiar handles that make the music an engaging and pleasingly unpredictable listen. However, for me, it doesn't always work, and sounds a little amateurish on occasion. I think this is partly to do with Jamie Myers' vocal performance, which somehow manages to range from the sublime to the fairly annoying. It sounds like she has a wonderful voice hidden in there somewhere, although doesn't get to fully showcase its merits as often as she should. It would've been like getting Pavarotti to sing punk. Maybe I'm way out and this is the limit of her voice, but it just sounds like she's not hitting her full potential the entire time, and vocally flourishing as much as she could.

Sabbath Assembly's fifth full-length, eponymously titled album has engendered something of a quandary for me. I like it, that's an indubitable fact; but it annoys and frustrates me on occasion and I can't always pinpoint why. The varying likeability of Myers' vocals aside, perhaps it's the fact that some of the compositions feel like they're still at the jamming/idea stage of development, and could've been pushed to an even greater aesthetic. The band's personnel evidently have the musicality to do so; at least in terms of technical proficiency. Compositional proficiency, however, needs a little more polish here and there. As such, 'Sabbath Assembly' is an inconsistently good album and an occasionally great one. It's disappointing in one sense as this could've been so much better than it's transpired to be.
Svart Records
Review by Mark Holmes
11th Sept 2015
1) Risen from Below
2) Confessing a Murder
3) Burn Me, I Thirst For Fire
4) Only You
5) The Firey Angel of Desire
6) Ave Satanas
7) Sharp Edge of the Earth
8) Apparition of the Revolution
9) Shadows of Emptiness
"Dissonant sways and subtle, menacing cacophony are mixed into a more melodic core..."