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Within my group of friends it is fairly well-known that I am the sole champion of this forgotten classic. However, rather disappointingly, even Andy Sneap seems to have decided it doesn't exist; having since eliminated it, rather unfairly, from the back-catalogue on the Sabbat website. And while I understand the point of view that "...it wasn't really a Sabbat album", to me it was my primary introduction to the legacy that the band has left behind. As it happens, and perhaps because I hadn't acquainted myself with 'History of a Time to Come' and 'Dreamweaver' beforehand, this remains my favourite of their discography. It's also perhaps ironic that its weakest aspect is its production. Despite that flaw, or perhaps because of it, I've come to love 'Mourning Has Broken' as being the unloved black sheep of the band. Ritchie Desmond tries his hardest to appeal to the die-hard fans by adopting Martin Walkyier's trademark rasp, while attempting to stamp his own persona. It's effective, if a little strained. Lyrically, too, matters had moved on to a less spiritual realm, opening up a plethora of subject matters grounded firmly in reality; with some supernatural detours along the way. In addition, and not that Sabbat were ever slouches in the progressive department, the songs were incredibly rich and complex; the guitars weaved an ever intricate pattern of mechanical web-like sonic structures.
Noise Records
Retrospective review by Steve Cowan (January 2013)
1) The Demise of History
2) Theological Void
3) Paint the World Black
4) Dumbstruck
5) The Voice of Time
6) Dreamscape
7) Without a Trace
8) Mourning Has Broken
"...the unloved black sheep of the band."
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Before the first minute is over, the album has already introduced the multi-paced instrumentation, and Ritchie's jarring (at first) vocal rasp. He's no one-trick-pony though, as his cleaner, mildly operatic, singing style is soon introduced and, all of a sudden, the album has its first genuinely interesting moment. The slower moments are quite serene (in a thrash metal way). The guitar sound takes a little longer to get used to, and some may not appreciate it. But, it's uniquely raspy. A fine track to kick-start proceedings.
A more mature song follows. 'The Demise Of History' was a fine choice to open the album, to draw us in to this new version of Sabbat, but it isn't until this song that we uncover the finer elements of this incarnation of Sabbat. Less focussed on hyper-drive riffing, the song breathes slowly and assuredly. But, if you think this song is devoid of Sabbat's trademark speed...
Brooding and melancholy, it's a genuine mood piece. Calling it a ballad is perhaps bending labels somewhat - it's still very abrasive - but it's definitely got a feel that stands out as ballad-esque. It's a powerful piece in many ways. The music is accomplished; you can hum it in your head quite easily, but the guitar and bass lines are actually quite intricate. Once again, Ritchie's vocals soar on this track. I don't doubt this was one of the songs that had Sabbat traditionalists up in arms. Their loss, as this is a triumph.
As the 'humorous' title might suggest, this is an instrumental track. As such, with its lack of vocals, it's interesting to note that this is the most 'classic-Sabbat' sounding track on the album. Full of lead guitar and multi-tempos, it ebbs and flows in all the right places. It's possibly as close as the album gets to filler in reality, but remains interesting enough that skipping the song isn't always at the forefront.
A continuation, in feel at least, of 'Paint The World Black', this continues the general moodiness, whilst employing some very Iron Maiden-esque elements for the chorus. Some parts of the song seem tacked-on purely to 'keep things interesting'. As such, it can sound somewhat disjointed. Nonetheless, it is an impressive piece of song-writing that could have benefited some editing.
Mad riffs aplenty are jammed into the longest track on the album. There's a distinct Metal Church flavour ('Rest in Pieces (April 15, 1912)' and 'Badlands' in particular) to the majority of this track which, to these ears, is most welcome. In fact, the album overall appeared to employ some classic power-metal traits here and there. It's not a genre I'm particularly fond of, and one I'm certainly not an expert on, but taking those elements and incorporating them into progressive thrash worked wonders.
My personal favourite song on this disc. A lengthy story-setting intro leads into a very dynamic thrash riff, and more of that operatic Dickinson/Walkyier howl. It's hard to place exactly what sets this song above the others. It could be that the pacing seems more natural; it's still progressive, but less obviously so. It's also quite catchy. Whatever the case, hearing it is always a pleasure.
Funnily enough, this reminds me of 'Moongleam and Meadowsweet' by Skyclad. I don't recall which came first - they were released in the same year - but it's amusing nonetheless. It's a lovely little piece of music; not essential to the album, but a sweet closer.
As solid as this album was though, 1991 was a trying time for thrash metal. Many bands within the first and second tier had, wisely at the time, branched out to a less progressive - almost hard-rock - sound that managed to elevate them enough to survive the misery that grunge and, it has to be said, the fans, afforded the metal genre. The third tier bands fared less well, with the majority splitting. It was perhaps inevitable that, rumours of monetary problems aside, Sabbat would not survive in the nineties. British thrash had never gained an audience like their larger American brethren (or mainland-European; see Kreator). Martin had already taken his thrash banner and washed it in a folky, paganistic, broth that ensured enough quirkiness to get by on - eventually moving away from thrash altogether. Sabbat, on the other hand - lacking a sense of identity, and facing dwindling audiences - faltered. Soon after the release of this album, the band was no more. Some of those bands have, of course, made come-backs (with varying degrees of success) to find a new generation of fans. Indeed, Sabbat themselves have since reformed to perform classic material. However, even here in the live arena, 'Mourning Has Broken' has been unfairly dismissed. The CD now commands a high price online (either from auction sites, or private sellers); primarily because of the sparse availability of the album. I still feel time has been kind to 'Mourning Has Broken' though, even if the public has not. It's a shame then that a band's die-hard fans, and own critical success, can ultimately lead to such a wonderful piece of art to be forgotten.
History of a Time to Come (1988)
Dreamweaver (1989)
Mourning Has Broken (1991)
Track 1: The Demise Of History
Track 2: Theological Void
Track 3: Paint The World Black
Track 4: Dumbstruck
Track 5: The Voice Of Time
Track 6: Dreamscape
Track 7: Without A Trace
Track 8: Mourning Has Broken