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Sabbat (1985)
 

Sabbat's self-titled debut E.P. was released on Evil Records in June 1985. This 7" was limited to 300 copies and features only two songs. Despite clocking at ten minutes in length, this recording is quite memorable. The material shows a influences from the likes of Venom and Mercyful Fate, utilizing an oldschool style that definitely betrays the time period during which the music was created. For some listeners, it is more important that a release possesses a timeless quality yet the primary charm in these songs is the fact that one can really sense the mid-'80s feeling that characterizes the songwriting.

"Mion's Hill" is a brilliant song that starts with an eerie clean guitar before launching into a murky riff that could have easily come from some old Mercyful Fate recording. The sombre lead solos are brilliant and show the level of skill that this Japanese band is capable of, while the dismal riffs create a dark atmosphere. The vocals are somewhat harsh, but not nearly to the level of early Bathory, for example. There is a real epic feel to this mid-paced track, and the main guitar riffs are absolutely haunting.

After beginning with a rather ominous riff, "Black Fire" speeds things up quite a bit. This track is almost reminiscent of some Punk, such as GBH, especially regarding the vocal delivery. Here, a cleaner voice is utilized and it works to the detriment of the atmosphere, as there is a much less-serious feel. The riffs, while thrashier and more intense, are a little forgettable when compared to the previous song. Surprisingly, this one made it onto the band's first full-length album, Envenom.

All in all, this is a very solid debut effort and established Sabbat as a band to pay attention to. It is a shame that they were not from Europe, as their work probably would have gotten a lot more attention, as it rightfully deserved. While not the very best of the band's 7" releases, and hardly essential since both songs were re-recorded, this is still an interesting recording and should appeal to fans of the First Wave of Black Metal.
 
(26 Jan. 2012)

 
 

For those who aren't familiar with music from beyond the western world, Sabbat is a Black Metal band from Japan. They began under the moniker of Evil, before changing their name and, ultimately, their musical style. Born By Evil Blood is the group's second E.P. and was released in 1987. What can be found here is ugly and filthy Black/Thrash that is sure to appeal to fans of Venom, Bathory and especially the bands from the Brazilian scene of the mid-to-late 80s.

It all begins with "Satanic Rites", an mid-paced intro that takes the listener right into a blackened pit filled with the rotting corpses of feeble posers. The tone is ugly as hell, being very muddy and bass-heavy. This rumbling gives the feeling that your skull is being beaten with a blunt instrument. Yet underneath this murkiness, there is a clear talent for songwriting and musicianship. This definitely hearkens back to the earlier part of the decade, for the most part.

"Curdle the Blood" picks up the speed and intensity, and displays a real no-nonsense approach. The riffs violently tear through your mind, and the vocals are quite horrific. Gezol seems to have been influenced by the early Destruction material, to an extent. While the song is fast-paced, for the most part, there is a slower section in the middle that is somewhat reminiscent of old Sepultura.

The next song is "Poison Child", which is also rather high-speed, though somehow maintains more of an upbeat feeling than the previous track. Some of the riffs that are present here would not have been out of place on the first Exodus record. That really characterizes this as being much more Thrash than Black. There is a killer solo that appears near the middle of the song, followed by a change that helps to showcase a level of musical maturity that one might not expect from the cover art.

Born By Evil Blood is a very enjoyable E.P. for those that want raw and primal Black/Thrash from the 80s. The only complaint here would be that the release is too short and that the band made everyone wait several more years before recording a full-length album. While nothing on here can compare to the evil feeling of songs like "King of Hell", from 1991's Envenom, it was a very good start.
 
(30 July 2011)

 
 

Desecration is the third E.P. from Sabbat. This Japanese band has only been quite prolific, a characteristic that has been with them since the beginning. Recorded at One One Studio in Yotsukaichi, a few months after the release of Born By Evil Blood, this 7" was made available in February 1988 and limited to 500 copies. Offering up four tracks of unholy Black / Thrash Metal, Sabbat exhibits great skill in crafting raw, yet memorable, songs that go beyond simply trying to sound extreme and maintain a real sense of substance. As with their previous release, this one shows a bit of improvement over its predecessor.

The songwriting displays the diversity possessed by the First Wave of Black Metal, with a good mixture of Speed, Thrash, Black and Doom riffs all coming together to form a cohesive whole. Rather than using the same template and adding various foreign elements in an attempt to differentiate one band from the next, with most still sounding just alike, the '80s bands all had their own identity and could be part of the same musical movement without sounding exactly the same. There are a certain amount of obvious influences, like Venom and Mercyful Fate; however, Sabbat manages to fuse these things with their own brand of psychotic arrangement to create something that could not have possible come from any other band. The atmosphere is not as dark as on the band's first couple of full-length albums. The riffs are all oldschool and seem as if they could have come from a few years earlier. Though the vocals are kind of harsh, Gezol's patterns are still natural and he sounds as if he is trying to sing normally, only with a damaged throat. The whole thing is rather primitive, matched by the low-quality production job.

Desecrate is certainly recommended to those with a taste for old school Black / Thrash, or anyone that simply appreciates something that oozes with an aura of pure Metal. Odd as it may seem, coming from Japan, that is exactly what Sabbat accomplished here. Seek this out with confidence.
 
(27 Jan. 2012)

 
 

Sabbat's fourth E.P. release, The Devil's Sperm Is Cold, raised the bar to a whole new level. The songwriting and musicianship, coupled with the overall level of intensity, destroyed anything the band had previously offered up. This 7" was released via Evil Records and limited to 500 copies, which was unfortunate given that there was little possibility of this becoming as well-known as it should have been. How a band like this languished in relative obscurity, without recording a full-length album until 1991, is difficult to comprehend. All of the elements were present, from great musicianship and excellent songwriting to the filthy production values and the old school mentality.

With each release, Sabbat got better and better, in just about every respect. Gezol's vocals became a bit harsher and more evil, suiting the music better, while still possessing the same attitude that was present from the beginning. Elizaveat's guitar playing, here, exceeds anything found on the previous efforts. The songwriting displays a shift from Speed to more all-out Thrash, at times, which increases the fury and violence conveyed by the music. Some of the riffs are reminiscent of that of Slayer's Haunting the Chapel. In addition to this, the lead solos are absolutely incredible. They are haunting and really draw the listener in. Rather than brief, throwaway bits that do little to help the atmosphere, the solo work on The Devil's Sperm Is Cold is well thought-out and meaningful. This is especially true of "Immortality of the Soul", though the shredding of "Hellfire" (the more straightforward of the two songs) sounds very inspired by Kirk Hammett's playing on Kill 'Em All. That is rather fitting, since the music sounds like something that would have been released about five or six years earlier. The galloping riffs and killer guitar solos of the second song are very much inspired by Mercyful Fate. In all actuality, this song is one of the best ever recorded by Sabbat.

For anyone interested in Black / Thrash from the '80s, this E.P. is essential. The Devil's Sperm Is Cold may have an odd title, as well as the weird artwork that accompanies it, but the musical content is beyond criticism. It goes without saying that all Sabbat fans should possess this release, which played a significant role as the band continued to lay the groundwork for their debut L.P.
 
(28 Jan. 2012)

 
 

Released through Evil Records in June 1990, The Seven Deadly Sins was the final Sabbat E.P. before their debut full-length, Envenom. After developing their sound for over five years, the band had reached a level of intensity and darkness that was beyond what most were doing, around this time. In fact, most of the evil bands of the '80s had gone soft, commercial or just jumped on whatever worthless trend that they could. At this point, too few were creating music that was vicious, dark and still possessed by an overwhelming Metal feeling. Most of the bands that were part of the First Wave were but a shadow of their former selves, and the Second Wave of Black Metal was still a couple years away from being ignited. It was during this forgotten period that bands such as Samael, Treblinka and Sabbat were keeping the black flame burning in obscurity.

Musically, The Seven Deadly Sins can be split in two parts. "Possessed The Room (Kanashibari)" represents the more old school sound, with the Venom / Mercyful Fate influences being rather easy to pick out. The galloping riffs and more laid back pace allows for more of an atmosphere to be developed. This is the most memorable song on here and probably more significant regarding the band's development. "Sacrifice of Angel" and "Crying in Last" are both comprised of mostly thrash riffs that move along at a faster speed; however, they sacrifice some atmosphere for intensity. Oddly, the vocals are harsh during the latter two tracks, yet reminiscent of Nuclear Assault, for the opener, which is rather unexpected. The production is still gritty and underground, though pretty clear when compared to recordings like Born By Evil Blood or Desecrate.

The Seven Deadly Sins may not possess the brilliance of The Devil's Sperm Is Cold, but it represented yet another solid step toward the sound that would define Sabbat's first couple of full-length efforts. Consequently, this is not as essential, but still very much worth hearing. Pick this up, if given the chance.
 
(28 Jan. 2012)

Envenom (1991)
 

Sabbat's first full-length album, Envenom, was released on Evil Records in March 1991. This record was a long time coming, especially when considering the fact that the band formed in the summer of 1983. It is amazing to think about the fact that one of the best records from the First Wave of Black Metal was only unleashed a short time before the Second Wave was to begin, in full. To put things into perspective, bands such as Bathory, Sodom and Hellhammer had yet to release anything of note around the time Sabbat formed. However, in the time that it took for them to give birth to their first L.P., those bands had all moved on to other musical styles. This came during the dismal period where Mayhem was the sole bearer of the black flame in Norway, just a few weeks before Dead's suicide. The album title, Envenom, is quite appropriate, as this seems to be the logical evolution of Venom's sound, had they not abandoned their path.

The material present on this record covers a lot of ground. There is an occult feeling mixed into several of the songs, book-ended by the intro and outro and including tracks like "Devil Worship" and "King of Hell". In fact, these two may be the most evil and possessed songs on the whole album, with the latter a mid-paced beast that seems to have influenced Watain early on. The majority of the L.P. is not as dark as these tracks, being more dominated by old school guitar riffs that show a lot of inspiration from the classic works of Venom and Mercyful Fate. It is odd that these bands were kind of ignored, as bands like Darkthrone preferred to pick up from where Bathory and Hellhammer / Celtic Frost left off. The songwriting does a great job of mixing the band's old school influences, which have always been integral to their sound, with their own style and interpretation. Elizaveat takes his cues from guitarists such as Mantas and the Shermann / Denner combination, mixing thrash-heavy riffs with incredibly well thought-out solos. While there are a few mid-paced riffs that possess a strong doom feeling, most of the album is comprised of faster playing, though not always at blistering speeds. Gezol's vocals are much more harsh than on most of Sabbat's previous releases, which helps the atmosphere maintain a consistent level of darkness and seriousness, with the exception of the hideous track known as "Carcassvoice", which is just painful to get through. One of the best things about Envenom is that, no matter how black things become, it still remains very Metal. The memorable riffs and haunting guitar solos found here surpass any of the keyboard nonsense that would emerge a few years later.

The overall sound is very much in line with that of the period during which the band formed and began to flourish. The production is good... for a release from 1985. Produced by the members of Sabbat, themselves, Envenom remains true to its '80s roots. Everything is clear enough to be heard, yet all of the instruments blend together to create a very cohesive whole, rather than each one standing out from the rest. The guitar has enough fuzz and distortion to suit the songwriting, though the ominous rumble of the bass helps much more than one might think. This is a throwback to the days when Cronos would bludgeon listeners with his massive bass sound. That said, the guitars are very much the focus of this L.P. The drumming is kind of there, loud enough to be counted, but rather flat and unassuming. This is great, as it prevents the percussion from taking any attention away from that which is important. The vocals, often multi-tracked, rise up from the murky depths just enough to properly torment the listener, but never so much as to overshadow the music, itself.

For a record of such high quality, Envenom is quite obscure when compared to others from the same period. While many seem to think that Black Metal died out in the mid-'80s and was resurrected with bands such as Darkthrone and Immortal, the truth is that there were a decent number of groups that kept the flame burning throughout the dark times of the late '80s / early '90s, with Sabbat being one of the oldest. This album is absolutely essential and highly recommended for any Black Metal fan, period.
 
(30 Jan. 2012)

 
 

Evoke, the second full-length album from Sabbat, was released through Evil Records in March 1992. This came, roughly, around the same time as Darkthrone's A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Burzum's self-titled debut. Had the band hailed from somewhere in northern Europe, rather than Japan, perhaps they would have made a bigger mark in the underground. However, geography was not the only thing that separated Sabbat from the growing Norwegian scene. Evoke is an album born, purely, from the First Wave attitude and influences. It would not be incorrect to view it as an extension of that which began with the early work of Venom. As such, no matter how dark the atmosphere might get, it still lacks the all-consuming evil of an L.P. like De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, for example.

The material on Sabbat's sophomore effort is not much different from Envenom. The songwriting displays a strong inspiration from bands such as Venom and Mercyful Fate. The latter is evident in nearly every song on the album. Many of the riffs and drumming patterns would not be out of place on classics like Melissa or Don't Break the Oath. The intensity level of some tracks seems to have increased from the previous album, with "Torment in the Pentagram" being a good example. This may be why some less-informed listeners have, mistakenly, called this Death Metal. Only one or two riffs could be thought to deserve such a label, and only by those that choose to ignore the overwhelming amount of Black / Thrash that characterizes not only this L.P. but this band, in general. There are hints of NWOBHM, such as "The Curse of Phraoh", which makes a lot of sense when one looks back on the band's previous output. The one strange addition is "Metalucifer and Evilucifer", which features several riffs that sound like something from a Testament album. For the most part, this release opts for a more straightforward approach, which even includes the guitar solos. Gezol utilizes a variety of vocal styles, from a deeper (yet still kind of raspy) sound to odd whispers to some horrible shrieks that may be an attempt to emulate King Diamond.

Overall, the music is very much in line with what one would expect from Sabbat, though it seems to be missing something. The thing is that, as good as the album is, it kind of falls short of attaining the same level as its predecessor. This is more evident by the inclusion of "Mion's Hill" as a bonus track, taken from the 1990 Sabbatical Demon demo. This single song overshadows everything else on Evoke, and draws attention to the fact that the rest of the tracks lack the same kind of epic atmosphere that is found here. That is not to say that this represents a drastic departure from Envenom, only that this possesses a little less of some of the things that made that album so impressive.

The production is much the same as before, though a little clearer. That being said, this record still sounds as if it could have been released in the mid-to-late '80s. The guitar is the dominant element, though the vocals are prominent as well, while never detracting from the riffs. The drums are loud enough to serve their purpose, but possess a dry and flat sound that enables the percussion to remain more of a background aspect. The bass is audible, to an extent, though more in the sense of an ever-present and ominous rumble. This adds another layer of filth to the sound, which suits the primitive music.

Evoke is a very good album and is recommended to any fan of Sabbat, or Black / Thrash in general. While Sabbat was unable to top their previous work, this L.P. still reaches a level of quality that most bands fail to even come close to. Pick this up if you have not already done so, but only after obtaining Envenom, which is the more essential of the two.
 
(3 Feb. 2012)
















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