Written by Steven
- The Band – Sabbat (1985-1991, 2001-2003, 2006-2010)
- The Album – History of a Time to Come
- Country of Origin – England
- The Year – 1988
- Lineup – Martin Walkyier Andy Sneap, Simon Negus, Fraser Craske
- Genre – Thrash Metal
- Metallum Average – 5 reviews at 88%
Other notable releases from 1988 for context – Blood, Fire and Death by Bathory, Leprosy by Death, Seventh Son of a Seventh by Iron Maiden, …And Justice For All by Metallica, Survive by Nuclear Assault
When something sounds evil, it has the ability to draw you in and although you may fear what is to come, you cannot help but to listen on. I remember the 1st time I heard Sabbat. It was in 1988, and their album History of a Time to Come (HOATTCC) had just been released, and I was listening to the Sunday night, once-a-week underground metal radio show called Metal For Melbourne The song was A Cautionary Tale (the intro), and much like Bathory’s Storm of Damnation, or Slayer’s Hell Awaits, I knew that I was listening to something special.
After some eerie prophetic style whisperings, and cool synth tones, a deep rumbling voice echoes the words “So it is done!”, your ears are then assaulted by a high mid-tone riff-centric thrash metal masterclass, that was fresh and musically relevant for the day. When the vocals kick in, they were delivered with a high pitched rasp that had Black Metal undertones, but which also at time dipped into the deeper register. And so begins the excellence of Sabbat, with the musical genius of Andy Sneap (guitars) and lyrical brilliance of Martin Walkyier, shining like a beacon within a somewhat burgeoning metal landscape, and as the main thrash progenitor for the UK.
The songs cover topics such as famous literature, English history and paganography, heaven and hell, witchcraft, and the follies of the church.
I cannot stress strongly enough that Walkyier is a genius writer, and he has been credited with directly influencing CRADLE OF FILTH and DIMMU BORGIR. His lyrics were, and still are some of the best penned, in fact, they became such an obsession that ultimately, his need to deliver on the written word vs what was possibly best for the music, added to tensions within the band. Inexperience, bad management, financial & personal, and production issues, ultimately caused them to breakup shortly after their second main release, Dreamweaver (1989).
Martin has said “ …everything about these Sabbat songs is rather hectic both musically and lyrically. The first few rehearsals we had together proved to be a bit of a challenge for us all. They’re the kind of tracks where if you lose your concentration and your mind wanders even for a second, you’ve forgotten where you are in the song.”
From A Cautionary Tale
“Temptations all around me,
Is there nowhere I can turn?
Hellfire is all about me,
Now I know that I shall burn,
I face excommunication for the error
Of my ways – to burn in Hell for all my days.
Bell, book and candle, candle, book, bell,
Forwards and backwards to damn me to Hell.”
Andy Sneap really needs no introduction in terms of his work producing some of metals great albums of recent time. On Sabbat, he has said they were very young when they started, and as a band they were influenced by the likes of Slayer, Exodus, Venom and a band called Hell, and their music was a mix of all these bands, with a nice British slant, and a Satanic overtone. Ironically, the main barrier for a lot of new listeners to Sabbat is the arguably poor production for their two main albums. Sneap had a hand in remastering both albums for a very popular 2008 re-issue, however, the initial production issues were still apparent, although much improved upon.
Andy’s riff crafting for Sabbat was outstanding, easily at Kreator level, and there is no bad track on HOATTCC, with standouts being the opener, Hosanna in Excelsis and the epic Horned is the Hunter.
From Hosanna in Excelsis
“We’re cleansing the world with
Destruction and war,
Fear for your life when we knock at your door,
There will be no salvation,
Just death and starvation,
And Earth shall be Hell evermore.”
This video is a great interview with Sneap talking about Sabbat.
The follow up, Dreamweaver (which is also an outstanding album), has even more sophisticated riffage and complex song writing, which should also be checked out. It’s a concept album based on the book The Way of Wyrd: Tales of an Anglo-Saxon Sorcerer (Brian Bates – 1983).
This album really did suffer from terrible production, however the remastered version is more than listenable sonically.
The Last Word:
I have no doubt that if Sabbat had followed a different path in terms of band issues, and how the band was managed, their longevity and standing within the metal world would be at thrash pioneer level, like Destruction, Sodom and Kreator. Both HOATTC and Dreamweaver are brilliant offerings, and for their time they were highly regarded, despite being plagued by production issues; simply put the song writing is 1st class. I highly recommend checking out these two Sabbat albums in release order, after first revisiting some of the biggest releases of 1988. Arguably, they were, and are still unsurpassed as the best Thrash metal act to come out of the UK, and if you are in anyway into lyrics, and literature, spend some time with Walkyier’s writings.
The author of this article, Steven, is from the metal band Aeons Abyss who have a new single. Here’s the spotify link