Sabbat (UK) – Dreamweaver (1989)
Once upon a time, as the 1980s were becoming aware of their own mortality, someone sold their soul for a tempo change on every riff. Now we have Sabbat; between spawning a member of Skyclad and helping form prolific producer Andy Sneap, they are more than relevant, and certainly one of the most popular bands in their style to come out of the UK. I say this knowing that the UK never really threw themselves into “thrash” metal like the United States or Germany, but if you want an archetypical British thrash metal band you would do quite well to select Sabbat, who should capture your attention with their lengthy but aggressive songwriting.
Anyone who comes to Sabbat after experiencing Skyclad might be in for a shock if they expect something along the lines of the latter – while this band shares a vocalist and lyricist (the superlative Martin Walkyier), they also rely way more on the speed/thrash tropes of the day to fuel their music. I’ve heard higher riff density and faster tempos, but of everything I’ve listened to in this genre, Sabbat has the highest ratio of tempo changes to riffs I’ve ever found! These aren’t just simple halvings or doublings or any other simple elementary school math type fractions, either. Make of it what you will, but it does give Dreamweaver a much jerkier cadence that takes sometime to get used to; I still haven’t decided whether it’s a boon or a curse.
Regardless of my to-be-determined feelings on the rhythm section, everything else here is quality. I’m aware of my own Martin Walkyier fandom, but one thing I do appreciate that Skyclad hasn’t really offered me is the quality and quantity of guitarwork on display here. Dreamweaver‘s riffs and leads strike a good balance between consonant melody and rhythmic prowess. Furthermore, the guitarists throw in a couple of especially unusual structures on many of these songs, including the ‘consonant major key intervals played in a dissonant sequence’ shtick I’ve labeled the “Kreator riff”. That’s a good way to grab my attention. You’d think it’d be difficult to compete with a lyricist as skilled as Walkyier merely by playing guitar, but Dreamweaver manages, even though it exceeds Skyclad yet again by tying all its mythological and occult concepts into a coherent whole based around The Way of Wyrd, a novel by Brian Bates about pre-Christian religious practices in Britain. The subject matter is less important than the effort, if you ask me, but it still makes for both interesting reading and listening.
At this point, my only regret is that the UK’s metal scene did little to directly compete with Sabbat, especially after being so hugely influential about a decade before. Maybe they were too busy inventing grindcore.
Highlights: “The Clerical Conspiracy”, “Do Dark Horses Dream of Nightmares?”, “Wildfire”